Relying On Conspiracy Theories, GOPers Say They’ll Block Critical Sea Treaty

Ratifying the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) seems like a no-brainer. The treaty’s central provisions divvy up maritime territory among countries for the purposes of natural resource development. More than 160 countries have acceded to it, including the whole of the developed world. Iran, Syria, and North Korea oppose it while the Obama administration, five former Republican Secretaries of State, the U.S. military, and major affected industries all support ratification.

But today, according to a blog post by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), enough Senate Republicans have signed on to block the Treaty so that it will not pass in the coming year: “4 additional senators have joined in opposition to LOST, including Mike Johanns (R-NE), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA). With 34 senators against the misguided treaty, LOST will not be ratified by the Senate this year.” DeMint’s complaints against the treaty, listed in the same post, aren’t remotely based in reality:

  • Demint claims LOST would sneak in a cap and trade law for greenhouse gasses. In reality, a State Department legal analysis found that “it contains no obligation to implement any particular climate change policies.”
  • DeMint claims the U.S. would have to pay “trillions in royalties” to state sponsors of terrorism. But according to John Norton Moore, a U.S. ambassador for the Law of the Sea in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations, “the treaty grants the U.S. the only permanent veto as to how the modest royalties, collected in return for secure property rights, are to be distributed to state parties” and would allow “U.S. access to strategic minerals of copper, nickel, cobalt, manganese and rare earths worth about $1 trillion.
  • DeMint claims it would strengthen China against the United States. Actually, it would give the U.S. a leg up on Beijing in several major areas.

So why are 34 Republicans opposing it? Because, as Dave Weigel reported for Foreign Policy, conspiracy theories about the U.N. have “moved from the fringes of the GOP into its mainstream.” Republicans, Weigel discovered, have been swayed by a fringe theory that claims LOST is facilitating the U.N.’s takeover of American sovereignty:

“[I’ve] heard we should not join this convention because, quote, ‘It’s a U.N. treaty,’” said [Secretary] Clinton, “and of course that means the black helicopters are on their way.” Opposition to the treaty, she said, is “unfortunate because it’s opposition based in ideology and mythology, not in facts.”


Republicans were unconvinced. “Most wars we’ve fought have been fought over ideology and philosophy,” said Idaho’s Sen. Jim Risch, who’s been winning elections in his state since 1970. “If we give up one scintilla of sovereignty that this country has fought, has bled for, and have given up our treasure and the best that America has, I can’t vote for it.”

Of course, when military leaders pointed out that the treaty would actually strengthen America’s position in the world, Risch yelled at them. The most influential advocate for the “sovereignty” concern that Risch was peddling, according to Weigel, is Frank Gaffney, a well-documented source of Islamophobic conspiracy theories.


Senator John Kerry’s office postponed this year’s ratification vote until after the election, predicting industry pressure means “it’s a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ for the Law of the Sea.”