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Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: The Land Mines Obama Won’t Touch

Many people are troubled that Barack Obama flew to Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize so soon after escalating the war in Afghanistan. He is now more than doubling the number of troops there when George W. Bush left office.

The irony was not lost on the President, and he tried to address it in his Nobel acceptance speech. “I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land,” he said. “Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict – filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.”

Granted, there’s a gap here between the rhetoric and the reality. But there’s always been something askew about Nobel Peace Prize, in no small part because it’s given in the name of the man who invented dynamite, one of the most powerful and destructive weapons in the human arsenal.

It was rumored that after Alfred Nobel brought his version of Frankenstein into the world, he was torn by guilt over his creation, his shame said to have intensified when a French newspaper prematurely ran his obituary with the headline, “The Merchant of Death is Dead.” The article vilified him as a man “who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before.”

What’s more, until the end of his life he corresponded with a woman named Bertha von Suttner, who had briefly worked as his secretary. Many believe that Nobel was moved by a powerful antiwar book she had written titled LAY DOWN YOUR ARMS. Whatever his reasons, when his will created the Nobel Prizes he specifically included among them a prize for peace. Von Suttner became one of its first recipients.

After Nobel’s death, events turned grim, as if to mock him further. The arms race exploded beyond anything he could have imagined. From the coupling of science and the military came ever more ingenious weapons of destruction that would take even more lives in ever more horrible ways.

One of the most insidious was the land mine, that small, explosive device filled with shrapnel that burns or blinds, maims or kills. Triggered by the touch of a foot or movement or even sound, more often than not it’s the innocent who are its victims – 75 to 80 percent of the time, in fact.

As a weapon, variations of land mines have been around since perhaps as early as the 13th century, but it was not until World War I that the technology was more or less perfected, if that can be said of weapons that mangle and mutilate the human body, and their use became common.

The United States has not actively used land mines since the first Gulf War in 1991, but we still possess some 10-15 million of them, making us the third largest stockpiler in the world, behind China and Russia. Like those two countries, we have refused to sign an international agreement banning the manufacture, stockpiling and use of land mines. Since 1987, 156 other nations have signed it, including every country in NATO. Amongst that 156, more than 40 million mines have been destroyed.

Just days before Obama flew to Oslo to make his Nobel Peace Prize speech, an international summit conference was held in Cartagena, Colombia, to review the progress of the treaty. The United States sent representatives and the State Department says our government has begun a comprehensive review of its current policy.

Last year 5,000 people were killed or wounded by land mines, often placed in the ground years before, during wars long since over. They kill or blow away the limbs of a farmer or child as indiscriminately as they do a soldier. But still we refuse to sign, citing security commitments to our friends and allies, such as South Korea, where a million mines fill the demilitarized zone between it and North Korea.

Twelve years ago, at the time the treaty was first put into place, the Nobel Peace Prize was jointly awarded to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Jody Williams, an activist from Vermont who believes that by organizing into a movement, ordinary people can matter. She proved it, despite the stubborn refusal of her own country’s government to do the right thing.

Last week, Jody Williams condemned America’s continuing refusal to sign the treaty as “a slap in the face to land mine survivors, their families, and affected communities everywhere.”

The Nobel Committee said that part of the reason it was giving the Peace Prize to President Obama was for his respect of international law and his efforts at disarmament. And twice in his Nobel lecture, the President spoke of how often more civilians than soldiers die in a war.

Then he said this: “I believe that all nations, strong and weak alike, must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I, like any head of state, reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards strengthens those who do, and isolates – and weakens – those who don’t.”

And still the land mine treaty goes unsigned by the government he leads. Go figure.


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Comments

Every IED is a landmine and every landmine is an IED.

Guess it only matters who put the damn thing there in the first place then eh?

If Israel does it to the peasants in Southern Lebanon, hides the maps from them from years...it's a landmine.

If a muslim does it when foreigners occupy their country, it is an IED.

