A Statement of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men

On February 27, 2004 the United States took a huge step backwards in foreign policy when the Bush Administration announced a new US landmine policy, abandoning any commitment to ratify the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, maintaining the right for the US to use what are referred to as “smart” landmines, and stating that it would maintain the stockpile of older landmines until 2010.

This reversal of a policy in place since 1997, with the goal of US treaty ratification by 2006, is deplorable.  In 2001, when the President first announced his intention to review US policy regarding landmines, the presidents of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, representing over 100,000 sisters, brothers and priests in the US, wrote to the Administration urging that the United States “not back away from our commitment to join the international community in banning the use and production of landmines.”  We reaffirm our opposition to the production and use of landmines, and we continue to urge our government to join the 141 countries who have ratified the treaty, including all NATO nations except the United States. 

The Bush Administration has made itself the leader in the war on terrorism, yet by this action, the President has placed our nation among those very nations he has identified for their terrorist activity.  Nations that continue to produce and use landmines pose a threat to the safety of military personnel and thousands of innocent civilians, especially children, who are often the victims of landmines left behind after conflicts.  We are saddened that our nation will not halt the production and use of landmines because we know that this does not reflect the values and aspirations of the people of our country – to protect the safety and rights of all people, especially the most vulnerable in our world.

The Administration also announced that the military would be developing and manufacturing “smart” landmines which are self-deactivating or self-destructing.  “Smart” landmines will continue to kill and maim any person who triggers the mechanism while it is still activated and there are no guarantees that these “smart” landmines will function properly.  No advancement in technology justifies the use of inhumane weapons that still pose a threat to civilians. The use of “smart” landmines is not an acceptable alternative to the complete ban, destruction, and pledge to never use these weapons.

At a time when the US could be using its influence around the world to promote policies that create the conditions for peace, trust, and international cooperation, our Administration instead takes a path that removes us from the community of nations that seeks to create conditions for peaceful coexistence and protection of lives. The women and men religious of the United States urge our national leaders to reverse this decision and join the international community in working toward the elimination of all landmines.

Carole Shinnick, SSND                                                  Ted Keating, SM
Executive Director, LCWR                                            Executive Director, CMSM

Marie Lucey, OSF                                                         Stan De Boe, OSST
Associate Director for Social Mission, LCWR                 Justice and Peace Director, CMSM