Today cannot be a very good one for the Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly. First off, President Bush basically laughed at those on the right who have been hyperventilating over a supposed conspiracy to install a “North American Union,” which has been one of the Eagle Forum’s primary focuses in recent months.
When asked about the allegations that he is secretly planning to destroy American sovereignty, Bush replied:
“It’s quite comical, actually, when you realize the difference between reality and what some people are talking on TV about,” Bush said. “You lay out a conspiracy and then force people to try to prove it doesn’t exist.
“There are some people who would like to frighten our fellow citizens into believing that relations between us are harmful for our respective peoples,” Bush said, accusing opponents of engaging in “political scare tactics.”
“I just believe they’re wrong,” he said. “I believe it’s in our interest to trade. I believe it’s in our interest to dialogue. I believe it’s in our interest to work out common problems for the good of our people.”
In between fulminating about the dangers of this non-existent union, Schlafly has also been warning Americans about the dangers of the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), claiming it is designed to “compel the United States to pay billions of private-enterprise dollars to the ISA bureaucrats, who can then transfer our wealth to socialist, anti-American nations (euphemistically called ‘developing countries’) ruled by corrupt dictators.”
And now, according to the Wall Street Journal, it looks as if President Bush is about to stiff her on that too:
What do the Nature Conservancy, Exxon Mobil Corp., offshore oil drillers, the fishing, shipping and diamond industries, President Bush and the U.S. Navy have in common?
Answer: They all support a little-known but highly contentious international treaty — set to come before the U.S. Senate next month for ratification — that governs nearly every aspect of ocean law, from underwater mineral rights to access to shipping lanes.
The 208-page Law of the Sea Convention, debated since the 1930s and sealed in 1982, has stirred passions for decades in Washington. Critics in the Senate have repeatedly blocked its ratification, saying the pact would undercut U.S. sovereignty. Supporters tout the treaty as a pillar of international law and key to long-term U.S. security. The U.S. is now one of fewer than 40 countries, and the only significant power, not to have joined.
Looking to buttress its legal case for ownership of a massive undersea ridge, Russia planted its flag earlier this month on a seabed more than 15,000 feet below the North Pole. Canada, asserting its disputed rights, plans a new fleet of ice-breaking ships and a deepwater Arctic port; yesterday, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper asserted his country’s claim to the so-called Northwest Passage along its northern coast during a meeting with Mr. Bush in Quebec. And Denmark is sending a research team to push its own claim to undersea holdings that extend far from Greenland.
All this has put the U.S. in a jam. The Law of the Sea Treaty allows countries — even nonsignatories — exclusive rights to the seabed extending 200 nautical miles from their shores. Countries can then present evidence to claim rights to any of their continental shelf beyond that. Claims and disputes fall to one of several arbitration bodies established by the treaty. Without being a party to the treaty, the U.S. has no clear way — short of threatening force — to assert its claims.
U.S. officials said the stakes are literally vast. In the Arctic alone, the U.S. could lay claim to more than 200,000 square miles of additional undersea territories. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy is in the region to continue mapping the ocean floor to help strengthen the U.S. case. By some estimates, the country’s total additional undersea holdings, including extensions off the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, could exceed 300,000 square miles, or roughly twice the size of California.
Recent estimates have found the Arctic could contain the equivalent of more than 400 billion barrels of oil and gas and massive amounts of another potential energy source, crystallized methane. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated the amount of carbon found in hydrate form world-wide is “conservatively” twice the amount found in all the world’s fossil fuels.
Administration officials also argue that Washington’s failure to sign on to the treaty has, in fact, undercut the Proliferation Security Initiative, a U.S. effort to enlist international help to cut off shipments of nuclear and missile technology to countries such as Iran or North Korea.
Two countries that have declined to join PSI, Malaysia and Indonesia, recently cited Washington’s spurning of the Law of the Sea Treaty as their main reason.
Others argue that the U.S. is already losing out in what promises to be a multibillion-dollar opportunity: the undersea mining of copper, zinc, cobalt and even diamonds. John Norton Moore, a top legal expert on the law of the sea at the University of Virginia, said Russian and Chinese firms have already laid claim to some of the biggest undersea mines in the world. Without joining the treaty, the U.S. has no forum in which to stake a claim.