Wednesday, December 30, 2015

How Now, Bellicose Mouse?

"With this military escalation, the Russians have put themselves back at the center of the Syrian equation and at the forefront of the diplomatic stage."
"But on the ground, returns on their military investment have proven limited and are unlikely to improve."
Noah Bonsey, Syria analyst, International Crisis Group

"What matters is ground power, and that is where we have not seen anything terribly significant in the regime-Russian combination so far."
Frederic C. Hof, (former) U.S. State Department official for Syria
(Photo: Getty)
Photo: Getty

Moscow surely has by now recognized that it is facing a perfect storm of threatening potential. Its air campaign in Syria is a costly venture, including the two military installations, the deep-sea port and the military air depot it has committed to. Its bombing missions have not yet resulted in anything remotely positive in the sense of doing harm to the jihadists of the Islamic State. On the other hand, Russia hasn't been focusing on the Islamic State, and it has done harm to the U.S.- and Saudi-backed rebels.

Despite giving ISIL a fairly free pass, it has paid a steep price for whatever bombing raids it has carried out hitting their targets. The loss of a planeload of Russians returning to St.Petersburg from their holidays in the Egyptian Sinai was certainly retribution for Mr. Putin's Syria foray. Relations with Turkey have been perhaps irreparably disrupted, and that too has its price, since the two countries' trade with one another is significant. Moscow's gas diversion pipeline plans will have to be revised.

The already steep humanitarian crisis in Syria has been further impacted with more refugees resulting from Russian air raids targeting rebel groups installed in areas heavily peopled by Syrian civilians. And while the air strikes are continuing, and there is scant little to show in the way of progress, an attempt to withdraw at this point would seem precipitate and would endanger Russia's new position of authority in the Middle East, while prolonging it remains a costly venture.

Oil revenues have steeply declined, and the Russian economy is in dire straits, helped along by the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the E.U. and Canada relating to Russia's earlier foray into Ukraine and its annexing of the Crimean Peninsula. The Russian Federation's lack of friends in eastern Europe concerned over its long-range plans to once again inhale the near abroad and its air challenges over skies in the Scandinavian countries and elsewhere have placed it in the international community's bad book.

Aside from killing hundreds of Syrian citizens as Russian planes bomb "terrorists", Russia is losing its own military members at a rate certain to aggravate Russian mothers of Russian military men who have a penchant for agitation. Russian pilots bombing strategic rebel positions may not sit particularly well with Russian-speaking jihadis who could be persuaded to return home to wreak havoc there in revenge.

Russia has, once again, just like the United States with its various Middle East interventions, placed itself in an untenable position. This is when the best-laid plans of mice and men do often go awry. Vladimir Putin is the mouse that roared once too often and now looks for an escape route.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hungarian Refugee Stance Validated Within EU

"There is a shift to the extreme right because the left, or what is left of the left, and the moderate center right were offering answers that were wrong."
Istvan Gyarmati, (retired) Hungarian ambassador

"Whenever Hungary made an argument, the response was always: 'They are stupid Hungarians. They are xenophobes and Nazis'. Suddenly it turns out that what we said was true."
"The naivete of Europe is really quite stunning."
Zoltan Kovacs, Hungarian government spokesman

"I am surprised and shocked. We will discuss this decision with our Hungarian colleagues.
"Building walls is not the solution. Serbia can't be responsible for the situation created by the migrants, we are just a transit country. Is Serbia responsible for the crisis in Syria?" 
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, June 2015

"It is more and more obvious that what we kept on saying for the last six months turned out to be right. This is acknowledged more and more: Some say it openly, some say it behind closed doors and some don’t say it but act accordingly."
Peter Szijjarto, Hungary’s foreign minister, December 2015
Migrants in Roszke, Hungary, in September. In often harsh terms, Mr. Orban has pushed Europe to seal its outer borders. Credit Marko Djurica/Reuters
Suddenly the unthinkable, that of turning back refugees, closing borders, spurning the opportunity to rescue the oppressed and war-weary is no longer denied throughout Europe. The unstoppable flood of refugees and migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Eritrea and all points of the African-Middle East compass, including the Palestinians, has finally convinced Europe that it cannot be all things to all seekers.

The obvious requirement to safeguard European heritage, culture, values with the inundation of opposing values supported by a religion that is indeed all things to all its faithful, rejecting national mores, laws and politics of non-Muslim countries has sparked the debate that Hungary's Viktor Orban rudely initiated. At the conclusion of the EU summit meeting in Brussels, Mr. Orban stated: "it has taken us a long time" yet finally "an absolute consensus among the prime ministers on the issue of protection and control of the external borders" has arisen.

