"There's a world of amputation lying in the ground, but no one can remember where it was put down." — Bruce Cockburn
As most people know I dig folk music, the more socially conscious the better, so it should be of no surprise to learn I spent my last night in Detroit at a concert for a Landmine Free World. A virtual who's who of the contemporary "anti-pop" singer songwriter set, this group of musicians had more to say in one night than Brittany Spears will be able to manage in a lifetime. Emmy Lou Harris, Nancy Griffith, and Steve Earle, all personal favorites, and all on stage at once, and that only half of the line up.
Besides an evening of great music, I was treated to an acoustic wake-up call that provided the catalyst for some serious consideration in regards to the lethal litter known as antipersonnel mines. Here in the United States we have little experience dealing with the constant threat of life in a minefield, yet play a significant role in making sure landmines continue to plague the planetary community. Busy with other environmental issues, I had no idea how big a problem landmines were.
One of the ironies to be found in the semantics of warfare is that 90 percent of antipersonnel landmine victims are civilians, not troops. According to the U.S. State Department, approximately 60 to 70 million landmines remain unexploded in the ground worldwide. The Red Cross puts this number at more than 100 million, estimating that 26,000 people annually, the majority of which are children, are killed or maimed by a landmine which had been deployed decades ago, and then left as a legacy of war.
In reality these landmines are anti-people, not antipersonnel. Every 22 minutes another victim. An Egyptian schoolgirl, a farmer in Vietnam, a peace keeper in Bosnia, an Afghani refugee crossing into Pakistan, different lives, same death. Hence the reason organizations such as the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation are taking on the task of educating Americans about the random killing fields laid down in the name of security. Concerts for a Landmine Free World is one way the VVAF is meeting the challenge.
The injustice of landmines was finally recognized on December 3, 1997, when the Ottawa Convention was opened for signature. To date 142 nations have joined the worldwide landmine ban against the use, stockpile, production, and transfer of antipersonnel mines, including most former mine-producing/exporting countries. Mine-producing nations which oppose the Ottawa Convention include: China, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Serbia, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States. The U.S. is the only NATO nation still committed to the use of antipersonnel landmines.
So here is my Christmas wish for 2001. On Christmas day, before George W. and Laura sit down with the twins to unwrap their loot, George pauses long enough to thank his personal deity for his daughters never having seen a family member blown to bits, and then with a flick of the wrist, gives the world a gift and signs the Ottawa agreement. Not only would such an act guarantee him global headlines on December 26th, it would give him a leg up for the Nobel Peace Prize. Think about it, not only would he be seen as the man who won the war against terrorism, he would also be reducing the terror of organized warfare.
Now, I know a lot of people will say this is a pipe dream, as the leader of the free world would never be so irresponsible as to place the well being of millions of men, women, and children before America's national security interests. George W. has often said, "No child should be left behind." I wonder if he realizes random amputation is a surefire way to make sure children can not keep up. Call me an idealist, but I think if America can prosper without landmines underfoot, the rest of the world can as well.
Perhaps if every American, from 6 to 60, were to ask George W. to sign the Ottawa Convention he would. It's not like there isn't already a growing chorus of those asking the U.S. to recognize the global landmine ban. Besides the efforts of humanitarian organizations, environmental and religious groups, a growing number of government officials, and retired senior military officers, George needs to hear from the silent majority who feel weapons of indiscriminate destruction should not be left lying around.
The war on terror must happen on many levels, and since I can not think of anything more terrifying than having my legs shredded as a collateral afterthought, I suggest this is a battle easily won. To find out how you can help give the gift of wholeness go online at www.vvaf.org.