A Disappointing Decision on Landmines

The Obama Administration announced late today that it will not sign an international convention banning landmines but would send observers to a review conference on the treaty in Cartagena, Colombia. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Tuesday that the Administration recently completed a review and had decided not to change the Bush-era policy.

"We decided that our land mine policy remains in effect," he said. "As a global provider of security, we have an interest in the discussions there," Kelly said. "But we will be there as an observer, obviously, because we haven't signed the convention, nor do we plan to sign the convention."

While the United States generally abides by the provisions of the treaty - the US has not used antipersonnel mines since the 1991 Gulf War, has not exported any since 1992 and has not produced them since 1997 - but rather under a 2004 Bush directive reserves the right to use and develop non-persistent (self-destructing/self-deactivating) landmines primarily for use on the Korean peninsula. Additionally, the United States stockpiles some 10 million antipersonnel mines and retains the option to use them.

"This is a default of U.S. leadership and a detour from the clear path of history," Vermont Senator Pat Leahy said in a statement. "The United States is the most powerful nation on earth. We don't need these weapons and most of our allies have long ago abandoned them. It is a lost opportunity for the United States to show leadership instead of joining with China and Russia and impeding progress. The United States took some of the earliest and most effective steps to restrict the use of landmines. We should be leading this effort, not sitting on the sidelines."

More than 150 countries have agreed to the Mine Ban Treaty's provisions to end the production, use, stockpiling and trade in mines. Apart from the United States, other holdouts include: China, India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Russia. The meeting in Cartagena next week is to assess compliance with the now ten year old ban.

According to the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), landmines caused at least 5,197 casualties last year, a third of them children. A United Nations report on the impact of armed conflict on children, by Graça Machel, the UN Secretary-General's Expert on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children called landmines "an insidious and persistent danger" to children. An estimated 110 million land-mines of various types remain hidden and unexploded. Once laid, a mine may remain active for up to 50 years.

Three countries - Afghanistan, Angola and Cambodia - account for 85 percent of the world's landmine casualties. Angola alone has an estimated 10 million landmines and an amputee population of 70,000, of whom 8,000 are children. Since May 1995 children have made up about half the victims of the 50,000-100,000 anti-personnel mines laid in Rwanda. In Cambodia, an average of 20 percent of children injured by mines and unexploded ordnance die from their injuries. In Afghanistan, there are at least seven million landmines. Landmines remain a problem in at least 68 countries. The cost to remove all 110 million active mines is estimated at approximately $33 billion. Experts believe that under current conditions it would take more than 1,100 years to clear the entire world of mines—provided that no additional mines are planted.

The decision by the Administration is bitterly disappointing.

Tags: Landmines, Obama Administration, Senator Pat Leahy (all tags)

Comments

30 Comments

Re: A Disappointing Decision on Landmines

Well, it's up to the Senate to approve a treaty.

by Khun David 2009-11-24 08:32PM | 0 recs
Re: A Disappointing Decision on Landmines

And considering it requires a 2/3rd vote - 67 votes in favor - it has no chance in hell, unless the GOP decides to stop being the party of No all the time.

by vecky 2009-11-24 09:52PM | 0 recs
Re: A Disappointing Decision on Landmines

That said, what the senate chooses to do or not to do has nothing to do with the admin. It is possible that Obama knows there is no chance of it being ratified before the mid-terms so simply pulled it as an issue.

by vecky 2009-11-24 09:54PM | 0 recs
Reminds me of Kyoto

In 2000, I remember thinking there was no way Gore would be able to fulfill his promise to sign Kyoto...it would NEVER have gotten ratified in a Republican Senate, which we all assumed he'd be facing in 2001 as President. (Really didn't expect Maria Cantwell to beat Slade Gorton or Ben Nelson would win in Nebraska). Wouldn't have gotten through the 50/50 Senate either, specially after what would have been bitter resentment stemming from the election.

by ND22 2009-11-24 11:30PM | 0 recs
Re: A Disappointing Decision on Landmines

Very disappointed with the decision here.  Even though the US hasn't used landmines in nearly 20 years, it would mark a huge step forward to officially declare that we won't in the future and send a great message to the international community.  Again, very disappointing.

by thatrangeofshadesbetweenredandbluestuff 2009-11-24 08:34PM | 0 recs
Agreed

I am proud to live in a country that, as you note, does not use landmines, and has not for almost 20 years.

