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August 6, 2005

Another step back

A report from Human Rights Watch (via Common Dreams) suggests that the Bush administration may soon resume production of antipersonnel landmines—a move that would be out of step with the growing international consensus against their possession or use:

In December of this year, the Pentagon will decide whether or not to begin producing a new type of antipersonnel land mine called a “Spider”. The first of these mines would then be scheduled to roll out in early 2007.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the funds for Spider’s production are already earmarked, as the Pentagon has requested 1.3 billion dollars for the mine system, as well as for another mine called the Intelligent Munitions System, which is expected to be fully running by 2008.
… In 1994 the U.S. called for the “eventual elimination” of all such mines and in 1996, Pres. Bill Clinton said the U.S. would “seek a worldwide agreement as soon as possible to end the use of all antipersonnel mines.” The U.S. produced its last antipersonnel land mine in 1997.
It has also been the stated objective of the U.S. government that it would someday join the 145 countries party to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty [aka the Ottawa Convention], which bans the use, production, exporting, and stockpiling of antipersonnel land mines.

Bush signaled his intent more than a year ago, when the administration disowned the Ottawa Convention on the grounds that “landmines still have a valid and essential role protecting United States forces in military operations.” It was only a matter of time before those words were going to be translated into action.

If production does resume, the U.S. will find itself in a barbaric minority aligned against more than 140 states that have signed the convention. It will also, as Common Dreams points out, find itself with some diplomatic issues:

“If they go ahead and do this, they will really be breaking some new ground,” Mary Wareham, a senior advocate in HRW’s arms division, told IPS. “It will be a massive step backwards for the U.S. in terms of making any good will. If they did it, it would be bad news all around and I’m sure that there would be protests.”
The 145 parties to the Ottawa Convention are also forbidden to “assist” others in acts that are prohibited by the treaty. Therefore, U.S. military allies could be at risk of breaching the treaty in joint military operations where antipersonnel land mines are being used.

Given that the Bush administration doesn’t seem much concerned with other treaties (Geneva Convention, anyone?), I’m guessing this won’t be an obstacle.

Posted by Stephen at 12:24 AM in War | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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