Carolyn Moynihan

The culture behind the Cartagena scandal

Carolyn Moynihan
By Carolyn Moynihan
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May 7, 2012 (Mercatornet.com) - President Obama has called them “knuckleheads”. A CNN columnist says the actions of a dozen Secret Service agents in Colombia amounted to “stupidity”. United States Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the episode, also involving military personnel, was a “huge disappointment”. The official message seems to be that consorting with prostitutes in Colombia while on an official mission is dumb, embarrassing, but not really bad.

To be sure, the moral character of the men’s behaviour depends on what standard of conduct is being applied, and when you look at this incident in context, it does seem hypocritical to be particularly scandalised by it, or even surprised.

From the beginning three weeks ago, commentaries on the affair have raised the question of “culture” in the service which is responsible for the safety of the US president. Ms Napolitano said a review of Secret Service records showed no similar episodes of misconduct that might have warned of problems brewing at the agency, but journalists have dug up evidence that trouble was brewing all the same.

The Washington Post cites a 2002 US News & World Report investigation which found an agency “rife with problems”, including “alcohol abuse, criminal offences and extramarital affairs between agents and White House employees. Male officers had viewed pornography on White House satellite channels… Supervisors in two field offices had authorised professional strippers at office parties.” (Two of the agents who misbehaved in Cartagena also were supervisors.) Former Post reporter Ronald Kessler wrote a book about the agency, In the President’s Secret Service (2009), which indicated a lax culture and poor leadership. It was Kessler who gave the Post its scoop about the recent incident. New reports allege a similar episode in El Salvador prior to the President’s visit their last year, and expose an incident involving marines and a prostitute in Brazil.

All this points to a view of sex as a recreational right—particularly in places such as Cartagena where prostitution is legal—regardless of any security risks or the effect of marital infidelity on families back home. The majority of agents are said to be married men, and the Post has characterised the attitude behind the current scandal as “wheels up, rings off”, despite the fact that an extra-marital affair jeopardises an agent’s security clearance. Not surprisingly, the divorce rate among agents is said to be high. Where did this culture, if that’s what it is, come from?

As others have pointed out, there is a long history linking war, armies abroad and the condoning of prostitution. It is only quite recently that prostitution itself, and the related issue of adultery, have been specifically addressed in military law and regulation. In 2006 the State Department banned engaging with prostitutes for all Foreign Service personnel and contractors, even where prostitution is legal, and penalties include up to a year in jail. Rules at the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Secret Service, are more vague. Employees are prohibited from engaging in any “criminal, infamous, dishonest, immoral, or notoriously disgraceful conduct, or other conduct prejudicial to the government,” an official told the Washington Post.

Needless to say the new rules for the military were not universally popular. When they were floated in 2004, reports the Christian Science Monitor, “many US troops reacted bitterly, calling such sanctions ‘harsh’” and a sergeant stationed in Germany, where prostitution is legal, complained that, “Next they’re going to be telling us we can’t drink, or only on the weekends.”

Indeed, given the signs that casual sex was (and is) regarded as an entitlement in these sectors and no big deal, and given that Western countries such as Germany were increasingly legalising prostitution and treating it as regular “work”, there might not have been any new rules, except for one important development: the growth of human trafficking and the part that prostitution plays in this modern form of slavery.

A United Nations protocol designed to control and stamp out trafficking came into force at the end of 2003 and was ratified by the US along with—by 2010—116 other countries. The State Department strictures of 2006 were part of the Bush administration’s effort to give effect to this commitment. The moral issues of casual and adulterous sex, whether with foreigners or other state employees, do not appear to have played any part in it.

Nor do they seem to feature in criticism of the posse of Secret Service agents and their military counterparts who disgraced themselves in Cartagena. (No-one, by the way, seems to have taken the security threat very seriously.) Columnist Kirsten Powers takes them to task for fuelling sex trafficking, indirectly at least, not for cheating on their wives. She quotes the US State Department which says that forced prostitution of women and children from rural areas in urban areas remains a problem in Colombia, which is “also a destination for foreign child sex tourists, particularly coastal cities such as Cartagena”—the reason why Colombia is known as the “Thailand of Latin America”. Says Ms Powers:

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.

Most likely she is correct. It is hard to believe that there is much if any freedom in the sex industry, anywhere, but where there is poverty and social dislocation, as in developing countries like Colombia, so much the less. And Kirsten Powers is certainly right to say that Americans abroad should be setting a high standard—of respect for women, protection of children—for the world. Sex trafficking is a hateful crime and we must do all in our power to stop it.

But let’s not forget that the war on trafficking starts at home. A couple of years ago Hillary Clinton observed that drug trafficking from Mexico would not be stopped by measures at the border as long as there was an appetite for drugs in the United States. It’s the same with sex. If servicemen work in institutions that wink at the appetite for random sex, those institutions exist in a wider culture where practically any sexual activity that is not forced is permitted—and in this thicket forced sex also finds shelter in which to grow.

Just one example: Nicholas Kristof wrote in the New York Times last month that America’s leading website for prostitution ads, Backpage.com, has been partly financed (by a 16 per cent stake in the owner, Village Voice Media) for more than six years by none other than Goldman Sachs. The leading financial firm, which had a representative on the board of Village Voice Media for four years, cannot have been unaware that the site is notorious for ties to sex trafficking.

While it is good to see the moral fervour going into the war on sex trafficking, one cannot help feeling that it is doomed to failure. If coercion is to be the only criterion for illegitimate and destructive sex, a huge source of sexual mayhem and human misery will go unchecked. Use of pornography, hooking up, marital infidelity—these are symptoms of unruly appetites that lead to nights of debauchery in foreign cities and the destruction of families at home. Until the public voices of conscience start dealing with these broad cultural trends, Cartagena-type scandals will continue to embarrass and distract Western governments. Or worse.

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet, where this article first appeared. It is reprinted under a Creative Commons License.

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PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received millions in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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