Remarks on Mines Advisory Group Photo Exhibit Russell Building Rotunda

I want to thank the Mines Advisory Group not only for this very moving exhibit, but for the 25 years of dangerous, lifesaving work you have done around the world to clear landmines and other unexploded ordnance.

It is extraordinary when you think of the impact MAG has had, making roads and fields safe again in more than 35 countries.  It is work that governments should have done, but you did it. 

The photographs are a tribute to MAG’s work, and they remind us, once again, why we have been fighting for so many years to rid the world of landmines and why we will continue doing so for as long as it takes.

It is inexcusable that 20 years after President Clinton challenged the world to eliminate anti-personnel landmines, and 18 years after he announced a U.S. plan to develop alternatives to mines, we are still waiting. 

In 2010, I and 67 other United States Senators – Democrats and Republicans – more than two-thirds of the Senate – sent a letter to President Obama.  We urged him to conform U.S. policy to the Mine Ban Treaty – as a first step. 

Four years later, we are still waiting.

Ask yourselves this:  If landmines were littering this country – in schoolyards, along roads, in corn fields, in our national parks – and scores of children were being horribly maimed like some of the children in these photographs, how long do you think it would it take before the White House joined the Mine Ban Treaty?  Two days?  Two weeks?  I doubt it would be longer.

We hear the same excuses, year after year.  But if you get beyond the talking points and the power points, it is really about bureaucratic inertia and a lack of leadership.

The 161 nations that have signed the treaty, and organizations like MAG, have made a big difference.  There are fewer landmines and fewer casualties. 

The U.S. Government deserves credit for spending hundreds of millions of dollars to clear mines and help mine survivors.  The Leahy War Victims Fund has been an important part of that.

These photos show the tragic consequences.  As I have said many times, landmines do not belong in the arsenal of any civilized country.

So let’s keep working.  Let’s keep telling the White House that we expect more from the most powerful nation on Earth.

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