Biden Once Opposed Cluster Bombs when Israel Used Them; Now Ships to Ukraine

Joe Biden (Louis Atlan/Sygma via Getty)
Louis Atlan/Sygma via Getty

President Joe Biden will be sending cluster bombs to Ukraine to use in its war against Russia, the White House confirmed Friday. But he has opposed their use in the past, especially by Israel in the Lebanon War in 1982.

The Washington Post recalled Biden’s “complicated history” — i.e. flip-flopping — on the issue of cluster bombs, which are larger bombs that release many bomblets. Some remain unexploded and can threaten civilians.

The Post noted that Biden offered stern criticism of then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, in an episode often cited by pro-Israel critics of Biden as evidence that he has never been as supportive of Israel as he claims.

At the time, Israel was fighting Palestinian guerillas in Lebanon, who had been shelling communities in northern Israel for years. Israel’s invasion drew sharp international criticism, as well as domestic protest.

The Post recalled:

Amid reports that Israel had used cluster bombs in its invasion of Lebanon, some Democrats went so far as to push for cutting off aid to Israel.

According to a contemporary UPI report, Biden said that if those reports were accurate, then Israel was clearly in violation. He said the United States should respond by “cutting off the ability to get access to that kind of weaponry in the future.” But he cautioned against making a “final judgment” and again called for hearings on the subject.

Democrats also expressed such concerns during what the New York Times labeled “a highly emotional confrontation” on Capitol Hill with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in June 1982. Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.) highlighted the cluster bomb reports while saying he had “never seen such an angry session with a foreign head of state.”

The latter argument reportedly concerned Israeli settlements, not cluster bombs. During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when Israel was again accused of using cluster bombs (this time against Hezbollah guerillas), then-Sen. Biden (D-DE) opposed a bill that would ban the use of cluster munitions in populated areas.

His position would appear to have changed, but he continued to express skepticism of cluster bombs. In 2022, the Post noted, Biden’s ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, delivered a speech in which she declared that cluster bombs have “no place on the battlefield.” The administration had to walk that back.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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