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For over twenty years, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) has pursued a mine-free world. Despite their tremendous efforts, however, landmines continue to threaten individuals and communities, claiming over 4,000 victims in 2011 alone. The majority of these casualties are non-combatants, including hundreds of children.
The humanitarian costs are even greater. Landmines are frequently found near roads, in farmers' fields, and around schools, rendering these areas inaccessible and slowing development, especially in post-conflict regions.
The Mine Ban Treaty, the ICBL's signature success, counts 160 countries as party to its terms. The United States is not one of them, keeping company with other hold-outs such as Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and China.
Let's tell the President to send a new message by finally signing the treaty and banning this archaic and indiscriminate weapon system.
Dear President Obama:
Despite twenty years of advocacy and aid, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) continues to face a daunting task, particularly as rogue regimes and non-state actors propagate the use of landmines into the twenty-first century. Now is the time to send a clear message to the international community: the United States supports the Mine Ban Treaty.
According to the Landmine Monitor 2012, observers confirmed over 4,000 casualties of explosive remnants of war (ERW) in at least 60 states and areas across the globe. Because of unreliable reporting the actual figure is expected to be "significantly higher". Civilians are disproportionately affected, representing three-quarters of casualties, with children making up nearly half of all civilian casualties. Of course, the humanitarian toll is more difficult to measure but no less devastating, as even the suspected presence of a minefield can be enough to stall development and reconstruction efforts, especially in post-conflict regions of the world.
The U.S. deserves some credit for its own efforts to reduce the proliferation of these destructive weapons, including:
Given the path of U.S. landmine policy, it only makes sense to join the ban and lend the long-overdue weight of U.S. support to this worthy cause.
These archaic and indiscriminate weapon systems have no place on today's battlefield, replaced by more modern and sophisticated equipment that is safer not only for civilians but also the soldiers who handle them. Lt. General Robert G. Gard Jr. (USA, Ret.) described antipersonnel land mines as "a net liability" to U.S. interests and argued that acceding to the treaty "would be a low-cost, meaningful gesture of diplomatic goodwill with both humanitarian and practical benefits."
It is difficult to argue with this logic. President Obama, it is time for the United States to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty and join the international consensus in both word and deed.