My debate concerning the United Nations before the Cambridge Union Society
By Tom DeWeese
My first reaction was "this is a joke." However upon a second and then a third reading of the letter in my hand it became clear the invitation was legitimate. "It is with great pleasure that I extend an invitation for you to speak at the Cambridge Union (the debating society of Cambridge University, England) this Michaelmas term." It was signed by Luke Pearce, President of the Union.
Founded in 1815, the Cambridge Union is a near 200 year-old debating society that stands as a "vibrant center of debate and free speech in British intellectual life."
It has played host to Anthony Eden, Lloyd George and Winston Churchill. Economist John Maynard Keynes was one of the Societies' presidents. An incredible list of political, cultural and religious leaders have spoken there, including Ronald Reagan, Professor Stephen Hawking, the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.
Now the invitation came to me to debate the issue of the United Nations. Said the letter of invitation, "As a political activist for over two decades and now the president of the American Policy Center, you would bring experience and insight to this debate. Cambridge students would be honored to listen to you speak in proposition of the motion," The motion we were to debate was, "This House believes the United Nations is a dead loss." I couldn't agree more and after a few moments of consideration of what I was about to do, accepted the invitation.
Rules of the debate process call for six participants, three arguing for the proposition, three in opposition. I was actually on the side of the proponents, arguing a kind of double negative = yes, I am opposed to the UN.
Each participant is to speak for approximately ten minutes, giving an opening statement. Four participants present their opening statements, and then the floor is opened to a series of two-minute speeches from the audience. Finally, the last two participants, one from each side, give a ten-minute summation. During the speeches, any participant or member of the audience may interrupt a speaker with "Point of Information" and they may then make a point or ask a question of the speaker. However, it is entirely up to the speaker whether to allow the interruption. He can simply say no to the Point of Information.
Just prior to my leaving for the UK, I learned who the other participants were to be. On my side, speaking against the UN was Ted Knight, a UK labor leader (I came to learn he was a major Leftist leader known as "Red Ted"; and Simon Tisdall, Assistant Editor of The Guardian and a foreign affairs columnist. Speaking for the opposition and in support of the UN were Lord David Hannay, Former UK Ambassador to the UN and a member of the House of Lords; Salil Shetty, Director of the UN's Millennium Campaign; and Simon Hughes, President of the UK's Liberal Democrats and a Member of Parliament.
The night of the debate began with the participants meeting over a formal dinner. I actually found "Red Ted" very engaging. This was also his first appearance before the Society. I was informed that my presentation was to be first. Said Red Ted, "Then I shall see how you do!" During the dinner I also found myself sitting next to Mr. Shetty. We had a brief moment to talk before heading into the debating chamber.
We marched into the historic debating chamber behind the secretary of the Cambridge Union Society, who was wearing a traditional top hat. There was thunderous applause from the four hundred students and Union members who filled the impressive leather seats or jammed the balcony above us. Union President Luke Pearce quickly got down to business by introducing me, coming "all the way from the Untied States.
I walked up to the historic front table where two wooden boxes were placed (one for each side). Speakers stand behind or beside them to make their 10 minute opening remarks. As I worked through my presentation, there were actually gasps from the audience. Apparently few had heard such hard hitting attacks on the UN (a full copy of my opening remarks can be found elsewhere in this report). Suddenly shouts of "point of information" could be heard from several locations in the audience. I denied them. I continued with my assault. Finally, Lord Hannay shouted, "surely the gentlemen will yield?." I briefly relented and he attacked my assertion that the UN meddled in individual sovereign affairs of nations. I held my ground, finished my remarks, accepted a couple of questions and then sat down. I had made it through.
From that point on, the debate became an all out attack on the United States. I had expected it, being the "token Yank," and considering my remarks had set a strong tone. What became obvious, however, was that the debate wasn't three to three, rather it was five to one. Ted Knight gave an impassioned address, but I still have no idea what his opposition to the UN was, except he didn't like how it was run. Simon Tisdall, the final speaker for "our side" openly admitted he didn't oppose the UN, he just didn't like the United States running it. Lord Hannay seemed bored with the whole proceeding, having to deal with the peasants. Simon Hughes played to the anti-US flavor of the crowd, as he took twenty five minutes to rebut what I took ten minutes to say. Reform was their only answer. None addressed my position on property rights. Lord Hannay actually denied the UN had any interest in global goverance. I took hit after hit as the audience attacked the Bush Administration and !
As the debate ended, each member of the audience was instructed to pass through one of three doors. One was marked Noes for those who disagreed with me and the house proposition. One marked Yeas, for those who didn't think the UN was a dead loss. And the center door was for those who abstained from any opinion at all. Speakers and audience retired to the Union bar to await the results. It wasn't good: 361 noes, 33 ayes and 15 abstentions. I was soundly defeated, but not bad, I thought, considering it had been five against one.
However, something much more important was about to happen. I was the only speaker who stayed after the tally was announced. About 200 students stayed as well. Over the next two hours I fielded sincere questions about my stand on property rights. They earnestly asked me, "you really don't believe in redistribution of the wealth?" "No," I said, "It's theft." As I explained how it takes ownership of property to create wealth, and that's how we have done it in America to make us the richest nation or earth, several openly responded that my positions were "an interesting concept," and they wanted to know where they could learn more.
I came to Cambridge to debate what I consider to be the deadliest force on earth – the UN. Perhaps I left a small spark of an idea which will burst forth into a light to help show the way to freedom for some of the brightest students I have ever met.
