Remember early last year when you thought that Bush was finally doing something right with his strong condemnation of human trafficking? His Under Secretary of State quoted the President in June 2005, as saying "No one is fit to be master, and no one deserves to be a slave" and then went on: "Because of the stain of slavery on our own history, these words have special meaning to us. And they guide our efforts against trafficking in persons."
Well never mind.
In June of 2005 the U.S. State Department did "publish it's fifth annual Trafficking in Persons Report," in which countries are categorized as to whether or not they are applying minimal standards to prevent slavery in their countries. The U.A.E.got the worst possible rating - Tier III. Ambassador John Miller, the Senior Adviser to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on human trafficking, noted that "if a country stays in Tier III, it will require sanctions."
The report read "The U.A.E. Government's efforts to provide protection and assistance to victims of trafficking were minimal....Despite the ongoing trafficking and exploitation of thousands of children as camel jockeys and women in sexual servitude, the government made insufficient efforts in 2004 to criminally prosecute and punish anyone behind" it. This report was issued by Condoleeza Rice's Department of State.
That same Department of State issued a Human Rights Report for 2004: "trafficking ....in very young boys used as camel jockeys continued to be serious problems." It reported that the "ABWTI estimates approximately 5,000 boys are still in the country as camel jockeys."
Camel jockeys of course race camels. They are young boys who were been kidnapped or sold into slavery. Some of them have been obtained as young as at 6 months, and start racing at 4 or 5 years old. By the time they are ten the boys have generally gained enough weight (despite the best efforts of their owners) and are too heavy to be a jockey. They also become a bit jaded. As the Economist put it; the "children scream loudly at the starting line, shreiks of pure terror. This is part of the plan. Their startled cries excite the camels, pushing them to top speeds. Trainers say it is impossible to find Arab children who will scream with such fright at the camels." The younger ones often cannot hold on themselves, so they are velcroed or strapped onto the animal. Injuries, and even death, are not uncommon.
Shaikh Mohammed, who will soon be handling our ports, says that the camel "is part of [his] heritage, part of the Arab environment." He personally owns about 5,000 camels - 2,000 are for racing, and 3,000 for breeding. His brother, Shaikh Hamdan owns about 2,000. In trying to describe the Shaikh, Forbes asked it's readers to "think of Dubai as a corporation and Mohammed its chief executive - without a board of directors getting in his way."
His Highness, the Shaikh, has repeatedly said that the use of young slave boys as jockeys was being stopped, but the U.S. State Department disagrees. (Photos from 2004, here)
So if His Highness, the President, is able to force the sale through, you can sleep well knowing that the profits made in our ports will be used to buy more camels, and to buy the young boys who will ride them.
** This post has been slightly revised, mostly to clear up some links.