American country musician Steve Earle criticized Tuesday the reluctance of the US to sign an international treaty banning land mines as “irresponsible.”
As the world’s sole superpower, the US has a duty to sign a ban on the production and usage of land mines and lead by example, the Texas native said while visiting one of Cambodia’s largest prosthetics factories.
“There’s a responsibility” that goes along with being a superpower, Earle said in an interview at Kien Khleang Rehabilitation Center. “I’m embarrassed that the US hasn’t signed the treaty.”
Earle characterized the US decision not to sign the treaty as a shortsighted attempt to prevent a precedent for having to surrender a weapon.
The US, China and Russia were among the countries that did not sign the 1997 treaty. At the time US officials cited the usefulness of mines in defensive positions, such as along the border of North and South Korea.
Earle, who has put out nine albums ranging in style from rock to country to folk to bluegrass, is in Cambodia with manager Dan Gillis for five days as part of a Southeast Asian swing sponsored by Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation.
He is to visit Prey Veng province today and Siem Reap province on Thursday before returning to the US on Saturday.
Earle termed his interest in publicizing anti-land mine campaigns “reconciliation” for the damage wreaked on Southeast Asia during the US war in Vietnam and carpet-bombing of Cambodia in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Earle in October took part in a concert in the US to benefit the Campaign for a Land Mine Free World, performing with folk hero Willie Nelson and country singer Emmy Lou Harris, who had visited Phnom Penh in September 1997.
The benefit concerts and Phnom Penh visits are aimed at pressuring US political leaders to ban land mines and generate awareness about the needs of victims.
When she visited, Harris said she hoped to take over the anti-land mine campaign torch from the late Princess Diana of Wales, a high-profile activist who had died a month earlier.
According to Earle, Harris has made inroads with US Vice President Albert Gore in her effort to gain the US signature on the international treaty. However, it’s unclear whether the US legislature would enact anti-land mine laws that the treaty asks each country to pass.
Dozens of other countries, including Cambodia, have signed the treaty. Cambodia also passed the anti-land mine legislation, although analysts say both government and Khmer Rouge troops continued to lay land mines in the low-intensity guerrilla war that effectively ended last month.
Officials from the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation have characterized Harris and Earle as playing key roles in the fight to ban the US production of land mines.
“It’s very important for people who have the connections and communication skills like Steve to spread the word,” said John Terzano, vice president of the foundation.