Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Resnick: The downside to being secretly serviced

It is always a shame to get one’s hand caught in the cookie jar. This is especially true if the hands belong to United States Secret Service agents and the jar is an awkward abuse of conduct involving prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia.

On Friday, 11 Secret Service agents were placed on leave and flown back to the United States from their post in Cartagena, where President Barack Obama was set to arrive for the Summit of the Americas conference. This year’s conference is called “Connecting the Americas: Partners for Prosperity,” and the focus is on overcoming poverty, citizen security and disasters, among other issues affecting the Western Hemisphere. But national focus was on the dismissal of the agents who allegedly were drunkenly carousing in the five-star Hotel Caribe and brought women, presumably prostitutes, back to their rooms. Hotel staff purportedly found one unfortunate agent involved in a dispute over paying the woman visiting his room. If you’re going to hire ladies for sex, at least have the decency to pay them. One would think his salary could accommodate it.

The initial question that arose after these men were sent packing back to the states was whether Obama’s security was threatened as his men were introducing themselves to the local women. However, White House officials contend that there were no security breaches.

When all is said and done, I don’t think they did anything garishly wrong, but they strengthened a belief that the United States is a paternalistic country. The simple fact that American officials thought it was permissible to have sex with local prostitutes demonstrates how this country feels entitled to everything. Some U.S. military members have been accused of inappropriate behavior as well, five of whom have been forced to stay in confinement in Colombia. So now that we know that the president is all fine and dandy, this whole fiasco amounts to a mere display of idiocy by Americans.

I get that this is a pretty big flub. But the act itself is not what is so bad about this situation. Not to condone their actions, but prostitution is legal in parts of Colombia. The problem lies in the fact that America is already perceived as entitled by many other countries and this further blemishes our reputation. Obviously if prostitutes are about, people are going to request their services. But when government agents are involved, it is a reflection of the country as a whole. It makes us look like we expect that prostitutes are an acceptable sidenote to a business trip.

Also, I’m sure this has happened before. Not one of us would know about this situation, if not for the guy who got caught mid-money dispute. It’s just another violation of tact that makes the world, or at least South America, waggle its finger admonishingly at us yet again.

It casts a scuzzy shadow on the whole summit, created to find collaborative solutions to problems that extend beyond a secret service agent’s inability to pay for a good time. When I think back to Bill Clinton’s terms, I remember good old Monica Lewinsky before thinking of his sick sax solos on late night television.

No matter the fate of these agents or the outcome of the summit itself, this weekend will forever be associated with Secret Service members looking for a good time. Seeking prostitutes with reckless abandon has implications for the country’s international identity. It reads as America thinking it is superior enough to reap the rewards of anything foreign countries have to offer.

Now the families of these men have to publicly deal with this, too. Obviously we have a right to know about our officials’ philandering, but I can’t help feeling bad for the wives of these men, who are now part of the national joke.

There’s no point browbeating some guys for seeking solicited sex, but they do bear a responsibility to represent something that is bigger than themselves. Being a foreigner in another country means you represent your homeland. The actions of these agents are a reflection of arrogance. I guess the United States deserves the right to both come into a strange land to fix its problems, and “experience” its culture. An air of paternalism will linger long after the summit is over.

Gideon Resnick is a Medill freshman. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Resnick: The downside to being secretly serviced