The CBU (cluster bomb unit) 26, which was widely used in Laos, is an anti-personnel fragmentation bomb that consists of a large bombshell holding 670 tennis ball-sized bomblets, each of which contain 300 metal fragments. If all the bomblets detonate, some 200,000 steel fragments will be propelled over an area the size of several football fields, creating a deadly killing zone.
During its wars in Indochina, the U.S. dropped enormous amounts of cluster bombs. A B-52 bomber fitted with two Hayes dispensers could drop 25,000 bomblets on a single bombing run. It's estimated that some 90 million CBU-26 bomblets were dropped on Laos (and the CBU-26 is just one of 12 different kinds of cluster bombs that have been recovered there to date).
Cluster bomblets become less stable - and more dangerous - as time passes. In Laos, nearly every day people are still being killed from bombs dropped 30 years ago. With an estimated 10 million (or more) unexploded cluster bombs, it could be many decades - or even centuries - until the killing is over.
There are many different kinds of cluster bombs. The WDU-4, used in Indochina, contained 6,000 barbed metal darts which were released overhead. Eyewitness accounts tell of the WDU-4 literally nailing people to the ground. The CBU- 41 has bomblets filled with naplam, the CBU-89 disperses mines, and the Honest John carries 368 bomblets filled with sarin nerve gas. The CBU-87, widely used by the U.S. during the Gulf War, the Kosovo War, and the war in Afghanistan, has three kill mechanisms: anti-personnel (for people), anti-armor (for tanks), and incendiary (setting the target area on fire). The B1 bomber can carry enough cluster bombs to turn an area the size of 350 football fields into a killing zone.
Wherever they been used - Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Sudan, Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait, Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Ethiopia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan, unexploded cluster bombs have created problems for civilians:
Their current use in Afghanistan is helping to focus the world's attention on cluster bombs. Many feel that their impact on civilians is unacceptable and a breach of international humanitarian law. More than 50 international organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Mennonite Central Committee, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Committee to Ban Landmines have called for a moratorium on cluster bomb use. And, in spite of the fact that cluster bombs are one of the favorite and most deadly weapons in the U.S. and NATO arsenals, on December 13, 2001 the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for an immediate global moratorium on their use to be followed by an outright ban.