U.S. keeping dubious company over arms treaty
October 7th, 2013
10:28 AM ET

U.S. keeping dubious company over arms treaty

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By Global Public Square staff

Amid all of Washington's discussions on Syria and Iran, one other issue seems to have gotten ignored. The U.S. signed an actual international treaty this month, one with vast implications for terrorism and war around the world. The problem is…the treaty needs to be ratified by the U.S. Senate – and that's just not going to happen.

Let us explain.

It's the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty – an agreement that aims to control the $70 billion global trade of weapons. Almost every major commodity is subject to some form of international regulation – gold, oil, currencies. But there have been few controls on the flow of weaponry. Countries have wanted to have an unregulated free-for-all in the weapons market. And we are not just talking about guns.

The U.N. treaty covers battle tanks, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships. These are all weapons that are playing a part in ongoing wars in Syria and large parts of Africa. As Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan put it last week, these are the true "weapons of mass destruction" as much as the chemical weapons that were used in Syria last month. And yet everyone – including rogue states, militias, and terrorist groups – seem to have unfettered access to them.

The key part of the U.N. treaty is that it asks signatories not to export weapons to groups or states that could use these weapons in crimes against humanity. Simple enough – don't send arms to Syria or Sudan or North Korea.

Who could object to this?

The United States Senate. Critics of the treaty – most prominently the gun lobby in Washington – claim that somehow the Obama administration will use the treaty as a backdoor to impose gun controls in the United States. So they explain that the treaty would violate the Second Amendment, and infringe upon our constitutional right to bear arms.

Except that this is simply factually wrong. Here are the exact words from the treaty as it stands: The treaty affirms "the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system.”

Sounds pretty clear. The issue is not about gun control in the United States. This is about stopping dictators from acquiring tanks, missiles, and attack helicopters that can kill tens of thousands in a day. It is about making it harder for terrorist groups to buy dangerous weapons.

The other, broader critique is that treaties tend to have no real impact, because they're not enforceable. But they do make it harder for really bad guys to get guns.

The U.N. Arms Trade Treaty has already taken seven years to negotiate. Clauses have been inserted to allay American fears. We are the world's number one exporter of arms. Now remember, of the 154 countries that voted to sign the treaty in April, only three countries voted no: Syria, Iran, and North Korea. By not ratifying, that is the company we will be keeping?

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Quinton

    The main reason that the U.S. Senate won't sign this treaty is that most of it's members are being under the influence of the powerful M.I.C. in Washington. There is a great deal of money in either selling or giving arms to the riff raft in Syria trying to overthrow the Assad regime and some of these Senators are receiving kickbacks in one way or another!

    October 7, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  2. WillA

    Maybe that's what we mean when we call ourselves an 'exceptional' nation...

    October 7, 2013 at 11:03 am |
  3. Michael

    The Western World invested trillions to create the NATO alliance – and somehow NATO should be able to control arms trade in the Western Hemisphere.

    October 7, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Maybe they should just do away with the NATO alliance altogether, Michael. This unholy alliance no longer serves any useful purpose as neither the U.S. nor any country in Europe faces any kind of threat whatsoever. In fact, if I were the British Prime Minister, I'd pull that country out of NATO and quit taking orders from Washington D.C. since that's what these countries do anyway. Besides, the Warsaw Pact ceased to exist in 1991 and now it's NATO' turn!

      October 7, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
  4. Cowboy

    By Global Public Square staff? they did not even put a name to this because this article is full of blatant lies!
    This treaty is about taking freedom out of USA and making us subjects not citizens
    Shame on you for publishing such anti American lies and propaganda!

    October 7, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • Informed

      Have you read the treaty? Have you read any treaty? Do you even know how treaties govern laws within nations?

      The Arms Trade Treaty, even if ratified by the US Congress, has no power to dictate policy regarding the 2nd Amendment. The treaty only comes into force when a country tries to sell weapons TO ANOTHER COUNTRY. There is no part of the treaty that even discusses arms sales to individuals. It's simply not part of it. You are free to worship your freedom and buy your guns at Walmart as you always have. This treaty was written to stop the sale of guns to 1) dictators who were about to massacre their own people and 2) countries with ongoing bloody civil wars. How does this affect your freedom? How does this limit your right to buy weapons?

