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This is disappointing news. Listening to Democracy Now! this morning, I learned that the Obama administration has announced that the USA will not be signing the international treaty that bans land mines. This news comes in advance of the Cartagena Summit on a Mine Free World, which will take place November 29 through December 4 in Cartagena, Colombia, and will review the international progress against land mines after ten years of the treaty. The United States will be attending this conference as an observer but will not be signing the treaty.

News reports and commentary on this topic below the fold.

Reuters issued a report on this last night and quoted State Department spokesperson Ian Kelly explaining the Obama administration's decision to not join the treaty:

"This administration undertook a policy review and we decided that our landmine policy remains in effect," spokesman Ian Kelly told a briefing five days before a review conference in Cartegena, Colombia on the 10-year-old Mine Ban Treaty.

"We determined that we would not be able to meet our national defense needs nor our security commitments to our friends and allies if we signed this convention," he said.

Reuters goes on to quote Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who has long been an advocate that the US join the international land mine ban. He expressed his disappointment with the Obama administration's decision:

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, a leading advocate for the treaty, called the decision "a default of U.S. leadership."

"It is a lost opportunity for the United States to show leadership instead of joining with China and Russia and impeding progress," Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said in a statement.

As of now, Senator Leahy's full statement is not yet posted on his website, but check back there later, I'm sure that it will be.

As Senator Leahy notes, the USA is not the only country that has so far declined to sign the treaty. Russia and China are two of the other states that haven't joined the 156 states that are party to the treaty. However, no part of the State Department's statement seemed to imply that the US was waiting for any further commitment from other large countries before signing -- Spokesperson Ian Kelly plainly stated that the US has no plans to sign the treaty when he noted that the US will still be attending the Cartagena conference as an observer:

"As a global provider of security, we have an interest in the discussions there," Kelly said. "But we will be there as an observer, obviously, because we haven't signed the convention, nor do we plan to sign the convention."

The Nobel prize-winning organization the International Campaign to Ban Landmines is a great resource on the harm that landmines cause each year, as well as how effective the treaty has been over the last ten years at reducing injuries and deaths from land mines. A November 12 2009 report from the ICBL details some of the successes of the treaty thus far:

Global use, production, and trade of antipersonnel mines have dramatically reduced. Some 3,200km2 of land has been cleared of mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), and new casualties each year declined significantly to 5,197 recorded casualties in 2008. Yet serious challenges remain, with more than 70 states still mine-affected today, and assistance to mine survivors falling short of what is needed.


Production has decreased, with 38 countries formally halting mine production, leaving only 13 countries as potential producers. No trade between states has been confirmed since 1999. For the past decade, global trade in antipersonnel mines has consisted solely of a low-level of illicit and unacknowledged transfers.

The report notes that the US is a top donor towards landmine removal efforts. Human Rights Watch reportsas well that the US is nearly in compliance with, at least, many provisions of the treaty:

The US has not used, produced, or exported antipersonnel mines in the 12 years since the Mine Ban Treaty was established in 1997. That year, the Clinton administration set the objective of joining the Mine Ban Treaty in 2006, but the Bush administration reversed course in 2004.

It is deeply disappointing that the Obama administration has decided not to reverse the course on landmines set by the Bush administration. As the world acts to strengthen the ban against these deadly weapons, it is a shame to see the USA left behind.

If you would like more information on why landmines should be banned, visit the ICBL's information page on the subject. In addition, if you would like to take action, the ICBL has an action page with ideas on how you can support the treaty.  

Originally posted to Lost Left Coaster on Wed Nov 25, 2009 at 07:10 AM PST.


Should the Obama Administration sign the land mine ban treaty?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Heh. (8+ / 0-)

    It is a lost opportunity for the United States to show leadership

    These lost opportunities keep piling up.

    "Everybody lies... except POLITICIANS? House, I do believe you are a romantic."

    by indiemcemopants on Wed Nov 25, 2009 at 07:14:15 AM PST

  •  This Is Very Disappointing (9+ / 0-)

    I think signing the treaty would be mainly symbolic, because of our minimal use of APM in the first place... but that doesn't mean it would have been bad.  As warfare has moved out of the open country and into people's living rooms, the anti-personnel mine has become even small-d dumber than it was before, and at this point any APM in the field of battle is MORE likely to kill or maim a civillian than an enemy... which is why we're not really using them.

