In the face of opposition from progressives, peace activists, and members of their own party, New Hampshire Democrats are on board with President Joe Biden sending cluster bombs to the frontlines of the Russia-Ukraine war.
“I support giving them the cluster munitions,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen told WMUR last weekend. “We know that Russia’s been using those cluster munitions since the beginning of the war, and Ukraine has told us that they are going to be very careful in their use.
“And in talking to [U.S. Army General Christopher] Cavoli, the general who heads the European theater, I’d asked him that very question. And he said he thinks it’s an important move that we need to provide those munitions on the homefront.”
While Sen. Maggie Hassan declined repeated requests for comment regarding Biden’s move, both Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas voted against an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to prohibit cluster munitions technology from being sent to Ukraine. The bill failed 147-276, with 49 Democrats backing the measure.
All four delegation members declined to respond to questions about Biden’s cluster bomb decision when it was announced earlier this month.
Many Democrats have decried Biden’s decision to provide cluster bombs that are banned by an international treaty with more than 100 signatories. And while opposition from far-left groups like Code Pink and the Institute of Peace is expected, Biden’s also taking incoming fire from many of his usual allies in Congress.
“The decision by the Biden administration to transfer cluster munitions to Ukraine is unnecessary and a terrible mistake,” Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), ranking member of the House’s defense appropriations subcommittee, told Politico. “These weapons should be eliminated from our stockpiles, not dumped in Ukraine.”
Outspoken Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, a candidate for U.S. Senate in California, also expressed his opposition.
“I’m very vocal on this: I don’t support the cluster munitions. The opportunity for civilian harm is just too great.”
In the Senate, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and former Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) penned an op-ed for The Washington Post opposing Biden’s decision, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is a longtime opponent. And it is not just progressives. Hillary Clinton’s vice-president pick, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), said he had “real qualms” about the move.
Local peace groups are also on the other side of the issue.
“NH Peace Action does not support the transfer of cluster munitions to Ukraine and is disappointed that our New Hampshire representatives have chosen to support their transfer into the war in Ukraine,” said Will Hopkins, the group’s director.
“More than 120 different nations have banned cluster munitions, which can remain deadly for decades after being deployed,” Hopkins continued, “which is a main reason the Congress had previously banned their transfer. They are indiscriminate killers, destroying everything they strike on wide spreads, and they have been illegal under international law since 2010 when the Convention on Cluster Munitions went into force.
“To undermine their own legislation and transfer weapons that are illegal under international law with Ukraine is yet another step away from seeking diplomatic solutions and another way to increase the risk of nuclear confrontation, and Congress was wrong to do it.”