V. EPILOGUE: "SMART" MINES ARE A DUMB SOLUTION
While acknowledging the humanitarian crisis engendered by antipersonnel mines, many in the U.S. military continue to insist that the solution lies in the new generation of so-called "smart" mines. Advocates of smart mines say that these weapons pose little to no risk to civilians because they are designed to self-destruct (blow up) or self-deactivate (go inert) after a period of time-usually from one day to two weeks. Yet, just like dumb mines, smart mines are indiscriminate weapons that cannot differentiate between soldiers and civilians. They are "scattered" or "remotely delivered" by the thousands, usually by air or artillery, and blanket the ground.
In 1996 the International Committee of the Red Cross (I.C.R.C.) published a report by a military Group of Experts that called for an end to the use of antipersonnel mines, including smart mines.52 The Group of Experts, all experienced combat veterans, studied antipersonnel mine use in twenty-six modern conflicts and concluded: "No casewas found in which the use of antipersonnel mines played a major role in determining the outcome of a conflict.... The [strategic] effects of antipersonnel mines are very limited and may even be counterproductive [to those deploying them]."53
The Group of Experts voiced concern at the inevitability of civilians being trapped in aerially/remotely delivered smart minefields and concluded that smart mine technology was too unreliable and indiscriminate to be deployed: "Because of the vast numbers [of mines] involved, and the complete absence of any [mine] marking, it is likely that the number of civilian casualties resulting from a large-scale strike with remotely delivered mines will greatly exceed the casualty rates seen with conventional minefields. Although the mines may lie on the surface, they will not be visible in any depth of vegetation. Trained military units will be able to cope with the situation, but civilian populations will not. Even the doubtful benefit of self-destruction and self-deactivation at a later date will not prevent widespread casualties in the initial days after the strike. There is little doubt that the development of remotely delivered mines has increased the probability of a major rise in post-conflict mine casualties."54
Many military commanders are just as opposed to the use of smart mines as they are to dumb mines, in large part because of the risk of U.S. troops becoming ensnared in their own minefields. Former Marine Commandant General Alfred Gray has said, "What the hell is the use of sowing all this [scatterable smart mines] if you're going to move through it next week or month?... We have many examples of our own young warriors trapped by their own minefields or by the [old] French minefields [in Southeast Asia]. We had examples even in Desert Storm."55
The reliability of smart mine technology is a sensitive subject in the U.S. armed forces. Simply put, many commanders and soldiers do not trust smart mine technology.56 Timothy Connolly, a Gulf War veteran and former Clinton Administration official, has told Human Rights Watch that during his tenure as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict he was privately informed by many officers that "they would never employ scatterables in their area of operations, even if those scatterables were designed to self-destruct after a short period of time. Why? They were simply not prepared to risk the lives of their soldiers on the promise that the technology would work as designed."57
Antipersonnel mines, regardless of their self-destruct ability, have never been popular with U.S. officers and commanders. "That they are a serious hazard to one's own troops is perhaps reason enough to do away with them, but there is another aspect that any thinking commander must consider-they are a hindrance to friendly maneuverevery bit as much as to hostile movement," says Lieutenant General Palmer. "Our Army's battle doctrine is predicated on maneuver, on the very ability of units to shift rapidly on a fluid battlefield. And even mines sown by friendly forces get in the way of that freedom to maneuver-not to mention the debilitating effect of taking casualties from your own weapons."58
Palmer's observations are endorsed by Connolly: "A commander who uses antipersonnel mines-except in the most exigent, Alamo-like situation-is deliberately reducing his or her battlefield advantage of speed and flexibility." Connolly, while serving with the 82nd Airborne Division in the Gulf, ventured beyond Kuwait City after the fighting only to find miles of land riddled with unexploded scatterable smart mines. "I was also struck by the fact that U.S. minefields were unmarked; that no minefield maps were available; that the U.S. could not even provide a general area description of where the mines were supposed to have landed, let alone where they actually did."59
Recently declassified U.S. Army documents only hint at the problems U.S. scatterable mines caused in 1991 when U.S. troops stormed Iraqi defenses so rapidly that they inadvertently penetrated their own "live" minefields. One U.S. Army memorandum states: "The purpose of this message is to remind all XVIII ABN Corps soldiers to leave unexploded mines alone.... XVIII ABN Corps has suffered several severe injuries as a result of unexploded munitions being disturbed.... Coalition aircraft and enemy AAA have littered the Corps area of operations with dangerous unexploded ammunition.... Due to rapid Allied advance, activated Gator minefields could be encountered. Gator mines are box shaped. Four pound anti-armor and anti-personnel mines. They have been used to mine airfields, MSRS, approaches and bridges, and assembly areas. They extend trip wires, have magnetic influence fuses, and self-destruct at pre-set times. Extreme caution must be exercised in moving/maneuvering through areas where air strikes have been conducted."60
After surviving the liberation of Kuwait City on February 27, 1991, U.S. Sergeant Candelario Montalvo Jr. died from multiple fragmentation wounds in a mine blast.61 Thirty-four percent of U.S. casualties in that conflict were caused by landmines-a statistic that makes smart landmines appear to be a dumb solution.6252 International Committee of the Red Cross, Military Use and Effectiveness of Antipersonnel Mines (Geneva: I.C.R.C. Publications, 1996), p. 7. The Group of Experts consisted of retired military officers from Canada, India, Philippines, Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Zimbabwe. 53 Ibid., p. 8. 54 Ibid., p. 56. 55 Speech to the American Defense Preparedness Association's Mines, Countermines and Demolitions Symposium, Ashville, NC, September 7-9, 1993. 56 In 1996 Human Rights Watch determined that at least one U.S. antipersonnel smart mine system contained technological glitches that may yet threaten the lives of U.S. service personnel handling the devices. Only fifty thousand of a projected 183,000 Modular Pack Mine System (MOPMS) mines were ever manufactured. By the time production ended in 1993 amid lawsuits and allegations of defense contractor fraud and Pentagon incompetence, total costs had soared to $209 million over fourteen years, or $4,180 per mine. Scientists concluded that they were unable to produce a device that tested the self-destruct devices in each mine to one hundred percent accuracy. Court documents reveal that forty percent of MOPMS antipersonnel mines were hazardous, and potentially lethal, duds. See, Andrew Cooper, "Army Smart Mine System: Saga of Waste and Overruns," Defense Week (August 5, 1996), p. 6. Also see: Human Rights Watch Arms Project, "Exposing the Source: U.S. Companies and the Production of Antipersonnel Mines," A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 9, no. 2 (G), April 1997. 57 E-mail from Timothy Connolly to Human Rights Watch Arms Project, March 3, 1997. 58 Palmer letter, June 4, 1997. 59 E-mail from Timothy Connolly to Human Rights Watch Arms Project, March 3, 1997. 60 Message Information Update, Subject: Unexploded Munitions, ARCENT, XVIII Corp February 28, 1991. 61 Freedom of Information Act Request from Human Rights Watch to B.L. Thompson, Head, Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts Section, Administration and Resource Management, By Direction of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, March 6, 1997. 62 Hambric and Schneck (1996).