    I know a big part of our whole "We're the USA" thing is, "We never take anything off the table," but it seems like a lot of good could be done by fully taking this off the table.  I wonder what the full real reasons are.

    I'm not so old that I think Nickelback sounds just like Creed, but I'm old enough that I think they both sound like shit.

    by TooFolkGR on Wed Nov 25, 2009 at 07:14:55 AM PST

  •  All because of Stupid american involvement in sou (0+ / 0-)


    Sorry I have to run to the Senate floor to abolish torture.

    by bten on Wed Nov 25, 2009 at 07:19:57 AM PST

    •  Agreed (0+ / 0-)

      Even though Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush II, and now Obama all seem to think differently. I guess they subscribe to Realpolitik, which in this circumstance blows.

  •  From "For peace in God's World," a (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Flaming Liberal for Jesus

    social statement, ratified in 1995, by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

    Give high priority to arms control and reduction. We particularly urge a sharp reduction in the number of weapons of mass destruction. We call for arms control agreements that are substantial, equitable, verifiable, and progressive. [16] We support mutual confidence-building measures to improve mutually assured security. In particular, we give priority to:

    agreements among the leading nuclear powers to reduce their nuclear stockpiles and to decrease the possibility of nuclear confrontation or accident;

    the successful negotiation of a renewed Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, the strengthening of mechanisms to monitor and enforce nuclear treaties, and efforts that move toward the elimination of nuclear weapons;

    treaties to ban the production, sale, and use of biological and chemical weapons; and

    agreements to ban the production, sale, and use of land mines.

    To say that my fate is not tied to your fate is like saying, "Your end of the boat is sinking."--Hugh Downs

    by Dar Nirron on Wed Nov 25, 2009 at 07:23:16 AM PST

  •  Koreas, stagnation, excuses, etc. (5+ / 0-)

    There's a history, which many feel is unnecessary, but it's mostly political (with the Koreas) I feel:

    Landmines Remain Issue in Korea

    . . .

    The United States claimed at the time of the Ottawa Treaty negotiations, and maintains today, that landmines are a crucial component of the U.S. military strategy in Korea and that the one million mines along the DMZ help maintain the delicate peace by deterring a North Korean attack. Critics of the U.S. position argue that the DMZ minefields cannot and would not deter an invasion by either side.

    . . .

    North and South Korea rely on mines in their "peacetime" military and security policies to stop border crossings. An estimated 1.2 million landmines litter South Korea today. The South Korean Defense Ministry reportedly confirmed that 1.05 million anti-tank and anti-personnel mines are laid in "major defense areas north around the civilian control line and the demilitarized zone. . .

    Landmines will continue to be a major component of the military and political strategy on the Korean Peninsula for the foreseeable future, as no shift in the position of the three countries is likely. South Korea has announced that it will "retain mines until there is no longer a threat from North Korea, or until an effective alternative to anti-personnel mines is found." . .

    There may be a money issue beneath it, as well.

    "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

    by wader on Wed Nov 25, 2009 at 07:25:19 AM PST

  •  Maintaining Bush Policy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    another too bad.

    Yes, the NSA can hear you.

    by Muggsy on Wed Nov 25, 2009 at 07:28:36 AM PST

  •  Come on guys (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Caelian, wader, Dar Nirron

    I thought people here had some political knowledge. These treaties have to be ratified by the Senate and this one was very, very clearly was not going to be.

    So the option for Obama was to sign it, then loose the public battle of not getting ratified, loose face in the whole world and getting painted here by the right wing and the moderate democrats as weak in defending America.

    Remember Clinton and the Kyoto Protocol?

    •  Please elaborate (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      How is it clear that the Senate will not ratify the treaty?

      I agree that it would be problematic on the international stage if Obama signed and then the ratification process bogged down. But declining to sign altogether for unspecified security reasons looks bad too.

