Alumni debaters examine question of deposing Hussein

Ben Figa

Some of Northwestern’s finest alumni debaters returned to campus Saturday to exchange verbal fire on the hotly contested issue of whether the United States should depose Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein.

About 60 students and alumni gathered in Harris Hall to watch the debate on the topic “Resolved: That Saddam Should be Next,” which featured NU alumni who participated on the speech team as undergraduates.

The event was presented in connection with the fifth debate alumni reunion, which took place over the weekend.

Commentator Cori Dauber, Speech ’82, introduced the event as a “showcase of Northwestern’s powerhouse debate society,” as the four debaters pored over their notes and looked determined to win the debate.

Sean McCaffity, Weinberg ’96 and three-time National Debate Tournament champion, spoke first about the topic. His team said the U.S. government must depose the Iraqi dictator or face dire circumstances.

“A tyrant exists in the Middle East and his name is Saddam Hussein,” he said.

McCaffity talked about the current “tidal wave of terror” and said America’s failure to act will cause continued bloodshed.

He said if Americans do not cause a regime change, they “might find themselves with a future that is ‘nasty, brutish and short,'” a reference to 17th century political philosopher Thomas Hobbes.

On the opposing side, Gordon Mitchel, Speech ’89, and three-time national quarterfinalist teamed up with Cate Palczewski, Speech ’87, a national tournament semi-finalist.

His team argued that the Mideast issues were too complex to be solved by simply getting rid of Saddam.

During his opening speech, Mitchell said the situation is not as simple as the “with us or the with the terrorists” mentality, and argued for a more diplomatic solution.

“The best defense is to defuse terrorism,” he said.

Former national champion Stuart Singer, Speech ’78, was the oldest debater at the event. He said the United States must take a strong stance when dealing with Saddam.

“The issue is not whether Saddam must go, but how,” he said. “There is no perfect solution, and (deposing Hussein) is the only solution.”

He also disagreed with the policy of “giving no offense” to historical dictators.

“Appeasement will only whet their appetite,” Singer said.

He also said that it was impossible to make demands on Saddam because “you’re not dealing with a rational person.”

Palczewski argued that the United States should act as if Saddam has nuclear and biochemical weapons of destruction.

By pursuing Saddam militarily, Palczewski said the United States would cause Saddam a “use them or lose them situation” in respect to weapons of mass destruction.

The region’s unique situation makes it difficult to perform wide-scale operations in Iraq, Palczewski said.

“The war on terrorism would be crippled by a reallocation of troops,” she said. “Besides we don’t know where the biological and chemical weapons are.”

After their introductory speeches, the debaters were cross-examined by the opposite side. Later the audience, many of whom were debate team alumni, was invited to ask questions to the debaters.

Debate Team Director Scott Deatherage, who directed the debate, said he was proud of the debaters, including the three speakers he had coached.

“I had forgotten how good they were, frankly, and I was impressed at how easily it came back to them,” he said.

Some in attendance found it difficult to judge the debates objectively because of their strong feelings about the issues involved.

“All of the speakers were very eloquent and convincing, and I find it hard to divorce my opinions from the debating that was done to know which side was more persuasive,” said Jeff Gaunt, a Weinberg junior.