What do you do when you can’t trust the earth beneath your feet? How do you go about your life when each step you take could end in disaster?
One of the last events to take place during the Obama administration — a message I’m sure to those who would do harm to the U.S. and it’s citizens — was an air strike against ISIS. I have no doubt that the hawkish stance of the Trump administration will carry forward a campaign against avowed enemies but that does not change the fact that the U.S. is in the minority amongst world powers in continuing to use landmines — in particular antipersonnel landmines.
We have all seen the images of our own servicemen who have been maimed by roadside bombs and booby traps but roughly one person dies every 15 minutes — 70 people per day — from contact with a landmine! I tremble to consider how many of those were laid by the U.S. as long ago as the 1960’s when we dropped $2 million a DAY worth of landmines over Vietnam & Cambodia.
Bill Clinton, when he was president, was the first world leader to call for the “eventual elimination” of antipersonnel mines, at the United Nations in September 1994. The US participated in the Ottawa Process, which led to the creation of the Mine Ban Treaty, but did not sign when the treaty was opened for signature in December 1997. The Clinton administration set the goal of joining in 2006. However, in 2004 the Bush administration announced a new policy that rejected both the treaty and the goal of the US ever joining. The 2014 policy by the Obama administration once again sets the goal of joining the Mine Ban Treaty, but provides no time frame.
It’s wonderful to see people like Massoud Hassani developing simple, cost effective tools to eliminate the millions upon millions of landmines still sitting in the earth — waiting to take their toll — but it would be far better if we could agree to join the 133 other nations what have agreed to discontinue, to outlaw, to stop production and to destroy stockpiles of these devices.
To this day we continue using and planting landmines — notably on the Korean Peninsula. If one ever wonders why the North Koreans have not invaded South Korea — considering the animosity between the two regions — it surely is in part because of the sea of landmines betwixt the two.
During the First World War the use of battle tanks spurred the development of the anti-tank mine. These mines were large, clumsy and easily re-deployed by the opposing forces – and often re-laid against the tanks of the original mine layers. For this reason the anti-personnel mine was developed, designed to prevent enemy soldiers from removing the anti-tank mines.
Between 1918 and 1939 the development and use of the anti-personnel mine became a priority among military strategists and it was widely used throughout Poland, Russia and Korea. At this time its use was, on the whole, controlled, targeted at soldiers and linked to specific military objectives.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that the random dissemination of mines began.
During the US forces’ 9 year bombing campaign of Laos, thousands of mines were dropped by plane in a vain attempt to close the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It has been estimated that over 2 million dollars’ worth of bombs were dropped each day. But Cambodia suffered still more, with mines deployed even more extensively – and this time at random – by opposing factions in the civil war.
By the time Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan in 1979, randomly targeted and remotely delivered mines were accepted as normal.
Today, there are an estimated 110 million anti-personnel mines in the ground and another 250 million stockpiled in at least 108 countries around the world. Between 5 and 10 million more mines are produced each year, benefiting the producers to the tune of $50 to $180 million annually.
Facts about Land Mines
Information about the U.N. Mine Ban Agreement & Signatories
I know that on the first day of the new presidency the Whitehouse website took on a new look — removing many of the telltale signs of the emphasis found in the Obama Administration: concerns about global warming, and civil rights, etc.. That is or was to be expected. The new kids on the block will make their views known. It was predictable.
Amid election verbiage was a tone of confrontation and belligerence. I have not much hope that the Trump Administration would be the one to finally sign off on the U.N. Mine Ban Agreement — as a matter of fact given Candidate Trumps rhetoric about the U.N. it might be a miracle if the U.S. is still a member of the United Nations by the end of his term. But I can only hope for the best — hope for kinder, gentler nation. Even if it is hope against hope.
Back to more fun topics tomorrow. But these insidious devices have been on my mind for a while now and I had to vent. Thanks for stopping by, and I promise something a bit lighter for tomorrow.