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