      It came to me in a dream, and then I forgot it in another dream.

      by Lost Left Coaster on Wed Nov 25, 2009 at 07:38:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well it's easy (0+ / 0-)

        Count all GOP as NOs, in this climate the will use this as a political weapon to paint Obama as weak on defense. Then get people like Webb or McCaskill or Tester that will vote No for sure to anything that gets painted as weakening the national security.

        It could be passed in another political climate, now no way.Actually Specter when he was a R senator moved legislation against the deploy o personal land mines.

        Also the Pentagon is completely opposed and did you see them playing rough with Afghanistan?

    •  I am so sick of thiis crap. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      itsbenj, Pesto, Dar Nirron, jgilhousen

      How many disfigured, armless, or legless people have you seen that lost there limbs from landmines? I'm guessing none, since you seem to be so freaking callous. I', guessing Obama hasn't been around the countryside of Cambodia either.

      Wahhh! It's not possible? The Senate won't let us. Where the hell is that Audacity of Hope that I got suckered into believing in. If you are president and believe in something you do it. You make those against it embarrass themselves by having to vote no and you punish them with speeches about human rights and human dignity; and if you lose, you can easily place the blame where it belongs and make yourself look better, not worse. If you think having the Senate refuse to ratify a landmine treaty is what is going to cost Obama in 2012, I wonder if you understand politics.

      I guess I have no political knowledge, I just dreamed up the word "Bully Pulpit" and Obama's whole inauguration speech.

      There is just no excuse for this.

      •  The Congress was always going to be our biggest (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        obstacle to real change - many of us at DKos saw that before, during and just after the election.  Rep. Frank and Sen. Reid were posturing against Obama's tide of support before he even took the oath, but after the win.

        Obama was never going to be a highly progressive President by ideology, but the Congess remains our most significant challenge to move along.  Their interests are far deeper than the President's in keeping status quo.

        "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

        by wader on Wed Nov 25, 2009 at 08:02:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Again (0+ / 0-)

        Remember Clinton and Gore and the Kyoto Protocol?

        Where is the ratification for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) ?

        Remember the treaties have to be ratified by 2/3 of Senate. You hear it well 2/3s, that is 67 votes

        Obtaining 67 votes has proved difficult under the best of circumstances and helps explain why fewer than 20 major security treaties have been ratified since the end of World War II, according to David Auerswald, a professor of strategy and policy at the National War College in Washington.

      •  Thank you! (0+ / 0-)

        ahhh those moderates trying to "moderate" thinking that there's hope behind every Human rights face slap.

        Live without dead time-Anoymynous Paris graffiti from 1968

        by greenpunx on Thu Nov 26, 2009 at 10:29:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  This is par for the course for the last few (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


    the security reason is North Korea.

    I'd rather we signed it, of course, but just saying, there's a pretty long history about this.

    (-2.12, -5.33)[insert pithy, yet witty pop-culture self-reference here]

    by terrypinder on Wed Nov 25, 2009 at 07:38:32 AM PST

  •  asdf (4+ / 0-)

    The US has not used, produced, or exported antipersonnel mines in the 12 years since the Mine Ban Treaty was established in 1997. That year, the Clinton administration set the objective of joining the Mine Ban Treaty in 2006, but the Bush administration reversed course in 2004.

    We make, use and export cluster bombs.  The bomblets are only different from landmines in that they aren't buried.  Pure semantics.

    This is not disappointing unless you think that you had reason to expect otherwise.  I don't see where any such expectatin culd've arisen.

    "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

    by enhydra lutris on Wed Nov 25, 2009 at 07:47:39 AM PST

  •  Clinton had us on the right path, Obama should've (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    itsbenj, Lost Left Coaster

    finished the job.  He can still change his position on this, but the reason he is taking this position has to be because he feels that in Year 1 he has already pushed the military establishment to do things they don't like (withdraw from Iraq, cut weapons systems, slap McChrystal for shopping a plan with no exit strategy).  

