Secret Service caper rattles the US

By Daniel J. Bauer

Nothing puts what the Rice Krispies people once called snap, crackle and pop into a news story like old-fashioned illicit sex. That of course is a major reason the U.S. Secret Service scandal at the Summit of the Americas last week in Columbia drew such a strong reaction from the media. Equally important was the close proximity of the story to the life and occasionally precarious fortunes of President Barrack Obama. Several investigations of the case, one internally by the Service itself, are still under way, and so we are some distance away yet from all the facts.

The allegations are more than merely embarrassing for the accused. The heads of some 11 Secret Service agents (or aides) and possibly up to 10 American troops must have been buried collectively in sand if these folks really did “consort” with prostitutes at a five-star hotel on Cartagena on the eve of their president’s arrival for an already uneasy meeting of world leaders. Even if in the end we find some of the accused exonerated, as one critic on the Internet put it, the aftermath of the scenario amounts to an enormous black eye to the image of the United States and its president. When I first saw the headlines, my mind flew back to the burning of the Quran in Afghanistan two months ago. The destruction of several copies of the Quran by U.S. military personnel fretting over a prison-based conspiracy thought to be outlined in the margins of the Holy Book led to deeply emotional anti-Americanism in a land where the United States already has a bad name. The burning of the holy books also triggered riots that left 29 Afghans and six Americans dead. Bedroom shenanigans on the part of Secret Service officials and American troops in a country where prostitution is both legalized and thriving may seem quite different than the careless destruction of holy scriptures. We must remember too that the Quran incident was an honest accident. Soldiers had orders to haul off stacks of paper documents to be burned, most of which had been hastily thrown together without thought about religious content or sensitivities.