Humanity & Inclusion, along with its fellow campaigners at the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines - U.S. Cluster Munition Coalition (USCBL-USCMC), is encouraged by a Congressional letter sent today to President Biden, urging him to put the U.S. on the right path toward joining the 1997 Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty by 2024.
The letter, led by long-time anti-landmine champions Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, counts bipartisan support from 21 Democrats and Republicans across both chambers of Congress. It underscores the importance of backing away from a 2020 Landmine policy enacted by President Trump, which effectively gives U.S. troops the green light to research new landmines, and to deploy these indiscriminate weapons in combat. In one section of the letter, they write:
"We are writing to urge you, as a first step, to reinstate the Obama policy, and by doing so reaffirm the United States as a leader in the global effort to reduce the carnage caused by anti-personnel mines. We further urge you to direct the Pentagon to expeditiously review its plans for the defense of the Republic of Korea and provide a classified report to you and the Congress describing the options for defending the Republic of Korea with alternatives to anti-personnel mines, and of finally putting the United States on a definitive path to accede to the treaty – an important U.S. foreign policy goal announced by President Clinton and reaffirmed by President Obama – by 2024. In addition to the more than two decades during which the Pentagon was directed to develop alternatives to anti-personnel landmines, this would provide three more years to finalize plans for such a transition."
The letter ends with a plea: "We urge you to put America on a path to make this longstanding goal a reality." The authors note that the U.S. joining the Mine Ban Treaty "is the right thing to do for our country, for the world, and for our men and women in uniform."
Jeff Meer, U.S. Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion, and Steering Committee Chair for USCBL-USCMC responded to the letter, saying,
"Ending the use of landmines is a moral issue, not a partisan one. This bipartisan message from members of Congress is welcomed. We continue to encourage President Biden to retire landmines and bring the United States into the Mine Ban Treaty. The majority of the world's countries and all our NATO allies have done this, recognizing that a weapon that routinely kills indiscriminately has no place in the arsenal of a modern and just military.”
Since January, more than 8,000 Americans have signed a Humanity & Inclusion petition urging President Biden to join the Mine Ban Treaty. This petition remains open until the Biden Administration takes action toward ending our country’s use, production, stockpiling, and transferring of anti-personnel landmines.
Last year, the USCBL-USCMC issued a memo outlining policies the President should adopt. In that memorandum, the campaign highlighted changes made in January 2020 under the Trump Administration that would allow for use of victim-activated anti-personnel landmines anywhere in the world, expanding the previous policy that restricted those actions to the Korean peninsula. Today's Congressional letter calls for immediately reversing those Trump-era policies.
On April 8, UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that: "Biden has been clear that he intends to roll back this policy,” referring in part to campaign promise to reverse President Trump’s policy. We urge him to do so immediately.
In a letter dated April 28, directors of arms control, humanitarian, human rights, religious, veteran and other groups as well as former members of Congress, the former president of National Defense University, and former landmine ambassadors, further called on the President to “set the United States on a short and direct path to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty by declaring the United States’ intent to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty by 2023 as part of the new policy.”
The United States has not used anti-personnel landmines since 1991, excluding the use of a single munition in 2002. All other NATO allies and a total of 164 countries worldwide have agreed to universally foreswear all anti-personnel mines under the Mine Ban Treaty.