U.S.: President Bush fighting for the rights of the oppressed around the globe
President Bush spoke to the National Training Conference on Human Trafficking in Tampa on Friday, denouncing the international 21st century slave trade. Bush declined an invitation to speak at the NAACP convention, instead using his bully pulpit to rally agents of compassion in the battle to fight an enemy that preys largely on minorities, particularly women and children.Guyana cries foul cuz their government has been working on the problem before it appeared in the U.S. report. The Venezuelans call U.S. efforts cynical. As for the other nations, well, they must all be demanding to know what right the U.S. has to tell them what to do ... while they are demanding the right to pick the pockets of U.S. taxpayers to deal with AIDS and every other crisis they've got.
In his remarks, the president said, "This trade in human beings brings suffering to the innocent and shame to our country, and we will lead the fight against it."
The issue of human trafficking is a key element of Bush's compassion agenda, along with his leadership in committing $15 billion to the global fight against AIDS, supporting domestic faith-based initiatives, and focused economic development in Africa. At the United Nations last year, the president pledged $50 million to support specific anti-trafficking efforts in 2004. Since taking office, the Bush administration has provided more than $295 million to support anti-trafficking programs in more than 120 countries.
The event coincided with the president's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, signing into law a measure making sexual trafficking of minors a felony in his state. The president praised the work of law enforcement officials who have hunted down traffickers and liberating their victims at the same time.
"You are in a fight against evil," President Bush said, noting the thousands of women and children who have been rescued from misery and servitude.
Bush expressed revulsion in describing traffickers. He pointed out that human traffickers rob children of their innocence and expose them to the worst of life in their earliest years.
The president said, "It takes a special kind of depravity to exploit and hurt the most vulnerable members of society."
The president believes that the American government has a particular duty to combat trafficking because he sees it as an affront to the defining promise of the United States. He said that people come to America hoping for a better life but suffer a terrible tragedy when they are subsequently forced into a sweatshop, domestic servitude, pornography, or prostitution.
Last year, Bush called on other governments to pass laws making such abuse a crime, and 24 nations have enacted new laws to combat trade in human lives. Thirty-two are now in the process of drafting or passing such laws. As a result of these efforts, nearly 8,000 traffickers were prosecuted worldwide in 2003 with 2,800 having been convicted.
The U.S. is confronting nations that profit from or tolerate human trafficking. Those countries face potential sanctions that include the loss of U.S. military and economic assistance as well as the loss of support from the World Bank and the IMF.
The president believes that his approach is yielding results. He points out that in the past year, after the Department of State released its 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report, ten nations avoided sanctions by moving quickly to pass new anti-trafficking legislation and train police officers. Those countries launched domestic information campaigns and established victim protection programs.
A "Special Watch List" of 42 problem countries that require scrutiny has been developed. Nations that are complicit in human trafficking now know that the United States government is watching risk consequences for a failure to act.