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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Landmine ban: Has enough been done?
Select the link below to watch the Talking Point debate with Jody Williams, Ambassador for the International Campaign to ban landmines and Richard Lloyd of Landmine Action.
Hamid Karzai holds an international meeting in Kabul to discuss 'Building a peaceful future for Afghanistan: A total ban on anti-personnel mines'.
Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world with an estimated five to 10 million mines littering the country.
The Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel landmines was hailed as the first step to a world wide ban. However the major military powers - US, Russia, China, and most Middle Eastern countries, refused to sign the treaty.
It has been estimated that there are 120 million mines laid across the world, and that they kill or maim someone every 20 minutes, 15% being children. Each year two to five million new mines are put in the ground.
The UN has estimated that a $3 landmine costs between $200 and $1000 to clear.
Has the treaty worked? Has the international community done enough to make it work? What more needs to be done to rid the world of anti-personnel landmines?
We discussed landmines and how to eradicate them on our global interactive phone-in programme broadcast online, on the BBC World Service and on Digital television in the UK. Our guests were Jody Williams Ambassador of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and Richard Lloyd, Director of Landmine Action.
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
How would the ban stop terrorists, irregulars, and non-signature armies from making their own mines themselves, as the Viet Cong did in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from malfunctioning artillery and mortar rounds?
Unknown to most people is the fact that the first protestor against landmines is an American woman. She was joined in her work by Princess Diana of UK. In addition, the US is working on robotic methods to destroy landmines that have not been detonated.
The arguments some are giving for resisting a ban are staggering. The "War is a reality" line is plain stupid, war is not an inevitable occurrence and the methods of war need not be defined purely by effectiveness. If such cynics had been in place in Europe since 1945 we by now would have destroyed our cities with nuclear weapons and had our nations littered with devilish landmines. Instead Western Europe is now the most stable group of nations on earth where war between countries is almost unthinkable. This has occurred within a generation and it is only when such optimism and commitment to peace is made by the new superpowers that a brighter future for the world's majority will have a chance of becoming a reality. Call Europe's stance naively liberal if you wish but it has certainly learnt the hard way that this is the best way forward for all.
Someone answer me one important question? How in the heck will anyone actually enforce the outlawing of land mines, exactly? No one is supposed to be seen placing them, so how exactly will we all know who is responsible. Outlawing landmines is a great idea. But, outlawing land mines will be a waste of time and effort as it will be utterly impossible to enforce.
While I along with most of the world detest the amount of damage that is done by landmines to both innocent civilians and children, there are some legitimate reasons for opposing the treaty. For example to take out every landmine at the rate mentioned above would be impractical, if not impossible, for many of these countries economically, in addition to the difficulties in finding training and equipping the personnel to de-mine broad swatches of land. I oppose any new deployment of land mines and do in fact deplore there current use but ideas to ban them need to be practical rather than an outright ban and immediate defusing.
I've seen some people here mention that landmines are a reality in warfare and therefore nothing should be done about them. Well we can also say that corruption is a reality in capitalism so we should do nothing about cases like Enron and Andersen and all those corporations you hear about. They are a reality, people lose lots of money because some people want to get more money and power, just as people lose lives because some others do not want to lose a bit of power.
But I guess that once again money is worth more than the life of someone unknown.
It is unbelievable that western countries like the USA and UK become so selfish about their economy and war on terror that they don't see poor people including children losing their lives in landmine blasts. What difference is there between the terrorists and western countries?
Lee, Fort Leanord Wood, USA
Landmines are a reality of war and a ban will not stop their use, although the employment of such weapons should levy a certain responsibility on the user to remove them. It would be a good idea to design the things to have a predictable half-life so that they become less dangerous over time.
Bram, Amsterdam, Netherlands
People don't see the benefit of landmines. Granted, some civilians get hurt by them, but they are a great weapon against infantry. The landmine business also creates lots of jobs in this country so to close it down would be wrong.
I wonder how Anne from the USA would feel if it was her country that was littered with mines, killing farmers and children. Oh yes, that'd be the West's double standards at play again.
Anne from the USA needs to get her head out of the sand. It's not just 'some' civilians that get killed, it's thousands. And even if it were just a handful then the loss of a few jobs which could be replaced quite easily would be a price worth paying for saving lives.
If a soldier shoots an unarmed child it is considered a war crime, and yet if he sets a mine that happens to kill or mame the same child it is acceptable according to international law. I fail to see the logic. Not only must we enforce a worldwide ban on the production of landmines, we need also to destroy the millions of landmines that even some signatory countries of the Ottawa Treaty continue to stockpile.
Typical misunderstanding of human nature on this page. People seem to feel that if only we ban landmines and guns and nuclear weapons and chemical weapons and we all turn-that-frown-upside-down, people will stop killing each other. Having such treaties (ABM, Nuke test ban, Chem weapons ban) create a wonderful feeling of moral superiority and security, but in reality everyone is still churning out weapons and using them, or keeping them in case someone else uses them. Until the day when we all live under a global government where all citizens are perfectly happy (or are ruled in absolute tyranny) banning weapons accomplishes nothing.
