Parlimentary debate winners argue against U.S. war with Iraq

Nathan Hall

Opposition to possible U.S. military action in Iraq decidedly won a University debate Monday night.

The University’s Parliamentary Debate Society event, which showcased arguments from both sides of the issue, drew more than 200 people, nearly filling Willey Hall.

The debate was regulated in the same fashion as the British Commons, with David Simon, the debate society president presiding as the speaker of the house. Steve Young, an adjunct Hamline University history professor, represented the U.S. government, and Colin Kahl, a University political science professor, spoke for the opposition.

Simon was quick to point out the views expressed by the speakers were not necessarily their own personal opinions, as their stated goal was to win the debate rather than express their individual convictions.

After Simon and Kahl finished their opening remarks, Zachery Coelius, a College of Liberal Arts junior, rebutted for the federal government. Ryan Hays, a management junior, finished up for the opposition. The floor was then opened up for a loosely structured public debate, where audience members were randomly called on to make one-minute statements.

“If Kuwait was growing carrots instead of oil, we wouldn’t have given a damn before,” an audience member said.

“Saddam is a rabid dog,” said another. “And what do you do with a rabid dog? You kill it!”

A segment of the debate was devoted to “cross speeches,” those that disagreed with both Kahl’s argument for allowing U.N. weapons inspectors more time in Iraq and Young’s pressing for war.

“I think before we start worrying about others’ alleged terrorist activities, we should come clean with ourselves first,” said an audience member. “Shut down the School of Americas first.”

After Kahl’s and Simon’s closing remarks, the audience was asked to divide into groups in order to indicate who presented the best case. Although a number of people left the event and others did not cast a vote, the majority of the audience sided with those opposing the war.

Volunteers for Mayday Bookstore were handing out pamphlets and selling anti-war books outside Willey Hall.

“I’ve seen these polls that say 50 or 60 or 70 percent of Americans support this war,” said Tom Dooley, a Veterans for Peace member who served in the Air Force during World War II. “But I talk to a lot of people every day and I see 95 percent against and only 5 percent for.”

Members of the University student group Socialist Alternative sold Marxist newspapers nearby.

“I think the only way the tide shifted in Vietnam wasn’t so much moral outrage from the body bags coming home,” said Ty Moore, a group member. “Instead, the activist movement circumvented the media and helped teach Ö the real facts. That’s what we’re attempting to do here.”

The Iraq debate was the society’s first debate since it returned as a victor from competitions held in England. Coelius, who has been debating for three years, is now ranked seventh in the world. Simon, who worked as a judge for the tournament, said the Americans’ high scores were a huge upset because U.S. teams historically place poorly at the event.

Debate topics in England included issues such as the banning of beauty pageants and allowing prisoners voting privileges.

“I couldn’t be more proud,” Simon said. “Three years ago, it was just four people in a room who had never debated before.”

The debate society holds public debates on campus throughout the year depending on a particular issue’s pertinence. It held a similar event in April to discuss police response to the Gopher hockey riots.

Nathan Hall welcomes comments at [email protected]