Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Cluster Munitions “Free Zone” (Nearly): Is an Old Bellwether Setting a New Pace?

First a quick quiz:

At the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1864), what state’s XX regiment held off repeated Confederate Army efforts to seize the critical terrain complex known as Big and Little Round Tops?

Which State has as its the motto, “I lead”?

Which of the current Atlantic Ocean states whose land mass was part of the British North American Empire did not rebel against King George III?

Wait! Amend that third question to read: “What state took the lead as the first in the nation to have all members – Republican and Democrat, senators and representatives – of its congressional delegation (endorse the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2007 (S.519) in defiance of President George Bush II?”

(The Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2007 prohibits the use, sale, or other transfer of these weapons unless the functional rate of the submunition is 99 percent or higher. The proposed legislation, sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (not of Maine), also requires recipients of these weapons to agree that the munitions “will only be used against clearly defined military targets and will not be used where civilians are known to be present or in areas normally inhabited by civilians.”

The U.S. was not among the 111 countries that met in Dublin earlier this year and agreed on the need for a treaty banning cluster munitions. Nor will it be present when the draft treaty is reviewed and opened for signatures in December in Oslo.

But the first crack in the resistance to abolishing this weapon has appeared in the U.S. in Maine (the answer to the quiz). Once before we were asked to “Remember the Maine,” which became the rallying cry of the pro-war political faction seeking to dislodge the Spanish from Cuba.

Well, now we have another reason to “Remember Maine” and to note also that for 19 of the 26 presidential election years between 1832and 1932, “As Maine goes, so goes the nation.” (During this period, Maine held elections for governor and other state-wide offices in September when the weather was milder. The party that captured the statehouse generally also won the White House in November.)


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