"Actually", he remarked jauntily, "it was Hungary’s point of view since the beginning that we should start here." European leaders originally repelled by what they interpreted as hate-mongering on Mr. Orban's positions, now find common consensus with him on many of the points he had raised in the swirling debate around migrants and asylum seekers. The fact that at least one and perhaps more terrorists had infiltrated Europe among asylum seekers and were involved in the Paris attacks that killed 130 was part of the debate.

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, spoke of German Chancellor Merkel's open-armed welcome of migrants as "dangerous", and in the end endorsed the view that Mr. Orban promoted which was that most seeking haven posing as refugees were economic migrants looking for employment where their countries of origin had nothing to offer them for their aspiring futures. Other European Union leaders have begun to share points that Mr. Orban made when he was reviled for his attitude toward refugees.

They don't share Mr. Orban's characterization of a Muslim invasion, nor his view that the invasion represented a plot by George Soros to cause EU destabilization but Hungary is by no means the only European country erecting a border fence to protect itself from an invasion of migrants seeking shares in Europe's future. Hungary may have distinguished itself by being the first country to erect a border but it is now by no means the only one, and even open-armed Sweden is considering how it will reform its open borders.

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Revanchist Russia? NATO? Will the Most Qualified Candidate Step Forward...

Russian ICBMs
Russian RS-24 Yars/SS-27 Mod 2 solid-propellant intercontinental ballistic missiles roll through Red Square in Moscow during the World War II Victory Day Parade, May 9, 2015. Photo: Reuters
"Before Ukraine, the question on Montenegro [joining NATO] was, 'What's the point? It's so small'."
"The question isn't whether NATO is relevant, but what is NATO relevant for? [With the] re-emergence of the Russian threat, Ukraine, concerns in Central Europe and the Balkans, we need NATO."
"But how relevant is NATO for the threats from the south? That's the big subject now."
Derek Chollet, former U.S. assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs

"There has been a tug of war between eastern and southern members about priorities, but now the east sees a Russian threat in the south, too, while the south sees a new conventional threat, as in the east."
"Now we see a decision to boost air defenses off Turkey and put guided missile destroyers in the Black Sea and have more naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean -- it's a similar program of reassurance as the one for the east."
Rem Korteweg, Center for European Reform, London
U.S., NATO Warships Show Support As Russia-Turkey Naval Tension Rises
The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Ross passes through the Bosphorus straits on December 3. (photo: U.S. Navy)
"Ever since Russia went into Crimea and eastern Ukraine, people see NATO's traditional mission of Article 5 [defence of one on the part of all] as more important again."
"It was always in the background, but people were sitting around doing contingency planning on possible threats. Now that's changed."
Senior Obama administration official

"There's a new urgency [to reassure eastern members like Poland and the Baltics] which feel under a lot of pressure."
"NATO has just woken up in time, but it has woken up."
British defense secretary Michael Fallon
Formed during the era of the Cold War post World War Two, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization might have seen its demise with the disintegration of the USSR when the world breathed a sigh of relief that tensions were relaxed and the Soviet Union no longer represented a potential threat as a Communist colossus against the democratic free world led by the United States. And then, along came Vladimir V. Putin and everything changed.

Well, not quite, there were a few other little matters that NATO was engaged in, the least of which was the Bosnian-Serb war and the war in Afghanistan against the Taliban; one was primarily an aerial bombing mission that spelled the end to a bloody conflict, the other was a fully engaged mission which simply prolonged the agony of Afghanistan still afflicted by the Taliban. And then came Russia's proxy entrance into Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.

In the aftermath of which came Russia's entry into the air over Syria, championing Bashar al-Assad's bloody tyranny which has created the world's largest refugee phenomenon; 7 million internally displaced and over 4 million exited Syria to flood into Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Europe. Now, when the 28-member NATO alliance meet, the discussion lingers on Ukraine and focuses on Syria.
And, of course, Turkey, a NATO member-country that has clashed with Russia.

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant looms large in the geography's complex conflicted zones. Ankara thought it wise to shoot down a Russian warplane, further antagonizing relations between Turkey/NATO and Moscow; a livid Vladimir Putin focusing on Syrian rebels rather than Islamic State which had just recently smuggled a bomb onto a Russian passenger jet leaving from Egypt's Sinai, killing all St.Petersburg-bound Russians aboard, in no mood to forgive.

