About Ham Hayes

Ham lived in Bellingham while writing for NW Citizen from 2007 to 2011.

By: Ham Hayes (69)

The Way I See It - The gift that keeps on giving

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A news article appeared just before Thanksgiving on banning land mines. The Obama administration has decided not to sign the Mine Ban Treaty after recently completing a policy review according to a State Department spokesman. This caused a bit of an uproar among groups supporting the ban. Initially drafted in 1997 at the prompting of then-President Bill Clinton, the treaty has now been signed by over 150 countries. However neither the Clinton, Bush, or now the Obama administrations have chosen to sign it. Other significant countries who also have not signed include Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Myanmar (the only country apparently known to be still engaged in active land mining). The Obama administration did issue a clarifying statement a day after the first statement, saying it would continue to review the policy and would send observers to a conference being held this week in Cartagena, Columbia. President Obama’s position on the Mine Ban Treaty is difficult for many to understand.

In 2003, I made my first trip to Cambodia. Before I arrived, I had an under-appreciation for the real effects of land mines on one of the most heavily land mined countries in the world. The visible presence of amputees, a museum craft store documenting the numerous types of mines laid in Cambodia, and the visibly marked mine fields located around the town were overwhelming. Those impressions, as well as discussions with our Cambodian hosts, resulted in a commitment to sponsor the construction of a school in Phnom Dek, Preah Vihear Province, Northern Cambodia. This school, the Bellingham Community School, was co-sponsored by many individuals, businesses and at least one private school in Bellingham. It began operation in October, 2005. The purpose of my second trip to Cambodia, in January 2006, was to celebrate the opening of the school with the local Cambodian villagers, teachers, students and province officials. I was joined by a group of eleven Bellingham citizens, parents, students and a teacher to help with the celebration and learn about rural Cambodia. A parallel reason for the journey was to gain a better understanding of the barriers Cambodians face in order to recover their country and society.

The estimates for the number of land mines buried in Cambodia range from 1 million to many millions. A commonly accepted number is between 3 and 4 million, many of which are still in the ground. In fact no one really knows how many there might be as many of the minefields were never recorded, which adds to the difficulty of the de-mining efforts. It is estimated that eighty-five percent of the land mines were placed between 1978 and 1999. This is the period of the civil war between the Khmer Rouge, a Vietnamese-installed government, and later, after 1993, a UN mandated government. Ninety nine percent of the land mines placed in Cambodia were anti-personnel mines of Russian, Chinese or Vietnamese manufacture.

In Cambodia, land mines could have been buried anywhere including in roads, trails, rice paddies and school yards. The locations of most minefields is not known. In 2005, one de-mining agency director estimated most of the rice paddies were probably free of mines, as casualties among farmers and their livestock were no longer being reported. Even then, in 2005, almost 1000 casualties per year from land mines or unexploded ordnance were being reported. It should be noted that much of the unexploded ordnance is a result of the extensive U.S. bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Eastern Cambodia during the Vietnam War. And a number of the current casualties are a result of that unexploded ordnance as well. Cambodia has about the same area as the State of Washington. Imagine the impact on our lives of hundreds of thousands or millions of undetected land mines and a thousand casualties a year.

As far as the Bellingham Community School in Phnom Dek goes, yes, the land it sits on had to be de-mined. Essentially every project in Cambodia has to go through a de-mining process, which is still largely done by hand. By one agency’s estimate it costs from $1000 to $1500 to remove ONE mine. The effort to remove the highest priority mines, if funded, will likely take many decades. Once the land mines are removed, the economic and societal benefits can begin to take hold.

The United States, other countries and many private groups and citizens have done much to aid de-mining efforts in Cambodia and elsewhere. The unspeakable legacy of pain, suffering and deconstruction of society due to land mines used on such a massive scale is now recognized by most countries on the planet. We Americans purport to be the “shining light on the hill,” yet in this matter we have blinked once again. The consequences to those who must try to survive, live, raise their families and work in a heavily land mine polluted environment are extreme. There may be good reasons why the United States has not signed the Mine Ban Treaty. And if there are good reasons, the Obama administration needs to explain to the American people and the world what those reasons are. Our country has a dilemma: we are telling countries like Cambodia we won’t ban mines, but we will help them remove land mines sometime in the future. I think we need to show more leadership than that.

About Ham Hayes

Closed Account • Member since Jan 11, 2008

Ham lived in Bellingham while writing for NW Citizen from 2007 to 2011.

David Camp

Dec 02, 2009

How are Land Mines different from IED’s and car bombs? All are passive instruments of terror, killing and maiming innocent civilians.

If the United States Government labels the perpetrators of car bombs and IED’s as terrorists, and declares war on them, how are we to think about this same government’s endorsement of land mines?

Who is the terrorist here?

And why does the US Government hate America so much?

Read More...
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The Way I See It - The gift that keeps on giving

By Ham HayesOn Dec 02, 2009

A news article appeared just before Thanksgiving on banning land mines. The Obama administration has decided not to sign the Mine Ban Treaty after recently completing a policy review according [...]

