Senate Bill Would Block US Landmine Production

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate would block the Pentagon from developing the first new landmine in nearly a decade.

The "Victim-Activated Landmine Abolition Act of 2006" -- introduced by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) -- is strongly supported by the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines.

The bill would bar production of landmines and other weapons that are "victim-activated" and therefore "indiscriminate." Instead, all new U.S. munitions would be detonated only when a human being decides to make them explode.

"We fear that the U.S. restarting production of victim-activated weapons may provide an excuse for other nations that continue to use indiscriminate landmines," said Joe Volk, executive secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers).

"If the most advanced military in the world continues to claim that it needs these weapons, why shouldn't everyone else?" Volk continued.

According to the Friends Committee, the Pentagon since 1997 has spent hundreds of millions dollars researching alternatives to conventional antipersonnel mines.

It's come up with a so-called Spider mine, which can be switched to either manual or automatic. In other words, the Spider mine explodes the same way other landmines do (victim detonation) -- unless the switch is flipped, in which case the mine will explode only when a human operator intentionally detonates it (command detonation).

Anti-landmine activists oppose any type of "indiscriminate detonation."

The U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines wants Congress to ensure that the Pentagon "is not spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new weapons that are unable to distinguish between the boot of a solider and the foot of a child."

The U.S. has not used victim-activated antipersonnel landmines since the first Gulf War in 1991, has not exported mines since 1992, and has not produced mines since 1997, said the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines.

"The U.S. should not be getting back into the business of producing and using these indiscriminate weapons," said Jody Williams, of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

Although the United States never signed the 1997 Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty, it has abided by many of the treaty's provisions.

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