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New life for land mines

PRESIDENT BUSH'S new policy on land mines foolishly discards pledges made by the Pentagon during the Clinton administration. Improvements such as a $20 million increase in funding for the State Department's Humanitarian Mine Action Program are vitiated by Bush's refusal to end use of a weapon that kills and maims civilians and soldiers alike.


Bush's revision of Clinton policy's breaks an American promise to stop using all antipersonnel mines outside of Korea -- including so-called smart mines, which are self-destructing -- by 2003.

It is deceptive to portray smart mines as a humane advance over a policy that insisted on using persistent mines, also called dumb mines. Mines meant to self-destruct after a limited period are every bit as indiscriminate as other mines when it comes to selecting a Cambodian child, an Afghan farmer, or an American soldier for their victims.

Worst of all, Bush set back efforts to outlaw these cruel and unnecessary weapons by reneging on President Clinton's pledge that the United States would sign the Ottawa Treaty banning antipersonnel mines by 2006 if effective replacements for land mines were found by then. As Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy said on the Senate floor: "The White House has abandoned any pretext of joining other civilized nations to eliminate these outmoded, indiscriminate weapons."

While refusing to sign the Ottawa Treaty, Bush proposes to seek an international ban on the sale or export of dumb mines. But as long as other countries see the wealthy US superpower clinging to more expensive smart mines, they will continue refusing to give up their cheaper dumb mines. Bush's new land mine policy endangers the lives and limbs of US troops and delivers yet one more blow to America's standing in the world.

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