Landmines: A History

What Are Landmines?


Landmines are explosive material contained in casings of metal, plastic or wood that detonate from the pressure of a footstep (anti-personnel mine) or a passing vehicle (anti-tank mine). Landmines are indiscriminate − a child is just as likely to step on one as a soldier.
Landmines are popular weapons of war because they cost as little as $3 to make and can be easily deployed in a variety of locations.
"Not War, But Murder"
Landmines are an ancient invention. In Northern China, archeologists have discovered forms of landmines dating back 600 years. Precursors of conventional landmines appeared in the 15th century at the Battle of Agincourt in England and in the 18th century during the American Civil War. After his troops encountered these devices, the commander of the Union Army, General William T. Sherman, said that the use of landmines "was not war, but murder."
In the 20th century, landmines were developed to meet new threats. Anti-tank mines, devised on the Western front during World War I to counter tanks, were used extensively during both world wars. More than 300 million anti-tank mines were used during World War II alone. WWII also saw an increase in the use of anti-personnel mines. Since anti-tank mines could be removed by the enemy, anti-personnel mines were placed around them as guards. One of the most effective anti-personnel types was the German-made "bouncing betty," designed to jump from the ground to hip height when activated, propelling hundreds of steel fragments over a wide range. Noting their effectivness, militaries began to use anti-personnel mines as weapons in their own right.
The Current Crisis
Use of landmines in wars of liberation, civil wars, and local conflicts, has had devastating impact on economic and political reconstruction in countries around the globe.
Since 1945, landmines have been used throughout the world in wars of liberation, civil wars, and local conflicts, with a devastating impact on economic and political reconstruction. Landmines demoralize survivors as well as their families and communities, impeding the process of peace and reconciliation. Because they lurk undetectably in the ground, population movement is restricted, land cannot be cultivated, roads and bridges cannot be rebuilt and refugees cannot return to their homes. Survivors of landmine accidents often cannot work at their previous jobs and require retraining. Without a strong workforce, the pace of reconstruction slows.
For poor countries, clearing landmines places an additional burden on already meager resources. It costs from $300 to $1,000 to locate and destroy a single landmine. This is not the only expense. It costs $100 to $3,000 to provide an artificial limb to a landmine survivor. An adult must replace a prosthesis every two to three years and a child must have a new one every six months to a year.
The international community is making a concerted effort to eradicate landmines. The Mine Ban Treaty came into force on March 1, 1999, faster than any international treaty in history. International, nongovernmental and private-sector organizations are working with affected countries to establish mine action campaigns.

Von: 04.05.07

<<< zurück zu: News