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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARCH 11, 2003
1:27 PM
CONTACT: International Campaign to Ban Landmines
John Heffernan, (617) 413-6407 jheffernan@phrusa.org 

Pentagon Admits Plans to Use Landmines in Iraq
 
WASHINGTON - March 11 - Today, the US Campaign to Ban Landmines (USCBL) criticized the US military for officially and specifically acknowledging for the first time that it plans to use antipersonnel mines in Iraq. At a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday a senior defense official told reporters that US forces "might deny access to [a chemical weapons site] by using self-destructing small mines." Reportedly, the US has some 90,000 landmines already stockpiled in the region. The last time the US used antipersonnel mines was in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

"The use of antipersonnel landmines would endanger Iraqi civilians, US troops, future peacekeepers and deminers," said Dan Smith, retired US Army Colonel. "Use of this indiscriminate weapon in Iraq would more than likely lead to civilian and US troop casualties, as it did during the 1991 Persian Gulf War," said Smith.

Members of Congress from both parties recently sent a letter to President Bush urging him to prohibit US troops from using antipersonnel mines in Iraq. The January letter states: "The United States military, unquestionably the strongest in the world, can defend itself and its interests without the aid of this indiscriminate menace."

A recent US General Accounting Office (GAO) report on the use and effects of landmines during the Persian Gulf War stated that some US commanders were reluctant to use mines "because of their impact on US troop mobility, safety concerns, and fratricide potential."

Any US use of antipersonnel mines would run counter to and serve to undermine the complete rejection of the weapon by most of the rest of the world. One hundred forty-six nations have signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, but not the United States or Iraq. All NATO countries except the United States have embraced the ban. Allied forces such as the UK, which has already positioned 25,000 troops in the region, will be in violation of the treaty if they assist US troops in mine-deployment operations.

"To use antipersonnel mines in Iraq would further isolate the US, given that nearly all of our allies have outlawed this weapon of terror," said Gina Coplon-Newfield, Coordinator of the USCBL.

Moreover, the US Air Force air-dropped Gator mines being discussed are unlikely to be effective in denying access to a facility. They cannot be dropped with a high degree of precision, won't have the density of a true barrier minefield, and, being on the surface, are easily spotted, avoided, or cleared by an enemy.

Though President Clinton did not sign the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, he did issue a Presidential Decision Directive that instructed the Pentagon to move toward joining the treaty by 2006 if suitable alternatives were developed. The Bush Administration has not yet finished its formal review of US landmine policies.

"No Landmine in use today, even a self-destructing landmine, is smart enough to differentiate between a soldier and an innocent civilian," said Jerry White, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Landmine Survivors Network. "Use of antipersonnel mines by the US in Iraq would reverse a decade of US pledges to eliminate these weapons." = = The US Campaign to Ban Landmines is a coalition of approximately 500 veterans, medical, human rights, religious, and humanitarian organizations as well as thousands of individuals nationwide advocating for the US government to join the Mine Ban Treaty and to increase support for demining and landmine victim assistance. The USCBL is coordinated by Physicians for Human Rights, which shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its role in founding the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

Visit our Iraq and Landmines Page at http://www.icbl.org/country/iraq/

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