Coalition Letter to Pres. Obama: Review of U.S. Policy on Landmines and Cluster Bombs

February 10, 2009

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:
In early December, as half of the world’s governments signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Oslo, a spokeswoman for your Transition Team said that you would “carefully review the new treaty and work closely [with] our friends and allies to ensure that the United States is doing everything feasible to promote protection of civilians.”

We welcomed this statement. We write now to urge you to launch a thorough review within the next six months of past U.S. policy decisions to stand outside the treaty banning cluster munitions, as well as the treaty banning anti‐personnel landmines. We expect that such a review will give appropriate weight to humanitarian and diplomatic concerns, as well as to U.S. military interests.

The closest allies of the United States negotiated the Convention on Cluster Munitions based on their conclusion that these indiscriminate and unreliable weapons pose an unacceptable threat to civilian populations during and long after combat operations have ceased—in much the same way as do landmines.

British Foreign Minister David Miliband, representing the world’s third largest user of cluster munitions in the past decade, asked states at the signing conference to “tell those not here in Oslo that the world has changed ... that a new norm has been created.” He went on to say: “Our global community must continually keep challenging itself about the way it behaves. Political leaders must show they are prepared to listen and respond to the voices of victims, of civil society, and of ordinary people.”

We recognize the U.S. Government’s significant contributions to demining operations around the world, but note that these contributions are undermined by U.S. nonparticipation in the decade‐old Mine Ban Treaty and the new Convention on Cluster Munitions.

As you stated during the campaign, U.S. forces have been moving away from using cluster munitions and anti‐personnel landmines. The United States has not deployed anti‐personnel landmines since 1992, and it has not used cluster munitions in Iraq since 2003 or in Afghanistan since 2002.

Indeed, Secretary Gates has recognized that cluster munitions are weapons of grave humanitarian concern and recently issued a policy to begin destroying them in 2018. U.S. policy on landmines, as articulated in 2004, also encompasses phased elimination of most mines from operational planning.

These steps, while positive, are not nearly enough. The use of weapons that disproportionately take the lives and limbs of civilians is wholly counterproductive in today's conflicts, where winning over the local population is essential to mission success.

Your election stirred great excitement in this country and abroad in large part because of your clear commitment to restoring U.S. moral leadership in the world. Reconsidering these two treaties—and eliminating the threat that U.S. forces might use weapons that most of the world has condemned—would greatly aid efforts to reassert our nation’s moral leadership.

We look forward to hearing that the policy review is underway.

Sincerely,
David T. Tayloe, Jr., MD, President, American Academy of Pediatrics
Mary Ellen McNish, General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee
Karen Frederickson, President, American Refugee Committee
George Cody, PhD, Executive Director, American Task Force for Lebanon
Ziad Asali, MD, President, American Task Force on Palestine
Kareem Shora, National Executive Director, American‐Arab Anti‐Discrimination
Committee (ADC)
Larry Cox, Executive Director, Amnesty International USA
Dr. James Zogby, President and Founder, Arab American Institute
Hassan Jaber, Executive Director, Arab Community Center for Economic and Social
Services (ACCESS)
Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
Sarah Holewinski, Executive Director, Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict
Helene D. Gayle, MD, President and CEO, CARE
Ken Hackett, President, Catholic Relief Services
Vincent Warren, Executive Director, Center for Constitutional Rights
Margurite Carter, National Board President, Church Women United
Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director and CEO, Church World Service
Warren Clark, Executive Director, Churches for Middle East Peace
Don Kraus, Executive Director, Citizens for Global Solutions
John Isaacs, Executive Director, Council for a Livable World
Bishop Gregory John Mansour, Bishop of the Eparchy of St Maron of Brooklyn
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Church
Robert W. Radke, President, Episcopal Relief & Development
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Ronald J. Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action
Joe Volk, Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation
Wendy Batson, Executive Director, Handicap International U.S.
Elisa Massimino, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, Human Rights First
Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
Bruce E. Spivey, MD, President, International Council of Ophthalmology
Amb. Donald Steinberg, Deputy President for Policy, International Crisis Group
Mark Pitkin, PhD, Director, International Institute for Prosthetic Rehabilitation of
Landmine Survivors
George Biddle, Senior Vice President, International Rescue Committee
Kenneth Gavin, S.J., National Director, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA
Robert Naiman, National Coordinator, Just Foreign Policy
Dr. Pary Karadaghi, Executive Director, Kurdish Human Rights Watch
Marie Dennis, Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Co‐President, Pax Christi International
Rolando L. Santiago, Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
Jim Schrag, Executive Director, Mennonite Church USA
Heather Hanson, Director of Public Affairs, Mercy Corps
Nancy Ratzan, President, National Council of Jewish Women
William Hartung, Director, Arms and Security Initiative, New America Foundation
Vernon Nichols and Jim Nelson, Co‐Chairs, NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace &
Security
Stephen Rickard, Executive Director, Open Society Policy Center
Richard M. Walden, President and CEO, Operation USA
Raymond C. Offenheiser, President, Oxfam America
Frank Donaghue, CEO, Physicians for Human Rights
Peter Wilk, MD, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility
Ahuma Adodoadji, President and CEO, Plan USA
Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Farshad Rastegar, CEO, Relief International
William F. Vendley, Secretary General, Religions for Peace
Rev. W. Douglas Mills, PhD, Judith Hertz and Dr. Tarunjit Singh Butalia, leadership of
Religions for Peace USA
Heidi Kuhn, Chairman of the Board, Roots of Peace
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
Jerry White, Founder and Executive Director, Survivor Corps (formerly Landmine
Survivors Network)
Nicole Lee, Executive Director, TransAfrica Forum
Lavinia Limon, President and CEO, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Caryl Stern, President and CEO, U.S. Fund for UNICEF
Rev. William G. Sinkford, President, Unitarian Universalist Association
Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
Amb. William H. Luers, President, United Nations Association of the United States of
America
James E. Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society, United
Methodist Church
Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace,
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Bobby Muller, President, Veterans for America
Michael McPhearson, Executive Director, Veterans For Peace
Sen. Timothy E. Wirth, President, UN Foundation
Susan Shaer, Executive Director, Women’s Action for New Directions
Carolyn Makinson, Executive Director, Women’s Refugee Commission

cc: Honorable Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State
Honorable Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense
Honorable Gen. James L. Jones, National Security Advisor
Honorable Susan Rice, Ambassador to the United Nations
Honorable John Kerry, U.S. Senate
Honorable Richard Lugar, U.S. Senate
Honorable Carl Levin, U.S. Senate
Honorable John McCain, U.S. Senate
Honorable Patrick Leahy, U.S. Senate
Honorable Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate
Honorable Jim McGovern, U.S. House of Representatives

Please address any response to this letter to <[email protected]>.