I generally give the Administration the benefit of the doubt, but I believe this is one instance where Obama should truly live up to his Nobel Peace Prize regardless of any practical considerations.

It just sends the wrong message.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-11-24 08:36PM | 0 recs
No one has seen this?

US revises statement on land mine policy

Perhaps our uproar is having an impact?

by NoFortunateSon 2009-11-25 06:54PM | 0 recs
Totally agree

The extent to which Obama is prepared to run away from policies as politically safe as a ban on land mines in order to appease the right is becoming sickening.  

There comes a time when we must say that we are going to do what is right, period, and if our Country can't accept that and opts for Republican candidates and policies, then to hell with us all.

Pragmatism is certainly a principle, but it can very easily turn into spinelessness.

The way things are going, it's no longer a battle between Democrats and Republicans.  It will soon be a battle between the rich who have too much control over both parties and the rest of us.  If that's how things are destined to go down, I pity the rich because they will lose all they have, and then some.

by Georgeo57 2009-11-24 09:31PM | 0 recs
Re: A Disappointing Decision

Disappointing... but not surprising.

This is another issue we have to push the admin on. Granted politics probably had more to do with this.

by vecky 2009-11-24 09:47PM | 0 recs
Change we can believe in?

the Administration... decided not to change the Bush-era policy.

This is very disappointing. I didn't expect President Obama to be a strong progressive, advocating all of my positions. But I thought he would at least make obvious changes such as supporting the landmine treaty. As it is, we are still having to fight almost all the Bush policies. What was the point in working so hard to elect Obama?

by RandomNonviolence 2009-11-25 05:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Change we can believe in?

I agree... he was supportive of land mine reductions in the past. Granted it never came up in the campaign, but I can't understand this decision at all.

I mean if the US hasn't used landmines since 1992, what's the point of not signing? We abide by it anyway.

by vecky 2009-11-25 10:31AM | 0 recs
The Land Mine Lobby is Very Strong

Is there a land mine lobby?

When Obama sends more troops to Afghanistan to fight imaginary enemies, I guess they will need those land mines.

The idea of being "dissapointed" makes me nauseas.

by stu Piddy 2009-11-25 05:49AM | 0 recs
Re: The Land Mine Lobby is Very Strong

When Obama sends more troops to Afghanistan to fight imaginary enemies, I guess they will need those land mines

We stopped producing land mines nearly twenty years ago.

by ND22 2009-11-25 07:25AM | 0 recs
Re: The Land Mine Lobby is Very Strong

They don't need to "produce" them they have 10 million stocked piled that's about 20 million arms and legs blown off to fight imaginary enemies in villages.

by stu Piddy 2009-11-25 02:48PM | 0 recs
and now suddenly we're gonna start using them?

by ND22 2009-11-25 03:18PM | 0 recs
Re: A Disappointing Decision on Landmines

Who cannot agree with all of the spoken sentiments regarding the US position land mines above.

But equally aggregious is the sale (or donation) of other similar weapons to nations like Israel, which are equally vicious in that they continue to kill after being dropped on civilian populations where even innnocent children die or get maimed by them. I am referring here to the fragmentation bombs dropped on Lebanon in 2006, and the phosporous and DIME munitions dropped on Gaza at the end of last year.

Just who are we to stand aside as if we were just innocent bystanders?

by MainStreet 2009-11-25 06:01AM | 0 recs
Re: A Disappointing Decision on Landmines

Some additional text on what may be in the background of the US decision:

The US Corporate Producers

Although it has had a unilateral export moratorium on AP mines in place since 1992, the United States has refused to sign the Ottawa Treaty.

From 1969 to 1992, the United States exported 4.4 million AP mines to at least 34 different countries. U.S. mines have been sown in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Cuba, Iraq, Kuwait, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Korea, Sudan and Vietnam.