The Russian President was angered enough when the United States decided NATO would deploy anti-ballistic installations in eastern Europe, Russia's near-abroad, its geographic bailiwick, in its former USSR dependent-states. Assurances by then-President Bush -- whose look deep into President Putin's eyes convinced him they could work well together  -- that the missile defence system was a reaction to any possible attacks from Iran, cut no ice.

And when Moscow could plainly see its former satellites anxiously lining up for membership with NATO, that represented one insulting assault on Russian sensibilities too many. Oil revenues were strong, and it was time to renew the country's military appurtenances, and Moscow lost no time in investing in just that, burnishing the patriotism and pride of the Russian populace who finally had a president they could applaud.

Now, the degenerating position of mistrust and antagonism between Russia and NATO has plunged to Cold War levels of delicate diplomacy. Burdened by the reality that Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan is as brutishly reactive as is Vladimir Putin, yet as a member of NATO, must be seen to be surrounded by supporters in its NATO membership. Russia's interference is Ukraine sees its mirror image in Turkey's interventions in Iraq, and its attacks against Turkey's Kurds.

This is the uncomfortable bed that Russia and NATO have made for themselves. Not bellicose, but very wary. Russia has provoked the international community by its ongoing military mischief cloaked as helpfulness in situations that had no need of further 'help' from any quarters within a wide conflicted area of mismanaged reaction to both state and non-state terrorism.

And NATO is now left to ponder between its embattled members as where best to station troops and equipment to respond if and when required to any untoward moves by an increasingly mischievously heedless autocrat convinced that he is capable of leading his nation to a space recently vacated by the sole remaining world power that decided to abdicate that throne for a more humble elevation.

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Disengaging Peace Engagements

"Rebel groups should realize they are facing a war of extermination by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's regime."
Labib Nahhas, Ahrar al-Sham 

"[The] next stage will witness the liquidation of those leaders who began the uprising [against Assad]."
Abu Hassan al-Muhajer, Ahrar al-Sham

"[The death of Allouch, who led the Army of Islam since its founding four years earlier might represent] a decapitation strike [for the group]."
"Add to that the fact that the Islam Army's dominance has created so much resentment among other factions over the years, and the situation seems very unstable."
Aron Lund, Syria expert, Syria Comment blog 
Zahran Allouch is pictured on July 21, 2015 in the Syrian town of Douma. AMER ALMOHIBANY / AFP - Getty Images
The leader of one of the most influential and powerful groups fighting Bashar al-Assad's Alawite Syrian government was killed along with a number of other rebel commanders in the wake of UN-led 'peace negotiations'. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, airstrikes against an Army of Islam meeting near a Damascus suburb killed Zahran Allouch, leader of the Army of Islam, and one of the fiercest opponents of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Russian warplanes fired ten missiles at the site where Allouch and other commanders in his group were meeting in Otaya, according to Mazen al-Shami, an opposition activist. Allouch was strongly backed by Saudi Arabia, and represented one of the most powerful rebel commanders controlling large parts of the Damascus suburbs. It was his prominence and his success against the Syrian regime that prompted his death.

Syrian President al-Assad has no wish to negotiate with rebel leaders he describes as "terrorists", although the fact is anyone who opposes him is described as a terrorist, and Moscow was pleased to oblige their Syrian client. Allouch was a former prisoner released in an amnesty agreement in March 2011. He went on to distinguish himself, founding the Army of Islam and representing a threat to ISIL.

It isn't yet known whether ISIL's Caliph Baghdadi has congratulated and expressed his appreciation to President Assad, nor conveyed his regards to Moscow.

Clearly it seems the airstrikes represented a special message to the rebel groups and their Arab world backers; the Syrian-Russian alliance means to decimate the commanding ranks of the anti-Assad rebels. Any negotiations that President Assad may be prepared to carry through will be with a much diminished rebel command. His emphasis on commanders like Alloush sharing everything in common with Islamic State as terrorists is reflected in this strike.

It seems reasonable to assume that under the circumstances the Army of Islam will no longer claim participation in the United Nations' imagined peace process. Alloush's killing has already had consequences in the southern suburbs of Damascus where an ongoing truce has been suspended. And it seems entirely feasible that the UN plan led by John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov that brought Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to agree to a discussion to end the conflict has been deliberately sidelined.

