Landmines affect millions

I feel compelled to respond to the opinion article “New Landmine Treaty is Unrealistic” (The GW Hatchet, Oct. 23, p.5). Unfortunately, the editorial only presented half of the story. It neglected to mention the effects that landmines have on people.

The majority of landmine victims are civilians. Twenty-six thousand people a year are killed or maimed by the 110 million landmines currently sown in 56 countries throughout the world. They are scattered throughout fields, forests and villages. These weapons are similar to chemical, nuclear and biological weapons in their indiscriminate nature. They lay in wait for innocent civilians, long after conflicts have been resolved.

In 1992, 23,000 people in hospitals in Somalia were maimed by landmines – 74.6 percent of them were children between the age of five and 15. The effects of landmines can be seen in the number of amputees in landmine-infested countries. In Cambodia, one out of 236 people is an amputee, while in the United States, it is one in 22,000. Many victims who never reach a hospital are not included in these figures.

Jody Williams’ remarks on “Crossfire” were clearly taken out of context. Anyone who would devote her life to this thankless job would not “care less about the lives of U.S. troops.” U.S. troops do take on an “incredible task – to go into harm’s way so that the lives of numerous others … are not put at risk.” The fact is, soldiers choose this occupation. What about the civilians who never chose to live among landmines? What about the children who can’t go out to play in their own yards without fear? What about the farmers who grew crops on the millions of acres now sewn with mines? How is their “peace and freedom guaranteed” by the United States not signing the ban?

Attacking the personality of one person working toward the ban does not mean her cause is not just. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines is a group of more than 1,000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in 60 countries. Jody Williams made all of us who are working toward banning and clearing anti-personnel mines proud. The campaign is finally starting to get the recognition it deserves. It is up to President Clinton to join Russia and France and sign the ban this December in Ottawa. The United States must not be included with such countries as China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Iraq in its pro-landmine position.

-The writer is a senior majoring in international affairs.

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