1 comment, most recent 10 years ago

The Way I See It - Los Angeles Resurrected

By Ham HayesOn Nov 25, 2009

I’ve been to Los Angeles many times. I even remember the Red and Yellow electric street cars that served the city from after World War II until their demise [...]

The Way I See It - Healthcare, A New Lesson

By Ham HayesOn Nov 11, 2009

We certainly do need healthcare reform. The “debate” in the House has been a fascinating and conflicting mix of ideology, political power, idealism, facts, pragmatism and occasionally, some common sense. [...]

21 comments, most recent 10 years ago

The Way I See It - The State

By Ham HayesOn Nov 04, 2009

Few of us advocate for the suppression of the human spirit. In fact we would be shocked if others characterized us as miserly, mean spirited or oppressive. Yet today we [...]

1 comment, most recent 10 years ago

The Way I See It - Protect the Net

By Ham HayesOn Oct 28, 2009

We are looking at the all but certain demise of printed newspapers, and the conversion of TV and cable news into entertainment. Our last, best hope for getting hard news [...]

The Way I See It - Compassion, Dead or Alive?

By Ham HayesOn Oct 21, 2009

Compassion: We get it, and then we don’t get it. Merriam-Webster defines compassion as the “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” I know [...]

The Way I See It - Port Reform

By Ham HayesOn Oct 14, 2009

It is time to change the guard at the Port Commission. Our two incumbents running for re-election just don’t get it. Commissioners Walker and Smith have been in office [...]

1 comment, most recent 10 years ago

The Way I See It - The Elephant in the Room

By Ham HayesOn Oct 07, 2009

Healthcare and other socio-political dueling monologues are beginning to wear thin. Not because the topics aren’t worthy of our consideration. Far from it. What is discouraging is how demeaning [...]

3 comments, most recent 10 years ago

The Way I See It - Hoofing through France

By Ham HayesOn Sep 30, 2009

One good way to better understand our society and culture is to visit another country. Many questions and a little bit of trepidation can arise before and during a trip, [...]

The Way I See It - Lessons from Children

By Ham HayesOn Sep 09, 2009

You know you’ve failed when your action of last resort is to attack. Attacking is, in fact, a defensive response to the inability to persuade others to a particular [...]

The Way I See It - The Tsunami Is Here

By Ham HayesOn Sep 02, 2009

There is a sense that in recent years our political and social discourses have become meaner. Our political system is increasingly seen as being more about gaining or retaining power [...]

2 comments, most recent 10 years ago

The Way I See It

By Ham HayesOn Aug 26, 2009

The challenger for the Port Commissioner District 1 seat, John Blethen, has an uphill race ahead of him. John is certainly to be congratulated for an excellent showing in the primary. [...]

1 comment, most recent 10 years ago

Update on Port & Council Public Process

By Ham HayesOn Apr 24, 2009

Posted Thursday, April 23, 11:25 pmThis last Wednesday I reported my observations of the Monday, April 20 joint Port-City Council meeting. I expressed my concern that some council members reported they had not [...]

7 comments, most recent 11 years ago

An American Poem

By Ham HayesOn Feb 03, 2009

Tax cheats, lobbyists and crooksLined up at your door.Struggle, struggle, cook the booksHow ya gonna get off the floorCome on PrezToss the bums outClean up this messShow us you [...]

4 comments, most recent 11 years ago

If Darwin Rode a Bike

By Ham HayesOn Jan 10, 2009

There is a lot of grit and fortitude on Bellingham’s streets this winter. Not the grit deposited by COB sanders, but the dedicated bicyclists who ride in rain and [...]

Politically Incorrect

By Ham HayesOn Dec 19, 2008

You probably can’t be anymore politically incorrect than this. I would like to thankALL of our elected officials for their efforts this year. I know, I know….it is [...]

2 comments, most recent 11 years ago

Waterfront Triple Bottom Line - Lose, Lose, Lose

By Ham HayesOn Nov 11, 2008

OK, citizen readers…what’s going on here? Are we witnessing a new war, right here in our backyard? It would appear so, and of course, we citizens are funding [...]

2 comments, most recent 11 years ago

A Time to Choose?

By Ham HayesOn Aug 19, 2008

Obama’s campaign may have reached its zenith. The emerging story about his position on partial and live-birth abortion could be the unraveling of his reach for history. A problem [...]

12 comments, most recent 11 years ago

Sue Me, Sue You, Soufle

By Ham HayesOn Jul 17, 2008

At the Port of Bellingham meeting this week, the Commissioners voted to sue the City over failure to resolve a water connection issue at the airport. It would appear that [...]

7 comments, most recent 12 years ago

20 times 1.5 is?

By Ham HayesOn Jun 09, 2008

I had to travel a long way to become mindful of the importance of math. Not calculus nor trig nor geometry….just math. With grandkids in tow this week, we [...]

3 comments, most recent 12 years ago