Those talks might have been as reliably sincere as assurances by Moscow that its airstrikes were primarily meant to target ISIL, even while the U.S. accuses Russia of attacking a broad range of rebel groups opposed to Assad as their main priority, with a few ISIL attacks thrown in for good measure, and mostly to avert such accusations.

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sultan Erdogan The Magnificent and Magnanimous

"The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers...."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

"Erdogan's adventurism has been quite successful so far, but it amounts to an extraordinary departure for Turkish foreign policy, and maybe even risks the destruction of the country. How on earth could this happen?"
"The background is an inferiority complex, and megalomania. For centuries, and even since the Mongols, sensible Islam has asked: 'What went wrong? Why has God forsaken us, and allowed others to reach the moon?'"
Professor Norman Stone, expert on Turkish politics
"We have the right to respond and we do not exclude any type of response until the Turks have learned their lesson ... Do they have a dream of restoring Ottoman greatness?"
"This is a great delusion and they will pay dearly for Turkish arrogance."
Badr Brigade spokesman Karim al-Nur
Supporters of Iraqi Shiite militias burned Turkish flags in Baghdad this month, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to withdraw Turkey's troops from northern Iraq.
It might have appeared logical to sane heads at one time in recent history to admit Turkey to NATO, the only Muslim country so distinguished, but the last several decades have definitely defined an increasingly Islamist Turkey, one whose president and whose Islamist party has wrenched Turkey away from its Western lean -- as unfit to be in NATO, since it is obvious that the coalition's values and goals are not reflected in those valued by Turkey's Justice and Development Party.

Turkey's wish to enter the European Union has languished for decades, with the EU citing the country's human rights abuses. Most of the abuses relate to the institutionalized treatment of its Kurdish minority. Turkey's rigid enforcement of Islamist values, its refusal to negotiate with the Kurds over an autonomous territory of their own, its brutality against the Kurds, has been responsible for the rise of militant Kurdish nationalism. To that, Turkey's response has been swift and brutal and unforgivably violent.

Since 1984, predating Erdogan's political rise, the Turkish government's response to the militant arm of the Turkish Kurds, the PKK, has been predictably vicious. Since Kurds represent twenty percent of the Turkish population, they are a minority, but a notable one whose voice has been violently stilled in the past. Only recently have they been able to find a suitable elected representational voice in the Turkish parliament, one which resulted in a diminished majority for the ruling Turkish party, enraging Mr. Erdogan.

The brutal assimilation policies that were imposed on the Kurds simply served to drive them further from the Turkish mainstream. While it seemed only a few years ago that Turkey had finally decided to negotiate reasonably with the Kurds, the volatile and unstable mentality of President Erdogan violated that relative peace with a restoration of military violence Turkey imposed on its Kurds with the excuse that two Turkish police had been murdered by the PKK.

President Erdogan's instability has been amplified of late with his orders to destroy a Russian jet firing on Syrian Turkomen rebels. Turkey's violation of Iraqi territory, where it has stationed troops without permission of the government in Baghdad has exacerbated relations between the two countries. Erdogan has alienated all his neighbours; Egypt for his support of the Muslim Brotherhood, Israel for his support of the Hamas terrorists, extolling their virtues and accusing Israel of genocidal intents against Palestinians.

Journalists have been imprisoned in Turkey at a head-turning rate, while Amnesty International has accused Turkey of mistreating the Syrian refugees encamped for haven from Syrian tyrant Bashar al Assad. The government in Baghdad has given an ultimatum to Ankara to remove all its troops it has stationed in Iraq since last year; Erdogan's response was to halt its reinforcements.

Iraq's prime minister Haider al-Abidi has stated his country is preparing to turn to the UN Security Council to condemn Turkey. While Erdogan spits venom at Syria's Assad for violating the human rights of Syrian Sunnis who have protested their unequal treatment at the hands of the Shiite Alawite president, the president of Turkey has done likewise with Turkey's Kurds.

While President Erdogan accuses Russia of having invaded Turkey's airspace for 17 seconds, Turkish troops have invaded the Iraqi landmass for over a year. That Turkey is a member of NATO, inhibits NATO and NATO-member countries from criticizing too loudly and publicly the inexplicable and reckless behaviour of a government which visits punishing violence on its citizens, just as Syria does with its.

