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Law Of The Sea Treaty threatens sovereignty

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted November 29, 2004

The election may be over and conservatives have won, but that does not mean we can relax. We still need to stand guard to protect our nation's sovereignty. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in February to send the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) to the Senate Floor. Fortunately, conservatives and other defenders of American sovereignty derailed the effort to rush the Treaty to the Senate floor for a quick vote on ratification. Next year, with a new Congress, the forces in favor of the Treaty would like to have LOST ratified by the Senate. If they try to make their wish become a reality, conservatives must rise up in defense of our country and its sovereignty.

The grassroots of the conservative movement have a very important role to play by exercising continued vigilance. National conservative leaders -- Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum, Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy and myself -- are starting to speak out now on this vital issue. So is Dr. Peter Leitner of George Mason University, author of Reforming the Law of the Sea Treaty. We intend to do our part to fight against ratification of this sovereignty-destroying Treaty. But it is your voice that your State's U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative will heed when deciding just where they stand on LOST.

Remember: Arrayed against the defenders of sovereignty who oppose LOST are a collection of corporate and environmental and governmental interests --including the United States Navy and Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The backers of this Treaty -- the big corporations and the environmentalists -- have the money to wage an expensive campaign in the hope that they can persuade the Senate to ratify it. It should come as no surprise to conservatives that The New York Times published an editorial in late August urging quick ratification of LOST, criticizing those who are defenders of our nation's sovereignty as a noisy group of misguided gadflies.

In 1982, President Reagan decided LOST was a Treaty that would not be in our country‘s best interest to ratify, primarily because of his concern regarding the provisions governing deep seabed mining. However, our concern should extend well beyond that. LOST would have our country surrender its sovereignty on the seas to a body called the International Seabed Authority (ISA), whose membership is stacked in favor of Third World nations. If the Senate ratifies LOST, we will have given the ISA the authority to determine what rights our country will have to mine minerals located on the ocean floor and the right to tax their extraction. More than that, we also will have granted the ISA the right to regulate our transfers of military technology, even the right to determine in what situations our Navy can stop a vessel.

Conflicts involving LOST will not be settled by our country's courts but by an international tribunal.

Thanks to Frank Gaffney and Dr. Leitner, attendees at the strategy luncheon I chair every Wednesday when Congress is in session, I learned quite early that the State Department was very interested in pushing this Treaty through the Senate and that it had a willing accomplice in Chairman Lugar. Lugar's reputation for fairness was tainted by the actions of his staff on the Foreign Relations Committee because the initial hearing on LOST was stacked in favor of its proponents. Dr. Leitner offered to testify on why the Treaty is against our interests only to be turned down by the staff. Fortunately, the conservative movement became galvanized, including the grassroots, after Frank Gaffney, Phyllis Schlafly, and I started speaking and writing about LOST. Senator Inhofe was able to convince some of his well-placed colleagues that other Senate and House Committees needed to take a much closer look at this Treaty.

It is our hope that the Bush Administration will not push for LOST's ratification; we cannot ever rest easy on this issue.

Dr. Leitner addressed a forum at the Brookings Institution in May 2004 and had some important things to say about LOST. He told the forum:

"As with other profound diplomatic and intelligence failures, which we're living with today, the United States suffers here from the need for instant gratification, a blinding failure to recognize that the major adversaries have a longer-term world view and are willing to accept incremental victories and absorb losses on the way toward their overall objectives. The paralyzing State Department mindset still considers a bad agreement preferable to no agreement, upholding a "through the looking glass" notion that defines leadership within the International Seabed Authority as casting vetoes while trying to constrain anti-American excesses. This is the politics of defeat that will add more problems to the national survival to the long list being cowardly bequeathed to the next generation of Americans.

"The current slogan being echoed by Treaty supporters that we need to have a seat at the table to influence developments, somehow supporters ignore the math of one seat among approximately 150 seats, the power of the one nation/one vote principle and the overwhelmingly anti-American agenda of at least 120 of the 150 seats that we are going to be sitting with."

