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The use of cluster bombs against civilians is newsworthy depending on who is using them. If it's an enemy state, like Syria or Qaddafi's Libya, you can expect to read about it, and in clear language on the front page. And an article like this will mention, almost in passing, that our own government does the same.
International efforts to ban cluster bombs fell apart late last week. If you were reading about this in the New York Times, you might have been led to believe that the United States was pushing to get rid of the weapons–instead of the opposite. Here's the lead sentence from a story in Saturday's paper (11/26/11): GENEVA — Despite last-minute attempts to broker a compromise, American-led efforts to conclude an international treaty restricting use of cluster munitions collapsed on Friday in the face of opposition from countries that said it did not address their humanitarian concerns and would undermine existing international [...]
"Gadhafi Troops Fire Cluster Bombs Into Civilian Areas," declares a New York Times headline (4/15/11). The lead of the story makes clear that these weapons are considered in many countries to be illegal: Military forces loyal to Col. Moammar el-Gadhafi have been firing into residential neighborhoods in this embattled city with heavy weapons, including cluster bombs that have been banned by much of the world. The story, by C.J. Chivers, goes on to explain why these weapons have been banned: These so-called indiscriminate weapons, which strike large areas with a dense succession of high-explosive munitions, by their nature cannot be [...]