Friday, March 20, 2009

Disarming

By David Luhrssen
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Landmines are the threat that keeps on threatening. Years and even decades after the end of a conflict, the mines that were sown remain, always underfoot and ready to kill or maim.

The documentary Disarm (out now on DVD) concerns the efforts by activists to enforce and extend the Ottawa Treaty banning the production, use and stockpiling of landmines. Problem: President Bill Clinton refused to sign the treaty, George W. Bush was uninterested, and prominent nations such as China and Russia also clung to their mines, insisting on the weapon’s importance for self-defense. Meanwhile the mines continue to explode, shattering limbs when they don’t kill outright. According to statistics collected by filmmakers Mary Wareham and Brian Liu, most of the victims are civilians and most of them children.

Good guys are hard to sort out from the bad. In Bosnia, the mines laid by government forces defending Sarajevo from the Serbs during the 1990s civil war are now killing Bosnians. It would be easy to point fingers at the mine-laying military rulers of Myanmar, except that 15 rebel groups inside the former Burma also deploy mines. In Columbia leftist narco-rebels and right wing death squads alike sow mines. The occasionally gruesome footage of the victims tells much of the story.

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