The Obama administration is days away from “committing America” the Ottawa Convention, an anti-mine pact that House Armed Services Committee leaders say could tie the hands of the military.
It also, noted chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), highlights how President Obama fixates on random policy actions while bigger, more urgent issues go unresolved.
Even if the Senate fails to approve the 1997 treaty, as is expected, signing the document holds Washington accountable under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which requires that signatories not act contrary to the pact’s “object and purpose.”
“It has come to our attention through informal sources that President Obama intends to commit America to the Ottawa Convention, renouncing the use of land mines by our Armed Forces. While the NSC has attempted to obfuscate the issue, they are noticeably silent in any denial that the President is committed to this course of action,” McKeon and Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, said in a joint statement today. “No one can deny the painful human cost of the irresponsible use of these weapons, but committing our country to this treaty won’t do anything to repair that damage.”
“Signing the Ottawa treaty goes against the best advice our Nation’s military commanders have offered, substantially increases our risk in dangerous parts of the world, and imposes a needless financial burden on an already strapped military. It is the wrong decision for our country and it is especially problematic for key U.S. allies who do not need another reason to doubt U.S. commitment to their security,” they added.
“Many countries use landmines irresponsibly, but the United States is not one of them. In fact, the over 400,000 mines in our inventory all either self-destruct or self-deactivate. America does more than any other country to mitigate the land mine damage done by others- spending over $2 billion on the problem since 1993. The cost to replace our mines in areas where they are essential to our defense and that of our allies, like the Korean Peninsula, will run into the hundreds of millions. The cost of an alternative defensive platform could be billions more.”
In March, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey called land mines “an important tool in the arsenal of the armed forces of the United States,” stressing that tensions on the Korean Peninsula have increased.
The Defense Department prepared a 30-page report on the dangers of signing the land-mine ban, but its contents remain classified.
“We cannot improve upon the assessment of General Dempsey,” McKeon and Forbes said. “If the White House truly wants to lay Americans concerns on this important matter to rest, they should clearly confirm that they are following the best military advice of our uniformed leadership and opposing this treaty.”
McKeon told Fox “this is a bad decision for our military.”
“It’s a bad decision for our country. It’s a bad decision for our taxpayers,” he added.
Of Obama’s decisions, McKeon said, “some… he agonizes over for a long time, and then takes no action. Some decisions just kind of seem to come out of the blue, and he takes action. It’s hard to follow this.”