This hidden terror
has no boundaries and cannot distinguish age, killing the young and innocent. Those who
produce and sell the landmines as a
lucrative product to help subjugate
others are without
conscience and true
terrorists. We must
stop their production immediately.
As an American, I must say that I am confounded and ashamed that the United States refuses to be part of the international ban on landmines. In not doing so we have grouped ourselves with international undesirables like Pakistan, Egypt, North Korea, Iran, and others.
I wish, and so do many Americans, that our country would be a leader in the world in doing the "right" thing, rather than what is in the interest of national security. "National security" all too often justifies unsavoury behaviour.
As with many treaties, success hinges largely upon what America does. I am not proud of this and take chauvinistic pride in this fact, but it is very much a fact. It is time for the USA to be a team player.
Why can't people be rational when it comes to landmines? The US has legitimate defence concerns when it comes to Korea, and the only mines used are in clearly marked, fenced off fields designed to slow down a million-man blitz, and they are not designed to merely maim. Instead of rabble-rousing why didn't the UN work towards a more meaningful treaty that acknowledged legitimate defence concerns? Instead of Ottawa - a blanket-ban, take it or leave it.
Des Currie, South Africa
Since the "It will cost us jobs" argument always surfaces (as it has done with Anne, USA) would someone please tell me how many Third World children have to die to save one western job?
I'm disgusted that anyone would claim landmines are good because their manufacture creates jobs. Anne should be required to immediately relocate to Afghanistan to try her hand at surviving against these mindless killers. Yes, the signatories to the Geneva Convention are required to map all minefields. Yes, they are required to recover or destroy those minefields, when possible.
As a former Infantry officer, I appreciate the use of mines for defensive minefields, and to deny an organized enemy use of terrain. This is the entire purpose of those things. However, too often those minefields are NOT mapped, or the maps are lost or destroyed, or those mines are booby-trapped to prevent civil people disabling them. They should be banned, and whatever nation produced them should be required to recover them.
The problem with treaties like this is that they do not address military realities. It is a fact that landmines play a crucial role in defensive military strategy. For example, landmines are vital to the defence of the DMZ in the Korean peninsula. Thousands of South Korean and American soldiers rely on landmines as a deterrent against a North Korean invasion, whose government is hardly one to follow feel-good international treaties.
Mines will always be an easy and cheap method of waging war. A lot of countries were unwilling to spend money on other types of arms and equipment during war time to reach their objective goals, they are even more less likely to be willing to spend more money now to pay to have the mines removed.
Isn't it funny how the same people that refuse to ban landmines are the ones that call a one-ton bomb dropped over a crowded village a precision strike and call cluster bombs smart weapons. If you cause or profit from causing the death and maiming of innocent children and farmers who are too poor to feed, let alone defend themselves, how can you claim to be fighting terror. On the contrary, those making money from the trade and use of these weapons are the biggest perpetrators of terror on the innocent. The most deadly weapon of mass destruction in everyday use at the moment is the landmine.
I would rather live under the rule of the Taleban than in a country littered with land mines, unexploded cluster bombs and depleted uranium! Imagine the panic if someone said there was even one landmine placed somewhere in your town. Now imagine Britain or America covered with thousands of them. The fact that land mines are effective in a war is irrelevant - nuclear weapons are effective in a war but nobody suggests that that makes it OK to use them!
Landmines are still openly marketed at arms fairs in this country. I would be surprised if anything had been done at all.
Give the anti landmine people a country to defend and neighbours who make five wars in 50 years. They would either run away or start using land mines themselves. Period.
Siddiqui, Karachi, Pakistan
Surely under UN and Geneva conventions these things should be illegal anyway. They are indiscriminate weapons that are used against civilians as well as military personnel.
When hostile countries share a border, landmines are necessary in conjunction with other forms of monitoring. This is especially true when the terrain is harsh. It is not always a matter of just blaming improper handling for causing injuries.
Martin Barrett, London, UK
Killing people is big business. The two largest arms manufacturing nations are the US and Britain. The economies of these "protectors and upholders of peace, democracy and freedom" benefit more than any other from conflict. Landmines aren't even the tip of the iceberg. When Blair and Co. talk about their desire to see the minefields of Afghanistan, Bosnia, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq and Cambodia cleared maybe you should question their sincerity.
The countries that lay the mines should pay for their clearing. Since it's money rather than morals that governs them, maybe they'll think twice before leaving thousands of mines in their wake.
If there is one single landmine left in the ground then no, not enough has been done.
As long as those who advocate the use of anti-personnel landmines are not the ones who suffer due to them, there seems little chance of the world being rid of them.
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