Senator Leahy takes Obama to task over landmines

December 1, 2009

With President Barack Obama poised to order more U.S. troops into Afghanistan, a senior U.S. senator hammered the administration Tuesday for not joining an international treaty banning landmines.

“I think the Obama administration has made a dramatic mistake in this area,” Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, said in remarks on the Senate floor. “This is not what we expected from this administration.”
USA-COURT/SOTOMAYOR
The Vermont senator, a longtime supporter of the 10-year-old international Mine Ban Treaty, said one argument the Pentagon made for opposing the accord was that it wanted to preserve its option to use landmines in Afghanistan.

“Yet we have seen how civilian casualties in Afghanistan have become one of the most urgent and pressing concerns of our military commanders, where bombs that missed their targets and other mistakes have turned the populace against us,” he said.

“Can anyone imagine the United States using landmines in Afghanistan, a country where more civilians have been killed or horribly injured from mines than any other in history, a country which, like our coalition partners, is itself a party to the treaty?” he asked.

“Landmines cannot distinguish between an enemy combatant, a U.S. soldier, a young child or a woman out hunting firewood for her family. They do not belong in the arsenal of any modern military.”
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Leahy’s remarks came as a 10-year review conference on the popular Mine Ban Treaty got under way in Cartagena, Colombia.

Later Tuesday, Obama will unveil his new Afghanistan war strategy, which is expected to include the deployment of 30,000 additional troops.

Some 260 square miles of Afghan territory are contaminated by landmines, according to the 2009 Landmine Monitor, a report of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which shared the Nobel Peace Prize for its work to outlaw the weapons.

Up to 60,000 Afghans are thought to be survivors of landmine explosions.

Leahy noted the United States has not used or manufactured landmines since the 1990s.

“The United States is the most powerful nation on earth,” Leahy said. “We do not need these indiscriminate weapons any more than our allies who have abandoned them.”

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Photo credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts (Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, at a panel hearing earlier this year); Reuters/Jerry Lampen (Afghan deminer works to clear mines in Afghanistan in November)

2 comments

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“The Administration’s decision to attend this Review Conference is the result of an on-going comprehensive review of U.S. landmine policy initiated at the direction of President Obama.

This is the first comprehensive review since 2003. As such, it will take some time to complete, given that we must ensure that all factors are considered, including possible alternatives to meet our national defense needs and security commitments to our friends and allies to ensure protection of U.S. troops and the civilians they protect around the world.”

See: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2009/de c/132891.htm

Posted by Wallace167 | Report as abusive

Wallace 167, you can not extrapolate that land mines are protecting people around the world. Land mines are meant to kill people. Does the term oxymoron mean anything to you? Yet we plant them where civilians tread. This is the problem with using military forces for civilian matters.

Farmers and children are still dying from mines and blasting caps in the fields where WW I was waged in France. It would take hundreds of years with current technology to clean up that mess. I seriously doubt any comprehensive review of landmine deployment has or ever will be done.

By all accounts the use of drones to bomb Taliban forces on the Pakistani border has only served to widen the conflict into Pakistan. The Taliban have now gone to Pakistan to fight. Over a million Pakistanis are now refugees as they cannot return to their homes safely. Perhaps a comprehensive review of the use of military forces for diplomatic and political objectives by the United States is in order.

Posted by eddieblack | Report as abusive