As promised, Mallard Fillmore has broken last year's story of U.N. Peacekeepers trading sex for food. It's nice to see that cartoonist Bruce Tinsley is concerned about the sexual abuse of children in war zones, and got around to mentioning it right after he blew the lid off the plight of high school kids in Denver who aren't allowed to wear camouflage pants to school.
But why the big build-up and the sudden sense of urgency? Perhaps because the Washington Times, which Bruce cites, published an op-ed on May 10 about a May 8, 2006 report by Save the Children entitled,From Camp to Community: Liberia study on exploitation of children. Or perhaps because Tinsley finally realized that a daily comic strip is an inappropriate place for humor, given that he has a talent for drawing big noses and buck teeth, but not for writing jokes.
No, it was probably the report on conditions in Liberia that inspired him, even though Bruce doesn't mention Liberia (he does mention Africa). Let's take a look at some of Save the Children's findings:
Reference was consistently made to men with money or status being involved in this exploitation. Camp officials, humanitarian workers, businessmen, peacekeepers, government employees and even teachers were frequently cited.
Most people cited lack of economic and livelihood opportunities, as well as chronic poverty, as underlying causes for the ongoing exploitation of children. Parents reported feeling powerless to stop children who were having sex in exchange for goods and services as they did not have the economic means to provide for their children.
Perhaps Bruce is concerned about exploited children in areas of conflict, but not really worked up about Liberia per se because peacekeepers are only one part of the problem; so it’s mostly just another case of shiftless poor people whoring themselves out. Sure, there was a civil war, blah, blah, blah, but there's gold (and conflict diamonds) in them there hills, and if these kids had the gumption of a Pat Robertson , they'd stop bending over for a bowl of rice and start investing their cable TV earnings in the Liberian mining industry. Actually, I'm surprised Bruce didn't pump Pat for insight, since the evangelical entrepreneur is well-informed about conditions on the ground. Robertson even went on record in 2003, offering his sober counsel that the U.N. war crimes indictment against Liberian President Charles Taylor "is nonsense and should be quashed." He went on to criticize President Bush, thundering, "How dare the president of the United States say to the duly elected president of another country, ‘You’ve got to step down.'"
One might think, "Hey, what business is it of Pat Robertson's whether the President of Liberia is tried for war crimes?" Well:
According to a June 2, 1999 article in The Virginian-Pilot, Taylor had extensive business dealings with televangelist Pat Robertson. According to the article, Taylor gave Robertson (who also had business dealings with Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire) the rights to mine for diamonds in Liberia’s mineral-rich countryside. According to two airplane pilots who reported this incident to the state of Virginia for investigation in 1994, Robertson used his Operation Blessing planes to haul diamond-mining equipment to Robertson’s mines in Liberia, despite the fact that Robertson was telling his 700 Club viewers that the planes were sending relief supplies to the victims of the genocide in Rwanda. The subsequent investigation by the state of Virginia concluded that Robertson diverted his ministry’s donations to the Liberian diamond-mining operation, but Attorney General of Virginia Mark Earley blocked any potential prosecution against Robertson.
That was awfully nice of Mr. Earley. I wonder if those two guys know each other. I bet they'd really hit it off:
Yet when the office called for legal action against Robertson in 1999, Virginia Attorney General Mark Earley, a Republican, intervened with his own report, agreeing that Robertson had made deceptive appeals but overruling the recommendation for his prosecution. Two years earlier, while Virginia’s investigation was gathering steam, Robertson donated $35,000 to Earley’s campaign–Earley’s largest contribution.
(Earley is now president of Prison Fellowship Ministries, an evangelical social-work organization founded by born-again, former Nixon dirty-trickster Charles Colson. PFM has accepted White House faith-based-initiative money and is currently engaged in hurricane relief efforts in Louisiana. Earley remains a close ally of Robertson.)
The most interesting thing about this story isn't the apparent bribery; it's that Earley became president of Prison Fellowship Ministriesbefore he was indicted for bribery. In the days prior to those free-flowing faith-based-initiative funds, that was known as putting the cart before the horse.
But critics of the UN are correct. It's a vast bureaucracy that cries out for reform, if only because its mission is so vital, and the U.S. has sufficient leverage to successfully promote improved transparency and oversight. Too bad the Administration is committed to destroying the General Assembly in order to save it.
And perhaps there’s another reason that Bruce has discovered this issue after a year. The neo cons’ biological warfare clock is ticking, and the closer we get to a confrontation with Iran, the more important it becomes to discredit the United Nations. Because if a legitimate international forum still exists by the time we're loading up the bunkerbusters, a lot of people are going to expect us to show up there and state our case. And I don't think a revival of Colin Powell's UN intelligence briefing is going to make quite the same splash, if only because Condi gets very quavery-voiced when she lies. And while I can handle yodeling in small doses, after an hour-long presentation of charts and sketches proving that Iran has produced nuclear armed missiles that can be launched within 45 minutes, she'd sound like Slim Whitman.
Posted by scott on Tuesday, June 6th, 2006 at 3:07 pm.