Land mines meant to deter troops still kill civilians

For 15 years, the United States has not signed the Ottawa Treaty banning antipersonnel land mines.

Although President Barack Obama has been studying the issue for five years, his conclusion last month was not very decisive. The United States will no longer produce antipersonnel mines or replace expired mines and will move toward signing the treaty at some unspecified future date.

Though the policy means that America's stockpile of 10 million mines will gradually diminish, it is only a half-step toward eliminating weapons that disproportionately maim and kill civilians. Every year, land mines kill or injure 4,000 people, half of them children.

That's an unconscionable number, but far lower than the 26,000 land-mine injuries in 1999, the year the Mine Ban Treaty took effect. Being party to the treaty would require the United States to destroy its stockpiles within four years and clear the areas it has mined in 10.

The Pentagon says land mines are needed for deterrence in areas such as the Korean Demilitarized Zone, although the treaty does not affect anti-vehicular or command-detonated mines. They could remain and mitigate invasion threats alongside sensors, surveillance and air strikes.

Although countries such as China, Russia, Iran, Israel and Egypt have not embraced the treaty, Obama should pressure them to join him in signing, then seek Senate ratification. Land mines that kill civilians are a blight on the world - the sooner they can be replaced with other troop deterrents, the better.

—The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 14


Pakistani teenager still disrespected in homeland

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager deservedly named the 2014 recipient of the Liberty Medal by the National Constitution Center last week, should be an inspiration for girls and women worldwide, having survived a 2012 attack by a Taliban gunman to continue her advocacy for girls' education rights.

Even as Malala accumulates accolades in the West, however, her endeavors remain controversial in Pakistan. Ironically, many of her own people have criticized her and called her an American agent.

Her popular book, "I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban," published last year, has been banned in Pakistan's private schools on the grounds that it's disrespectful of Islam. Malala's achievements at such a tender age - she won Pakistan's National Youth Peace Prize in 2011 and the U.N. Human Rights Prize in 2013 - have also raised eyebrows in her homeland, where some question whether she deserves such honors. Because Malala is not the only victim of injustice toward women, some believe she has enjoyed disproportionate recognition for a little girl from the Swat valley, a frontier region beset by terrorism.

Terrorism thrives in Pakistan partly because of widespread hostility toward independent women. Malala was shot by the Taliban, but many of her harshest critics are regular Pakistanis.

—The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 10