U.S. Set to Use Mines in Iraq

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Posted by Tony from dialup- ( on Wednesday, December 11, 2002 at 11:46PM :

Published on Wednesday, December 11, 2002 by USAToday
U.S. Set to Use Mines in Iraq
by Tom Squitieri

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is preparing to use anti-personnel land mines in a war with Iraq, despite U.S. policy that calls for the military to stop using the mines everywhere in the world except Korea by 2003.

Also See:
International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)

To prepare for a possible war with Baghdad, the Pentagon has stockpiled land mines at U.S. bases in countries ringing Iraq, according to Pentagon records. The decision to make the mines available comes despite a recent report by the General Accounting Office, Congress' investigative arm, concluding that their use in the 1991 Gulf War impeded U.S. forces while doing nothing to impair Iraqi forces.

Using the mines would stoke the international debate over the merits and morality of using land mines, which can remain deadly long after fighting ends.

From 15,000 to 20,000 people are killed or maimed worldwide each year by land mines, according to the United Nations. Of those, 80% are civilians and one-third are children.

Military experts say land mines can save soldiers' lives. They play a "vital and essential role" in battle by restricting where the enemy can move and protecting U.S. troops, said a Pentagon spokesman.

Officially, the Pentagon will say only that it "retains the right to use" land mines wherever it chooses, and that commanders can get approval to use them under rules designed to minimize risk to non-combatants.

But critics say the risks to soldiers and civilians aren't worth it.

"It would be a terrible mistake for us to use land mines in Iraq," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a prominent critic of land mines. "They are outmoded, indiscriminate weapons that have been banned by every other NATO member except Turkey, and they should be banned by the United States. We have other far more effective and precise weapons to do the job."

In advance of a possible war, Pentagon records show, the U.S. military has stored land mines in Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and on Diego Garcia, a British-owned island in the Indian Ocean where U.S. forces have a base.

In 1997, international negotiations produced a treaty to ban the use of land mines; 146 countries are parties to it. The United States has not signed the treaty, but in 1998 President Clinton directed U.S. armed forces to phase out use of land mines by 2003, except in Korea.

The Bush administration has been reviewing that policy. The Defense and the State departments have clashed over it, but for now the Clinton directive remains in effect.

Copyright 2002 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.


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