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UN Wants Control of the Seas with US Senate’s Help
by Tom DeWeese
29 March 2004United Nations

The Law of the Sea Treaty has again reared its ugly head and now stands on the verge of passage in the Senate under the forceful hand of Republican Senator Richard Lugar.


Soon after taking office in January 1981, President Ronald Reagan and several of his key advisors were working through a mound of policy matters that had spilled over from the Carter Administration. One of those issues concerned the signing of the United Nation’s new Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST).

As the advisors talked among themselves debating whether the administration should sign the treaty as it stood or demand changes, the President sat by silently and listened. With the debate raging, suddenly the President’s voice was heard to say, “Isn’t that what it was all about?”

Debate stopped as everyone looked over to the President. “What, sir?” Reagan then repeated his statement. “Isn’t that what it was all about – the election? Doesn’t it mean that we don’t have to sign these things?”

The group realized that President Reagan had just cut through all of the debate and stated the real issue. His administration had been elected to defend American sovereignty and independence, and that changes in a bad treaty didn’t have to be negotiated. He could just refuse to sign and kill it right then and there. Ronald Reagan understood that he was the President of the United States and not a captive of someone else’s power grab.

And the Law of the Sea Treaty remained justifiably dead for the next 12 years until Bill Clinton pulled it out of the trash bin, dusted it off and signed it. Then, in the spirit of Reagan, a courageous Senator Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, bottled it up until the Clintonistas were driven from power.

But today there is no Ronald Reagan and no Jesse Helms, and so the Law of the Sea Treaty has again reared its ugly head and now stands on the verge of passage in the Senate under the forceful hand of Republican Senator Richard Lugar, the current Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Worse, Lugar is aided in his quest by a hapless Bush Administration.

After unanimously passing the Treaty out of committee, the pressure is on to give it “unanimous consent,” meaning there will be no official vote to ratify the treaty; no record of support or opposition; no one to blame when it’s over. The treaty will just become the law of the land – no muss, no fuss. Business as usual. Senators like to hide from the people that way. It makes life so much easier for them.

For the record, here are just a few of the reasons why Ronald Reagan, Jesse Helms and those loyal to the American ideal believe the United States should never be a party to the Law of the Sea Treaty.

Freedom of the seas has been the guiding principle recognized by sovereign nations since ancient times. It means all nations recognize that ships, government owned or private, are free to sail the seas wherever they like, carrying their cargoes to ports of call for free trade among nations. Freedom of the seas also means the right to mine and fish the resources of the seas, unhindered. 

Nations have traditionally claimed a slim line along their coasts as sovereign territory for protection of national interests and defense. Three miles out from shore has been the traditional limit recognized by nations. That distance used to represent the range of a cannon on shore. Any waters outside such limited claims have been understood to be free of control. The rights of individuals and private companies to use the seas for pleasure and commerce has been unquestioned.

That’s all about to change. In the name of “social equity,” a euphemism for “redistribution of the wealth,” the UN’s Law of the Sea Treaty will replace the freedom of the seas concept with central control from an international body, specifically the United Nations. Under UN control a new supranational agency has been created called the Seabed Authority.

The Seabed Authority is organized identically to the UN General Assembly using the one nation, one vote model. That means that numerous, tiny Third World nations can organize a block of votes hostile to the United States and other industrial nations. Such a setup has created an unworkable situation in the General Assembly and it’s why that body achieves very little of worthwhile substance. Now, the same gridlock expects to rule the seas of the world.

The Seabed Authority will have the power to regulate all the seas – roughly seven-tenths of the world’s surface area. It will have the sole power to issue permits for fishing and mining and drilling operations under the surface. It can fix prices of sea products and impose quotas on how much is produced.  It can levy international taxes and impose production quotas on deep-sea mining and oil production; control ocean research and exploration; and create a multinational court to enforce its dictates. Don’t be surprised to see Seabed Authority ships plying the waters, stalking ships, and mining and drilling operations it deems in violation of its authority. 

The Seabed Authority can force governments and private companies to file for permits and impose fees and it can delay production for years. Yet, in the end, after charging up to a million dollars for permit fees, there is nothing in the Treaty that requires the Authority to EVER issue even a single permit. In addition, the provisions establishing the Authority gives it the power to set up its own mining and drilling activities, and compete right next to private efforts. That provision alone should set off alarm bells concerning the fairness of permit decisions.

The revenues raised by the Seabed Authority make it a powerful force that will likely be controlled by the Third World block. This new wealth and power may lead to the establishment of a cartel of sorts where the Third World nations could control all assets of the seas for their own interests, leaving developed nations at their mercy.      

Under the Law of the Sea Treaty, U.S. national defense interests would be dangerously threatened as several provisions of the treaty would prevent inspection or boarding of suspected terrorist ships. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, several ships controlled by al Qaeda were seen fleeing the area and were chased down and boarded by U.S. war ships. Equipment, weapons and the terrorists who owned them were apprehended.

Yet the treaty offers still more of a threat to our national interests. It demands that nations share information with all others concerning sea exploration. This provision constitutes a mandatory technology transfer and can include military secrets such as submarine detection techniques.

The most dangerous aspect of the treaty has nothing to do with the seas, however. Rather, the danger lies with the United Nations gaining the authority to impose taxes through the Seabed Authority. The UN is basically a club. It has private members who pay voluntary dues. Only governments have the power to tax, operate a court system or field armies. If the UN gains the power to tax through the Law of the Sea Treaty, the cat is out of the bag. There can then be no stopping any of hundreds of taxing schemes now floating around the UN. The UN has already established its own criminal court. Given the ability to tax, it will be two thirds on the way to becoming the global government of its dreams.

The Law of the Sea Treaty is clearly a massive threat to the sovereignty and independence of the United States and our private companies operating internationally. Is it any wonder why Senator Lugar is putting pressure on Senate Majority Leader Frist to push the treaty through without debate and without a recorded vote. He wants none of these facts to get a public airing.

The treaty has been reborn because a massive lobbying effort has been waged by those who seek UN global governance. Environmental groups stand to gain incredible power to block oil drilling and mining. International corporations think it will be easier to deal with one central power than with multiple foreign countries. Several oil and mineral companies think they can use the treaty to gain their own form of power and cut their competition. They play to get theirs at the expense of everyone else. It’s an old game played on Capitol Hill. All of them will find in the end that they’ve played a costly hand indeed.

The fight over the Law of the Sea Treaty is really an ancient one between those who believe in the concepts of private property and free markets and those who can’t conceive of anything not being controlled by government.

The seas have been free for the entire history of mankind, except when controlled by a dictator. We’ve fought pirates and Hitler to keep them open. Why would we now surrender that freedom to mindless, faceless bureaucrats who covet power and care nothing for our rights?

The actions of Senator Lugar and his cohorts defy comprehension by reasonable Americans. Yet so far, Americans have remained silent while the Law of the Sea Treaty is being slipped through to stealth ratification. Our senators are sending the message that they don’t need you in the process. They don’t feel the need to hear from you. Instead, they want to cater to the wants of a powerful lobby.

Will we let them get away with it? Will we see this massive piece of our liberty drown in the seas while we do nothing – again? A massive outcry of NO now will stop it. It just requires one phone call to your United States Senator. Here’s the number: 202-224-3121. Call it and stop the Law of the Sea Treaty and keep the seas of the world open and free – as they’ve always been.

Tom DeWeese is publisher and editor of The DeWeese Report and president of the American Policy Center, a grassroots, activist think tank headquartered in Warrenton, VA.

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