Accuracy in Media

America celebrates Constitution Day on Monday, September 17, as we find members of the Bush Administration and liberals in the Senate working feverishly to get the U.S. involved in another international treaty, the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This pact, which would further erode the sovereignty and independence of our nation, authorizes foreign bodies and judges to decide our fate on the oceans, determining who gets access to vast deposits of oil and gas and precious minerals. A Senate vote on this pact is coming up soon, perhaps by the end of this month.  

As I have been reviewing the history and text of the 202-page treaty document and the forces behind it, I have been amazed to discover that not only is the current Legal Adviser to the U.S. State Department, John B. Bellinger III, pushing it, but that eight former Legal Advisers have endorsed it. This sounds impressive, except when you consider that their arguments in favor of the treaty are full of obvious distortions.   

Permit me to state that I am not a lawyer. But I can read and write. And I know what words mean.  

The eight former Legal Advisers endorsed the treaty in a letter that was released by Senator Richard Lugar, a Republican supporter of UNCLOS, in 2004, when the pact was also up for Senate consideration. Fortunately, then-Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist stopped the treaty from coming up for a full Senate vote, arguing that its flaws needed to be studied, exposed and corrected. Senator James Inhofe led the campaign against it. Current Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky hasn’t taken a position on UNCLOS.    

One of the most significant and remarkable assertions by the former Legal Advisers is that UNCLOS has nothing to do with the U.N. Indeed, they refer to it as LOS, rather than UNCLOS, its official acronym. A similar tack has been taken by current Legal Adviser John B. Bellinger III, who has been trying to sell conservatives on the pact. His sales pitch is falling flat.   

The desire to keep people from finding out about the U.N. connection to UNCLOS is understandable since the world body has a notorious reputation for corruption and incompetence.  

The former Legal Advisers state that “…the LOS Convention does not award any decision-making authority on any issue to the United Nations. The fact that the term ‘United Nations’ appears in the title of the LOS Convention is legally meaningless and is an accident of history.”  

This claim, made by eight prominent legal authorities who served our government in the highest reaches of the State Department, deserves scrutiny. It turns out that the preamble to UNCLOS alone has three references to the United Nations. First, it refers to UNCLOS as emerging from a United Nations conference. Second, it refers to UNCLOS being based on a resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly. Finally, it declares that the treaty shall be implemented “in accordance with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations as set forth in the Charter.”  

Are we to believe that all of this, to quote the former Legal Advisers, is just an “accident of history?”  

On the website of the U.N. Division of Oceans Affairs and Law of the Sea, where the history of UNCLOS is kept, we read the following: 

“Throughout the years, beginning with the work of the Seabed Committee in 1968 and later during the nine-year duration of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, the United Nations has been actively engaged in encouraging and guiding the development and eventual adoption of the Law of the Sea Convention. Today, it continues to be engaged in this process, by monitoring developments as they relate to the Convention and providing assistance to States, when called for, in either the ratification or the implementation process.” 

It goes on to say that “The United Nations also gives assistance to the two newly created institutions―the International Seabed Authority and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.” 

The treaty contains numerous references to the authority of the United Nations, noting in Article 101, “Peaceful uses of the seas,” that members of UNCLOS shall conduct themselves in a manner consistent “with the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations.” This is a provision that could be used to prohibit certain U.S. military activities on the high seas.  

The instruments of ratification of UNCLOS are deposited with the Secretary-General of the U.N.  

Under Annex V of UNCLOS, the U.N. Secretary-General draws up and maintains a list of “conciliators.” He can then appoint them to a commission in order to resolve certain disputes. 

If this is not authority, what is it? 

The eight former Legal Advisers also claim, in the letter released by Lugar, that President Reagan’s objections to the pact were “limited to the deep seabed mining regime” in the treaty and that a 1994 side agreement resolved all of this.  

This claim is also false.  

Reagan’s own diaries, just released in book form, include an entry in which the former president talks about refusing to sign UNCLOS “even without seabed mining provisions.” It was clear he opposed the treaty on broad grounds. 

James L. Malone, Reagan’s special representative for Law of the Sea negotiations, delivered testimony in 1995―after the 1994 agreement supposedly “fixed” the pact―rejecting UNCLOS as badly flawed in concept and detail. It is not true that Reagan rejected the treaty only because of the controversial seabed mining provisions, he said. Rather, “The collectivist and redistributionist provisions of the treaty were at the core of the U.S. refusal to sign,” Malone asserted. He was referring to the parts of UNCLOS that facilitate the transfer of funds, some through a global tax on U.S. corporations, to the foreign bodies established by the treaty.  

These are just a few of the misleading statements made in the letter signed by the former State Department Legal Advisers. But if they can get such basic facts wrong in their assessment of what the treaty says and means, then why should U.S. senators pondering the fate of the pact have any confidence in the current Legal Adviser, John B. Bellinger III, who has adopted some of their same arguments?  

What has gone wrong with the legal profession when international lawyers, supposedly acting on behalf of the United States, use false claims to push our country further into entangling alliances with the corrupt U.N.?  

The only thing more outrageous than this is the failure of our major media to cover the controversy. It is apparent that they, like the State Department, would prefer that the measure be approved quietly so that the public won’t find out the consequences before it is too late.   

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell can save America from this catastrophe. A graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Law who served as County Judge-Executive in Jefferson County, Kentucky, before being elected to the Senate, McConnell has the credentials, background and credibility to make or break UNCLOS.  

Conservatives are anxiously waiting for him to take a stand for America.  

Time is running out.

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