Forces loyal to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi have attacked rebels in the city of Misrata with cluster bombs, a particularly vicious weapon. The shells explode in all directions, making them especially deadly to civilian noncombatants who happen to be nearby.
The New York Times reported that markings on some of the rounds indicate they were made in Spain. Libyan rebels are citing government forces’ use of cluster bombs to stimulate more-active NATO intervention in the conflict.
The NATO effort is led by France and the United Kingdom, which support the rebels’ plea for more help. The appeal is probably directed at the United States, which transferred command responsibility to NATO this month.
The cluster-bomb plea also is aimed at the United Nations Security Council, which based its resolution authorizing the imposition of a no-fly zone on the need to protect Libya’s civilians.
An international treaty ratified by 56 nations bans the use of cluster bombs. The United States is not a party to the agreement, since U.S. forces use the weapon, most recently in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen.
If the Obama Administration intends to step up the war effort in Libya on the basis of the Gadhafi forces’ use of cluster bombs, it could start by ratifying the treaty and ridding U.S. weapons inventories of them.