• About CIVIC

    CIVIC is a Washington-based non-profit organization that believes the civilians injured and the families of those killed should be recognized and helped by the warring parties involved.

    On this blog, you will find stories from our travels around the world as we meet with civilians and military, aid organizations and government in our quest to get war victims the help they need.

  • Countries

  • Contributors

    Sarah, Executive Director

    Marla B, Managing Director

    Kristele, Field Director

    Liz, Chief Communications Officer

    Trevor, CIVIC's fellow based in Afghanistan

    Chris, CIVIC's fellow based in Pakistan

    Jon, CIVIC's US military consultant

  • Media Content

GUEST BLOGGER: Exploding Lebanon

Posted By: Jess K., traveled to Lebanon to speak with cluster munitions victims

My driver expertly navigated his way down the main street of Al Bazouriye, a small town that happens to be the ancestral home of Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, and where he lived out most of his adolescence after fleeing Beirut during this country’s civil war.

I went to Lebanon to gather testimonials of victims of cluster bombs that Israel used in its 2006 war with Hezbollah. Like many of the villages in south Lebanon, Al Bazouriye (5 miles east of the large southern city Tyre) greatly suffered from falling cluster bombs, largely in the last 72 hours of the conflict. As our car pulled up to a small café in the center of town, really more of a rundown booth with a few plastic chairs arranged outside and occupied by middle-aged men, I was told by my translator that there I could meet a fisherman from the coastal village of En Naqoura. Mohammed is a handsome man of about 35. He wore a black baseball cap with a matching polo shirt, and a pair of lightly tinted sunglasses. He told me that he used to be a fisherman and now drives a taxi. As we sipped our Turkish coffee and ate sweet cookies, Mohammed told me how he lost his hand and an ear from a cluster bomb. He said: “I was pulling in my haul, I grabbed something round, there was a flash, and I fell to the ground. Caught in the net was a cluster bomb. Something left over from 2006.” He pulled up his right sleeve revealing an arm so heavily peppered with the effects of shrapnel that the tattoo of a heart on his bicep is broken by the knotting of scars that reach all the way up to his neck. I can only imagine the difficulty of fishing with one hand.

With average failure rates as high as 25 percent, and much higher in some locations, cluster bomblets like the one Mohammed picked up failed to detonate when they were dropped. They now pose a hazard to civilians. The children here remind me of my young son, who is safely back in the US and needn’t worry if he strays while playing in the grass. In the US, we can go to work without concern that our spouse may not return for dinner because her life has been cut short by a cluster bomblet as she runs a routine errand. But these are the conditions that people in south Lebanon must live with because countries buy, sell and use these terrible weapons.

UPDATE: Shortages in funding for clearing unexploded duds in south Lebanon has forced a halt to operations. CIVIC is pressing international donors, like the United States and Israel, to provide the funding the de-miners need to continue their work. For video taken by CIVIC in Lebanon and Israel, click here. For more on the ban on cluster munitions agreed upon by 107 countries, and take action to help limit the effects of US cluster bombs, click here.

VIDEO: Mahdi’s Story, Lebanon

Posted By: Marla B.

On a Thursday morning we left Tyre and traveled south to visit with more survivors and survey some of the other small towns. The first one we came to was Qana. Lebanese Christians believe this is where Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water to wine.

Qana also has a long, sad history of conflict. Perhaps most notably in 1996, when an Israeli missile attack hit a UN tent where the townspeople had fled for safety. Israel claimed a rocket launcher had been located nearby making the tent a viable target, but more than 100 civilians died that day.

In the 2006 war, Qana was peppered with clusters throughout the town and surrounding hills. This is the story of one small survivor.

For more on the 2006 conflict in Lebanon and Israel, and long-term aftermath, visit: http://www.civic-israel-lebanon.org/

Mahdi’s Story

Posted By: Marla B.

Explosive remnants of war (ERW) are a problem in countries around the world. Erica’s post sadly illustrates the depth of the problem in Afghanistan. Just today we posted a video from our March 2008 travels to Lebanon. It tells the story of a young boy, Mahdi, who was injured by a unexploded cluster dud. Take a moment to watch Mahdi’s Story. You will see the children of Lebanon and Afghanistan have much in common.

Disabled children in Afghanistan

Posted By: Erica

I spoke to a woman from UNESCO yesterday working on inclusive education for children with disabilities. Thirty years of warfare have left a significant number of disabled children, most due to poor health care access during 30 years of war but an estimated 25% due to the direct consequences of conflict. For example, those injured from explosive remnants of war (ERWs), including cluster bomb duds or other unexploded ordnance, are frequently children who inadvertently pick up or hit the ERWs while collecting wood, water or other materials for their family.  Children who lose a leg or an arm, suffer deafness, or have other disabilities are usually not allowed to go to school, not allowed to learn a trade, nor given other development tools that would allow them to become normally functioning adults.

