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Right Abolitionism

The Bush administration has defended female dignity like no administration before it -- yet another reason the left disdains this presidency.

By 2.5.06

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This article appeared in the Dec. 2005-Jan. 2006 issue of The American Spectator. To subscribe, please click here.

FIFTY YEARS FROM NOW historians will be writing books about the Bush administration's war on the world's fastest growing form of international crime: the sex trafficking and enslavement of millions of vulnerable women and children within the United States and throughout the world. They will note that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which the media of its time ignored, authorized the United States to withdraw foreign aid and international loans from countries complicit in the trafficking trade, and will note that the Bush administration's determined enforcement of the Act began moving those countries to prosecute their trafficking mafias. They will write of how the Bush administration waged war on the shame of America's streets by pressing state and local governments to reverse the near-complete immunity with which pimps, johns, and traffickers had long operated within the United States, and by bringing major federal prosecutions against interstate mafia operators and other prostitution slavers. And they will write of John Miller, the Bush administration's point man in the war against sex trafficking, in the same terms now used to describe the work of Wilberforce, Clarkson, Garrison, and other 19th-century abolitionists who ended the African chattel slave trade.

Those historians will also note the attacks on the Bush administration and Miller from a shrill claque of academic feminists and their radical chic allies -- and by doing so these historians will understand the reasons for the declining state of the 21st-century American left. They will see in the critics' attacks liberal utopianism at its worst -- the belief that until all poverty and all exploitation of the weak has ended, targeted efforts "merely" to ameliorate such "symptoms" as the mafia-conducted destruction of millions of girls and women in the sex trade are distractions from the need to eliminate "root causes." Historians will see in these attacks rhetoric and ideology unhinged from reality, a worship of materialist goals, contempt for traditional values, and a moral stinginess that denies credit for good work to any but political allies.

All of the above, historians will note, produced the bizarre view of the Bush critics that "sex work" is intrinsically no different from housework, farm work, or factory work -- this because the only thing that matters to the leftist critics is equitable pay and reasonable working conditions.

The administration's critics routinely argue that opposition to the legalization of prostitution is rooted in a bluestocking distaste for sex held by repressed Christians and Quisling feminists. They downplay the horrors of prostitution, to the point where a recent article in the Nation mocked today's "sex-slave panic" and used dismissive, ironic quotation marks around the terms "rescuers" and, incredibly, "victims," to make the point that the rescue and victimization of "sex workers" is nothing but a right-wing illusion.

Likewise, a story entitled "Prostitution Gives Me Power" that appeared in the July issue of the woman's magazine Marie Claire glamorously portrayed "sex workers" with photographs accompanied by such captioned quotes as: "In a Lot of Ways, Prostitution is Like Social Work," "Being Judged is the Price I Pay for Sexual Freedom," and "When My Client Trusts Me, I'm Truly in Charge."

Good God Almighty!

CRITICS OF THE ADMINISTRATION'S anti-trafficking initiative ignore heroes like Norma Hotaling, Julie Johnson, Kristy Childs, Kathleen Mitchell, and Vednita Carter -- women who endured years in prostitution and who now rescue battered and decimated girls throughout the United States. They ignore heroes around the world like Juliet Engel in Russia, Pierre Tami in Cambodia, and Sister Eugenia Bonetti in Italy who bravely ignore mafia demands to abandon their anti-trafficking and victim rescue operations. Working with John Miller and other administration leaders, these heroes are increasingly causing policy makers and law enforcement officials across the globe to root out corrupt government officials and prosecute traffickers. Here at home, they lead the growing effort to confront and eliminate what has long been accepted: a world in which hundreds of thousands of girls are forced to "work" 350 days a year for pimps who beat and rape them if they fail to turn in every penny they receive or fail to make $500 - $700 per night quotas.

As a consequence, major initiatives are being launched in all parts of the world to make the war against trafficking a significant national priority. And stakes are being driven through the heart of a domestic system in which it is routine for pimps with typical three girl "stables" to clear $500,000 to $700,000 per year, and for "successful" pimps with larger "stables" to clear well over a million dollars annually.

Likewise, U.S. law enforcement officials are beginning to prosecute Asian mafia gangsters for the massage parlors they now openly operate in the shadow of the White House, state capitols, and local police precincts, at which physically and psychologically enslaved girls are compelled to engage in 8-10 hour-long "sessions" per day where brutality is a common add-on to "mere" sex.

Blind to the possibility or enraged by the reality that George Bush and his dreaded anti-abortion friends are on the caring side of a women's issue, the critics engage in facts-be-damned sellouts of the abused women they purport to serve. And they do so by ignoring findings of scholars like Donna Hughes and Melissa Farley that 85 percent of girls and women in U.S. prostitution routinely endure rape and assault as part of their "work"; that nine of every ten seek escape from the bondage and emotional capture they suffer at the hands of their "daddies"; that most were sexually abused before entering prostitution; and that the average age of entry into prostitution in the United States is less than 16 years old.