How much more blatant can it be that the disequality of morality and the presence of hypocrisy is profoundly a part of the American Way of Life and this Great Nation.

Shameful.

Peace

A dove stopped for a drink of water this morning in my backyard...I got close enough to notice a piece of paper strapped to the foot...asymetrical wars...

Who needs "time travel" when probably all the epochs of humanity are here at this same point in time...?

Bill:

Below is the proof of what I have always maintained... the criminal elite forged this war to plunder the planet using the of our children to do it. Their henchmen foment jihad with their enacted horror. This cowardly elite class should all be hunted down, imprisoned, tried, convicted and given opportunity to repent while serving life in our worst prisons (not my first inclination).

Cheney, has the nerve to use the recent actions in retaliation to HIS D.E.A.T.H. squads to try and scare the humans of the U.S. into allowing more of the same. Cheney should be the first in the chair, uh, I mean the defendants box.

Please, think of Cheney as you read the below articles, the criminal elite are the fathers but he was, and probably still is, the director of all of this...

UN says Afghans slain in troop raid were students
By DUSAN STOJANOVIC, Associated Press Writer, Thu Dec 31, 1:26 pm ET
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091231/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan_un

KABUL – The United Nations said Thursday that a weekend raid by foreign troops in a tense eastern Afghan province killed eight local students and warned against nighttime actions by coalition forces because they often cause civilian s.

The Afghan government said its investigation has established that all 10 people killed Sunday in a remote village in Kunar province were civilians. Its officials said that eight of those killed were schoolchildren aged 12-14. . . .

UN special representative in Afghanistan Kai Eide said in a statement that the preliminary UN investigation showed "strong indication" that there were insurgents in the area at the time of the attack.

But, he added, "based on our initial investigation, eight of those killed were students enrolled in local schools." . . .

Eide said the UN remained concerned about nighttime raids by coalition troops "given that they often result in lethal outcomes for civilians, the dangerous confusion that frequently arises when a family compound is invaded." . . .

A statement issued Thursday by the Afghan National Security Directorate said the government investigation showed no Afghan forces were involved and "international forces from an unknown address came to the area and without facing any armed resistance, put 10 youth in two rooms and killed them.

"They conducted this operation on their own without informing any security or local authorities of Afghanistan," the statement said.

___

Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez in Kabul contributed to this report.

I've excerpted much of the above article, but not the military denials. Go read them at the link above. Here's the Los Angeles Times:

Western troops killed civilians, Afghan investigators say
The government investigators say eight of those killed over the weekend in a remote eastern province were boys under 18. Western military officials say there is no evidence to back the claim.
By Laura King, Los Angeles Times, December 31, 2009

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan - Afghan government investigators asserted Wednesday that foreign troops had killed 10 civilians in a raid this week, including eight students younger than 18. Western military officials called the charge unsubstantiated and urged a joint investigation. . . .

A statement from the presidential palace said Karzai had offered condolences to the families of the , and endorsed the initial findings of an investigative panel that had traveled to Kunar at his behest.

The head of the Afghan delegation, Asadullah Wafa, said 10 males, all civilians, were taken from their homes in Ghazikhan village, in the Narang district, and then shot by foreign troops. The report cited the village schoolmaster as identifying eight of them as pupils between the ages of 12 and 17. . . .

