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WASHINGTON – For the second time in three years, the Bush administration is putting on a major effort for Senate ratification of the United Nations’ Law of the Sea Treaty, a wide-ranging measure critics say will grant the U.N. control of 70 percent of the planet under its oceans.
With Democrats in nearly unanimous agreement with the treaty and the Bush administration behind it, it will be up to a handful of determined Republican senators to derail it from getting a two-thirds vote in the upper house.
The treaty is currently under review by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and could be approved by the entire Senate in the next three weeks, before popular opposition has a chance to grow.
This is not the first time LOST has come up, of course. International negotiators drafted it in 1982 in an attempt to establish a comprehensive legal regime for international management of the seas and their resources. President Ronald Reagan, however, refused to sign LOST because he realized that the treaty doesn’t serve U.S. interests.
In 1994, however, President Clinton signed a revised version of the treaty and forwarded it to the Senate. The record shows the Senate was not convinced the 1994 changes corrected the problems, and it has deferred action on the treaty ever since.
The Heritage Foundation warns the treaty would have unintended consequences for U.S. interests – including a threat to sovereignty.
The conservative think tank says “bureaucracies established by multilateral treaties often lack the transparency and accountability necessary to ensure that they are untainted by corruption, mismanagement or inappropriate claims of authority. The LOST bureaucracy is called the International Seabed Authority Secretariat, which has a strong incentive to enhance its own authority at the expense of state sovereignty.”
“For example, this treaty would impose taxes on U.S. companies engaged in extracting resources from the ocean floor,” write Heritage fellows Baker Spring and Brett D. Schaefer. “This would give the treaty’s secretariat an independent revenue stream that would remove a key check on its authority. After all, once a bureaucracy has its own source of funding, it needs answer only to itself.”
“The United States should be wary of joining sweeping multilateral treaties negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations,” say Spring and Schaefer of Heritage. “Specifically, the benefit to U.S. national interests should be indisputable and clearly outweigh the predictable negative consequences of ratification.”
Other critics fear the treaty will be used as a back-door to implement policies against global warming without any accountability to the American people. Parts of the treaty, they say, mandate international regulation of U.S. economic and industrial activities on land. With that in mind, critics of the treaty believe so-called greenhouse gases could be viewed as ocean pollutants.
In the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last week, Bush administration officials were repeatedly embarrassed by tough questioning from Sen. David Vitter, R-La., who is leading the opposition to ratification.
For instance, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte testified the U.N. body established by the treaty has “no jurisdiction over marine pollution disputes involving land-based sources.”
“Why is there a section entitled pollution from land-based sources?” questioned Vitter.
Vitter also questioned who decides what is considered military activity under the treaty.
“We will decide that. We consider that within our sovereign prerogative,” said Negroponte.
“Where does the treaty say that we decide that and an arbitral body does not decide that?” questioned Vitter.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England answered: “My understanding – and I’ll ask my lawyer behind me – that that’s in the treaty that we make that determination and that’s not subject to review by anyone else.”
“It’s not in the treaty because I point to Article 298 1b where it simply says disputes concerning military activities are not subject to dispute resolution,” explained Vitter. “But it doesn’t say who decides what is and what is not a military activity.”
England conceded the point.
“We say it is up to us, but nobody else in the world says it is up to us,” Said Vitter said.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said the United States had special military and commercial interests as the globe’s only superpower, interests that the treaty did not take into account. He said many of the concerns over loss of national sovereignty that surfaced in the recent debate over immigration reform were surfacing once again in the Law of the Sea debate.
“This is not a good time to be bringing something like this before the American people,” he said.
The battle over the Law of the Sea Treaty first began 25 years ago, eventually being torpedoed by President Reagan. It resurfaced in 2004 under the sponsorship of Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and was successfully defeated by then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.
President Bush announced his intention to seek reintroduction of LOST for ratification to a small group of trusted Republican grass-roots organizers last week – an announcement that was met with horror and scorn.
Eagle Forum leader Phyllis Schlafly, Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney, Leadership Institute President Morton Blackwell, Free Congress Foundation founder Paul Weyrich and leaders of the Heritage Foundation were quick to denounce the idea in forceful terms, calling on their members to begin lobbying the White House immediately.
LOST has long had the support of environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council.
It would establish rules governing the uses of the of the world’s oceans – treating waters more than 200 nautical miles off coasts as the purview of a new international U.N. bureaucracy, the International Seabed Authority
The ISA would have the authority to set production controls for ocean mining, drilling and fishing, regulate ocean exploration, issue permits and settle disputes in its own new “court.”
Companies seeking to mine or fish would be required to apply for a permit, paying a royalty fee
Critics also point out the new U.N. agency would have the right to compete directly with private companies in those profit-making activities.
The U.S. would have only one vote of 140 – and no veto power as it has on the U.N. Security Council.
The Bush administration claims the initiative for reintroduction of the treaty comes from the military, which likes the 12-mile territorial limits it places on national claims to waters. Yet, critics point out international law already protects non-aggressive passage, including non-wartime activities of military ships.
One of the main authors of LOST not only admired Karl Marx but was an ardent advocate of the Marxist-oriented New International Economic Order. Elisabeth Mann Borgese, a socialist who ran the World Federalists of Canada, played a critical role in crafting and promoting LOST, as WND reported in 2005.
Borgese was hailed by her U.N. supporters as the “Mother of the Oceans” or “First Lady of the Oceans.” She died in 2002.
The youngest daughter of the German novelist Thomas Mann, Borgese openly favored world government, wrote for the left-wing The Nation magazine and was a member of a “Committee to Frame a World Constitution.” She served as director of the International Center for Ocean Development and chairman of the International Oceans Institute at Dalhousie University in Canada.
The U.N. Environment Program, UNEP, has said Borgese recognized the oceans as “a possible test-bed for ideas she had developed concerning a common global constitution.”
Borgese received UNEP’s “Environment Prize” in 1987 and was credited with organizing the conferences that “served to lay the foundation” for the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, according to Dalhousie University, which houses her archives.
In a 1995 speech, pro-U.N. Democratic Sen. Claiborne Pell said Borgese’s ideas were “embodied in the negotiated texts of the Law of the Sea Convention.”
Her ideas included recognizing the oceans as the “common heritage of mankind” and creating an International Seabed Authority to charge U.S. and foreign companies for the right to mine the ocean floor.
In a January 1999 speech, Borgese declared, “The world ocean has been, and is, so to speak, our great laboratory for the making of a new world order.”
In an article titled, “The New International Economic Order and the Law of the Sea,” she argued that the pact could “reinforce” the goals of the NIEO by giving Third World countries a role in managing access to the oceans.
In a 1997 interview, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation broadcaster Philip Coulter asked Borgese about the collapse of Soviet-style communism and the triumph of the “elites.”
Borgese replied “there is a strong counter-trend. It’s not called socialism, but it’s called sustainable development, which calls … for the eradication of poverty. There is that trend and that is the trend that I am working on.”
The concept of “sustainable development,” considered a euphemism for socialism or communism, has been embraced in various pronouncements by the U.N. and even the U.S. government.
In her book, “The Oceanic Circle: Governing the Seas as a Global Resource,” she approvingly cites Karl Marx, the father of communism, as someone with “amazing foresight” about the problems faced by urban and rural societies. The book is available from the liberal Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
In an article co-authored with an international lawyer, Borgese noted how LOST stipulates that the oceans “shall be reserved for peaceful purposes” and that “any threat or use of force, inconsistent with the United Nations Charter, is prohibited.”
She argued LOST prohibits the ability of nuclear submarines from the U.S. and other nations to rove freely through the world’s oceans.