JANUARY 4, 1996
Because land mines are inexpensive, they have been widely used in war torn regions such as Bosnia, Croatia, Afghanistan, Angola, Mozambique, and Cambodia. Elizabeth Farnsworth reports on the threat to military personnel around the world.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Army Corporal Martin John Begash became the first American casualty in Bosnia when he took a wrong turn in his Humvee and hit a land mine. Experts had predicted just such an event. An estimated three to six million land mines were set during the three and a half year war, representing one of the greatest threats to the NATO-led peacekeeping mission. The threat has been considered so serious that every American soldier headed for Bosnia goes through mine awareness training first. As the U.S. troops were deploying to Bosnia, retired Marine General Bernard Trainor, appearing on the NewsHour, noted the danger.
LT. GEN. BERNARD TRAINOR, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.): (December 21, 1995) The troops have all been trained in mine clearance, and if you're careful, the mines are not everywhere. They are in locations where fighting normally has taken place, so you're prudent as to where you go. You stay on well worn paths. You make sure that their civilians have walked down there and stay away from areas where you see destroyed vehicles or dead animals.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Bosnia is not the only country where a misstep can mean a lost limb or life. An estimated 100 million mines lie in wait in 62 countries and some 2000 people are maimed or killed by a land mine each month. Besides Bosnia and Croatia, at the top of the land mine list are Afghanistan, Angola, Mozambique, and Cambodia. The reason for such proliferation is simple: Land mines are inexpensive. At about $3 apiece, they are the cheapest way for poorly-financed armies and militias to fight a war. Getting rid of them is not cheap. According to the United Nations, 80,000 mines were removed last year at a cost of $300 to $1,000 apiece. In the same time period, some 2.5 million more mines were planted. The human cost is enormous. Here in Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge and government troops riddled the country with mines during a long civil war. One out of every two hundred and thirty-six people here has been wounded by a mine.
SPOKESMAN: If you move off a hard surface, a hard-formed road, you must assume that the area is mined.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mine removal has gone slowly. Most of the mines here are Chinese-made, and they contain few metal parts. They're very difficult to detect and remove. It is painstaking work as these U.N. peacekeepers learned in a training session three years ago.
SPOKESMAN: The price for rushing the job is the loss of a limb or death.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In Cambodia, the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation runs a prosthetic clinic for mine victims. And in the United States, the foundation has joined other non-governmental organizations in a vigorous campaign to ban anti-personnel mines altogether. The United States adopted a temporary moratorium on exporting land mines three years ago. Twenty-seven countries, including Belgium, Italy, and Russia, all major exporters, have followed suit. Last Fall, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously agreed on a non-binding resolution calling for the eventual eradication of anti-personnel mines. And now the U.S. Congress has passed legislation sponsored by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy which imposes a one-year moratorium on the use of land mines by the American military. The Clinton administration wants a more gradual and limited approach and expressed its views again today at a land mine forum sponsored by the American Red Cross.
THOMAS McNAMARA, Assistant Secretary of State: Total ban seems not to be workable. A measured approach that will get the crisis under control and then lead to eventual elimination of land mines is, I think, a possibility, and that is where the President now stands. That is where this administration stands, including the Pentagon, that we are for a very tight, very restricted use of land mines, controls, elimination of, of the most dangerous land mines, and eventually getting to the point where land mines can be eliminated.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But the administration has not definitively said whether the President will veto legislation including a mine moratorium.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We are joined now by the sponsor of the land mine moratorium bill, Sen. Patrick Leahy, Democrat from Vermont, and by William Taylor, senior vice president for international security affairs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He is a retired army colonel who served in Korea, Vietnam, and Germany. Thank you both for being with us. Sen. Leahy, what is in your legislation? I understand it's not a ban; it's a moratorium.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) Vermont: I've had two different kinds of legislation. The one that has now been passed by both the House and the Senate and is in a conference report waiting to be finished and signed by the President would say that we would continue our moratoriums on exporting land mines, but three years from now, for one year, we would not use them ourselves, a limited type of anti-personnel land mines. And the reason that is in there--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Excuse me for interrupting--within three years we would not use land mines almost anywhere but in certain places we would be allowed under your legislation to use them, right?