Wafa, a close aide to Karzai, suggested that an informant had provided misleading information to Western forces, triggering the strike. Afghan villagers have sometimes tried to settle scores with rival clans or tribes by falsely reporting insurgent activity to the authorities. . . .

laura.king@latimes.com
Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

In a world where Jihad is justifiable by certain nations and states as part of religious belief, One has to respect that nations who are subjected to Jihad must have the right to
respond in kind.
Having said that however,the American political policy towards Palestine one of the oldest locations of Jihad puts them in the position due to the financial power of the Jewish community in the US presently and globally that America can never be the honest and successful broker to achieve Middle East peace.
The whole US system continues to fight Muslim states and also to insult them daily for example referring to in the past Afghans and even Taliban as Mujahideen ( very correct) and now calling the same fighters terrorists.
I just wonder whether people like Mr Cheney have any idea how every time he opens his mouth he fundamentally insults all Muslims and the Islamic faith.
Mr Obama is slightly better, and when he said "God willing" in his speeches did he even realise the "god" is the same as the "christian god",only the prophetic messengers are differny in the main, but frankly I have tried to get to the bottom of this for several months i.e Jihad Muslim style or western style is it justified either way.
The answer unfortunately is that it depends on your interpretation of the Quran and the Hidath or Bible. Some of the latter(hidath) are disputed by even Islamic scholars as to validity even and then meaning and interpretation.
Just like the bible!?
My read as of now is get out of Iraq Afghanistan militarily PDQ and you remove even any remote justification for one of the forms of Jihad. The fighting form.
PS ask Mr Cheney if he knows what the four types of Jihad are!!?
Regards,
Hodgson.

The late Princess Diana of Engalnd was a powerful voice in the land mine issue...too bad no one loved her enough to continue her work in her memory...

"Conspiracy theory" NOISE is a type of psych ops operation meant to disrupt the DISCOVERY of truth...

Psych ops certainly laid waste to Diana's WORK legacy - you could say they blew it up..."collateral damage"...

Cute little plastic land mines, cluster bombs filled with the same, dime bombs, phosphorous incendiaries, microwave soldier cookers, and sonic rupturers- what will they think of and build next. As long as demand remains high among the propertied class for terroristic maimers to stave off justice, accords and treaties and laws will not matter. There is a sickness of useless opulence about, in every new giant cruise ship and plastic McMansion; in every faster corporate jet flying to an overseas brothel of human trafficking. Obama has already stepped upon a mine by his crude inaction. In slow motion his career will flip out of control and fly apart. Pleasing the oligarchy only slows the explosion.

I am soory to say that the people of this country are behaving like the Israelites. They find it difficult to adapt to change. The whole world is changing and we can not continue to dwell on the old premise that "Abraham is our father." We are suprime and untouchable. Lets face it; we have abandoned God and God has abandoned us. There is confusion in the air and people are so devided as ever on the issues that matter most to this country. It is about time we take stock and evaluate our stands on world issues and national issues. Blaming the president on every issue is not the answer. This is collective responsibility and collective resolutions. May God help us all through this chaotic times.

I keep hearing that Obama isn't forcefully persuing the progressive agenda for change he promised because the grassroots who put him into office aren't supporting him. The problem is that we are supporting him despite his betrayals. In my heart of hearts, I believe that his decisions to turn his back on the landmine treaty, take a weak, watered-down approach to health care reform and financial reform, and to escalate the war in Afghanistan, are because he knows that he can turn his back on the people who elected him and still get re-elected. It's going to take a huge investment in people power to persuade him otherwise.

It's hard not to be so conflicted over President Obama. Nobel Peace prize just adds to the conflict and confusion. Yes, he has fallen short of the expectations of those who voted for him. Yet, is it possible for one President to reverse the policies of the world's greatest empire, land mines and nukes included? Feelings of betrayal and anger arise, yet I voted for Obama mostly as a deterrent to a McCain/Palin presidency. We are in a extremely difficult place in the American Empire, grass roots helped Obama get elected, now a disenchanted grass roots fails to support him. It seems so simple, just sign the ban on land mines while still being the largest weapons supplier and maintaining the largest nuke stock pile, right? When I see FOX catering to Cheney and slamming Obama every night, I realize what is at stake here. We have to support Obama, he is all we have, and we have to stop blaming him for being the leader of the Empire. We have to change the Empire, Obama most certainly can't do it alone. I do believe he will sign the right bills if they can maneuver through the senate, last week he approved the largest federal settlement for American Indians in our History, http://uprisingradio.org/home/?p=11445 . If we don't support Obama, it will serve the interest of the neocons, and, he hasn't even been president for a full year yet

If you recognize when something is the right thing to do and you refuse to do it then something is lacking in your moral or ethical make-up, Mr. Matheson. You can't claim (rightfully so) that he's smarter than Bush and then give him a pass when he refuses to do that which is right; example-banning land mine use by the U.S.

