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3/01/2004 02:40:00 AM | Justin

Bush Administration reverses U.S. policy against landmines

This is really sickening. The Bush Administration has just reversed a 10 year policy against anti-personel landmines. According to Human Rights Watch, mines kill 15,000-20,000 people a year, 85% of whom are innocent civilian. In 2002, that included 2649 children. I have difficulty discerning any significant moral difference between the use of these barbaric weapons, and the use of suicide bombers. At any rate, it's hard to think what could be more terrorizing than having your neighborhood littered with ticking timebombs.

The last time the U.S. officially used landmines was Gulf War 1, but the tone coming from Washington suggests that is about to change, since the development of "smart mines", which self-detonate after a certain number of weeks, potentially eliminating the long-term devastation of mine use. But will simply making timebombs that tick faster really solve the problem of civilian casualties? The technology allows for a 10% explosion failure rate, so it looks like minefields will still be littered with unexploded mines as before. Besides, the new policy will doubtless increase the use of dumb bombs by countries that don't have access to the new technology. Perhaps the only "redeeming" quality of these new mines is that they don't last as long, so countries will have to purchase more of them, providing a cash boon to U.S. weapons producers. (but that's just my pet conspiracy theory)

The U.S. is the only NATO country that has not signed the mine ban treaty. However, it did pledge in 1998 to join the Mine Ban Treaty by 2006. The Pentagon announced the end of this policy a few days ago, but it's gotten scant little press coverage. The only reference in the New York Times is this short Op-ed today. Everyone must be too busy worrying about who's going to win the Oscars to worry about a few thousand more innocent civilian casualties here and there. Of course, if they were American, Israeli, or European casualties, it would be a different story.



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