President Should Take Action on Landmines To Match His Rhetoric Veterans Group Says



Sep 17, 1997, 01:00 ET from Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation

    WASHINGTON, Sept. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Vietnam Veterans of America
 Foundation President Bobby Muller today expressed deep disappointment at
 President Clinton's refusal to reach an agreement with the more than 100
 countries committed to banning landmines.  As treaty negotiations come to a
 close in Oslo, Norway this week, participants have agreed on draft language
 that the U.S. delegation has declared unacceptable.
     "A year ago the President, in a speech before the U.N., said he was
 committed to the total elimination of antipersonnel landmines, yet today he is
 siding with China, Libya, Iraq, and Cuba in defense of these indiscriminate
 killers," Muller said. "The U.S. should be leading the charge for a world free
 of landmines, not erecting obstacles."
     In remarks today, the President said he is directing the Pentagon to
 develop alternatives to antipersonnel landmines so that they can be eliminated
 in the future. The rhetoric is attractive, Muller said, but rhetoric is not
 enough. "The President is asking us to trust him on landmines, but he has
 passed up every opportunity to make a firm commitment on this issue.  The
 Pentagon has objected to bipartisan legislation in Congress and rejected a
 worldwide consensus in Oslo.  Now is the time for action, not words."
     The campaign to ban land mines has picked up momentum in recent weeks as
 the U.S. government agreed to participate in negotiations that are expected to
 lead to an international landmine ban treaty to be signed in Ottawa this
 December.  Also, the recent tragic death of Princess Diana, one of the world's
 leading advocates of such a ban, has propelled the issue into public
 consciousness.
     The Clinton administration has sought numerous exceptions which would
 significantly weaken or render the treaty meaningless.  However, other nations
 have been unwilling to make a special case for the U.S.
     "The military has historically reacted protectively toward their weapons,"
 said Muller.  "But the President, as Commander in Chief, has the ability to
 decide that a weapon is unacceptable.  The President should stop hiding behind
 the Pentagon and declare antipersonnel landmines off limits.  They target
 innocent civilians, destroy families, and make it virtually impossible for
 societies to recover from war," Muller said.
     No longer militarily justifiable for today's more mobile armed forces,
 landmines now kill far more civilians than military personnel, about 26,000
 civilians a year.  More than 100 million active landmines currently lie in the
 ground in 68 countries.  The International Red Cross estimates that every 22
 minutes, a person is killed or maimed by one.
     Lt. General Robert Gard, U.S. Army Ret., former President of the National
 Defense University, saw combat in both Vietnam and Korea.  "I've heard all of
 the Pentagon's arguments about the importance of landmines," Gard said.  "But
 I also saw with my own eyes their limitations.  When the battlefield shifts, a
 minefield is as dangerous to our own troops as it is to the enemy.
 Landmines can be captured and redeployed against you.  And after the war is
 over, they keep on killing -- only now it is civilians dying, not soldiers."
     Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), along with all six
 Vietnam combat veterans in the Senate, have sponsored legislation to restrict
 
 new U.S. deployments of antipersonnel landmines.  Senator Hagel is one of the
 military's strongest supporters in Congress.  As a sergeant in Vietnam, Hagel
 earned one of his Purple Hearts pulling his brother, Tom, out of a burning
 personnel carrier that had driven over a landmine.  Reps. Lane Evans (D-Ill.)
 and Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.) have introduced similar legislation in the House.
     "Landmines have become a weapon of terror," Muller said. "They
 indiscriminately kill and maim farmers in their fields and women foraging for
 firewood.  Enough is enough."
 
 

SOURCE Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation
    WASHINGTON, Sept. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Vietnam Veterans of America
 Foundation President Bobby Muller today expressed deep disappointment at
 President Clinton's refusal to reach an agreement with the more than 100
 countries committed to banning landmines.  As treaty negotiations come to a
 close in Oslo, Norway this week, participants have agreed on draft language
 that the U.S. delegation has declared unacceptable.
     "A year ago the President, in a speech before the U.N., said he was
 committed to the total elimination of antipersonnel landmines, yet today he is
 siding with China, Libya, Iraq, and Cuba in defense of these indiscriminate
 killers," Muller said. "The U.S. should be leading the charge for a world free
 of landmines, not erecting obstacles."
     In remarks today, the President said he is directing the Pentagon to
 develop alternatives to antipersonnel landmines so that they can be eliminated
 in the future. The rhetoric is attractive, Muller said, but rhetoric is not
 enough. "The President is asking us to trust him on landmines, but he has
 passed up every opportunity to make a firm commitment on this issue.  The
 Pentagon has objected to bipartisan legislation in Congress and rejected a
 worldwide consensus in Oslo.  Now is the time for action, not words."
     The campaign to ban land mines has picked up momentum in recent weeks as
 the U.S. government agreed to participate in negotiations that are expected to
 lead to an international landmine ban treaty to be signed in Ottawa this
 December.  Also, the recent tragic death of Princess Diana, one of the world's
 leading advocates of such a ban, has propelled the issue into public
 consciousness.
     The Clinton administration has sought numerous exceptions which would
 significantly weaken or render the treaty meaningless.  However, other nations
 have been unwilling to make a special case for the U.S.
     "The military has historically reacted protectively toward their weapons,"
 said Muller.  "But the President, as Commander in Chief, has the ability to
 decide that a weapon is unacceptable.  The President should stop hiding behind
 the Pentagon and declare antipersonnel landmines off limits.  They target
 innocent civilians, destroy families, and make it virtually impossible for
 societies to recover from war," Muller said.
     No longer militarily justifiable for today's more mobile armed forces,
 landmines now kill far more civilians than military personnel, about 26,000
 civilians a year.  More than 100 million active landmines currently lie in the
 ground in 68 countries.  The International Red Cross estimates that every 22
 minutes, a person is killed or maimed by one.
     Lt. General Robert Gard, U.S. Army Ret., former President of the National
 Defense University, saw combat in both Vietnam and Korea.  "I've heard all of
 the Pentagon's arguments about the importance of landmines," Gard said.  "But
 I also saw with my own eyes their limitations.  When the battlefield shifts, a
 minefield is as dangerous to our own troops as it is to the enemy.
 Landmines can be captured and redeployed against you.  And after the war is
 over, they keep on killing -- only now it is civilians dying, not soldiers."
     Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), along with all six
 Vietnam combat veterans in the Senate, have sponsored legislation to restrict
 
 new U.S. deployments of antipersonnel landmines.  Senator Hagel is one of the
 military's strongest supporters in Congress.  As a sergeant in Vietnam, Hagel
 earned one of his Purple Hearts pulling his brother, Tom, out of a burning
 personnel carrier that had driven over a landmine.  Reps. Lane Evans (D-Ill.)
 and Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.) have introduced similar legislation in the House.
     "Landmines have become a weapon of terror," Muller said. "They
 indiscriminately kill and maim farmers in their fields and women foraging for
 firewood.  Enough is enough."
 
 SOURCE  Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation