Slavery: Reality vs Symbols

The Confederate battle flag has received a lot of attention recently as a symbol of slavery that cannot be tolerated. Politicians of both parties are eager to stuff the offending piece of cloth down the memory hole.

What we are witnessing is the triumph of image over substance once again.

While elected officials pose as Great Emancipators for purging the Confederate battle flag from TV reruns, slavery thrives in the real world - and these same officials are actually encouraging it.

The Southeast Asian nation of Malaysia is notorious for its slave trade. It's estimated that Malaysia has 2 million migrant workers who are routinely kidnapped, held against their will, sold and enslaved on plantations and in garment and electronics factories. Women are used as sex slaves.

Just two months ago, police found mass graves inside Malaysia containing 139 migrant workers who had been trafficked or held for ransom.

The U.S. State Department's annual human rights reports ranks Malaysia as one of the worst places on earth for slavery, a so-called Tier 3 country, in the same category as Zimbabwe and North Korea.

According to the State Department, the situation in Malaysia is getting worse. It reported 89 human-trafficking investigations in the year ending March 2014 - fewer than half the number of investigations done the previous year. Convictions dropped from 21 to nine.

The US ambassador to Malaysia has publicly criticized their government for not doing more to combat human trafficking.

Malaysia poses a problem for President Obama and his corporatist allies. Fast track legislation approved by Congress to expedite the TransPacific Partnership says the U.S. cannot conclude a trade deal with slave states.

So does the president obey the law he signed by tossing Malaysia from the list of most favored nations? Does he make the rulers of Malaysia crack down on slavery? No.

Instead, President Obama plays golf with the Malaysian prime minister in Hawaii and, Reuters reports, would have his State Department rewrite the record to say Malaysia doesn't really have such a bad slavery problem after all. A bipartisan group of 160 House lawmakers have objected to a whitewash of Malaysia's slave trade.

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who pushed the ban on slave states, calls manipulation of the report "a perversion" and an "incredibly dangerous proposition as it relates to our ability to promote our efforts globally against human trafficking."

The shenanigans began in June, when the State Department was expected to release its report. But that didn't happen while Congress debated fast track. It's revealing that an interim report delivered to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in March did not include Malaysia on the list of countries that had improved.

While the president would distort an official report to suit his political goals, the country club Republicans running the GOP are so desperate to please the donor class of Wall Street and K Street they would abandon their heritage of promoting free labor over slave labor.

The stark reality is the TransPacific Partnership condones using slaves to put free Americans out of work.

While President Obama calls the removal of the Confederate flag "a meaningful step toward a better future," it's shocking the first African American president would trade in the sweat of slaves. It's just as shocking that he does so with the active connivance of the Party of Lincoln.