As far as I'm concerned, he should have sent a very nice message as soon as he knew he was being considered for the Nobel Peace Prize that he didn't deserve it at this time and that there were others more deserving. Given his escalation in Afghanistan, it would have no more than the truth.

We want peace & we want freedom.
I question Candidate Change & President Apology on executive skills, but in this case he served a sweet & sour message to the apologist of Europe that Americans want peace, but don't poke the sleeping giant.

Now, if he can win he Nobel Prize for Economics so he can deliver a sour message to Wall Street, as they have been wallering in the sweets to long!

Billy Bob Florida

“Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict – filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.”

What is there to questions Mr. President?

=
MJA

I was going to reply until I read Don Matheson's reply above...

Matheson's reply is exactly my thoughts on the issue...thank you Mr Matheson

Is anyone listening...?

While I share the frustration of Mr. Fridell's comment above, I believe that his conclusion about Obama's character ignores the fact that Obama is not a divine right king who can change everything immediately with the wave of his hand. He can only sign what the congress writes, and his maneuverability is severely limited with political land mines. Every night every channel gives John Freakin' Bayner a platform to tell the public that every progressive step is a step toward ruin.
Getting congress to act on principle is like trying to juggle wet spaghetti. He is very aware of what happened to healthcare in the Clinton years. The Clintons tried to deliver healthcare with a technique as subtle as blowing up a safe. Thanks for trying, but it did not work. Obama's approach is more like delicate safe cracking. How fast and how far he can move which pawns on the board without empowering the enemies all around him is a daunting puzzle. I believe in Obama's sincerity, but believe he is helpless without the type of grass roots support that last night's guests discussed.
Further, I believe it is counter-productive to weaken Obama with careless and hasty condemnations when we would be better served to stick together and try to be the fuel for his efforts to affect change. The Limbaughs and Becks are gleeful at the erosion of Obama's support which I attribute to the American electorate's naive expectation that there is an easy button for change, in the face of the relentless counterforce brought by super-funded profiteers. Elect a good president and overnight the vested interests in the status quo will be vanquished. Not.
Obama will sign good bills if they get to his desk, but we will have to put them there. Legislators will follow his leads only if they sense that the electorate demands it. So far, it seems we are not doing our part. I urge Mr. Fridel and other progressives to rethink the strategy of attacking Obama rather than exhorting and pushing the change we need through him.

The clever thing the press has allowed the US military to do is conceal the fact landmines are the primary weapon killing US soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq.

IED sounds like something different, but every IED is a landmine.

In Vietnam, the Viet Cong were expert in locating and replanting US landmines to kill US soldiers. In Iraq, US uneploded munitions and other cold war left overs provided the firepower for lots of land mines, ooops, IEDs.

Obama's refusal to sign the land mine ban treaty along with his immoral and spectacularly undeserved acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize confirm that Obama is a shadow man, a slick-talking Chicago con man, an ethical cameleon whose sole raison d'etre is pursuit and retention of power. His speeches are incoherent B.S., full of inconsistent and contradictory bromides, and marvelously Orwellian: war is peace and my new favorite, American military are "wagers of peace". What a terrible mistake is his election. Cry the Beloved Country.

HOW can Barack Obama accept a peace prize in good conscience while escalating a war? Shouldn't he at least defer acceptance until the outcome has proven him worthy?

Another example - that we may have the best government money can buy?

Who benefits from the existence of those land mines? Not us - not in any way.

Strange.

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