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Law of the Sea Travesty By: Bill Steigerwald
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ronald Reagan rejected the United Nations' Convention on the Law of the Sea 25 years ago, but the 202-page treaty generally known by its acronym LOST will not die. Reagan didn't like LOST -- which its conservative critics say would compromise U.S. sovereignty and cede control of the oil, gas and mineral riches of the deepest seabeds to UN bureaucrats -- because it was so obviously collectivist, redistributionist, bureaucratic and antithetical to American economic and military interests.

But the Bush administration, the Pentagon and many large mining companies are pushing for the United States to join the 155 countries that have ratified LOST. As Sen. Joe Biden prepares to hold Senate hearings on the Law of the Sea Treaty on Thursday, Sept. 27, we called one of its chief opponents, Cliff Kincaid, president of America's Survival Inc. (www.usasurvival.org.) to find out why Reagan was right and President Bush is wrong about LOST:

Q: What is the Law of the Sea Treaty?
A: This treaty is the biggest giveaway of American sovereignty and resources since the Panama Canal Treaty. It gives the United Nations bureaucracy control over the oceans of the world -- seven-tenths of the world’s surface. It sets up an International Seabed Authority to decide who gets access to oil, gas and minerals in international waters. The companies that get those rights to harvest those resources have to pay a global tax to the International Seabed Authority.

Q: Where did this treaty come from?
A: This treaty was negotiated and written by socialists and world-government advocates, mainly under the Jimmy Carter administration. It was so bad that President Reagan flatly rejected it. Bill Clinton claimed he had solved some of the problems with the treaty in a 1994 side agreement. But Reagan’s people have said that it was not fixed. The treaty was bottled up for years in the Senate, first by Jesse Helms, who was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and then when President Bush came into office the State Department maneuvered him into endorsing it.

But it was still bottled up, this time by Sen. Bill Frist, the Republican leader, who felt it had serious flaws that had to be corrected. But with the liberal takeover of Congress last year, Sen. Biden has decided to bring it up for a hearing and a vote.

Q: What does the treaty do that is good or beneficial or necessary?
A: Some people say it guarantees freedom of navigation on the high seas but that is a matter of dispute. The treaty says the oceans have to be reserved for peaceful purposes. That would appear to give the foreign judges who run the International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas, another institution set up by this treaty, the authority to decide what is peaceful and what is not. That is why opponents of the treaty fear that it could be used to inhibit and restrict U.S. military activities on the high seas.

Q: Gathering intelligence, opening sea lanes, seizing terrorist -- all of those?
A: All of those activities are potentially at risk and can be seen by these foreign judges as possible violations of the Law of the Sea Treaty.

Q: Why did Reagan refuse to OK LOST and are his reasons valid today?
A: Some of the supporters of the treaty say Reagan only objected to the provisions on deep-sea mining. But the fact is that his chief negotiator to the Law of the Sea convention, a man named James L. Malone, gave testimony in 1995 saying that President Reagan rejected this treaty as a whole -- that it was flawed in concept and in detail. It was, in fact, a socialist power grab over the oceans of the world designed to increase foreign aid to the Third World through this global tax and other mechanisms in the treaty. Plus, Reagan’s diaries have now come out and one of those diary entries quotes the former president as saying he rejected this treaty not just because of the deep-sea mining provisions; his objections were far more broad than that. Reagan rejected the whole concept of the treaty -- that’s why he refused to sign it.

Q: Some supporters of the treaty say it contains no mention of a tax at all?
A: They don’t call it a “tax,” that’s true. They call it “fees” or “royalties.” But the money flows to the International Seabed Authority for the right to go after certain gas and oil and mineral deposits. There’s no question about this. The United Nations Association, which is backing the treaty, has described it as providing the first source of independent revenue for the United Nations.

Q: What's the biggest and most important thing wrong with LOST?
A: The biggest thing wrong with it is that it is yet another United Nations project to give the world body more power, authority and influence over world affairs. There are some, including some former State Department legal advisers, who contend that this treaty has nothing to do with the UN, that it is a separate organization. But the official acronym of the treaty is UNCLOS -- the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The preamble of the treaty makes three mentions to the UN role in shaping it. The treaty has to be carried out -- according to its own language -- in compliance with the UN charter. The idea that the UN -- a notoriously corrupt and incompetent body, which squandered billions in the oil-for-food program with Iraq -- should now have jurisdiction over seven-tenths of the world surface, with money coming from American companies, is ludicrous.

