If you have the good fortune to find yourself in one of those situations where you get to question one of the Democrats running for President - especially one of the sitting Senators - perhaps you'd like to ask some variant of the following:
When you had a chance six months ago to protect civilians from being killed or maimed by cluster bombs, how did you vote?
If you weren't in the Senate, how would you have voted? If you voted no, why did you vote no? Will you support such legislation now?
On September 6, 2006, Senator Feinstein introduced an amendment to the Department of Defense appropriations bill which would have provided that: "No funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be obligated or expended to acquire, utilize, sell, or transfer any cluster munition unless the rules of engagement applicable to the cluster munition ensure that the cluster munition will not be used in or near any concentrated population of civilians, whether permanent or temporary, including inhabited parts of cities or villages, camps or columns of refugees or evacuees, or camps or groups of nomads."
The amendment was defeated. Among the Democrats voting no were Senator Clinton, Senator Biden, and Senator Dodd. Wouldn't you like to know why these folks, who talk a good game about reforming U.S. foreign policy, voted no?
The good news is that Senator Feinstein has recently introduced her amendment in different form as freestanding legislation. The legislation has two additional provisions, one barring the transfer of cluster bombs with high "dud" rates, the second mandating provision for cleanup.
The fact that she has introduced it now as freestanding legislation, rather than waiting for the Defense appropriation to attach it as an amendment, means that the Forces of Progress have more time to publicize it and to organize around it. So far Senators Leahy, Sanders, Mikulski, and Kennedy have agreed to co-sponsor the legislation.
As this article in The Hill notes, Feinstein's legislation has been given a boost by the agreement of 46 countries meeting in Norway - including Britain and France - to support an international treaty banning cluster bombs. Unfortunately, the article also seems to suggest that some groups would seek to target Senator Obama for supporting this legislation, calling it "anti-Israel" because of the renewed attention the issue got last summer when Israel used cluster bombs indiscriminately in Lebanon, causing civilian casualties long after the ceasefire. But the legislation applies to all countries equally (and perhaps it's worth noting that Senator Feinstein and other sponsors have impeccable "pro-Israel" credentials.)
The Presidential campaign gives us a unique window for pressuring Senators Clinton, Biden, and Dodd. Jewish Voice for Peace and Just Foreign Policy have initiated a petition to Democratic Presidential candidates and Senators in support of Feinstein's bill. You can ask these leaders to support this legislation here:
Robert Naiman is National Coordinator of Just Foreign Policy, a membership organization devoted to reforming U.S. foreign policy to reflect the values and serve the interests of the majority of Americans. Naiman edits the daily Just Foreign Policy news summary.
JFP's web site is www.justforeignpolicy.org.