SEN. LEAHY: We would not be allowed to use these indiscriminate anti-personnel land mines, the kind if you were walking on the field and you step on it, you've lost your leg. We could use anti-tank mines, which are different. We could use mines along a recognized national border, as Finland does along the Finnish/Russian border. But the United States would, in effect, say we are going to declare a halt for one year. It has a number of other things in the legislation to encourage us to work with other countries to join us in this. Even using my first moratorium, which we passed, which is a moratorium on the export, we found a whole lot of countries who weren't even talking about this issue before have now joined us. We have--19 countries support the immediate ban on the use, production, or export of land mines. Twenty-seven other countries joined in an export moratorium. Some countries, like Brussels, are outlawing the use and destroying their stocks. It is something in the last few years suddenly there is this international movement. The United States, I'm sorry to say, even though we passed my legislation here, the United States has not been as much in the forefront of this movement as it should be.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. William Taylor, what would be wrong with passing this, this, or with legislation which would temporarily declare a moratorium on the U.S. use of land mines? We'll go to the export issue in a minute.
COL. WILLIAM TAYLOR, U.S. Army (Ret.): Sure.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let's just talk about the legislation currently going to the President.
COL. TAYLOR: Let me just preface what I want to say by the comment that nobody can disagree with what Sen. Leahy says about the horrors of land mines, especially when it comes to indiscriminate killing of innocents. But beyond that, land mines by military people have a legitimate use when used properly, and you use the right kinds of mines. The United States manufactures high-tech mines, the best in the world, self-destruct mines, and even if they don't self-destruct, when the batteries go bad, they go inert. These are the kinds of mines that have legitimate uses when employed properly in mine fields that are marked. For example, in Korea, it says in English, "Mine Field, Danger." It says in Korean, "Mine Field, Danger." If a civilian can read, they're not going to go into that mine field. I'll tell you this. Under this legislation, I would hate to be a colonel commanding a regiment three years from now when I'm prohibited from using land mines.
SEN. LEAHY: Could I--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Yes. Just a minute. But just briefly, describe the ways that you might use those mines in actual combat.
COL. TAYLOR: Sure. In a night defensive perimeter, even though Sen. Leahy's bill does not outlaw Claymore mines, which have a very short range, very short, you're talking about a couple of hundred meters, of feet, I mean, and they're very effective there, I want to be able to stop somebody trying to get at my men and women in my night defensive perimeter way out there beyond light mortar range. A light mortar, 60 millimeters, can be carried by one person, a few rounds, and they can pump those things right into my men and women. I don't want that. Mines are effective. The right kinds of mines properly marked, properly laid out, where we will pick them up afterwards--we use mine field diagrams--that's what I'm talking about, and many other uses.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Sen. Leahy.
SEN. LEAHY: Well, you know, this sounds great. I mean, but this is like saying that every weapon has a use. I mean, I could make an argument for various kinds of chemical and biological weapons that we could use that would also attack those people out in that perimeter, but we've banned those. I could make an argument for dum-dum bullets. We've banned those. Just because we have the weapon doesn't mean it makes that much sense. Now, what--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I'm sorry--
SEN. LEAHY: --the colonel--the colonel has said that he'd want to make sure he had those if he was leading his people into combat. I think somebody ought to ask some of the colonels who have our peacekeepers in Bosnia and ask them don't they wish there had been a ban on the use of anti-personnel land mines, because the greatest danger our men and women face right now is not somebody marching on them but it's the land mines that are there. There is also a question of what kind of leadership the United States can use. There are 26,000 casualties every year. That's 72 every single day. Most of those are not military people. They are civilians. And this is the only weapon where, somebody said at the conference today, where the victim triggers the weapon that attacks him or her. We have--you know, we're the most powerful nation on Earth. We had everything from night vision to all other kinds of methods, that we ought to be able to defend ourselves, to say that we must have land mines to do it, and that the United States would stand, stopping this worldwide movement toward banning land mines makes no sense at all because we are the ones that face them when we go on the humanitarian missions, uh, military peacekeeping missions like Bosnia, and on and on.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How--
SEN. LEAHY: 30 percent of our casualties in Vietnam were from land mines.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What would yo do about it, Mr. Taylor?
COL. TAYLOR: First of all--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let me just say the International Committee for the Red Cross says that land mines are increasingly used, especially in, in civil wars essentially or unconventional warfare, in not only defensive but very offensive ways to surround villages completely, to make people terrified. What would you do about that?
COL. TAYLOR: Well, first, I wouldn't let Sen. Leahy get away with a false analogy when we talk about Bosnia. The kinds of mines that are in Bosnia, laid by all the formerly warring parties, are the dirty mines, the ones made by Russians, by Chinese, by North Koreans. They're the ones that should be banned.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So you would ban some mines?
COL. TAYLOR: Absolutely.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You make a distinction between good and bad. I mean, just on that point, then I'll come back to you.
