- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2003

A ‘horrible crime’

The U.S. ambassador to Indonesia yesterday denounced human trafficking as a “horrible crime” that is “truly a worldwide scourge.”

“Trafficking in persons is a horrible crime that uses force, fraud and other terrible means to prey on the most desperate and vulnerable members of society,” Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce said at the opening of a conference in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

“Children and women in particular fall victim and are exploited for purposes of sex and forced labor. In the 21st century, it is morally unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of women, children and men are trapped in such conditions,” he told the National Conference on Trafficking in Persons.

As many as 400,000 Indonesian women and children were victims of trafficking in 2002, according to estimates of the Indonesian Women’s Coalition for Justice and Democracy. About 20 percent of Indonesia’s 5 million immigrant workers were smuggled into the country to work as maids, on construction sites and at plantations, the State Department said.

“Prostitution was widespread and was the driving force behind the trafficking in persons,” the department said in its annual human rights report.

Indonesian women were forced into prostitution in Australia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, the report said.

Mr. Boyce noted that not even the United States is immune from human smuggling. He described the United States as a “destination country” for smugglers of women and children. Every year, 18,000 to 20,000 people “are trafficked into the United States,” he said.

“Trafficking is truly a worldwide scourge,” Mr. Boyce said.

The ambassador noted that Congress in 2000 passed the Trafficking Victims’ Protection Act to increase penalties for human smuggling. He also praised Indonesia for taking similar steps and noted that the United States has given $2 million over the past two years to support Indonesian programs to prevent trafficking, assist the victims, track smuggling activities and increase public awareness of the crimes.

“I am very pleased to confirm that our support will continue and will broaden this year to include training for national police,” Mr. Boyce said.

“We recognize that Indonesia is making significant efforts to stop trafficking. … We look forward to Indonesia’s further progress in the year to come.”

Mr. Boyce said the U.S. approach to combating trafficking is “one of partnership” with foreign governments and nongovernmental organizations.

Dead parrot at State

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher coined a new phrase in diplomacy when he denied reports that former Secretary of State James A. Baker III was going to take a leadership role in the reconstruction of Iraq.

“False. Inaccurate. Insubstantial. Neither Baker nor the secretary had ever heard about it,” he said, referring to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

Then he added, “It’s a dead parrot.”

The phrase, dropped at the daily news briefing Monday, confused the reporters.

“A dead parrot?” one asked.

“Yeah,” Mr. Boucher replied.

“It’s not a dead canary?” another reporter asked. (That was an apparent reference to the old practice of coal miners carrying caged canaries into mines to warn of lethal gases. If the canary died, it was time for the men to leave.)

The questioning quickly turned to other issues at the news briefing, and no one asked about the unusual turn of phrase.

One editor at The Washington Times suggested it might refer to reporters parroting each other in pursuit of a story.

A quick search of the Internet proved hopeless with 141,000 Web sites about dead parrots. A search for dead-parrot diplomacy actually produced 1,640 sites. There was no explanation for the dead-parrot remark, but they did include some daffy diplomatic definitions.

“Diplomacy is saying, ‘Nice doggie,’ until you find a rock.” — Dead Parrot Stories Vol. 4.

The search also produced the entire dialogue of a classic Monty Python skit. A man returns to a pet shop to complain that the parrot he just bought is dead.

“It’s not dead. It’s sleeping,” the pet shop owner insists.

They go on and on until another character insists the skit end because it is “too silly, far too silly.” Much like this Embassy Row item.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected].

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