CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Late-night comics and email jokesters are whooping over U.S. Secret Service agents and military personnel caught with prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia. "Secretly Serviced" was a New York Daily News headline. There's winking and nudging about the way testosterone-driven men behave away from home.
But there's an ugly side to this mess -- and it isn't just the lack of professionalism among White House protectors and elite soldiers.
Many seductive young hookers are actually pathetic victims of sex trafficking, forced by criminal bosses to sell their bodies to earn money for the cruel managers. "Johns" don't realize they're abetting a major evil based on deceiving and exploiting teen-age girls.
"Men who cavort with prostitutes are often guilty of participating in sex trafficking, a grave human rights offense that our society continues to treat as nothing more than 'boys being boys,' " Kirsten Powers wrote in USA Today. She said many girls are tricked and forced into prostitution "like property to be bought and sold."
In a past congressional hearing about hookers near U.S. bases, Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., said: "Women and girls are being forced into prostitution for a clientele consisting largely of military services members, government contractors and international peacekeepers."
A landmark book, "The Nathashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade," describes how Eastern European girls are lured by promises of jobs, then brutalized into sex slavery to earn cash for their masters. The book says U.S. military contractors in Bosnia eagerly pay for girls as young as 12. It describes one "who was just a child. . . . You could see in her face -- she was dying."
A U.S. State Department report says Colombia is cursed by "forced prostitution of women and children from rural areas in urban areas." It adds: "Colombia also is a destination for foreign child sex tourists, particularly coastal cities such as Cartagena."
So the frolic between U.S. agents and Colombian bar girls involved a deeper evil than mere sport by American men away from home. The "johns" reportedly picked up the young women in a dingy, windowless, brick nightclub. Powers concludes in USA Today:
"Sex trafficking survivors would tell you that what goes on in such dingy, windowless buildings is nothing less than torture."