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In a July 16 speech in Tampa, George W. Bush leveled his human rights gun–mouth–at Cuba for promoting sex tourism. "The regime in Havana, already one of the worst violators of human rights in the world, is adding to its crimes. The dictator welcomes sex tourism," Bush said at the National Training Conference on Combating Human Trafficking forced labor, sex and military service.
Associated Press reporter Scott Lindlaw (July 16) appropriately placed Bush’s remark in the "pandering for votes" column. "By combining the human-trafficking issue with his hard-line rhetoric against Castro, Bush hopes to bolster his standing with Cuban-Americans in the state that decided the 2000 election. Friday’s trip was Bush’s 23rd, as president to Florida, and recent polls show the race tied."
The once boozing-drug taking but now fastidiously moral Bush told the Tampa audience that "We have taken action to stop American tourists from participating in the sexual abuse of children in Cuba or anywhere else in the world…But we cannot put them out of business until and unless we deal with the problem of demand. And so that’s why we are going after the unscrupulous adults who prey on the young and the innocent."
I shook my head in disbelief. If Bush is serious police will make thousands of arrests at both the Republican and Democratic Conventions. In 2000, police estimated that several thousand prostitutes were on hand to service delegates of both parties at their conventions. Police did not check IDs to determine whether they were 18, but some looked decidedly underage to me.
I imagine that Fidel will have a guffaw over the idea that he or any other Cuban in his right mind welcomes sex tourism. The people who made the revolution in the late 1950s remember well types like Bush — before his Christian conversion, of course. John F. Kennedy, in his own pre-presidential playboy days, routinely used the US Ambassador’s mansion in Havana to engage in his encounters with uninhibited professional Cuban women. The Massachusetts Senator epitomized the beneficiary side of sex tourism: wealthy men from countries like the United States take advantage of young women or men (often underage) because they can afford to pay them.
Kennedy, like the current President, was an Ivy Leaguer. Both Harvard and Yale were founded as divinity schools. But over time as our recent Ivy League presidential graduates (Kennedy, Clinton and both Bushes) demonstrate, the divine has more than mixed with the earthly.
The current president may have his feet on the golf course, but his brain seems unable to translate into words a critical sensibility, that characteristic that allows a person to apply his own standards beyond their immediate target of political convenience. Bush chastised Castro for having promoted Cuba’s hookers, when he described them as: "the cleanest and most educated prostitutes in the world," as if somehow Castro intended to lure respectable Americans to Cuba and away from Las Vegas.
Bush said Castro has turned Cuba into a major destination for sex tourism, which is "a vital source of hard currency to keep his corrupt government afloat." Will Bush dare to address the issue of foreign and domestic sex tourism to Vegas and other Nevada gambling and sex spots? Indeed, the notorious Mustang Ranch, i.e. whorehouse, has become world famous and advertises itself as such at home and abroad.
Before the revolution in Cuba, Meyer Lansky occupied a suite at Havana’s Hotel Nacional, from whence he ran gambling and other criminal enterprises linked with tourism and sex. Indeed, Havana and Las Vegas had become twin cash cows for the Mafia
Now, Nevada maintains the same attitude toward sex and gambling that Cuba used to have before the revolution. Indeed, Bush took Castro’s quote out of context, an attempt in 1992 to explain to Parliament that prostitution, outlawed several years after the revolutionaries took power, had reappeared in force as a result of the economic downswing in the post Soviet era. Castro was trying to make light of a serious issue; Bush issued a serious accusation while being light on documentation.
Indeed, as visitors to Cuba in the early and mid 1990s can ascertain, women of the night became ubiquitous in the tourist areas. Indeed, around the hotel areas of Havana one might have counted almost 20% of the number of such professionals as one would find in similar or smaller areas in Las Vegas.
In Vegas, young Mexican men on the busy streets hand out flyers advertising with explicit photos the many possibilities for kinky fun before you lose your money in the casinos. But some of the casino and lap dance club owners belong not only to the Republican Party, but to the high donors section of that elite configuration. So, their moral turpitude does not receive the scolding from Bush’s bully pulpit that the chief executive uses to taunt Castro. Nor is Bush likely to punish the Vegas sin sellers for perpetuating their vices.
Could you imagine opening your morning paper and seeing the headlines: "Bush cuts off all federal aid to Vegas." "All commercial flights banned from Vegas Airports." The Post Office would automatically inspect all mail for checks sent by family members to needier kinfolk in Nevada’s sin city.
The association of pimps, motel, hotel and casino owners would hardly tolerate such actions after all the money they contributed to Bush’s campaign!
Bush tried to give context for his sex tourism charges by swearing that "My administration is working toward a comprehensive solution to this problem: the rapid, peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba." What he means is that he can pander for votes and hope that no one in his audience thinks about how little his Justice Department has done to stop sexual commerce in the United States–including with kids.
Indeed, the very report Bush cited in his anti-Castro fusillade (Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies’ report from its legal human rights focused Protection Project) stated that traffickers bring up to 17,500 people into the United States every year, to make profits for performing sexual acts as part of their servitude. Some are called domestic workers. In other words, the United States suffers far more from sex- trafficking than Cuba.
The day after Bush made headlines by linking Castro and sex tourism, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Bush’s appointed Prime Minister in Iraq summarily executed six suspected insurgents in a Baghdad police station. Paul McGeough wrote that Iyad Allawi, just before he took his Prime Minister post, dispatched the alleged "terrorists" by shooting them in the head while they were blindfolded and handcuffed. About a dozen Iraqi policemen and four Americans from Allawi’s personal security team "watched in stunned silence." Allawi’s office denied the allegations.
The breaking story from Iraq should help people understand Bush’s latest vituperations toward the intellectually superior Castro. Sex charges divert the public from the overwhelming human rights issue of our time: Iraq.
Bush knows that the media will distract the citizens, whether he’s stumping on illicit sex in Cuba, or the news anchors are "interrupting this program" for important breaking news on Laci Peterson’s murder trial, the boy in Michael’s bed or the woman in Kobe’s hotel room. Public focus should remain on Bush having launched an aggressive war; death and torture logically ensued.
Bush’s campaign strategy seeks to use sex in Cuba or former Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger’s mishandling of classified documents–he supposedly walked out of the National Archives with papers he shouldn’t have taken–to misdirect public attention from the all encompassing issues of war and peace.
Castro might respond to Bush’s charges of promoting sex tourism by imitating Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent Senate behavior and telling Bush to go f… himself. Indeed, Fidel could tell Bush to take his sex trafficking charges and stuff them up his you know what. Or, try to sell that "sex tourism sermon" to Vegas!
SAUL LANDAU is the Director of Digital Media and International Outreach Programs for the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences. His new book is The Business of America.
Landau will be presenting and discussing his new film: Syria: Between Iraq and a Hard Place on Sunday August 1 at 7PM at the 5th Avenue Cinema in Portland, Oregon. Click here for more details.