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America’s Relationship With Land Mines and Cluster Munitions

At War is a newsletter about the experiences and costs of war with stories from Times reporters and outside voices.

Part of my job at At War is to keep an eye on developments and trends in the arms industry that may influence how wars are fought not long from now. Some of the weapons I track are the ones I first encountered as an explosive-ordnance-disposal technician on active duty. While deployed to Iraq in 2007, I had to deal with the aftermath of cluster-munition strikes and improvised-explosive-device attacks. I have never forgotten the feeling of walking in places where both had been used, knowing what could lie beneath the surface of each step.

I didn’t know until a few years ago that “victim-operated” I.E.D.s, like the ones I worried about in Iraq, meet the definition of antipersonnel land mines under international law. What had seemed like a relatively new threat to me was in fact something that had killed scores of American troops in earlier wars. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time researching the history of explosive booby traps and cluster weapons, because each poses a fatal threat to combatants and civilians alike long after the wars they were used in have ended.

JOHN ISMAY

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