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Coersing, Subjugating Women

"And when ye ask of them anything, ask it of them from behind a hijab. This is purer for your hearts and for their hearts."
Koranic verse 33:53

"Oh, Prophet tell thy wives and thy daughters and the believer women to draw their jilbab close around them; this will be better so that they will be recognized and not harmed and God is the most forgiving, most merciful."
Koranic verse 33:59

"...And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their chastity, and do not reveal their adornment except what is already shown; and draw their khemar over their neck ..."
Koranic verse 24:31
Facebook / Islam Appreciation Week at Loyola Chicago
Facebook, Islam appreciation week at Loyola College

Hijab, according to two women journalists in the United States born Muslim, one in Egypt the other in India, refers to an "obstacle", or "wall of separation", a "curtain", "hidden", or a "wall of separation", or "hiding" and "prevented", or "denied access to God". Nowhere, they assert, does hijab denote a scarf that modest Muslim women must wear to hide their hair from the lustful gaze of men incapable of controlling their libidos.

The women cite Arabic dictionaries to explain that jilbab refers to a "long, overflowing gown" -- which at the time the verse was written referring to it, represented the era's traditional mode of dress -- instructing women to adjust the garment to cover themselves modestly. Another word referred to is khemar which wealthy women of the time wore, as a silk scarf thrown over the head to flaunt wealth.

They speak of the domination of women by the steadily growing Islamist movement which declares it imperative that Muslim women demonstrate their chaste natures by acceding gratefully to the effect of a scarf, which has no actual tradition in Islamic dress mores, but is a construct of a patriarchal society whose interest it is to control women, to ensure that they are recognized as chattel.

And they decry the move among non-Muslim women to show solidarity with Muslim women not by helping them to set aside the hijab as a symbol of male domination and female subjugation, but by aping the use of the hijab, giving it their approval, choosing not to recognize it as a form of social and religious coersion but as a symbol of female dignity.
"We reject this interpretation [that holds the hijab a pillar of Islam] that the 'hijab' is merely a symbol of modesty and dignity adopted by faithful female followers of Islam. This modern-day movement, codified by Iran, Saudi Arabia, Taliban Afghanistan and the Islamic State,  has erroneously made the Arabic word hijab synonymous with 'headscarf'. This conflation of hijab with the secular word headscarf is misleading. "Hijab' literally means 'curtain' in Arabic. It also means 'hiding', 'obstructing' and 'isolating' someone or something. It is never used in the Koran to mean headscarf."
Asra Q. Nomani and Hala Arafa

They point out that beginning in the 1980s in the wake of the Iranian Shiite revolution and the rise of Saudi Sunni Wahhabism heralding a new Islamic world of 'pure' Islam, hearking back to the time of the Prophet Mohammad, Muslim women have been bullied into believing that it is their duty as faithful daughters of Islam, to make themselves invisible.

Before the commencement of this new era of female oppression, it was rare to see a woman in Egypt, for example, wearing a head covering. Women in Arab Muslim countries have gone from wearing casual clothing similar to their Western sisters, to feeling obligated as a result of societal pressure within the new Islamism, to covering themselves for self-protection. In Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, women are clad head-to-foot in Burqas.

There are indeed Islamic scholars who decry this new reality for Muslim women, but they go unheard. The Council on American-Islamic Relations speak on occasion of their organization as "the hijab legal defence fund", placing pressure on American companies attempting to ban their employees from wearing hijabs while in the workforce.

Public School Hosts ‘Walk a Mile in Her Hijab’ Day
Photo: Daily Herald

Mosques uniformly now consider the hijab a mandatory covering should a woman wish to enter to pray. Ultra conservative Muslim websites advance the interpretation of Muslim women being required by Sharia law to wear hijabs. Muslim women are mocked if they fail to cover their hair "Islamically". A solidarity "Walk a Mile in Her Hijab" public relations bid to normalize and support hijab-wearing has become popular.

Conservative Muslim Students' Associations tend to support the wearing of the hijab, as a required and distinguishing mark of Islam. It takes a courageous woman to set aside public opinion that has been popularized in support of women hiding their identities as though there is something shameful in fully revealing their physical presence in the company of others.

