One of the gravest evils in the world today is the practice of human trafficking, and today the US government took a brave move in bringing binding censure against these modern day sex slavers. They did this by leveling criticism that could be turned into harsh action against not only its traditional enemies but to traditional allies as well.
The scope of the problem is massive. Any and all efforts to raise awareness on the issue and to lay the grounds for action are worthy efforts. According to US State Department figures, “estimated 600,000 to 820,000 men, women, and children [are] trafficked across international borders each year, approximately 80 percent are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors. The data also illustrate that the majority of transnational victims are trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation.” Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International both state that even those figures are but the tip of the iceberg.
Let me frame this catastrophe in the proper gut-ripping terms. Those child sex farms they are rumored to have in Southeast Asia are real. The rape video sites from Russia on the internet are likely broadcasting real rapes, real torture. The harems of the Middle East are full of women from around the world, kidnapped from their homelands, often as children, maimed and brutalized, for the rest of their lives. This happens in countries across the globe, even in the US and Canada.
And now, setting other matters aside, the US has accused its allies in the Arabic world – Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman – of taking not even the slightest action to prevent this atrocity. Kuwait’s total compliance with our military agenda is critical. Oman and Bahrain consistently help us with intelligence in the War On Terror. But this does not – morally and now officially – prevent them from being taken to task. They have been called out, as good friends should be, to mend their bad behavior.
Now action should follow words. For words to mean anything, they must be followed with consistent and resolute action. In many ways, the US has succeeded at this – with Kennedy’s call for the Peace Corps, with Reagan’s support of the socialist Solidarnost movement that still has us beloved by Poland today, and with Clinton’s actions against the Serb aggression in the Balkans in the 90s. In many ways, the US has failed. From Small Arms, to land mines, to the conditions of women in the chaos that has become Afghanistan, we have spoken strongly for rights that we then failed to secure.
This cannot be one of those exceptions. The means for the censure of governments that neglect or even facilitate the problem of the global slave trade exist. They are the “United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children” and the “United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime” among others. The provisions in them are brutally fierce and the inspections a solid, necessary first step. Now that we’ve spoken, it’s time for us to act.
Joe Biden spoke to this essential factor in politics – one that, in a political climate that’s increasingly frustrated and increasingly defined by empty rhetoric, is all the more important and endangered. At the CNN debates, the Democratic candidates were debating the convoluted and hypothetical political channels that might or might not bring an end to the daily butchery in Darfur. Biden then spoke up.
He had said, “You could send 2,500 troops and wipe out the janjaweed“, the militias instrumental in the genocide. He is right. Even with the US military ‘bogged down’ in extended conflicts, we do retain those ready men, capable of doing immediate and final harm to clear targets like the janjaweed. And as the other Democrats talked of years and years of diplomacy that had to be done delicately, Biden retorted:
“These people will be dead! They’ll be dead!”
Darfur is an unparalleled butchery and misery in our current age. It is going on right now. If it stopped right now, lives would be saved. If it is not stopped right this minute, more will be raped, mutilated, killed.
Biden called for military force, applied with speed and direction, to stop a crime we know will happen. “There’s your moral authority.” He said.
There is the same imperative and the same principle in the case of the global slave trade. With the declaration today, we have identified who we and the world need to act against to stifle it. Now comes the hard part, the important part, the only part that matters:
We know how to act. We can act. We should.