- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 2, 2003

Helping Russia clamp down on human trafficking

It is tiresome having to respond to each new outburst by Donna Hughes, women's studies professor at the University of Rhode Island, concerning the fight against human trafficking in Russia ("Russian prostitution imbroglio," Letters, Feb. 14). Nevertheless, I cannot risk having my silence misconstrued as assent.
Not content with the lies and distortions in her comments on National Review Online (NRO), Miss Hughes now tries new versions of the same slander. In her NRO article, she accused the entire State Department of being part of a "pro-prostitution mafia." Having been called on that ridiculous charge, she now claims to have exposed a "pro-prostitution cabal" within the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Really? If Miss Hughes believed this serious charge, she could have contacted me directly, named the guilty parties, specified their wrongdoings and presented her evidence. That she has not done so speaks volumes for her credibility.
She claims that my staff tried to foist weak anti-trafficking legislation on the Russian parliament (Duma) that would have opened the door to legalized prostitution, and that a State Department intervention quelled this effort to legalize prostitution and turned it around. Let me be unequivocal about this: There was no such effort to legalize prostitution by either the working group or any member of my staff, no weak legislation, no intervention and no turnaround.
In her NRO article, Miss Hughes asserted that Duma Deputy Yelena Mizulina supported legalizing prostitution in Russia. Confronted, she backed off. Now she has shifted from libel to innuendo, making vague references in her letter to a "Duma deputy" from a party that supports legalized prostitution. In fact, Miss Mizulina is the main driving force behind legislation that would criminalize human trafficking in Russia, and is on record as strongly opposing the legalization of prostitution.
Here are the facts. Each year, thousands of Russians are trafficked, many for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Many of them are taken to the United States. A Duma working group led by Miss Mizulina and supported by nongovernmental organizations and international experts has drafted and is working to pass anti-trafficking legislation. Our embassy supports this effort with technical assistance and expert advice. And we have a lot of work ahead of us, because fighting such trafficking in Russia is a serious, complex and painstaking job.
In light of the facts, I hope Miss Hughes will stop attacking us. Stopping human trafficking is vitally important to the future well-being of Russian democracy, and slandering people of good will in order to create a public furor is not the way to achieve our common goal.

ALEXANDER VERSHBOW
U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation
Moscow

Shame on taunting teachers

It is worrisome to learn that some Maine public school teachers are allowing their personal views on war with Iraq to become a source of emotional distress for children who are military dependents ("When Maine sends Guard to war, anti-war teachers taunt their children," Page 1, Thursday). Military families already have enough to worry about without having to suffer the personal prejudices of those who oppose Bush administration policies.
Not everyone who serves in the military supports every policy handed down by Washington. Trust me on that, or just ask some of the commanders who served under President Clinton. And, generally, military families are the last ones to want war as a solution to international problems. But the job requires that one take a sworn oath to follow orders and support the Constitution.
Just as military personnel are federal employees, teachers are public servants. They have enough to do just educating children without turning the classroom into an anti-war or anti-military or anti-administration forum. Logically, one would think they have an ethical obligation to support parents and taxpayers serving in any uniform, regardless of whether they agree with a specific mission.
Should war be discussed in the classroom? Certainly. But teachers should be impartial moderators of these discussions. Depending on the age of the students, there are acceptable ways to make sure they understand the "issues" of public policy without undermining the purposes of the military or making them feel uncomfortable.
Among the lessons learned from Vietnam is the importance of supporting our military whether one agrees with their orders or not. Subjecting them or their children to ridicule or disdain is unacceptable.

JOHN WEEKLEY
Dallas



As a proud Navy mom, the article about teachers in Maine showing insensitivity to the children of National Guard members enrages me to a boiling point. Do these people not realize they are biting the hand that feeds them, in that they are persecuting the children of the very people who fight for their right to make such boneheaded and inappropriate statements? Anti-war protesters certainly have a valid argument, but the military is only doing the job it is instructed to do.
I was always taught to "sweep your own porch first." So I think that, unless a teacher has a 100 percent passing rate among his students, a teacher cannot criticize the way someone else does his job especially if that someone defends your right to have a job in the first place.
I feel like I'm just rambling, but I am so outraged by that article that I don't know what to rant about first.

DEBRA TAYLOR
Pasadena, Texas

'Iron Lady' gets soft sentence

The credibility of international humanitarian law suffered a dramatic blow when a U.N. criminal court in The Hague sentenced former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic to 11 years of imprisonment for committing crimes against humanity (" 'Iron Lady' gets 11 years for war crimes," World, Friday).
Plavsic subjected civilians to summary executions, torture, rape, deportation and displacement and, in scenes reminiscent of the Holocaust, mass internment. Yet, the criminal court, for whatever reason, viewed the rendered sentence suitable. Mercy was served, not justice. Her admission of guilt and apology to "all the innocent victims of the Bosnian war" does little to justify the murder of hundreds of thousands under her leadership and the deportation of millions more who were forced to wander the world as refugees. She literally "got away with murder," and humanity has been weakened as a result.
Equally disturbing, however, is the question of where the war crimes tribunal in The Hague and the course of justice is headed, or not headed, now that Plavsic has been convicted. The tribunal was established to hold accountable and prosecute those responsible for egregious violations of international humanitarian law, and, in its first high-profile case, has failed. The court's credibility has been tarnished, and the international tribunal must now strive to right its wrong and serve the justice it failed to provide in the Plavsic case.
Today, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic continues to make a mockery of his ongoing trial, while other indicted war criminals such as Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic continue to elude the custody of the court. These are men who, along with Plavsic, orchestrated one of the most horrific humanitarian catastrophes since World War II, feeding their expansionist appetites with the suffering of millions. They are among the most villainous figures in recent history, and the international court's ability to demolish their justifications now falls to uncertainty. The criminal court must set a precedent that future crimes will not be tolerated. It must seize the opportunities it is presented with and set unyielding examples.
There exists the possibility that Plavsic may walk free after 11 years. Is this justice? The same cannot be allowed for Mr. Milosevic, or for Mr. Karadzic or Mr. Mladic when and if they are captured. Otherwise, the court, and the international community that supports it, will have doomed humanitarian law.

MICHAEL MISETIC
Chicago

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