US Must Sign the Treaty to Ban Land Mines

Article excerpt

Fifteen years ago, I was camping in Israel and went hiking in the Golan, near Banyas. It was a beautiful morning ... until the earth exploded around me. I landed on my hands and knees. I smelled something burning and realized my foot was gone.

The international treaty to ban the production, stockpiling, and use of deadly anti-personnel land mines became international law on March 1. Since 1997, 134 countries have signed the treaty. Signers include every country in the Western Hemisphere except the US and Cuba; all NATO members except the United States and Turkey; the entire European Union except Finland; 42 African countries, and 17 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan.

President Clinton pledged five years ago to "lead a global movement to eliminate these terrible weapons and stop the enormous loss of human life." He refuses to sign the ban now, saying instead that the US will sign it in 2006 provided alternatives to land mines can be developed for use on the Korean peninsula. By then Mr. Clinton will have escaped Washington intact, but an estimated 150,000 additional people will have lost life or limb. Those of us who have experienced a land mine exploding under our legs and in our faces do not accept Clinton's refusal to sign the treaty. We now implore the president to follow through on his commitment by signing the ban. Defense officials say American mines are not the problem. But what about our land mines left behind after World War II, Vietnam, Korea, tens of thousands dropped randomly during the Gulf War, and nearly 5 million US mines exported since 1969. They keep showing up as deadly military litter in Cambodia, Iraq, El Salvador, Angola, Somalia, Laos, and Afghanistan. Today, tens of millions of mines lie buried in more than 65 countries. We certainly share the blame and must lead the cleanup. Some 300,000 people around the globe live with shattered limbs and lives, and the number is growing. …