The woman I spoke to in UNESCO has been working for the past twenty years to persuade Afghan government entities and school authorities to allow some of these children to go to school.  It’s a sad legacy that sometimes the most effective redress for those injured in conflict would be a return to normalcy – something that these children’s injuries and the ongoing conflict do not allow.

Exploding Threat to Afghans

Posted By: Erica

On May 30th, 110 nations [now 111] signed the Cluster Munitions Treaty in Dublin, Ireland. The treaty bans the use, development and stockpiling of cluster munitions–a type of weapon that when dropped aerially or ground-launched, disperses hundreds or thousands of tiny submunitions (or bomblets) that can cover an area as wide as a football field. The submunitions are designed to explode on impact, but in many cases they don’t, leaving behind what are functionally hundreds of mini-landmines. The Cluster Munition Treaty recognizes requires clean up and – finally – assistance to civilians harmed. Continue reading

Q and A: America and the Cluster Ban Treaty

Over half the world’s governments agreed last week to a ban on cluster munitions. But not the United States. Our government not only skipped the deliberations, but continues to defend its policy of keeping and using these deadly weapons.

Why won’t America join the movement to ban cluster munitions? Our executive director Sarah Holewinski sat down with a premier expert to find out.Sarah Holewinski Marc Garlasco is senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch and a board member of CIVIC. He was instrumental in getting the ban passed and was there at its signing.

Sarah: The US says it can’t support the Convention on Cluster Munitions because its military then couldn’t help countries devastated by tsunamis and earthquakes. Is this true?

Marc Garlasco of Human Rights WatchMarc: This is circular reasoning at its best. First of all, what humanitarian operation uses cluster munitions? The real issue is US ships have cluster munitions on them, and the US was worried their allies who did sign the Convention could no longer work with it because of that. But this is a non-issue. No humanitarian or peacekeeping operation has ever been barred because of weapons.

Take the landmine ban treaty, for example. The US didn’t sign that and yet has worked together with allies like the UK (who did sign it) for years. What’s more, this new Convention allows for those kinds of partnerships, whether cluster munitions are on ships or planes, so this is a non-issue.

Sarah: But the US says it needs cluster munitions to defend the country. Do we really need them?

Marc: We haven’t used them since 2003, so let’s just say they’re obviously not indispensable when fighting a war. There are plenty of other weapons that can defend the country and not indiscriminately kill and maim civilians, who represent the vast majority of victims.

Sarah: The US says it won’t “unilaterally get rid of” clusters.

Marc: The Cluster Munitions Conventions is nowhere near a unilateral effort. There are 111 countries who have agreed to destroy their stockpiles and not use these horrible weapons again, including key NATO allies like the UK, Germany, France, and Canada. If they can do it, so can the United States.

Sarah: So, as a nation, we’re really behind the 8-ball here, aren’t we?

Marc: Couldn’t have said it better myself.

To learn more about the impact of cluster munitions on civilian populations, and to take action on this issue, click here.

GUEST BLOG: At the Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions

Posted By: Marc Garlasco, Senior Military Analyst, HRW and CIVIC Board Member

Here I am in Dublin at the massive Croke Park Stadium, with nearly one thousand diplomats and campaigners to write the text of a treaty banning cluster munitions. I never would have thought this event was possible just three or four years ago, and yet here we are about to ban one of the most dangerous weapons to civilians caught up in war.

From day one, I had reason to be optimistic. The media was in a frenzy and the Pope came out supporting the ban in this Catholic nation – that was some big news. But even knowing that we would have some kind of ban didn’t mean we’d have the ban we wanted. The treaty we’re here to create could get watered down by the Americans. The United States isn’t formally here (there are no official representatives) but there are surrogates attending, and while nobody will say “the Americans don’t want this” everyone knows it.

Like any conference, the real work happens in the hallways. I’ve spent my coffee breaks and lunches handing off documents and gathering information – like passing notes in high school. To get all 100+ countries here on board, we keep an eye on which country delegates are having coffee together and if their positions change after their caffeine fix.

After a somber week spent arguing about this or that detail we’re finally making some headway. France announced it would destroy all its cluster rockets (about 80% of all French cluster munitions). That’s the kind of leadership we’re looking for! The UK’s Gordon Brown directed his Ministry Of Defence to reassess their current cluster munitions. It just may signal a willingness to get rid of the M85 they used in Iraq and the CRV-7 they are so adamantly defending here. In the past they defended these weapons, but I’ve seen firsthand the civilian harm they cause. And after some Western nations demanded time to use their stockpiled bombs before the ban, the rest of the world rejected the request – first Mexico, then Mauritania, Costa Rica, Cooke Islands, Togo, on and on. For the first time, we actually heard applause break up the dark mood.

I am seeing more and more delegations scurrying off to call their capitals for instructions. We have to get this settled soon… time is short.