29 November 2009

Mr. President, why do we need landmines?

On November 24, again following in George W. Bush's footsteps, the Obama administration announced that the U.S. will again refuse to sign the international Mine Ban Treaty.

When that news received a barrage of criticism from human rights groups, the White House backpedaled a bit and said that its policy review is continuing. If that is the case, I hope that the original decision will soon be reversed. But I will not hold my breath.

The Mine Ban Treaty, also known as the Ottawa Treaty, prohibits countries from using, stockpiling, producing, or transferring antipersonnel mines.

The treaty has been endorsed by 156 countries. The key holdouts are the U.S., Russia, China, and India. This is the company we keep. The U.S. is the only NATO member that will not agree to sign the treaty.

Where is the Barack Obama that I voted for?

And why would he think that we need landmines? After all, they are notorious for killing and injuring innocent civilians, including children.

According to the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), landmines caused some 5,197 casualties last year. A third of the victims were children. Why would Obama want to keep that kind of option open?

In response to the news, Steve Goose, Arms Division director at Human Rights Watch, had this to say:
"President Obama's decision to cling to antipersonnel mines keeps the U.S. on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of humanity. This decision lacks vision, compassion, and basic common sense, and contradicts the Obama administration's professed emphasis on multilateralism, disarmament, and humanitarian affairs."

I thought Obama wanted to restore our nation's reputation in the eyes of the world. But all his fancy speeches will ultimately mean nothing if his actions contradict his charming rhetoric.

Fingers crossed in hopes that the administration will soon come to its senses.

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