Magazine article National Defense

U.S. Antitank Weapons Could Replace Landmines, Study Says

Magazine article National Defense

U.S. Antitank Weapons Could Replace Landmines, Study Says

Article excerpt

A retired Army general who opposes the U.S. government's position on the use of antipersonnel landmines says recent military and peacekeeping operations in the Balkans offer a stark example of why mines should be banned.

The Clinton administration declined to sign the 1997 Ottawa Treaty banning the use of antipersonnel mines because it wants to be able to deploy self-destructing "smart mines" to protect U.S. troops and tanks.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard Jr. says U.S. support of using such mines is counterproductive. "Peacekeeping forces attempting to operate in areas where mines have been sown have suffered casualties and been restricted in their operations," says Gard, whose 31-year Army career included combat in Korea and Vietnam.

The United States does not need smart mines to protect its soldiers, he says, because there currently are other weapons in the Pentagon's inventory that can perform the same functions as antitank or antipersonnel mines. In Kosovo, for example, "we destroyed hundreds of tanks without using mixed [antitank mine] systems ... The weapons that we have are doing the job," says Gard.

U.S. military involvement in NATO peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia and Kosovo puts American soldiers at risk because there are thousands of mines scattered in those war-torn areas, says Gard in a study titled "Alternatives to Antipersonnel Landmines," published by the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, Washington, D.C. The foundation-for which Gard serves as military advisor-has criticized the U.S. government for not subscribing to the Ottawa Treaty, which was signed by 135 nations and ratified by 82.

According to Pentagon estimates, there are 3 to 5 million landmines in Bosnia. In Kosovo, there are probably far fewer mines per square mile, says spokesman Ken Bacon. "But I don't think we know that for a fact, and that's one of the things we want to find out. …

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