Q: But why are the Bush administration, the Pentagon and some mining companies in favor of LOST?
A: I think what is driving support for the treaty is the Navy’s claim that it somehow offers some sort of protection for American interests around the world -- that it solidifies navigational rights on the high seas. But I believe that the Navy has taken this position because of two things: One, the influence of international lawyers in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) offices; and two, the dramatic decline in the number of Navy ships. We have gone from 594 under President Reagan to only 276 today.

According to the American Shipbuilding Association, the number of Navy ships is scheduled to decline over the next 15 years to 180. An analyst recently published a major study saying that at the current rate, the Chinese will have the biggest navy, surpassing ours, by 2020. I was at a symposium where a State Department official blurted out, candidly, “Oh, we need the Law of the Sea Treaty because we don’t have enough ships anymore to protect American interests." This idea that we should substitute a piece of paper with a UN rubber stamp on it for the necessity for building more ships is crazy.

But look at it from the point of view of U.S. corporations that want to get into these international waters and go after the oil, gas and minerals. If the Navy is not going to protect them, then what alternative do they have? They’re following the Navy’s lead in concluding, “Well, I guess we better support this treaty because it’s better than nothing.”

Q: Who is supporting this treaty and why?
A: People who have been pushing this treaty over the years in the Senate include the most liberal members -- not only Joe Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, but also Sen. Richard Lugar, the top-ranking Republican on the committee. The people outside of the Senate who have really vigorously been promoting the treaty in addition to those you named are the special interest groups that are associated with the world-government movement.

This may sound fantastic to some people but when I analyzed the history of this treaty and who wrote it, I came up with the names of people like Louis Sohn of Harvard and Elisabeth Mann Borgese, a German activist known as the UN’s “Mother of the Oceans,” who put this together because they saw the Law of the Sea Treaty as a steppingstone toward world government.

The World Federalists themselves, who now operate under the name Citizens for Global Solutions, have said that the Law of the Sea Treaty provides the elements of a limited world government. By that they mean that you are setting up not only the International Sea Bed Authority and an international tribunal for the Law of the Sea to govern seven-tenths of the world’s surface, but you develop an independent source of revenue for the U.N. It’s quite extraordinary for its depth and scope.

Q: Given the current makeup of the Senate, is it a done deal that it will be ratified?
A: We are looking at a lot of undecideds on this issue right now. Certainly, supporters of the treaty can count on the liberal Democrats. The question is, “What are Republican conservatives going to do?” Unfortunately, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is waffling, just as he did on the illegal alien amnesty bill. It looks like he’s waiting to see which way the wind blows. We’re trying to get through to him with the facts because he is influential. If he came out against the treaty I think he could carry a lot of Republican senators with him. Sen. James Inhofe has fought this in the past and he figures to be a leader. We think a number of conservative Republican senators will end up opposing it. The question is, in the end, will we get the 34 votes to stop it.

Q: What’s it going to take to cause the senators to vote what you would argue is the right way?
A: I have been doing alone at least four radio talk shows a day about this. I’m trying to educate people around the country, asking them to go to my Web site usasurvival.org for more information about the treaty and what they can do about it.

Sen. Biden, of course, has a hearing coming up on this Sept. 27. The only witnesses at this hearing are going to be in favor of the treaty. He says that he’s going to hold another hearing where they are going to have experts on both sides and some industry supporters of the treaty. That sounds to me that not many opponents are going to be given the opportunity to speak against it and the vast majority of witnesses are going to be in favor of it.

So it looks like basically stacked hearings. They’re going to try to present this idea that in addition to the military, the business community supports it, too. On the other hand we have been in contact with oil and gas companies that are adamantly opposed to this treaty. They’re not the big companies; they are medium-sized companies. But they don’t want to go through a U.N. bureaucracy in order to explore and drill for oil, gas and minerals. So we’re hoping to bring some of them to Washington, D.C., for our own news conference on Sept. 26, where we also hope to unveil an ad against the treaty.

Q: What happens if the treaty is not stopped?
A: If it’s not stopped, of course, the process will begin of turning over the resources of the oceans to the United Nations. We will have to hire more international lawyers to defend our interests before all of these foreign judges that run their tribunal and so-called "dispute-resolution" panels. It will be another sign of the decline of the United States and our weakness that we are not the superpower we used to be.

Bill Steigerwald is the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's associate editor. Call him at (412) 320-7983. E-mail him at: bsteigerwald@tribweb.com.

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