Policy smacks of hypocrisy

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 May, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 May, 1996, 12:00am

There is curious ambivalence - some would call it hypocrisy - in the international community's attitude to landmines. On the one hand everyone accepts they are a brutal and unnecessarily indiscriminate weapon which remains a threat to human lives long after the troops that laid them have departed. Everyone accepts that a weapon which kills 20,000 people a year should be banned eventually.

Indeed it has been agreed that the use of dumb mines, which do not self-destruct after a predetermined period, should be phased out. But when it comes to individual governments, even President Bill Clinton's, the cry is still, 'eventually; but not us and not yet'.

The United States, Mr Clinton said last week, would lead a global effort to eliminate mines and stop the loss of human life. But at the same time he sanctioned the continued use not only of mines, but of dumb mines in the Korean Peninsula because of the continued threat of aggression.

A more complete abdication of leadership in this supposedly global effort is hard to imagine. If the US troops there want to lay more mines than are in place already, they can also go back and replace any which have self-destructed after whatever predetermined period is considered sufficiently humane.

This kind of muddled thinking does nothing to reduce the loss of life or the threat of maiming years after wars have drawn to a close. It is a decision of which the US should feel thoroughly ashamed.