Clinton, Obama, and Cluster Bombs

I'm not a single-issue voter. But as Obama and Clinton share many policy positions, a vote in 2006 was revelatory for me.
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If you're a friend of mine, or a fan of "Get Your War On," you probably know how important the issue of cluster bombs and landmines is to me.

It was America's use of cluster bombs during Operation: Enduring Freedom that led me to start GYWO seven(!) years ago this fall, and it has been my pleasure and my honor to donate the royalties from the two GYWO anthologies to Mine Detection & Dog Center Team #5, a landmine removal team in western Afghanistan.

If you ever attended a GYWO reading, you probably sat through my video of landmine removal teams in the field, or listened to me read off statistics about that dangerous mission, or indulged me by taking an informational flyer about MDC Team #5 and the sacred work they do.

(If you bought one of the GYWO books, you've helped that work, and I thank you.)

Cluster bombs and landmines are particularly terrifying weapons that wreak havoc on communities trying to recover from war. They are fatal impediments to reconstruction and rehabilitation of agricultural land; they destroy valuable livestock; they disable otherwise productive members of society; they maim or kill children trying to salvage them for scrap metal.

Over 150 nations have signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. It pains me that our great nation has not. But in the autumn of 2006, there was a chance to take a step in the right direction: Senate Amendment No. 4882, an amendment to a Pentagon appropriations bill that would have banned the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas.

Senator Obama of Illinois voted IN FAVOR of the ban.

Senator Clinton of New York voted AGAINST the ban.

Analysts say Clinton did not want to risk appearing "soft on terror," as it would have harmed her electibility.

I'm not a single-issue voter. But as Obama and Clinton share many policy positions, this vote was revelatory for me. After all, Amendment No. 4882 was an easy one to vote against: Who'd want to risk accusation of "tying the hands of the Pentagon" during a never-ending, global War on Terror? As is so often the case, there was no political cost to doing the wrong thing. And there was no political reward for doing the right thing.

But Senator Obama did the right thing.

Is Senator Obama perfect? Of course not. Nobody who voted for 2005's wack-ass energy bill is perfect. Nobody who voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act is perfect.

But of the two remaining Democratic candidates, one decided her vote on Amendment No. 4882 according to a political calculation. The other used a moral calculation.

I'm 35 years old, and over the years, I've had two experiences in the voting booth: I've voted for politicians I really respected, who I knew could never win. And I've voted for politicians I didn't really respect, because I knew they could win.

Tomorrow, I'm going to vote for a politician I really respect, who I know can win.

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