W. E. Gutman: Land mines and morals ... fail to the Chief!


The US, which has not made antipersonnel mines since 1997 (but has leased production rights to other countries), will decide in December whether to begin manufacturing a new antipersonnel mine called Spider. The Pentagon has requested an additional US$1.3 billion for the development of another new antipersonnel mine with the squeaky-clean name of "Intelligent Munitions System."


(20.10.2005)

VHeadline.com guest commentarist Willy E. Gutman writes: If there are no conflicts, let's invent them. If there is no pretext for intervention, let's create imaginary ones. When challenged, let's seek exculpation by vehement denial or preposterous excuses.

To add legitimacy to subterfuge, let's unfurl a lofty banner -- democracy and human rights -- not in their original context but as expedient slogans in the pursuit of hegemonic interests. Anything to keep the war engine running and stockholders smiling.

It is no doubt in the spirit of egalitarianism and human dignity that the Bush administration now stands poised to resume the production of land mines. Also known as "antipersonnel mines" in the sanitized lexicon of war, these small stationary explosive devices are designed to maim or kill the person who triggers them.

What can be more democratic than a bomb that makes no distinction between friend and foe, adult and minor.

·Between 15,000 and 20,000 people are either mutilated or killed by land mines every year. About 40% are children.

The US, which has not made antipersonnel mines since 1997 (but has leased production rights to other countries), will decide in December whether to begin manufacturing a new antipersonnel mine called Spider. The Pentagon has requested an additional US$1.3 billion for the development of another new antipersonnel mine with the squeaky-clean name of "Intelligent Munitions System."

According to media reports which the Pentagon has yet to confirm or deny, in May 2005, the US Army was to begin deploying to Iraq a new remote-controlled land mine system called Matrix, which relies on technology developed for Spider.

In its recent report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) blames these developments on the Bush administration's land mine policy announced in February 2004 under which the US rescinded its decision to adhere to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. The treaty, which entered into force in 1999, bans "the use, stockpiling, production and transfer" of any mines "designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person and that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons."

"We are beginning to see the bitter fruits of the Bush administration policies," said Steve Goose, director of HRW's Arms division. "Export and renewed use of these inhumane weapons may not be far behind. Any future production, trade or use of antipersonnel mines would put the US squarely at odds with the international consensus against the weapon, and would draw strong criticism from its closest allies."

Army documents recently obtained by the HRW's Arms Project reveal that dissent within the U.S. military about the utility of antipersonnel mines dates back to at least the Korean War. A recently retired high-ranking Air Force officer formerly stationed at Edwards AFB and who spoke on condition of anonymity, called antipersonnel mines "antediluvian and barbaric."

A total of 145 countries have joined the Mine Ban Treaty and another eight have signed but not yet ratified. This includes every member of NATO, as well as Japan, Australia and other key military allies. With very few exceptions, nearly every nation has endorsed the goal of a global ban on all antipersonnel mines. Even states not party to the treaty have stopped production, trade and use of the weapon.

Only 47 countries remain outside the Treaty ... including the US.

Nations that are party to the Mine Ban Treaty would have to consider ending any investments they may have in U.S. companies producing or exporting the new antipersonnel mines. These include Bush-campaign contributors General Dynamics, Textron, AAI Corp., Allen-Bradley, Alliant Techsystems, Accudyne, GE, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Thiokol, Mohawk Electric Systems, Aerospace Design, Amron Corp. and BI Tech. Minnesota-based Alliant appears to have profited most from land mine production -- $336 million between 1985 and 1995. To its credit, Motorola was the first and most visible government contractor to renounce any future involvement in antipersonnel mines

US officials claim that American-made mines are not a significant factor in the global land mine problem, a spurious argument that will no doubt be used to justify any decision to renew production.

·The US exported over 5.6 million antipersonnel mines to 38 countries between 1969 and 1992.

Deminers in at least 29 mine-affected countries have reported the presence of nine different types of U.S.-manufactured antipersonnel mines and four types of anti-vehicle mines, including both non-self-destructing and self-destructing types.

The HRW report recommends that:

* Continued funding for the Intelligent Munitions System be dependent on the compliance of this program with the Mine Ban Treaty.

* The Department of Defense publicly clarify whether the Matrix mine system has already been deployed, and if it is capable of being victim-activated. The DOD should also provide details on target identification and the the type of protection afforded civilians in areas Matrix mines are used.

* The DOD spell out current policy regarding use of Claymore mines with tripwires, and prohibit such use everywhere, including South Korea.

* The appropriate Congressional committees be notified on an annual basis of any export or transfers of antipersonnel mines, regardless of the intended purposes of the mines or the number of mines.

The Bush administration's decision to resume production of land mines casts an ominous pall on the progress made since 1999. It also bares the moral fiber of a man who, had he not been a Republican and a scion of the religious right, would have long been impeached and tried for crimes against humanity.

·For all his assertions that the presidency has changed him, it appears that Bush has actually learned nothing.

His second term is as disappointing as was his first.

Von: 18 October 2005, http://www.vheadline.com by W. E. Gutman WEG@bak.rr.com

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