      The US has signed literally hundreds of international treaties. Can you cite any of them? Tell me how your freedom has been infringed upon by them. We have signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well. Since you know so much about freedom I'm sure you know that this treaty makes the US guarantee under international law your right to democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of the press. Basically, its a double down on the first amendment reinforcing it. It basically forces people like me to guarantee your right to form, join, vote for, and publish the nonsense rhetoric of the Tea Party despite my disdain for its ignorance. Think of it as a promise the US makes to the world to guarantee civil and political freedom.

      But hey, its better just to think we're not free and then get angry instead of getting facts and knowledge.

      October 8, 2013 at 12:35 am |
    • ✠RZ✠

      Well Pilgrim, ya might just wanna take a boo at who's John Henry is exed on the list of artcles below. 'Cause according to your reckonin' , they must all be plum' full of blatant lies too. And just so you know, the article was posted by Jason Miks (Master Mikser?) who I figure might just have given it a once over before letting it through. But ya never know, he could be a big fat liar too.


      October 8, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • anudrake

      Might want to check the link below, Cowboy. The only people would that would be affected by this would be arms manufacturers and exporters that deal with UN recognized rogue states or those committing genocide. No restrictions to our freedoms or ability to own and operate our guns. I'm an enthusiast myself, and have been watching this very closely. But the truth is that there are a lot of provisions in place to make sure that this would not infringe on our 2nd Amendment rights.


      Know who does stand to lose a lot by this treaty? Arms manufacturers that deal in illicit sales. Know who represents arms manufacturers? Those same groups that are telling you that you should be in fear of this passing the Senate.

      People get scared and scream about tyranny, and they keep raking in the money. Despite my love of sport and range shooting and my belief in self defense, I will not fall victim to fear and lies.

      October 11, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  5. Chukwuemeka

    My President Goodluck Jonathan mentioned this because the weapons being used by criminals from the Sahara by boko haram to the creeks of the Niger Delta by the Pirates come from these sources. As long as these weapons keep flowing then we maybe along way from establishing law and order. From the discussions it appears we are prepared to sacrifice international security for the sake of the second amendment. How about if the tide were the other way round, would the US not be up in arms demanding for the ratification of the treaty?

    October 7, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
  6. j. von hettlingen

    This blind allegiance to the Second Amendment is a lunacy. One doesn't hear to bear arms to feel safe.

    October 8, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • j. von hettlingen

      What an irony! By not signing the UN Arms Trade Treaty, the US finds itself in good company of Syria, Iran and North Korea, states it ostracises and dubs as pariah states.

      October 8, 2013 at 10:13 am |
      • ✠RZ✠

        Signing such a treaty would likely prove counter productive to supporting any rebellion that might ever stand a chance to arise in favour of US hegemony. Might as well sign a treaty outlawing sanctions too.

        October 9, 2013 at 6:23 am |
    • ✠RZ✠

      Either lunacy or a poor excuse for the truth.

      October 9, 2013 at 4:38 am |
  7. May

    They're not happy in Gaza ..
    They're not happy in Egypt ..
    They're not happy in Libya ..
    They're not happy in Morocco ..
    They're not happy in Iran ..
    They're not happy in Iraq ..
    They're not happy in Yemen ..
    They're not happy in Afghanistan ..
    They're not happy in Pakistan ..
    They're not happy in Syria ..
    They're not happy in Lebanon ..


    They're happy in Australia .
    They're happy in Canada .
    They're happy in England ..
    They're happy in France ..
    They're happy in Italy ..
    They're happy in Germany ..
    They're happy in Sweden ..
    They're happy in the USA ..
    They're happy in Norway ..
    They're happy in Holland .
    They're happy in Denmark .

    Basically, they're happy in every country that is not Muslim
    and unhappy in every country that is!


    Not Islam.
    Not their leadership.
    Not themselves.


    AND THEN; They want to change those countries to be like....

    October 12, 2013 at 9:20 am |
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    April 13, 2018 at 12:34 pm |
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