I found a book I thought I’d lost for ages. :
“A small boy, about nine years old, was following his goats as they grazed in the mountains. His name is not known. He was probably playing a little, throwing stones maybe, or he would have noticed the small green mine that blew his foot off at the ankle. From what we know of how people react, from the memories of those who have survived, the little shepherd boy probably hopped or dragged himself to where his foot lay – it would have been quite close to him. He would have cried, or maybe just sat lonely and quiet and helpless and slipped into unconsciousness. His goats must have stayed until after he died, probably until the wild dogs arrived at the scene. We have no way of knowing exactly what happened; the dogs found him days before we did. He was certainly [to use the arms industry’s preferred terminology] a ‘soft target’.
McGrath, Rae (2000) Landmines and Unexploded Ordinance: A Resource Book. Pluto, London.
So, the book’s about landmines and cluster bombs, both manufactured, promoted and used by US / EU countries, including the UK. The author isn’t some hippie but a former British Army (REME) soldier who heads up one of the most respected demining NGOs and was nominated for the Nobel Prize. Landmines and cluster bombs cause massive death and misery long after a conflict’s end, as well as economic hardship once the TV cameras go home – how does a country like Somalia, Afghanistan or Rwanda deal with thousands of amputees? With unusable roads? With crops and fields peppered randomly with metallic seeds of death?
Because unlike the Hollywood depiction, there are no barbed-wire boundaries, no handy skull-and-crossbones, no ‘Achtung Minen!’ notices; that would defeat the point. Mines and cluster bombs are hidden killers. That is their grisly role.
When your prospective MP comes a-knocking in the next few weeks, ask him if his party will commit the UK to an outright ban on the manufacture, promotion, sale and use of cluster bombs as they promised when they signed (but have not yet implemented) the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Happy Friday. Good times.