02 July 2013

An inspiration: Lynn Bradach ten years on

Lynnbradach VA Statement 2014CCM Ism599x350

Lynn Bradach began campaigning against cluster munitions following the death of her eldest son Travis, a United States Marine, killed 2 July 2003, by a cluster submunition while clearing unexploded ordnance in Iraq. On the 10th anniversary of losing Travis, Lynn talks to the CMC about her work campaigning against this indiscriminate weapon so that other families don't suffer the same loss.

1. Tell us about your work on cluster munitions. How did you first get involved?

After losing Travis I was one of the ‘Gold Star’ mothers who spoke out against the US invasion of Iraq, through the US based organisation ‘Gold Star Families for Peace’ (GSFP) . Initially, I believed that Travis had been killed by a landmine so I joined a campaign called ‘Adopt-A-Minefield’ and volunteered raising funds and awareness to help with the universal landmine issue. It was through this work that the US campaign against cluster munitions found me (by this time I'd learned Travis had been killed while clearing unexploded US cluster munitions in Iraq, and not by a landmine as I initially believed) and asked if I was willing to publicly speak out against the use of cluster bombs.

2. Were you aware of cluster munitions before Travis’ accident?

I had no knowledge of the weapon before the loss of Travis—that is why I took it for granted that he had been killed by a landmine.

3. Why are cluster munitions dangerous to civilians and military personnel alike?

A cluster bomb is a weapon that contains multiple – often hundreds – of small explosive submunitions or bomlets. Cluster bombs are dropped from the air or fired from the ground and break open in mid-air, dispersing the submunitions over a wide area which means they pose a big risk to civilians in their path. Cluster munitions are designed to detonate on impact, however there is a large percentage of duds or bomblets that fail to explode as they are supposed to, and remain on the ground. These are the killers laying in wait. If they are handled or disturbed by innocent civilians, or even by those trained to clear them, they may explode with devastating results. The duds can lay in wait and remain a threat for years after a conflict is over – when they may claim innocent victims.

4. What is your most proud moment as a CMC campaigner?

It really hard to say, but I think it was at one of the Convention on Cluster Munition treaty meetings. After I made a statement on behalf of the CMC, government representatives from Iraq and Laos came up and thanked me for doing the work I was doing. They told me that my statements and those of other campaigners had brought about the treaty and had made a really difference in their countries.

5. What have been the main challenges campaigning against cluster munitions?

The main challenge for me has been retelling my story of losing Travis. Each time I relive the pain and there are times when I question myself for going through it.

6. There is now a strong stigma against cluster munitions, how can this be strengthened further?

We must continue to bring more countries on board the cluster bomb ban. With each new signature the stigma grows. It's a declaration that the harm that this weapon causes civilians cannot be tolerated.

7. A lot has been achieved in 10 years to bring about the ban on cluster munitions, why is it more important than ever to continue the fight?

It is important that this work continues—t hat those who were harmed by the weapon are cared for and that steps are taken to ensure that there are no future victims. We need more countries to be brought on board to help with these issues.

8. What is your message to governments that have yet to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions?

A government should be about the care and well-being of its people and people worldwide. It should be able to say that there are certain things that should not be done in times of war and the use of cluster bombs or risk of being attacked by cluster bombs will not be deemed as acceptable. I would ask all governments to declare this as their standard and join the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

9.The US continues to retain the capability to produce and use cluster munitions, what is your message to President Obama?I would ask the President to put an end to this industry. Unfortunately in this country arms production and trade is big business, so the request needs to go way beyond the President. The message needs to go to the people of the US. They need to understand how barbaric the use of cluster munitions is and that it does more to harm than good to security that they hold so dear. The people of this country must demand that the manufacture of cluster munitions is stopped.

10. For people living in countries unaffected by cluster munitions, why is it important they support the campaign against their use?

It is a way of standing up and saying that they believe the use of cluster munitions is wrong and this helps add strength to the global ban.

11. What role do you think survivors and their families can play in campaigning against cluster munitions?

The survivors have lived the pain of cluster munitions. It is their story that brings to life the true horror of the weapon in a way that nothing else can. In some cases it is only in witnessing these victims first hand that causes governments and society to take action.

12. How did you feel when Iraq ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions in May 2013?

Iraq is very special to me. It is where my son died clearing these weapons and it is very important to me to continue this clearance work. When Iraq signed the treaty I felt that it was a major step in being able to do this. There are so many mothers, fathers, communities that suffer the way I do because of this weapon and now I feel we have a bond in the healing process.

13. We’re seeing use of cluster munitions right now in Syria, leading to mounting casualties. Why is it important governments speak out?

This is no longer a secret weapon. In this day and age it is not a form of warfare it is a form of terrorism on local populations. It cannot be tolerated and governments must say they are against Syria’s use of cluster bombs and work to stop it.

14. You have been a powerful advocate against cluster munitions as a mother and a campaigner – what can others do to make a difference?

I do not want others to feel the pain of this weapon and only then understand that it must be banned. I pray that when they hear my story and the stories of the other victims that they are moved to take action. That they understand the power of their voice and that they are compelled to speak out. They must urge others to join them in putting pressure on the powers that be to stop the manufacture, transfer and use of this weapon and most importantly that assistance is given to victims around the world.

15. What are your hopes for the future?

My hope for the future is that the people of the world come to realize how very much their hopes and dreams are the same. We all love our children, our communities, our way of life. We want to live in peace and so do others. I hope that one day there is no need to work for a ban on any type of weapon because the use of them on another would be unthinkable. However this dream appears to be a long way off, so until then my hope is to stop the use of this one type of inhumane weapon.

Further information:

  • Lynn is a campaigner with the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC). The CMC is an international coalition of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) working in around 100 countries to encourage urgent action against cluster bombs. The CMC facilitates NGO efforts worldwide to educate governments, the public and the media about the problems of cluster munitions and to urge universalisation and full implementation of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions.
  • Lynn is also a member of Handicap International’s Ban Advocate team, supporting the work of the CMC against cluster munitions.