UCI students were given the opportunity to hear words from one of the most influential peace advocates in America on Feb. 20. Sponsored by the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs in the School of Social Ecology, Kenneth Rutherford, a land mine explosion survivor and professor of political science at Southwest Missouri, presented a speech titled ‘Land Mines and Human Security.’
In 1993, at the age of 32, Rutherford lost both his legs when his vehicle rolled over a land mine in southeast Somalia.
‘I can remember thinking about a few things. One was that I was in love with the woman of my dreams,’ Rutherford said recalling his life during the time of the incident. ‘Two, that despite what pain I was really in, I felt nothing, and three, that at the age of 32, on my death bed, I wanted to be just like my father.’
Like his father, he pursued a career in teaching. He uses education to increase awareness of the dangers of land mines which fuels his determination to ban the use of them.
‘I use land mines as a vehicle to teach my kids about the world,’ Rutherford said.
His teachings and influence did not stop in the classroom. Rutherford went on to become a co-founder of the Land Mine Survivors Network, one of the leading organizations in the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines, the organization that won a share of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.
Although these weapons were intended to be used during war, Rutherford went on to say that the actual percentage of Land Mine accidents that occur in wars is small.
‘More than 90 percent of people hurt by Land Mines are civilians,’ Rutherford said. ‘Soldiers do not go back for their Land Mines because more than 50 percent of them die in the process, so the numbers of soldiers doing this are decreasing.’
Rutherford then spoke about the Mine Ban Treaty, the first legitimate, comprehensive ban on mines that was drawn up and negotiated outside of the United Nations in the 1990s. Although the Mine Ban Treaty was popular amongst a number of countries that signed it, the United States has refrained from signing it for a number of political reasons. Rutherford concluded that there are many reasons why our government refuses to sign the treaty.
‘Both the Bush and Clinton administrations didn’t sign because of the threat of North Korea,’ Rutherford explained. ‘Other major powers did not sign, potential enemies did not sign, Clinton wasn’t well respected with the military and three-fourths of the world’s lawyers work in the United States. If we ban a weapon, it creates a way for the world to get weapons inspection. All in all though, I think we should sign.’
The majority of the students enjoyed the lecture and were interested in Rutherford’s remarks on Mine Ban Treaty.
‘I really liked the speaker. I’m interested in knowing why we haven’t signed the treaty,’ said a student who wanted to remain anonymous.
Jennifer Jordan, a third-year political science and sociology major, agreed.
‘ I would like to know why we the United States still haven’t signed the treaty. It’s something I really would like to look into,’ Jordan said.
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