16 September 2006

War Without End

Cambodia is only one among the many places where warning signs such as this are plentiful. Try Google for a larger multi-lingual selection. Of course, such warnings may not be entirely effective for children or illiterate adults, let alone livestock or pets. But, well, those who wage war always admit that pursuit of their aims may result in collateral damage.

Yesterday I posted on Raphaël Dallaporta's intense photographs of landmines and cluster bombs, weapons used solely to kill and maim indiscriminately. Here is another example (complete with instructions for use) from his "Antipersonnel" project:

I suggested that Dallaporta's work provides a sharp counterpoint to the images by the many other photographers who have sought to convey the dire human consequences of landmines. It might help to make this contrast explicit. So, here are several examples I have lifted from the web, each by a terrific photographer, each published a decade or so ago:

Two Angolan Women who have lost legs to landmines, 1997. [© Sebastiao Salgado].

John #3, Playing Outside, Mozambique [© Bobby Neel Adams].

Afghanistan, 1996 - Land mine victims learn to walk on prosthetic legs at ICRC clinic. [© James Nachtwey].

So, the sleek and shiny plastic and metal devices that Dallaporta presents in the style of advertising imagery, intentionally manufactured to be undetectable once deployed, kill and maim and cripple people the world over; even after some "ceasefire" has been announced or one or another side has declared "victory." ... "FRONT. TOWARD ENEMY."
PS: Again, you can go here to find the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. And, by the way, the United States is among the countries that has not signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. What good company we keep! With the somewhat surprising exception of Finland, there is not another "advanced" democracy on the list of holdouts.

PS2: Here is a document from Human Rights Watch that clarifies the role of various American Corporations suspected of involvement in the manufacture of landmines. It is somewhat outdated (1997), but there is no reason to suspect that any of the companies that had taken steps to distance themselves from the practice have been backsliding. Whether those companies that were unresponsive have changed their ways is another matter.

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