Dr. Leitner made clear at the Brookings Forum there are corporations and trade associations which appear to welcome the idea of paying extraction taxes to a specially created supranational body rather than the U.S. Government. That makes it an issue of our country and its sovereignty versus that of an international organization.

Here are some more reasons to be concerned about this Treaty; criticisms that have been sounded by such knowledgeable defense experts such as Frank Gaffney.

Under Article 88 of LOST, the United States Navy would have to recognize that the high seas are "reserved" for peaceful purposes. There is no doubt that we want the world's high seas to be used for peaceful purposes. However, the problem is that organizations such as al Qaeda will never realize that this is so. There has long been concern expressed about the likelihood that Islamic terrorists would try to smuggle WMD to our shores via a cargo ship. Similarly, a crew of al Qaeda members could hijack a ship to seize its cargo, which could include the materials used to make a WMD. As long as that is the case, our nation's future is at risk. Terrorists and thug nations do not respect treaties.

Under Article 301 we would be committed to refrain from "any threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state." Thus, under LOST we could let evil triumph simply because it is a Treaty that places a premium on non-aggression rather than the actions essential to achieving true safety and security.

Article 110 fails to permit suspicion of harboring terrorists or the shipping of WMD as justification for boarding a ship on the high seas. Warships can "interfere" with a foreign ship if there is reasonable ground for suspecting that the ship is engaged in piracy, the slave trade, or, conditionally, unauthorized broadcasting. Warships may also verify foreign ship's flag.

What makes Article 110 so troubling is that, thanks to President Bush's Proliferation Security Initiative, our Navy now has the authority to interdict ships thought to be engaged in terrorism or the furthering the proliferation of WMD. Our participation in LOST would render the PSI invalid. It should be noted that PSI is not just a unilateral initiative but one that, according to the White House Fact Sheet issued on September 4, 2003:

"…seeks to involve in some capacity all states that have a stake in nonproliferation and the ability and willingness to take steps to stop the flow of such items at sea, in the air, or on land. The PSI also seeks cooperation from any state whose vessels, flags, ports, territorial waters, airspace, or land might be used for proliferation purposes by states and non-state actors of proliferation concern. The increasingly aggressive efforts by proliferators to stand outside or to circumvent existing nonproliferation norms, and to profit from such trade, requires new and stronger actions by the international community."

Other nations which had agreed to participate in the PSI by the time the White House had announced our own country's participation include: Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain.

Even with some countries on that list which have governments that are not considered to be so friendly toward ours in that list of PSI participants, I'd still rather take our chances with the PSI than LOST. The latter is really a vehicle to enhance the power of a select group of international bureaucrats who would like to shake down the world's developed nations. Americans of conscience cannot sit idly by and let our government decide to trade away our sovereignty under the misguided notion that they are saving some multi-national companies a few bucks. We cannot let those countries with ill will toward us to start dictating our policies, particularly when it comes to defending against terrorists.

When Condoleezza Rice appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as it considers her nomination to be Secretary of State, I hope that the conservative Senators on the Committee ask her where she stands on sovereignty issues and this Treaty. We need officials at the State Department who will not be led by the career bureaucrats there who care nothing about our nation's sovereignty. We need officials willing to stand up on behalf of our nation, its ideals and its sovereignty.

Grassroots conservatives demonstrated the power that we can wield in this year's election. Those of us inside the Beltway who care about protecting our nation's sovereignty and want to make sure that we can adequately defend ourselves will do everything we can to hand LOST a well-deserved sinking. We know what is at stake. I only hope that conservatives across this nation -- if need be -- will come to the defense of our country's sovereignty by making it absolutely clear, in no uncertain terms, where they stand. If everyone does, I am confident that, with an incoming Senate more conservative in terms of its membership, the forces in defense of our nation's sovereignty will prevail.

Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.

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