Forty-seven U.S. companies have been involved in the manufacture of anti-personnel landmines, their components or delivery systems. Because U.S. stockpiles are full, there is apparently no current production of AP mines.

Last year, Human Rights Watch approached these companies, highlighted the humanitarian impact of AP mine warfare and asked them to renounce future involvement in AP mine production. Nineteen of the 47 companies agreed to do so. Notable companies that declined to renounce future involvement are General Electric, Alliant Techsystems (the main U.S. manufacturer of AP mines), Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

Of the 28 companies that rejected Human Rights Watch's humanitarian appeal to renounce future involvement in AI, mine production, 16 responded in writing, and 12 never bothered to respond to repeated requests.

A number of companies insisted they should not be on the list of mine producers because they were currently not involved in the production of AP mines. Human Rights Watch pointed out that, because at the moment U.S. stockpiles of AP mines are full, no AP mines are being produced in the United States. The purpose of the pledge was to obtain guarantees that companies would not engage h1 any future production.

Despite Human Rights Watch's clear request, some companies refused to address the issue of future involvement. General Electric, in a carefully crafted January 16, 1997 letter, stated: "We know of no active GE contracts nor any current direct sales of GE products or materials in which we are involved with manufacturers of antipersonnel mines, mine components or mine delivery systems.... GE's name on an undated (but apparently old) government list of suppliers is not relevant to the Company's current operation." GE never renounced involvement in future production, despite repeated requests for clarification.

http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Landmi nes_html/Fields_Nightmares.html


by MainStreet 2009-11-25 06:11AM | 0 recs
Re: A Disappointing Decision on Landmines

I am quickly moving back to where was by the late 90s- over politics. There was this window of opportunity with the rise of blogs, but now, I am trying to determine if that window is over. I think may be it is.

by bruh3 2009-11-25 07:44AM | 0 recs
We can only hope

by ND22 2009-11-25 09:01AM | 0 recs
Re: We can only hope

You know the funny thing is that I am the most down to earth poster here who actually represents the bulk of what Americans think versus shilling for President Obama and the national Democrats. So, I am sure you do hope I go away. And then when you start losing when the average moderate person starts going "these people are nuts" you will think it is their fault too. It's how you roll. You will continue that way because introspection is certainly not your thing.  If it was you wouldn't be a cheerleader.

by bruh3 2009-11-25 05:17PM | 0 recs
AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

You know the funny thing is that I am the most down to earth poster here who actually represents the bulk of what Americans think versus shilling for President Obama and the national Democrats.

Keep telling yourself that dude. The world needs entertainment.

by ND22 2009-11-25 05:33PM | 0 recs
Re: AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

Actually, it is not me telling it to myself. It is me comparing my views to what the polls are saying most Americans think versus what many of you say here. My views matches up with most Americans. Yours do not.

by bruh3 2009-11-25 06:19PM | 0 recs
Re: AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

By the way, I don't think most Americans yet realize how out of touch the Democratic leadership is. I think they will start dealing that next year depending on the job situation and what the Dems do about it. What I do know- is that you and your cohorts are not particularly enlightening. I get more out of talking to conservative friends with whom I disagree with passionately, but who are actually debating how to make the country better, than I do talking to you. So, at the end of the day- what's the point of talking to you? None.

by bruh3 2009-11-25 06:24PM | 0 recs
Oh you're classic, I love you

I am the most down to earth poster here who actually represents the bulk of what Americans think versus shilling for President Obama and the national Democrats.

I don't think most Americans yet realize how out of touch the Democratic leadership is.

So are you saying you don't yet realize how out of touch the Democratic leadership is yet?

This is adorable, how you try to convince us you are the heartbeat of America, except not really, but you will be, goddamit!

by ND22 2009-11-25 07:18PM | 0 recs
Re: A Disappointing Decision on Landmines

Yea, well, my thought was about that when I saw everyone get sucked into the Obama vortex during the '08 primary to "believe in him" and what he said )as opposed to his record) or what was imagined. This sort of thing seems an inevitable ending given the lack of substance to back up the faith. Given the poor choice between Clinton and Obama, at least the netroots would not have been fizzled to koolaid had Clinton won, but here we are and it looks pretty bleak and about time to start over from the outside again.

