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Leahy Criticizes Obama For Not Supporting Ban on Land Mines

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J. Scott Applewhite
/
AP
"What a stain on the country that should be the moral leader," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, pictured here on June 4, when he spoke on the Senate floor Tuesday and criticized President Obama for not supporting an international treating banning land mines.

Sen. Patrick Leahy has taken the unusual step of using a speech on the Senate floor to strongly criticize President Obama for his failure to ask the Senate to ratify an international treaty banning the use of land mines.

Since 1999, 161 countries have signed a treaty supporting the ban but the United States has never signed it. 

And for more than 20 years, Leahy has worked to ban the world-wide production and use of the anti-personnel weapons.

Leahy said he was unable to persuade former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to sign the international treaty. But he had great hope when President Obama was elected in 2008 that things would change, because in 2005, then-Senator Obama supported the anti-land mine movement.

Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday, Leahy said there’s been a lot of progress in removing old land mines in northern Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. But he said the issue is far from being solved.
“The bad news is that the problem is still not solved. There’s still thousands of deaths and injuries from mines each year,” said Leahy. “And of course, Mr. President, they’re not combatants in most cases. They’re innocent civilians.”

Leahy said he was unable to persuade former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to sign the international treaty. But he had great hope when President Obama was elected in 2008 that things would change, because in 2005, then-Senator Obama supported the anti-land mine movement.

“When President Obama was elected I thought we’d finally see the U.S. get on the right side of this issue. After all, we fought two long wars without using anti-personnel mines,” said Leahy. “All our NATO allies [and] most of our coalition partners have banned them, but we haven’t joined the treaty.”

The Obama Administration says it opposes the treaty because land mines are still needed to protect the security of South Korea. But Leahy isn’t buying this argument.

“We have to rely on these little land mines to protect us? Oh come on,” said Leahy. "President Obama still has a little bit of time to put the United States on a path to join the treaty, but time is running out.”

"What a missed opportunity. What a stain on the country that should be the moral leader." - Sen. Patrick Leahy

Leahy says he’ll be very disappointed if the President doesn’t ask the Senate to ratify this treaty before he leaves office.

“We can sit on the sidelines as though we have no involvement in this. What a missed opportunity,” said Leahy. “What a stain on the country that should be the moral leader.”  

Leahy says the United States has been a world leader in the effort to remove land mines and has provided important financial assistance to help the civilian victims of these weapons.

That’s why he remains frustrated and puzzled why the Obama Administration won’t take the final step and join the international treaty.