Wednesday, November 25, 2009

10 Million Child-Killers

  Don't you just love our government's propensity for euphemism?

  We're not a perpetual war machine; we're "a global provider of security."

  The phrase was repeatedly invoked this week to defend the U.S. government's decision, announced Tuesday by the State Department, not to join a global treaty banning landmines.

  The treaty prohibits the use, stockpiling, production or transfer of landmines. It has been endorsed by 156 countries, but the United States, Russia, China and India have not adopted it.

   The signatories to the treaty will convene this weekend in Colombia to review its terms and compliance records.  The United States will send "observers" to the conference, a State Department spokesman said, because "as a global provider of security, we have an interest in the discussions there."

   That "interest" is a U.S. stockpile of 10 million such weapons and a grim determination to retain its option to use them as it pleases.  "We determined that we would not be able to meet our national defense needs nor our security commitments to our friends and allies if we signed this convention," the spokesman said.

   Just who the hell are these "friends and allies," I wonder?  All but one NATO nation, and most of our other allies, are parties to the treaty.  If most of our allies are pledged not to use the damned things, why are we hoarding 10 million of them?

   These antipersonnel devices (another government euphemism) are in fact child-killers.  Once planted, the lethal gizmos stay in place long after the conflict that impelled their use has ended -- whereupon civilians step on them and get fragged. Landmines are known to have caused 5,197 casualties last year, a third of them children, according to the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), which links some 1,000 activist groups.

  Our eloquent President speaks grandiosely about leading the way to a world without nuclear weapons -- a worthy, but impractical, dream at this time.  But the many small, practical steps toward a more peaceful world, the things he could do right now with the stroke of a pen, go undone.

   Things like signing the landmine treaty. 

   U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, a leading advocate for the treaty, called the decision "a default of U.S. leadership."

   You can't hide that behind a euphemism.



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