FACT CHECK: Pentagon Claims Last Time U.S. Used Cluster Munitions Was In 2003

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

Under Secretary of Defense Dr. Colin Kahl claimed the last time cluster munitions were used by the U.S. was during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Verdict: False

The U.S. last used cluster munitions in 2009. The Pentagon later clarified it was referring to Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICMs).

Fact Check:

The U.S. sent cluster munitions to Ukraine, though its impact on the battlefield is yet to be seen, according to The New York Times. Cluster munitions are banned by dozens of countries and are known to cause severe civilian casualties, the outlet reported.

Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Dr. Colin Kahl said in an email that the “last recorded use of U.S. cluster munitions was during the 2003 invasion of Iraq” in response to a question about the last time the munitions were used. Check Your Fact obtained the email and verified it came from the Pentagon.

This claim, however, is false. The U.S last used cluster munitions in an attack on a suspected Al-Qaeda training camp in Ma’jalah, Yemen, in 2009, when the U.S. Navy hit the camp with BLU-97 bomblets and reportedly killed 55 people, the majority of which were women and children, according to The New York Times. The Yemeni government falsely claimed that its military had attacked the village, the outlet reported.

The New York Times also reported in 2015 that the Pentagon used cluster munitions in Yemen in 2009. Amnesty International published images in June 2010 showing U.S. cluster munitions left in the aftermath of the attack.

“Amnesty International has today released images of a US-manufactured cruise missile that carried cluster munitions, apparently taken following an attack on an alleged al-Qa’ida training camp in Yemen that killed 41 local residents, including 14 women and 21 children,” Amnesty International’s press release states.

New York Times reporter John Ismay addressed the claim on Twitter. (RELATED: Did 27,000 Russians Surrender In Ukraine?)

“If you’re a member of the Pentagon press corps and received this email sent at 6:12pm Eastern tonight, the information it contains is false. The last time the U.S. used cluster munitions was a TLAM D-1 strike on Yemen in December 2009,” Ismay tweeted.

A Pentagon spokesperson pointed Check Your Fact to a follow-up email clarifying that it was referring to DPICMs specifically.

“Yesterday, we issued a response intended to address a taken question about the last time the U.S. employed cluster munitions like the ones being provided to Ukraine (i.e. Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions). To further clarify, the last time the U.S. employed DPICMs was during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003,” the email reads.

The Pentagon spokesperson said it was “a bit of challenge” when Check Your Fact pressed about the use of cluster munitions in Yemen in 2009.

“I haven’t been able to find a definitive answer either way, but to be honest answering about what the DoD did 14 years ago is a bit of a challenge. We’ll keep looking,” the spokesperson said.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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