Liberal Senate Democrats and the U.S. State Department are desperate to get the U.N.‘s Law of the Sea Treaty ratified. But Senator David Vitter, a conservative Republican, keeps getting in the way. Through skillful questioning during Thursday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, the Louisiana Republican got a leading treaty supporter to acknowledge that America’s enemies can manipulate the process of mandatory dispute settlement under the treaty so that the United Nations Secretary-General plays the key role in the outcome. Vitter called this a “recipe for disaster” for America and urged more hearings into the treaty’s flaws.
Ratification wasn’t supposed to be this difficult. Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were supposed to go meekly along with a treaty that enjoys the backing of the Bush Administration. But Senators Vitter and Jim DeMint of South Carolina have decided they should do their duty and read and analyze the pact. What they have found is frightening. Vitter, in another display of skillful questioning, was able to demonstrate on Thursday that the Secretary-General of the United Nations plays a critical role under the treaty in resolving disputes among nations.
The fingerprints of the U.N. are all over this treaty. That is why it’s officially called the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. But because the U.N. has such a bad reputation, supporters of the treaty have been trying to obscure the U.N.‘s role.
For example, State Department Legal Adviser John Bellinger III has been claiming that it’s a “myth” to suggest that the treaty sets up any U.N. institutions or is part of the global U.N. bureaucracy. But this is the same John Bellinger who told the Senate Committee on September 27 that the treaty has nothing to do with regulating pollution from land-based sources. Vitter exploded that lie by citing actual provisions from the treaty authorizing regulation of land-based sources of pollution in accordance with international agreements. These give international lawyers an opportunity to sue the U.S. and implement the unratified global warming treaty.
Vitter’s target of opportunity at Thursday’s hearing was Professor Bernard H. Oxman, a proponent of the treaty. The senator zeroed in on how disputes under the treaty are resolved. The treaty permits the two sides to a dispute to pick arbitrators. Here’s how the exchange proceeded:
Vitter: “As I read it, they try to choose the arbitrators and if they can’t, somebody else―the King of the Law of the Sea Land, chooses three of the five arbitrators. Isn’t that the case?”
Oxman: “Absolutely Senator?we would opt for arbitration under Annex VIII with respect to the subjects covered there. And there the appointing authority, if agreement couldn’t be reached, would be the Secretary-General of the United Nations, currently from South Korea.”
Vitter: “The bottom line is, if the opposing party to us in a dispute wants to make it so, they can ensure that a majority of arbitrators is chosen by either the head of the U.N. or the Law of the Sea entity. Correct?”
Oxman: “If agreement cannot be reached that’s right. But they’re running a risk.”
Vitter: “I think that is a recipe for disaster for us.”
This exchange was fascinating for another reason. One week previously, at the first hearing on the treaty, Senator Bob Corker had specifically asked about the mandatory arbitration process and State Department Legal Adviser Bellinger had made no mention of the role of the U.N. Secretary-General. In fact, he suggested that because America’s lawyers are so smart, we would win most of these disputes. Bellinger did say that if an arbitral panel makes a decision “that would be final and that would be exactly the way we would want it.”
Now we find out from a treaty supporter, in response to Vitter’s questions, that our enemies can drag out the process and get the U.N. Secretary-General to appoint the majority of arbitrators. Do we want the boss of the U.N. deciding how to define and protect American interests on the high seas? Why did Bellinger conceal that information from the committee?
Considering the facts of the case, Bellinger’s statement that we want these decisions to be “final” is frightening. Whose side is the State Department on anyway?
This dangerous treaty is on the fast-track to Senate ratification. But our major media are not covering these hearings and we are running out of time to provide the American people with the facts. We need talk radio and the new media to fill the void―and quickly. Otherwise, get ready to pay homage to the King of the Law of the Sea Land, up there at U.N. headquarters.