Instead, the critics endorse the big lie of Pretty Woman and act as if the Julia Roberts character exists beyond Hollywood. The critics routinely seek "sex worker unions," government-trafficker condom distribution partnerships, and government regulation -- as if written contracts or OSHA-mandated ergonomic mattresses could ever trump the ability of pimps to exploit the abused and psychologically manipulable runaway girls they prey upon.

THE CRITICS ARE ALSO TOO BLINDED by their own illusions to realize how closely they ape 19th- century apologists for slavery. John Miller recently described those apologists as people who argued, "'We must get the slaves better... ventilation, doctors [and] food,'" and, when such alleged reforms were in place, "reported back to the queen of England that the slaves were happy."

On the other hand, the Bush administration and John Miller have taken their lessons from people who have actually lived "the life," and they have been moved to action by such poignant accounts of prostitution as the one recently sent to Congress by "survivor" leaders who run programs to rescue others from the horrors they endured:

All of us were raped and abused through prostitution -- some even as children; some of us were trafficked throughout the U.S. as children and adults; some of us were adults suffering from untreated childhood abuse; and some of us were adults facing life-threatening circumstances (trying to escape a stalker/rapist, trying to get away from a violent partner, trying to provide food and/or shelter for ourselves and our children) when persons posing as friends recruited us into the sex trade by presenting prostitution as a solution. We were told things like, "It's only for a little while; you'll be able to quit any time you want; you'll finally have control over who does it to you (especially effective on sex abuse survivors, which most of us are); I'll keep you safe; you'll be able to go to school, start a boutique, etc." -- fill in the blank. And then of course, after we crossed the line, our worlds changed forever. ALL of us had friends who didn't make it out alive. And for some of us, it took a long time to grasp that those who presented themselves as friends in our most vulnerable moments, were, in fact, pimps and madams -- people who didn't even have a problem, for example, selling us to johns who intended violent acts as long as the purchasers paid extra. After all, we were only viewed as commodities and worst of all, we believed it.

This is the real face of prostitution, and will always be so. How revealing that radical feminist critics work up endless spleen against George Bush yet show little anger toward the predators who keep women and children in the grip of terror. How sad that their politics have morally corrupted them in the manner described by Melissa Farley:

[The critics] declare... that [we] are tainted by guilt by association. Evangelicals and feminists. If any cause is endorsed by the Right -- if we agree with them on anything -- then we are "in bed with them." Object to child pornography? Oops, so does the Christian Right, gotcha. Favor strong laws against prostitution and trafficking? Oops, so does George Bush, gotcha. This adolescent logic trumps carefully articulated policies based on years of evidence-gathering and analysis.

While this goes on, John Miller, the well-liked and deceptively understated former Republican congressman from Seattle who runs the State Department's Trafficking in Persons Office and chairs the inter-agency Senior Policy Operating Group that coordinates all federal anti-trafficking grants and policies, is busily making history. He is causing radical reversals of longtime government indifference to and complicity in sex trafficking. He is taking on an American "pimp culture" whose present glamorization poisons the underclass ghettoes where the pimps preen and serve as role models for the young. He is unraveling well-financed plans to legalize prostitution throughout the world.

In the process, Miller is earning massive goodwill for the United States in country after country. A recent Times of India editorial -- which argued that "If Washington's hectoring galvanises New Delhi into action, it would be a signal service to the millions who are living in slavery" -- is typical of recent reactions in such countries as Russia, Japan, Greece, and Israel.

On the domestic side, administration anti-trafficking efforts are now galvanizing domestic law enforcement authorities to end the immunity of pimps and massage parlor operators from criminal prosecution. The FBI has organized a dedicated and sophisticated unit to address the issue, and the Civil Rights and Criminal Divisions of the Justice Department, the Internal Revenue Service, and other federal agencies have initiated coordinated money laundering, tax evasion, and RICO prosecutions against major interstate traffickers. Tough follow-up initiatives are being actively planned.

THE IMPETUS FOR ALL THIS has come directly from the President, whose 2003 National Security Policy Directive 22 instructed all federal agencies to put the United States squarely on the "abolitionist" side of the issue. Critically, the President has backed up his talk with action, and has regularly sided with Miller in intra-administration battles over whether to rebuke friendly countries complicit in trafficking.

The trafficking issue still flies beneath the radar screen of the American media, but it won't for long. The Bush administration's rescue of millions of vulnerable, brutalized girls here and throughout the world is too powerful a story to be long ignored.

There's a lesson in this for the Democrats and mainstream feminists who have inadequately confronted their "prostitution gives me power" cohorts and who have failed to deal with the epidemic scourge of trafficking with the passion and priority it deserves. Before they know it, they may find that women's issues have been significantly redefined and that even to pro-abortion voters the abortion issue has lost its singular flagship status. More ominously, they may wake to find that the loyalties of many grateful soccer moms, and others, have gone -- gasp -- to the Republicans and conservatives who fought the sex trade while they looked the other way.

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About the Author

Michael J. Horowitz is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.