SEN. LEAHY: Are you going to do that? Are we going to ban 'em by saying, here, don't use yours, just buy ours? We'd get laughed out of the international conference that way.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You don't make the distinction between certain mines that are not as bad as other mines, you think?
SEN. LEAHY: I would allow the use of anti-tank mines, I would allow the use of Claymore mines. I would not allow the use of, of anti-personnel mines that are triggered by somebody stepping on them.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Go ahead. I'm sorry to interrupt you.
COL. TAYLOR: Second, I think the administration has--and the Department of Defense--Department of State, going to Geneva for the next negotiations on these issues has already seized the high ground, and they--they're going with the proposal that says the kinds of mines that, that I'm talking about that dirty, low-tech cheap mines should be banned. It then has a provision that says all those nations that have laid those many millions of mines that Sen. Leahy and others are so worried about have a responsibility to go out and pick 'em up. They put them down. In fact, if they need training in how to do it, we ought to come up with some kind of economic assistance to help train them in getting those mines up, but don't take away a military capability that's legitimate. And it's not just land mines. There are groups trying to take other weapon systems that are legitimate away from the military leaders, our men and women that the Congress sends into combat, like low energy lasers. Those arguments are false too. So let's get it straight on what we're banning, and do the right thing.
SEN. LEAHY: Let's--let's be straight in what we're talking about too. I mean, this is not some pie in the sky idea. Two thirds of the U.S. Senate, ranging from the most conservative to the most liberal, voted for this, knowing exactly what it was, notwithstanding strong lobbying by the Pentagon against it, the Republicans and Democrats alike. You're having every organization, the International Red Cross to the number of military in other countries and the Pope, there's one thing that unifies them in, in doing away with it, but the idea that we can--I mean, I can't think of anything more naive to say, well, we'll go to Geneva, sit around in these $400 a day hotel rooms, have great meals, and say, yes, we're going to agree, countries that put 'em down must take 'em out. There are 100 million, 100 million unexploded land mines in sixty-some-odd countries. Who's going to come and take them out, is the Soviet Union, which no longer exists, going to go into Afghanistan, pick them up, who's going to pick them up the 8 million in Cambodia and get rid of them? It's not going to happen. That door, that's over with. What we have to say is that there's not a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval on land mines that primarily damaged children, non-combatants, the way you ban them is to ban them. And we've had these same arguments in chemical weapons, in dum-dum bullets, in mustard gas, and on and on. Agent Orange is a weapon, and I could make an argument for it, but should we use it?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Are land mines different from those weapons?
COL. TAYLOR: They sure are, but the line of argument you just heard says we can't pick up all those millions of mines that are out there. Are we going to buy that? We can do something about those and can we get the countries that laid them down to pick them up? You're darn right we can.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Even though--
COL. TAYLOR: How? Economic sanctions.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: --it's so expensive--costly--
COL. TAYLOR: Economic sanctions. That's how you do it.
SEN. LEAHY: What kind of economic sanctions do you put against Cambodia to pick 'em up? Who's going to pick them up, up in Cambodia? What kind of sanctions do you put against Afghanistan, or anybody else to pick them up? Who's going to pick them up? Should we be helping to, of course, and I would also say a vast majority of members of Congress had voted for my legislation to provide money to countries. But it's a drop in the bucket. Kuwait, one of the most wealthiest countries around, spent a billion dollars, a billion dollars to pick up a large percentage of the land mines that were laid down there. Eighty-five people, they were well paid, eighty-five people lost their lives just picking up the land mines.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We just have a few seconds left.
COL. TAYLOR: I'm not very impressed by 2/3 vote on this. There's plenty of bad legislation going around that can get a majority or 2/3 vote.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you hope that Clinton will veto it?
COL. TAYLOR: I don't know whether he will or not, because it's abortion--there's an abortion provision in there that's going to be very testy, but if--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: This is part of a special operations bill that in separate ways deals with abortion.
COL. TAYLOR: Part of Sen. Leahy's bill says later. Any country that violates this ban would stop foreign military sales. That's great. We're talking about U.S. sales of ships, aircraft, artillery--
SEN. LEAHY: That's not what it says, but that's okay.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I've got to interrupt. We have to go.
COL. TAYLOR: All right.
SEN. LEAHY: I wrote the legislation. I know what it says.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Thank you.
SEN. LEAHY: The colonel doesn't.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Thank you both.
COL. TAYLOR: I can't really see a 2/3 majority if that provision even gets close to what I think it says.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We'll come back to this another time. Thank you both for being with us.
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