Damn the treaty, full mines ahead!

The Pentagon’s latest alternative to conventional land mines is, um, conventional land mines. HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH says the new antipersonnel devices include a feature to make them “victim activated” which makes them little different from the notorious civilian killers they’re replacing. “The Pentagon’s alternative to landmines is no alternative at all,” says a Human Rights Watch spokesperson.

The mines’ prototypes have already been tested, and the Pentagon is about to award an engineering contract. Over 500,000 mines may be produced by 2005.

One hundred and thirty seven nations, including every NATO member but Turkey, have signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. Clinton has said the US would ratify it in 2006 as long as a land mine alternative was developed. Unfortunately, Human Rights Watch notes, the alternatives already developed, like the latest mine-with-an-off-switch version, are themselves banned under the treaty. Alternatives suggested by Human Rights Watch include not using land mines.