Kabul, Feb 12, 2004 (Star-Telegram) – The largest employer in Afghanistan
pays workers $150 a month to clear land mines.
That's good money in Kabul and Kandahar, and unfortunately the workers can
look forward to long-term employment -- if the job doesn't kill them.
According to HALO USA, a not-for-profit organization that destroys explosive
items left in the wake of war, it will take another 15 years to clear the
most-mined country in the world of its deadly detritus.
Every year, more than 20,000 land mines are discovered in the worst way
possible: A person or an animal steps on one, and it explodes.
More than 20 million of these devices are still in the ground somewhere in
the world -- a residual of battles won and lost, of territory held and
Afghanistan, Cambodia, Angola, Iraq, Mozambique, Sri Lanka, Eritrea, Sudan,
Ethiopia, Somaliland -- all are nations trashed by what HALO USA Vice
President Nigel Robinson called "ridiculously simple and cheap" munitions
during a speech last week to the Rotary Club of Fort Worth.
Anti-personnel is an apt description for weapons that cannot distinguish
between animal or human, civilian or soldier, child or adult.
They devastate already devastated people -- the civilian victims of war.
They make vast tracts of land unusable for farming, ranching, housing or
development -- exactly the activities needed to lift a nation beyond the
ravages of war.
Nations without sophisticated weapons systems or the money to buy them
justify the use of land mines as a way to secure land from an encroaching
enemy -- although that argument hardly explains America's continued refusal
to join 150 other nations in signing the 1997 mine ban treaty.
Yet even if every nation signed and ratified the treaty tomorrow, the
killing wouldn't end. Unless organizations like HALO USA clean up the
mechanisms of war, these "ridiculously simple and cheap" land mines are, in
truth, time bombs.