EDMOND — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series on U.S. Rep. James Lankford’s Thursday town hall meeting in Edmond.
Congressman James Lankford was asked about a Congressional amendment he voted for last week that would prohibit payment of U.S. dues to the United Nations. Lankford predicted the U.S. Senate will never approve it.
“If it goes through over there I will be tickled pink and shocked,” Lankford said Thursday night at a town hall meeting at the Edmond Community Center. About 50 people attended the forum designed to let residents of the 5th Congressional District speak directly with Lankford about issues they deem important to the U.S.
Telephones were rare when the U.N. was founded in 1945, as were cross-continental conversations. The percentage of American households with telephone service reached 50 percent in 1945, according to Rutgers State University in New Jersey.
“It is a place where dictators come and get a place of power and where dictators from Syria have a seat at the table to talk about human rights with the rest of the world,” Lankford said.
In October, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a speech at the United Nations decrying that the United States government was responsible for “orchestrating” the al Qaeda terrorist attacks that killed more than 3,000 innocents on Sept. 11, 2001.
Lankford said there are good extensions of the United Nations, but the U.S. spends too much money when ambassadors could pick up the phone to discuss issues.
“We have rapid transportation,” Lankford said. “Is there a moment I think we should meet together as nations and be able to interact? Yes, I do.”
But the U.N. has become such a toxic environment that a purge is needed for cooperative diplomacy there, Lankford said.
According to the Heritage Foundation, the U.N. peacekeeping budget of $7.8 billion means U.S. taxpayers will pay about $100 million more for U.N. peacekeeping annually over the next three years than would otherwise be the case.
“It’s astronomical the billions of dollars that we pour in for communication for a group of people who gather on our soil and abuse us all day,” Lankford said.
The United Nations is important to national security and the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, said Phil Bryant, president of the United Nations Chapter of Greater Oklahoma City. The U.N.’s assistance mission was mandated by the Security Council and has been ongoing since 2002.
“They provide polio eradication campaigns,” Bryant said. “They help with the Afghan people. There’s an agricultural and development mission.”
The U.N. provides stability in Afghanistan by supporting the mission of U.S. troops, Bryant said. He argued that U.N. funding is needed to suppress the Taliban and create stability, and failing to pay dues would undercut President Barack Obama’s foreign policy for negotiating with the nation’s allies.
“I think ultimately you’re undercutting the national security of our nation,” Bryant said.
Lankford said the proper mission of the U.N. could exist in another format. He said the World Health Organization could handle polio eradication campaigns. The U.S. is funding the majority of aid to Afghanistan, he continued.
“And then we’re funneling through the international community of the U.N.,” Lankford said. “It basically gives us cover to say all nations are involved in it.”
Lankford said he welcomes international cooperation to solve the problems plaguing Afghanistan. International terrorism is a worldwide issue, he said. But Lankford said U.N. funding now transfers funds from poor nations to wealthy nations when the funds could be invested more directly.
“I think that particular format is becoming destructive to our values.” Lankford said. “And our international value of freedom and democracy spreading around the world — I don’t think it’s being propagated there the way that we would hope it would be.”
TO LEARN MORE about the United Nations Chapter of Greater Oklahoma City, visit www.una-okc.org/programs.html.