Thursday, May 11, 2006

See, not all Bush is bad! 

New York Times Opinion | May 9, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist: Bush Takes On the Brothels

There is one area where President Bush is making a historic contribution: he is
devoting much more money and attention to human trafficking than his

I'm guessing that President Bush's foreign policy will stand up about as well
to the assessments of future historians as a baby gazelle to a pack of

Yet there is one area where Mr. Bush is making a historic contribution: he is
devoting much more money and attention to human trafficking than his
predecessors. Just as one of Jimmy Carter's great legacies was putting human
rights squarely on the international agenda, Mr. Bush is doing the same for
slave labor.

We don't tend to think of trafficking as a top concern, so Mr. Bush hasn't
gotten much credit. But it's difficult to think of a human rights issue that
could be more important than sex trafficking and the other kinds of neo-slavery
that engulf millions of people around the world, leaving many of them dead of
AIDS by their early 20's.

My own epiphany came in 1989, when my wife and I lived in China and covered the
crushing of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement. Arrests of dissidents were
front-page news, but no one paid any attention as many tens of thousands of
Chinese women and girls were kidnapped and sold each year by traffickers to
become the unwilling wives of peasants.

Since then, I've seen the peddling of humans in many countries: the 8-year-old
Filipino girl whose mother used to pull her out of school to rent to
pedophiles; the terrified 14-year-old Vietnamese girl imprisoned in a brothel
pending the sale of her virginity; the Pakistani teenager whose brothel's owner
dealt with her resistance by drugging her into a stupor. The U.N. has estimated
that 12.3 million people worldwide are caught in forced labor of one kind or

In an age of H.I.V., sex trafficking is particularly lethal. And for every
political dissident who is locked up in a prison cell, hundreds of teenage
girls are locked up in brothels and, in effect, sentenced to death by AIDS.

In 2000, Congress passed landmark anti-trafficking legislation, backed by an
unlikely coalition of evangelical Republicans and feminist Democrats. Even
today, the Congressional leaders against trafficking include a conservative
Republican, Senator Sam Brownback, and a liberal Democrat, Representative
Carolyn Maloney.

But the heaviest lifting has been done by the State Department's tiny office on
trafficking — for my money, one of the most effective units in the U.S.
government. The office, led by a former Republican congressman, John Miller, is
viewed with suspicion by some career diplomats who fear that simple-minded
conservative nuts are mucking up relations with countries over a peripheral

Yet Mr. Miller and his office wield their spotlight shrewdly. With firm backing
from the White House (Mr. Bush made Mr. Miller an ambassador partly to help him
in his bureaucratic battles), the office puts out an annual report that shames
and bullies foreign governments into taking action against forced labor of all

Under pressure from the report, Cambodia prosecuted some traffickers (albeit
while protecting brothels owned by government officials) and largely closed
down the Svay Pak red-light district, where 10-year-olds used to be openly
sold. Ecuador stepped up arrests of pimps and started a national public
awareness campaign. Israel trained police to go after traffickers and worked
with victims' home countries, like Belarus and Ukraine. And so on, country by

Some liberals object to the administration's requirement that aid groups
declare their opposition to prostitution before they can get anti-trafficking
funds. But in the past, without that requirement, U.S. funds occasionally went
to groups promoting prostitution. And in any case, the requirement doesn't seem
to have caused many problems on the ground (partly because aid groups sometimes
dissemble to get money). In Zambia, India and Cambodia, I've seen U.S.-financed
programs work closely with prostitutes and brothel owners when that is needed
to get the job done.

Moreover, Ambassador Miller and his staff aren't squeamish prudes. Mr. Miller
is sympathetic to the Swedish model: stop punishing prostitutes, but crack down
on pimps and customers. He says that approach seems to have reduced more forced
prostitution than just about any other strategy.

The backdrop is a ridiculously divisive debate among anti-trafficking activists
about whether prostitution should be legalized. Whatever one thinks of that
question, it's peripheral to the central challenge: vast numbers of underage
girls are forced into brothels against their will, and many die of AIDS. On
that crucial issue, Mr. Bush is leaving a legacy that he and America can be
proud of.

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Name: Corey
Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I'm on a journey with no destination. The path is constantly changing direction but there are always adventures to be had. "Never" and "always" have left my lexicon.

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