Published April 19, 2012
When the news first broke, the headlines seemed shocking: U.S. Secret Service agents buy prostitutes while in Cartagena, Colombia, advancing a trip for President Obama.
But this is no aberration.
Men working abroad on behalf of our government engage in this kind of behavior so frequently that the Pentagon was forced in 2004 to draft an anti-prostitution rule aimed at preventing the U.S. military from being complicit in fueling sex trafficking.
So far, 11 Secret Service personnel — including agents and uniformed officers — have been recalled from Colombia, put on administrative leave and had their security clearances revoked.
[Editor's Note: Secret Service forced out three agents Wednesday. A senior congressman welcomed the move to hold people responsible for the tawdry episode but warned "it's not over."
Along with three Secret Service employees leaving, eight other employees remain on administrative leave, the agency announced Tuesday evening]
Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-Calif.) who chairs one of the House investigative panels, has said that he wasn't certain whether Congress would hold hearings into the scandal.
Pending completion of an investigation, we do not know about the backgrounds of these women. But there is clear evidence that 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."
Yes, the fact that the agents put the president at risk is enormously important. But where is the outrage about how these men treated human beings like property to be bought and sold?
Not a new problem
In 2004, at a Capitol Hill forum, Rep. Christopher Smith, (R-NJ), noted that "women and girls are being forced into prostitution for a clientele consisting largely of military services members, government contractors and international peacekeepers."
In his book, "The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade," Canadian journalist Victor Malarek's writes extensively about U.S. contractors for DynCorp in Bosnia openly buying what they call "prostitutes," who were, in fact, sex slaves. He writes of one man who "had this (15-year old) girl who was just a child. … You could see in her face — she was dying."
Girls were kidnapped from Eastern Europe by the Bosnian mafia, according to Malarek, specifically to be sold to the American contractors to use for sex. The author writes how one American bragged that his girl wasn't a day over 12.
Trafficking would not work without the "johns" paying up to use some kidnapped and abused girl or woman for a few hours of pleasure.
According to the U.S. State Department, in Colombia, "The forced prostitution of women and children from rural areas in urban areas remains a … problem." The State Department notes, "Colombia also is a destination for foreign child sex tourists, particularly coastal cities such as Cartagena." Indeed, for this reason Colombia is known as the "Thailand of Latin America."
Representatives of the U.S. government should be setting the standard for the world, not feeding the problem of sex trafficking. The chances that the women or girls the Secret Service agents procured for their pleasure were there by free will is very low. Most likely, they were sex slaves.
The club where the agents went to buy the women has been described as a dingy, windowless brick building. Sex trafficking survivors would tell you that what goes on in such dingy windowless buildings is nothing less than torture.
We have a global epidemic of sex trafficking, and President Obama and members of Congress should take this opportunity to express the outrage that should be the natural reaction to slavery.
Kirsten Powers is a Fox News political analyst and columnist for The Daily Beast. She is also a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors. This opinion piece originally appeared on USA Today's website.