Sometimes I wonder: will the Bush administration ever run out of issues on which to take completely appalling positions? They have defended torture and extraordinary rendition; they defend their right to imprison American citizens without warrants or charges, indefinitely; they seem to think it's OK both to defy the law and to spy on citizens without anything resembling legal checks; their AIDS prevention policies (backed up by our money) focus on unproven abstinence programs at the expense of programs favoring condoms, thereby sacrificing people's lives to conservative moral fantasies; they out undercover CIA agents for petty political reasons; they have saddled our children with huge amounts of debt without managing to do such basic things as really committing to rebuilding New Orleans, doing even the most basic things to secure our country, and so forth; they have gotten us into a needless war whose consequences will at best be very, very bad -- what on earth is left?
Human trafficking, that's what. From Knight-Ridder, via Balkinization:
"Three years ago, President Bush declared that he had "zero tolerance" for trafficking in humans by the government's overseas contractors, and two years ago Congress mandated a similar policy.
But notwithstanding the president's statement and the congressional edict, the Defense Department has yet to adopt a policy to bar human trafficking.
A proposal prohibiting defense contractor involvement in human trafficking for forced prostitution and labor was drafted by the Pentagon last summer, but five defense lobbying groups oppose key provisions and a final policy still appears to be months away, according to those involved and Defense Department records."
What sorts of "human trafficking" are at issue? Just buying women as sex slaves and little things like that.
"Bush declared zero tolerance for involvement in human trafficking by federal employees and contractors in a National Security Presidential Directive he signed in December 2002 after media reports detailing the alleged involvement of DynCorp employees in buying women and girls as sex slaves in Bosnia during the U.S. military's deployment there in the late 1990s.
Ultimately, the company fired eight employees for their alleged involvement in sex trafficking and illegal arms deals. (...)
This fall, the Chicago Tribune detailed how Middle Eastern firms working under American subcontracts in Iraq, and a chain of human brokers beneath them, engaged in the kind of abuses condemned elsewhere by the U.S. government as human trafficking. KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary, relies on more than 200 subcontractors to carry out a multibillion-dollar U.S. Army contract for privatization of military support operations in the war zone.
The Chicago Tribune retraced the journey of 12 Nepali men recruited from poor villages in one of the most remote and impoverished corners of the world and documented a trail of deceit, fraud and negligence stretching into Iraq. The men were kidnapped from an unprotected caravan and executed en route to jobs at an American military base in 2004."
But despite being instructed by Congress to create a policy to prevent human trafficking, the Bush administration has yet to come up with one, "at least in part because of concerns raised by the defense contractors." The contractors' concern?
"The lobbying groups opposing the plan say they're in favor of the idea in principle, but said they believe that implementing key portions of it overseas is unrealistic."
Wrong. Some proposal is literally "unrealistic" when it is actually impossible, or close to it. Thus, it is unrealistic to think that I will fly to work tomorrow by flapping my arms, or even that I will roll snake-eyes one hundred times in a row. It can also be unrealistic to think that someone else will do something, at least if you're not in a position to influence that person. But it is not in the least unrealistic to ask a contractor to verify that its subcontractors do not engage in human trafficking. If contractors were held accountable for their subcontractors' violations of human trafficking policies, I'm sure we would see them develop ways of verifying compliance pretty quickly.
What they mean, presumably, is that this would be too costly and time-consuming. But things only count as "too" costly and time-consuming when they cost more than the gains they realize are worth. To the extent that administration officials buy into the defense contractors' claim that it is "unrealistic" to expect them to make sure their subcontractors are not trafficking in human beings, they necessarily buy into their view of how much it matters that women not be bought and sold as sex slaves, and that men in impoverished villages in the third world not be tricked into indentured servitude in Iraq. Namely: it doesn't matter all that much.
What's next: the Bush administration coming out in favor of female genital mutilation?