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Treaty by stealth - again!

By Henry Lamb
web posted March 8, 2004

Shielded by the media glare of presidential politics, and daily explosions in Iraq, two crucial issues are about to be decided by the U.S. Senate, without the knowledge of the American people.

Issue 1: Should the United States ratify the Law of the Seas Treaty (Treaty Doc. 103-39)?

Issue 2: Should any U.N. treaty be ratified without full, open debate and a recorded vote?

The answer to both questions should be a resounding "no." Nevertheless, the treaty is very near ratification by unanimous consent, having never been debated, and without a recorded vote. This is the same procedure used to ratify the U.N. Convention on Desertification, back in 2000.

The Law of the Seas Treaty was rejected by Ronald Reagan in 1982. After some polishing around the edges of the treaty language, Bill Clinton signed the treaty in 1994, and sent it to the Senate for ratification. There it sat, dormant, until October 7, 2003. Mysteriously, the treaty appeared on the Foreign Relations Committee hearings calendar on October 14, and October 21, but no opposing voices were allowed to present testimony. This is precisely the same procedure used with the Convention on Desertification.

Next, a request for unanimous consent is issued. If no senator files an objection within a specified period of time, then the treaty can be approved by a voice vote, with no votes recorded. After the Convention on Desertification was ratified by unanimous consent, many senators did not know it had even been considered, or that they had voted for it.

All the reasons the treaty was rejected by Ronald Reagan, 22 years ago, still exist. The treaty gives a U.N. agency the authority to tax, by requiring a permit to engage in any activity affecting the seabed, such as oil drilling, or mining. Originally, the permit fee price began at $500,000. Madeleine Albright's renegotiated version reduced the starting price to $250,000. The U.N. agency can also require royalty payments for any minerals extracted from the seabed. Even more important, the permit process can require detailed information about the technology to be used, which can then be shared with all member nations, without regard for intellectual property rights or security concerns.

The treaty raises serious national security questions. Currently, any ship on the high seas that the U.S. suspects of carrying terrorists, or supplies in support of terrorists, can be boarded, and detained, under U.S. law. If the U.S. ratifies this treaty, the U.N.'s permission will be necessary before stopping a ship on the high seas.

This treaty gives the U.N. the first real power to tax and regulate what it calls the "global commons." Other U.N. initiatives seek to tax and regulate all of the global commons, which the U.N. defines to include "outer space, the atmosphere, and the environment that supports human life." (Our Global Neighborhood, p. 251)

If Senator Lugar, chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, has his way, this treaty will become the law of the land without ever being debated, and without a recorded vote. Every senator should recoil against this process, and insist that if the treaty is to be ratified, the American people deserve to know which senators voted for, and against this surrender of national sovereignty.

The U.S. Senate has become proficient at bypassing Constitutional direction. Senate Democrats use senate rules to block judicial appointments, rather than to comply with the directive of the Constitution. Now the Senate Republicans are using senate rules to avoid the two-thirds vote required to ratify any treaty. This behavior, on both sides of the political aisle, is nothing short of despicable - unworthy of any official who has sworn to uphold the Constitution.

The only power on earth strong enough to bridle the run-away power of run-amok senators - is people power. The people who put them in office can remove them from office, and these senators need to be reminded of that power, from time to time. This Law of the Seas Treaty is one of the times the American people should exercise their power, and hold their Ssenators accountable. The telephone is a handy tool between elections. Every senator should be asked to explain his or her position on the treaty itself, and on the unanimous consent process.

The future of America is too important to be left in the hands of politicians; the people, by their actions, or inaction, will determine whether the United States continues as a sovereign nation, or succumbs to the U.N.'s quest for global governance.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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