The Bush administration seems poised to end a 10-year moratorium on the manufacture and deployment of landmines or, in military parlance, antipersonnel devices. George H.W. signed the original moratorium, Bill Clinton extended it through his two terms, but G.W. plans to get the maiming devices back into the field by 2007.
According to the Interpress News Service, the Pentagon will decide whether or not to begin producing a new type of antipersonnel land mine called a ”Spider” in December — just in time for Christmas. The first of those mines would to roll out in early 2007 — 10 years after 145 nations signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which the U.S. has continued to refuse to sign.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the funds for Spider’s production are already earmarked, as the Pentagon has requested 1.3 billion dollars for the mine system, as well as for another mine called the Intelligent Munitions System, which is expected to be fully running by 2008.
A new report by the HRW issued Wednesday notes these weapons that kill and maim an estimated 500 people, mostly civilians, each week. The group called on the Bush administration to halt all research and development on all types of these widely-banned weapons.
The U.S. government had maintained that it would someday join the Mine Ban Treaty, which prohibits the use, production, exporting and stockpiling of antipersonnel land mines.
However, the Bush administration made an about-face in U.S. antipersonnel land mine policy in February 2004, when it abandoned any pretense of joining the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, also known as the Ottawa Convention.
”The United States will not join the Ottawa Convention because its terms would have required us to give up a needed military capability,” the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs said in a statement in February 2004, summing up the administration’s new policy.
”Landmines still have a valid and essential role protecting United States forces in military operations… No other weapon currently exists that provides all the capabilities provided by landmines.”
It was this policy, [Human Rights Watch] says, that laid the groundwork for the U.S. government’s new antipersonnel land mine slated for production as early as 2007.
Indeed, there is evidence that the U.S. Army currently is using a landmine device in Iraq with the ultra-cool name of Matrix. It is a device that is set off manually with a radio device.
I believe the Iraqi insurgents have a similar weapon the U.S. has designated an Improvised Explosive Device, or IED. The difference is there is nothing improvised about the American weapon — it’s already paid for and, come Christmas, will be in production for deployment in 2007.
Roll out the crutches!