The Landmines Problem

For some of us, the problem with land mines is an old one, and the fact that it continues is and should be a blot on our conscience.  The casualties are increasing, for 2016, the last year for which there are statistics, there were 8,605 casualties, a number which includes 2089 deaths.  These numbers represent about 25% more than the casualties the year before and are more than double the number for 2014.  Much of the damage is done by cluster landmines. As their name indicates, they are one landmine made up of many smaller ones, so when they explode a lot more harm is done.   Much of the mayhem created by landmines is in Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine and Yemen although at least 56 other countries including Syria also have landmines.  There is, or perhaps I should say there was, a treaty signed by 169 countries which became effective in 1999. Yet several major countries are not signatories: China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea. As many may already guess, the United States is also not a signatory. You can see why I feel there was a treaty because the 1999 one is far from limiting land mines.  In fact the US recently reauthorized the restock of cluster munitions.  The governments which use land mines, including the US, find them very effective and of course rather inexpensive. Not to use them says the Pentagon would be to put soldiers at risk. Right now the issue is a non-issue since the DMZ in between North and South Korea is heavily landmined, and given the situation makes its own point.  One of the many problems involved with landmines is that some 80% of victims are innocent civilians and of these 42% are children.

In view of the current administration’s stand on any number of defense issues, one cannot be realistic and expect that the problem with landmines would be anywhere on their radar. To be noted though there are those for whom the problem is shameful like the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and the NYT editorial from which these figures are drawn called the whole issue indecent. Whether or not landmines and their destruction are on the radar of the administration, they remain indecent and should be on our own radar.