At a historic gathering in Oslo in September nearly 100 nations endorsed an immediate and total ban on anti-personnel mines. Shamefully, U.S. representatives in Oslo refused to support the treaty while actively seeking to sabotage the negotiations. Rejecting a flat ban on all land mines, the Clinton administration lobbied for numerous exceptions that would rob the treaty of its compelling moral character and vital practical utility.
The case for an immediate and total ban on land mines is overwhelming. Estimates of the number of land mines remaining from past wars range from 100 million to 300 million. Every 22 minutes someone is killed or wounded by land mines. Most of the 26,000 yearly victims are innocent civilians, and according to UNICEF many are children. During the last 50 years, children have become frequent casualties of war, as civilians now account for 90 percent of war deaths. An international ban on the production, use, stockpiling, sale, and export of land mines is a concrete and effective step in reversing this deadly trend.
President Clinton knows this. In a January 1997 letter to the Senate, he wrote, "[The treaty] will...help to prepare the ground for the total prohibition of anti-personnel land mines [APL] to which the United States is committed. In this regard, I cannot overemphasize how seriously the United States takes the goal of eliminating APL entirely. The carnage and devastation caused by anti-personnel land mines-the hidden killers that murder and maim more than 25,000 people each year-must end."