Group seeking national ban on landmines makes stop near campus

BY BENJAMIN S. CHASE
Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 13, 2008

A group seeking a national ban on the use of landmines stopped through Ann Arbor Friday during a Midwest tour that includes numerous campus appearances.

The United States Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs held a meeting at the Memorial Christian Church, informing students of the humanitarian risks posed by cluster bombs and landmines at a grassroots level.

The campaign is sponsored by the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker lobby whose other initiatives include promoting nuclear disarmament, protecting civil liberties and balancing the federal budget through reducing military spending.

The Cluster Bomb Survivors Tour, directed by Lora Lumpe, a lobbyist with the Friends Committee on National Legislation, was designed with the goal of opening a dialogue with constituents instead of just their elected representatives and senators regarding the threat posed to civilian populations by land mines and cluster bombs in war torn countries. The tour, entering its final leg, has crisscrossed the Midwest, with stops in Big Ten college towns like West Lafayette, Indiana and Columbus, Ohio. The tour also stopped in South Bend, home to the University of Notre Dame, and Chicago last week, where members of the tour met with representatives from Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's campaign headquarters.

Soraj Ghulam Habib, a man who lost both his legs to cluster bomb sub munitions in Afghanistan; Raed Mokaled, a South Lebanese optician whose 5-year-old son, Ahmad, was killed by cluster bomb sub munitions in a park in Lebanon in 1999, and Lynn Bradach of Portland, Oregon whose son Travis, a U.S. Marine, was killed in Iraq while sweeping an area for undetonated cluster bomb ordinance, are speaking on the tour.

Mr. Mokaled spoke about the loss of his son and what nations must do in order to eliminate the threat that cluster bombs and land mines pose to non-combatant populations in war torn regions of the world.

They are "a blind weapon that cannot choose between farmer, child or soldier," Mr. Mokaled said.

Originally developed during World War II as an anti-tank weapon, cluster bombs have been used extensively in tactical and anti-personnel capacities since the Vietnam War.
There are approximately 1.2 million undetonated cluster bomb sub munitions in Lebanon, many of them produced by the United States and sold to the Israeli Armed Forces.

The U.S. Campaign to Ban Land Mines is making its voice heard at a local level. The organization encourages students and church groups to call or write their senators regarding the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act, a proposed bill that will dramatically reduce the use and sale of cluster bombs by the United States.

The FCNL is also encouraging the United States to sign on to a treaty which has been ratified by 107 other nations. The treaty would ban the use of cluster munitions and provide assistance for the civilian victims of cluster bomb sub munition detonations.

The treaty, titled "A Diplomatic Conference for the Adoption of a Convention on Cluster Munitions," was drafted in May 2008 in Dublin, Ireland. The treaty will be opened for a second signing on December 3, 2008 in Oslo, Norway, and the FCNL is lobbying for the United States to sign it on that date.

The United States has been hesitant to sign on to the treaty, partially because other world powers — most notably Russia and China — have refused to sign it.