WASHINGTON—President Obama announced last Friday that the U.S. would no longer produce or obtain antipersonnel land mines, as a part of his administration’s commitment to join an international treaty banning the weapon. The news has been greeted harshly by some, however, particularly those who rely and land mine production to earn a living.
High Plains, W.Va. isn’t too different from any other Midwestern town. Ethnically and culturally homogenous, its townspeople take pride in their patriotism, religiosity, and refusal to accept charity. Unlike most towns, however, High Plains’ top employer is the Honeywell Land Mine Production Facility, located a short ride outside town. High Plains residents, needless to say, are less than thrilled about what they consider to be the Obama administration’s latest affront to the American Way.
“Landmines are what High Plains is all about,” said Daniel McCluskey, 47, a worker at the land mine plant. “My father made land mines, I make land mines, and, God willing, my son will make land mines after me. Now you want to tell me some left-wing do-gooders want to steal our livelihood because a few kids in Cambodia lost their legs? Not while I’m breathing, they’re not.”
“It’s never been proven that landmines kill civilians. There is debate on whether that’s even true,” asked Timothy Wood, 30. “I say until we know for certain that stepping on explosives is dangerous, you can’t shut down any land mine production plant.”
Land mines kill between 15,000 to 20,000 people every year — most of them children, women and the elderly — and injure countless more. The vast majority of land mines were planted during conflicts which have been over for years or even decades. The Ottawa Treaty banning the production and use of land mines was enacted in 1997. The United States is one of 36 countries, including Russia and China, which have refused to ratify the treaty.
“I’m sensing a pattern here,” opined Jeff Johnson, 41. “First coal mines, now land mines. What exactly is Obama playing at? Just another attempt to sabotage American industry.”
The decision has also attracted heat from Republicans. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., called the decision an “end-run around Congress,” and quoted a U.S. Defense official calling land mines “an ‘important tool in the arsenal of the Armed Forces of the United States.’ ”
“The president owes our military an explanation for ignoring their advice and putting them at risk,” said McKeon.