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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Interview with Bobby Muller

Aired March 3, 2002 - 11:27   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The global fight against land mines continues with some groups urging world leaders to ban the deadly devices. The Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation is taking its case to the public. The group is launching an advertising campaign aimed at getting President Bush to ban the use of land mines. Here's a look at one of the ads.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Today's military: faster, smarter, more mobile, the most advanced communications technology, space-based systems, precision-guided weapons, hitting the enemy and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) casualties. So why does this futuristic fighting force need land mines -- relics of the past, useless on the modern battlefield, ineffective, indiscriminate, inhumane? As commander in chief, President Bush can ban this obsolete weapon. land mines have no place in today's military.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Spearheading the fight to ban land mines is Bobby Muller, the President of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation. Muller is the co-founder of the international campaign to ban land mines, an organization that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. Mr. Muller joins us now to talk more about the fight against land mine usage. Thanks for joining us this morning.

BOBBY MULLER, PRESIDENT, VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA FOUNDATION: My pleasure.

WHITFIELD: Well your campaign comes on the third anniversary of the implementation of the global treaty banning land mines. One hundred twenty-two countries are on board. Except for the U.S., this campaign can't be a coincidence, can it?

MULLER: No, it's 142 countries. The treaty was first enacted in '97, and we are a long way from when the United States made its threshold decision not to get rid of land mines, which was actually back in 1996. And as I think we showed in that commercial just there, we do have a 21st century military. It is a transformed military. It relies on sophisticated technology, smart weapon systems, and the idea that we would still use this outmoded and, in fact, counterproductive weapon is just insane. So now that we've got a leader in President Bush, who has the ability as a wartime president to make the kind of decision we need from the civilian side in government, we are very confident that now that we are up for review by the Bush Administration, that we'll finally have a presidential decision that we've been waiting for which is to get rid of this obsolete, outdated, counterproductive weapon.

WHITFIELD: Well, what's your philosophy as to why the U.S. is not on board already?

MULLER: I got to tell you, we've been working with the military for a long time on this one, and they frankly made it quite clear that it's really not on the merits of land mines, it's on the idea of a precedent, that society could reach into the arsenals and take out a weapon because it's indiscriminate and because of its overwhelming humanitarian consequences.

They're fearful of what they refer to as a slippery slope, that with that precedent, that society might wind up going after other categories of weapons and munitions that could fall under the same kind of a logic like clustered munitions.

And we've been very steadfast in saying this is about land mines. There are 65 to 80 million of them buried in the ground. It's a totally indiscriminate weapon and it's consequences are far out of proportion to any even arguable military advantage that they could provide.

WHITFIELD: Afghanistan is one of those countries that has not signed the treaty. What are, who are some of the other countries outside the U.S. that you believe are not cooperating?

MULLER: Well, obviously all are the bad guys. You know, you've got the Syrians, the Libyas, the Iraqs, the Irans. But unfortunately with the United States staying off of this treaty, it's also provided cover for India and Pakistan and China, that you just saw along the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan, that the largest land mine barrier in the world now has just been laid by India and Pakistan.

This is crazy. We need the United States leadership. We haven't used this weapon in our last three wars. We have no plans to use it in the future. So why not renounce it. Instead of having the embarrassment of another Kyoto type situation, where the majority of the world community is clearly setting an international standard and we're the odd-man-out, we ought to join that.

We're into coalition building. We want our allies to fight with us. Well, maybe you don't realize it, but there's a provision under this international agreement that those countries that have signed are prohibited from fighting with our fighting forces unless we renounce the use of land mines in these operations. So it's counter to our diplomatic posture. It's counter to our military's interest. It's counter to our humanitarian concerns around the world. It's time to get it done.

WHITFIELD: Is it true that 22 of the 144 countries that you mentioned, 22 of those countries may have signed it but they actually haven't banned or removed the land mines as of yet?

MULLER: No, I think of the 142 countries that have actually signed, it's 120 that have actually ratified that signature. So, the consequences of this international treaty have been pretty remarkable in record time coming into force, to actually go after a weapon system that's in active use.

But again, without the 800-pound gorilla here, let's face it, it's the United States military lending, you know, the moral authority to the condemnation of this weapon. It's lacking. We need the United States to get rid of this weapon that it doesn't use and is counter to its own military's interest.

We have five casualties so far, and I promise you there will be more in Afghanistan because of land mines. They were the leading cause of our own casualties during the war in Vietnam. I was a Marine infantry officer and I can tell you, the consequences of land mines, which we do not have an adequate defense for, are devastating on lives and the moral of U.S. soldiers.

WHITFIELD: We saw one of the ads. Have these ads already made the airwaves?

MULLER: The ads are out there. You know, we spent a couple of years really working on the Clinton Administration to raise the concern that we have within a broad constituency of people about land mines. This is a new administration. It's a new team. A lot of these folks haven't heard the arguments. So we are trying to make our presence known, as we're aware that this administration is reviewing the policy it inherited from the Clinton Administration...

WHITFIELD: All right.

MULLER: ... on land mines and we want to get our voices heard.

WHITFIELD: Thanks very much, Bobby Muller, for joining us with the international campaign to ban land mines.

MULLER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Thanks for joining us this morning.

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