Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Another War, Another Round of Land Mines?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Another War, Another Round of Land Mines?

Article excerpt

While UN inspectors are searching for dangerous weapons hidden in Iraq by Saddam Hussein, they must also be wary of American weapons already lurking there.

These are not the nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons that President Bush charges Iraq is concealing, but they're equally indis- criminate and dangerous. Antipersonnel land mines emplaced by the US during the Gulf War in 1991, as well as those from the Iran-Iraq war, now continue to kill or maim up to 30 Iraqis each month.

Because land mines are such indiscriminate tools of war - thousands of innocent civilians worldwide are killed each year - the majority of nations in the world have signed the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty. The treaty prohibits the use, trade, production, or stockpiling of antipersonnel land mines in conflicts anywhere. The US, however, has chosen not to sign this convention.

Now, with war impending, the US has an important policy decision to make: Will it use land mines in its military operations again?

It is ironic that any US operation in Iraq will have to contend with the snares of its own land mines - both those already in the ground and any new ones emplaced. But beyond the military pros and cons of using land mines, the US must also consider their humanitarian impact.

Today, Iraq already has an estimated 600,000 to 1 million internally displaced people. A US attack and an increased presence of land mines will only make this growing population more vulnerable and cause humanitarian aid to be more difficult. With new land mines in place, the present rate of land-mine casualties can only grow.

Internationally, there are concerns over whether the US will ask other countries to violate the terms of the Mine Ban Treaty. All members of NATO, except the US and Turkey, have joined the treaty. Additionally, Qatar, which will serve as headquarters for future US military action in Iraq, is a party to the Mine Ban Treaty. Allowing the US to transfer mines across its borders for use in Iraq would put Qatar in direct violation of the treaty.

During the Gulf War, US war-fighting doctrine listed four types and uses for land mines:

* Protective minefieldsto add temporary strength to weapons positions, or other obstacles.

* Tactical minefields emplaced as part of an overall obstacle plan to stop, delay, and disrupt enemy attacks; reduce enemy mobility, channel enemy formations, block enemy penetrations, and protect friendly flanks. …

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