    I also agree that the Senate would probably not ratify the treaty because the cloture hurdle.  That said, he should've done it anyway.  Obama is the guy we look to cut through the crap and keep it real.  Landmines are immoral....every bit as immoral as mustard gas and other chemical weapons.  Their purpose is not to kill or ensnare combatants but to kill and maim innocents.  

    Alternative rock with something to say:

    by khyber900 on Wed Nov 25, 2009 at 08:01:59 AM PST

  •  America (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BOHICA, itsbenj, Pesto

    A country that still blows off the legs of children as a war tactic.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    "One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity nothing beats teamwork." - Mark Twain

    by greendem on Wed Nov 25, 2009 at 08:16:50 AM PST

  •  This is personal (0+ / 0-)

    Lynn Bradach, mother of Travis Bradach-Nall was named as ICBL spokesperson. Travis was killed while on a landmine removal mission. I know Lynn and her brother John Bradach, they are the best.

    Travis John was written when Kate Power heard about the death of Travis who was a friend of her son.

    Deep in the Wallowa Mountains of eastern Oregon I wrote this song. I was teaching at a writer's retreat with Steve. It was July 10, 2003. I remember because I'm one of eight children and that's my mother's birthday. I was feeling a strong sadness for Travis and his family knowing that his memorial was being held back home in Portland that day. They said 7 limousines carried the members of his large family to the memorial. Playing on my banjo with the deer grazing near me outside the cabin where I taught songwriting at Fishtrap, a song started up in one direction but, as often happens, this song came out instead.

    I felt then, and I still feel, that this song came from Travis, that it really is his song and it' s sung in his voice. I just sang it out loud for him. It doesn't matter which side of the war you stand on, the loss left is just as deep for the ones who loved their young soldier. We give this song to Travis' mother, Lynn and his brother, Nic along with the rest of his kin who loved him and will miss him being here.

    Steve and I recorded this song to lead a small collection of songs we've sung over the years and recorded on various albums. We recorded "Travis John" on August 3, 2003 at Billy Oskay's Big Red Studio in the Columbia Gorge. We wanted it on record so we could send it to radio stations and homes all around the country. We spent a day recording all of it, just Steve and me and Billy at the board.

    The next time we saw Billy, he had a "spooky" story to tell us. Word had gone out about Travis' song and Travis' uncle called Billy to remind him that Travis had been on his crew and had actually helped him build "Big Red Studio" a few short years ago. Travis John's uncle was the foreman who built Billy's studio. Billy was stunned. He remembered Travis well; hammer in hand and a grin on his face. He was a good worker. Suddenly, more pieces came together; our communion with this song grew in another way we couldn't have predicted. Coming full circle we manifested his song in the studio Travis had helped to build.

    We hope here that by releasing Travis John's song into the world, he will be remembered; for the difference he made, for the ones he loved and left behind, as well as the rest of us strangers who have come to know him in the wake of his young life.

    As a member of Veterans For Peace, which was a member of of the Coalition that won the Peace prize, signing this treaty is a major part of our mission.

    The folded coffin flag means nothing to me but a receipt from the Masters of War to the pawns in the games.

    by BOHICA on Wed Nov 25, 2009 at 08:19:52 AM PST

  •  "As a global provider of security" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pesto, Lost Left Coaster

    Six words from a state department spokesperson says so much.  This is why we don't have adequate health care in this country -- we spend so many tax dollars on providing "security."

    y el canto de todos que es mi propio canto

    by gatorbot on Wed Nov 25, 2009 at 08:37:48 AM PST

  •  Aren't there still landmines in from WWII (0+ / 0-)

    in France, Holland and Germany; or is it World War I? If a weapon is still dangerous after everyone who fought the war has gone home, raised a family, grown old and died, than we should get rid of the weapon. Landmines in Cambodia kill and maim children WHO WEREN'T EVEN BORN when that war ended.

  •  Strange (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I recall that when Bush wouldn't sign the treaty there was wide outrage from our side. Now that Obama refuses to sign some of us make up excuses for him.

    "If you don't stand for anything, you don't stand for anything!" -- GWB

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