At one point, Obama is gonna wake up and say, 'hey where's the party?'

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-11-25 11:29AM | 0 recs
Wow, everyone was right about you

you are bitter.

by ND22 2009-11-25 12:56PM | 0 recs
Re: A Disappointing Decision on Landmines

Well we agree about one thing.  At one point someone is gonna' wake up and say, "Hey, where's the party?"

by Shaun Appleby 2009-11-25 03:11PM | 0 recs
Re: A Disappointing Decision on Landmines

Yeap, I said last year we had 3 bad choices in retrospect When i said that in your diary, one of the bots responded as if I were a Clinton supporter rather than realizing I was being introspective about all the choices, or lack there of.

As for Obama, he was apaprently Trojan horse for Clintonism by another name. I think Clintonism has failed. The banking crisis last year was as much at his feet as Bush's feet. No one is discussing how it was Clinton's deregulation that lead to the bubble.   I remember having these exact conversations with Bush supporters until I accepted that their support is not rational or logical. There must be an "enemy" rather than looking at the world as a set up problems and solutions.  You got to protect the ego and the czar at all cost. Someone linked me to this as a response to my views:

"If the Czar Knew"

http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/200 5/09/08/if_only_the_czar_knew/

"There's some striking stuff in this CBS poll on Katrina. 58 percent disapprove of Bush's handling of the hurricane, and just 38 percent approve. But consider this -- only 20 percent say the federal government's handling of the disaster was adequate, while 77 percent say it wasn't. 24 percent say FEMA's response was adequate and 70 percent disagree. How is it, then, that Bush is rated so much better than the federal government he heads, and the disaster agency run by his appointee, the much-beloved "Brownie?" This is part-and-parcel of a very frightening cult of personality that's been erected around the person of George W. Bush ever since 9/11 with the effective complicity of the rightwing media."

This protect the leader creates contradictory statements over policies. Meteor Blades of Daily Kos and I were discussing this the other day in the context of a highly recommended cheerleader diary in which the diarist said the exact opposite of what he had said earlier:

" It is difficult to respond to the (2+ / 0-)
say-anything-to-win style that has come to this site. I remember some of the names here and they repeatedly come up saying anything, and literally, there is no rule against them doing it. So, it promotes bad faith behavior. This is an open site. Thus, there is no rule that says one can not say Obama had nothing to do with the Baucus bill months ago, and now, when it suits one to make the opposite argument because there is no requirement of honesty or truth in statements here. The fact is there is a difference between being wrong (which I admit I have been in the past) and just out and out gaming the system as some do.

by bruh1 on Sun Nov 22, 2009 at 12:28:01 PM PST
[ Parent | Reply to This ]

Moreover, it is not just saying one ... (3+ / 0-)

...thing now and saying the opposite then. It is the verbal savagery with which those saying such things deal with those who disagree with them.

Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

by Meteor Blades on Sun Nov 22, 2009 at 12:35:44 PM PST
[ Parent | Reply to This ]"

To paraphrase Glenn Greenwald's excellent commentary on this earlier this year sums it up: If you are for disclosing torture photos when President Obama is for it, but against disclosing photos when President Obama is against it, one is not advocating principles.

I do not see anyway to rationalize or excuse the landmine situation. It kills a lot of people unnecesarily. why do we need it as an option? We need to hold them accountable for all of these things. THere are other examples like mandates in health care. This is  concept in conjunction with public health insurance I support, but it is clearly one in which he changed his position.

They will rationalize anything, and thus, a conversation over accountability is an impossibility. Without that accountability, we are going to have a hard to righting the ship that was caused by laissez faire economic policy in the last 3 decades.

by bruh3 2009-11-25 06:18PM | 0 recs
Can't we do both?

Help this Administration succeed under the belief that it is the best hope we have for this country and continue to crash the gates?

by NoFortunateSon 2009-11-25 07:02PM | 0 recs
oh

you think Jerome wants Obama to succeed? Nope, he's thrilled with the prospect of telling everyone "I told you so"

by ND22 2009-11-25 07:20PM | 0 recs

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