OPENING STATEMENT BY TOM DEWEESE
"This House believes that the United Nations is a dead loss"
It is reasonable that honest, compassionate people seek a means for governments to come together to discuss and air their differences.
It is also reasonable that honest, compassionate people should desire some way to voluntarily pool resources to provide charitable aid to those who are starving or are victims of natural disaster.
Indeed this is the image of the United Nations that has been sold to the world since its inception.
It is not, however, the reality.
The world is in chaos and, quite frankly, it's the UN's fault. It gives validity to zealots and petty bigots. It helps to keep tyrannical dictators in power. It gives a voice to international terrorists.
Delay. Negotiate. Recommend. Study. Reconsider. Do nothing. This is the game the UN has played in nearly every international crisis.
It is the reason North Korea remains a threat after 50 years.
It is the reason Zimbabwe's murderous Robert Mugabe is able to steal his election and then steal the land of white property owners, drive the nation into economic ruin and starvation – without an international protest, boycott, or sanction.
Instead, Mugabe is given a voice in the UN's Sustainable Development conference in South Africa.
It is the reason why the Chinese government is able to ignore UN rules not to its liking -- while growing as an international military and economic threat.
And it is the reason why a terrorist nation like Syria can be given a seat on the UN's Human Rights Council.
The United Nations, internally, is a mess. It now finds itself buried under scandals.
It has Oil-for-Food scandals. Smuggling scandals. And theft scandals.
Peace keeping missions actually bring fear to the local citizens they are supposed to protect. Rob, rape and pillage seem to be the UN's modus operandi.
How can we be surprised by such revelations?
Who has the power to oversee and control its actions?
The people don't vote on UN actions. The media has little access behind the scenes. Who audits the accounting books?
Of course, even its supporters will readily agree that such problems exist. They are quick to jump in and call for "reform."
However, when talking reform, one must be very careful of what the word may mean.
UN reports on reform don't indicate a simple desire to plug holes in UN spending -- or to clear up scandals.
Quite the contrary. According to Kofi Annan, Maurice Strong and many others, reform means global governance.
Since its inception, the UN has advocated the desire to eradicate sovereign nations -- while imposing what it calls "world-mindedness."
A 1949 UNESCO document said, "…nationalism (is) the major obstacle to the development of world-mindedness."
In the 1990's, Maurice Strong said, "it is not feasible for sovereignty to be exercised unilaterally by individual nation/states, however powerful."
There in lies the true goal of the United Nations. And that belies its public image of simply a place where nations may come to air their differences and act responsibly.
Instead, the UN is openly working to gain power for itself in order to become independent and supreme over its member nations.
To do that it needs the power to tax. On September 19th plans were approved to begin the creation of a global tax, mostly through airline tickets to help pay for the treatment of aids. They of course euphemistically call it a contribution.
There are several other tax schemes on the UN wish list, including a carbon tax on Co2 emissions, a currency tax on transactions of foreign currency exchanges, and taxes on the Internet, to name a few.
If the UN gains the power to tax and the enforcement power necessary to collect them, then the UN will become an unstoppable force in the world. A monster free of its chains.
And, of course, the UN wants its own military. It already has its own court.
These three things, the ability to collect taxes to provide near unlimited funds from independent sources; the ability to enforce its will with a military force; and a court system to impose its own brand of justice, are all that is required to create a government.
Imagine a world run by the justice of China, with the economics of Cuba and the military might of the United States. Such is the world of the future under United Nations global governance.
Public relations propaganda aside, clearly, the United Nations wants to be much more than a place where nations can come together to air their differences under a voluntary membership association.
The truth is, today, fifty years after the inception of the United Nations, the international community is a dangerous place.
Today the world has more wars, more poverty and more suffering that anytime in human history.
Obviously, the United Nations is irrelevant as a body to deliver world peace.
Just as obviously, the UN is more interested in meddling in the sovereign affairs of nations, seeking to impose its own agenda over development, production and what it calls social equity in a drive to set itself up for global governance.
Using images of dire environmental emergencies or life-threatening diseases or starving children, the UN promotes an agenda which really seeks to redistribute the world's wealth.
Its only answer is government control - and confiscation of individual wealth and property.
Nowhere is there mentioned in a single UN document that I have read an advocacy for the right to own private property.
In fact, quite the opposite is the case as nearly every UN document, report, working paper, program, treaty, protocol, declaration and resolution – is dedicated to the confiscation, redistribution, regulation and tax of someone's property.
And it is a fact that the inability to own private property creates poverty.
It is also a fact that confiscation of private property never helps to eradicate poverty.
It is bad economic policy. Yet that is the UN's only solution to the massive suffering throughout the world. Take it from one source to give to another.
And that, I contend, is the very root of the suffering – not the solution.
The UN was wrong from its very beginning and wrong now because it has always sought to interfere with national sovereignty rather than to provide a unique forum to help keep the peace.
That is why the UN is a dead loss. It should be tossed on the trash heap of history so that we may start over and create an honest enterprise that seeks to help nations, not eradicate them.
The United Nations is not "dysfunctional" as some "reformists" have claimed. It is a criminal enterprise in which no moral nation should ever participate, let alone perpetuate.
Tom DeWeese is president of the American Policy Center and Editor of The DeWeese Report , 70 Main Street, Suite 23, Warrenton Virginia.