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June 9, 2006

Report: U.S. taxpayers funding human trafficking the Middle East?

I highly recommend this article from the Chicago Tribune (via San Jose's Mercury News). I believe I have an older related article saved somewhere that I will try to look for and post if time permits.

U.S. taxpayers financed human trafficking, report says
[...] Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice unveiled this year's report by telling reporters that the United States and its allies "will stop at nothing to end the debasement of our fellow men and women."

Yet this year's report includes a special section on reforms the Defense Department instituted after an investigation prompted by "Pipeline to Peril," a series published by the Chicago Tribune in October that detailed human trafficking into Iraq for privatized U.S. military support operations.

Human brokers and subcontractors from Asia to the Middle East have worked in concert to import thousands of laborers into Iraq from impoverished countries, often employing fraud or coercion along the way, seizing workers' passports and charging recruitment "fees" that make it difficult for workers to escape employment in the war zone.

U.S. military leaders in Iraq have acknowledged confirming widespread abuses against such workers, who are brought to Iraq to do menial labor on U.S. bases for contractors and subcontractors. Those businesses ultimately receive their checks from the U.S. government. The abuses corroborated by military investigators included violations of U.S. human-trafficking laws.

In a section of the 2006 report titled "Department of Defense Responds to Labor Trafficking in Iraq," the State Department notes that Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, ordered sweeping changes in April for privatized military support operations.

The report also says the Defense Department "has responded swiftly with a number of measures to closely monitor the hiring and employment of foreign laborers."

John Miller, who heads the State Department's trafficking office and is responsible for the annual report, said it was the first time in the report's six-year history that it contained allegations that U.S. taxpayers had financed such abuses.

In an interview, Miller also suggested the Defense Department moved too slowly, saying, "All of this should have happened faster, ideally." But he praised the measures and pledged to press the State Department itself to adopt reforms similar to those instituted by the military.
It is important to note the DOD, spearheaded (I believe, as the article stated) by General Casey, DID in fact proceed to address these issues promptly.

You can read a little more about the report by clicking here, and scrolling down a little more than halfway until you find the heading, "DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (DOD) RESPONDS TO LABOR TRAFFICKING IN IRAQ".

There is more, read on...

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