"As Americans we believe in freedom of religion. But we need to clarify to those in universities, the media and discussion forums that in exploring the 'hijab', they are not exploring Islam, but rather the ideology of political Islam as practised by the mullahs, or clerics, of Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Islamic State.
"In the name of 'interfaith', these well-intentioned Americans are getting duped by the agenda of Muslims who argue that a woman's honour lies in her 'chastity' and unwittingly pushing a platform to put a hijab on every woman."
"Please do this instead: do not wear a headscarf in 'solidarity with the ideology that most silences us, equating our bodies with 'honour'. Stand with us instead with moral courage against the ideology of Islamism that demands we cover our hair."
Asra Q. Nomani, former Wall Street Journal reporter and Hala Arafa, former news editor, Arabic branch, Voice of America

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christianity in China

"When the authorities find out that someone is coming to service, they go to their neighborhood committee, summon them, and then threaten them. We had a female church member who ran a store. The police showed up one day and threatened her, trying to make her sign a declaration that she would no longer attend the Living Stone church. If she still went, they’d make it very difficult for her to do business."
"The government has sent agents into believers’ homes, sought out their parents, relatives, friends, siblings, telling them to stop their relative from going to the church. Some workplaces threatened employees with being fired; some parents were told that if they did quit the church, their children would not be denied schooling. They used whatever method they came up with. There was a 70-year-old retiree became very afraid after been threatened. So we went and told the police: You can’t bully old people any more."
Pastor Yang Hua, Living Stone Church
Police at Living StoneA police officer monitoring a gathering at Living Stone Church. Photo: China Change
"The overall environment in the past few years has been harsh. There's a tightened control over civil society in general, including churches."
Fenggang Yang, director, Center on Religion and Chinese Society, Purdue University

"The Chinese Communist Party is violently allergic to non-party organizing vehicles, whether they're non-profit, libraries or churches."
Sophie Richardson, China director, Human Rights Watch

"Religious personnel embrace the rule of the Communist Party of China [while] a very small number of people ... engaged in criminal activities under the banner of religio9us freedom have been punished according to law."
People's Daily, China
Foreign scholars, studying the situation of Christianity as it is practised in China, estimate there are 67 million to 100 million Chinese Christians. In comparison, there are 87 million Communist Party cadres. Fenggang Yang of Purdue University, estimates himself that by 2030 there will be 250 million Christians in his homeland. Mostly evangelical Protestants, with Catholics bringing up the rear.

The government itself places the number of Protestants at 23 million, and Catholics at 5.7 million. The constitution of China does protect the right to religion, but the state insists it must have control over religion. In China, therefore, it is entirely lawful to be Christian or a Tibetan Buddhist, or a Muslim, but under the imprimatur of the state.

Approval is assured as long as Christians limit themselves to "normal religious activity", and worship at state-backed churches. To proselytize is strictly forbidden. As for what signifies "normal", that is an issue that only local officials may dictate, and whatever they declare to be "normal" represents what is recognized as legal.

State-backed religious groups in China find it useful to act in concert with the state. It is far less troublesome and those are the religious groups that simply do not find themselves under government suspicion; they are tractable and obedient to the dictates of the state. Foreign missionaries historically had their most notable success in rural Guizhou province, since the 1800s.

During the Cultural Revolution, pogroms led to the destruction of many churches and the persecution of many Christians. Faith simply went underground. Since then, and with the advent of China's expansion into capitalistic enterprise and a rising economy villagers steadily moved to where the opportunities presented themselves, in towns and cities.

Living Stone
A recent church service at Living Stone, with Pastor Yang Hua preaching. Photo: China Change.

The Living Stone Church which made its first appearance in Guiyang is not a state-approved church. And it has been repressed, its members oppressed by the state, its priests detained on charges relating to "possessing state secrets", and charged with the crime of destabilizing society. Communist Party cadres on the local scene insist that to "maintain social stability", the church must be shuttered.

On December 9, the church was raided in the quiet provincial capital where it was established. Religious repression in China has increased in lock-step with the increase in the spread of religious devotion. Christianity is thriving in the officially atheist country that has continued to repress religion, but permits it, under the state's thumb.

Founded in 2009, Living Stone initially had a modest 30 members. At the present time, services draw hundreds of the faithful. The unregistered "house churches" are illegal, and at the same time, thriving. And usually the state tries to ignore their presence. Until the Living Stone Church members raised funds to rent the 24th floor of an office building in 2014.

Guiyang International Centre
Guiyang International Centre. Photo: China Change
Authorities turned a blind eye for awhile, urging the church to ensure their gatherings remained modest and focused on social, not religious events. A year of warnings resulted followed by arrests, threats, and finally an ultimatum to join a state-backed church or prepare to be shut down. State officials and security personnel entered the property on December 9, taking away Bibles, and the pastor was detained.

The building elevators no longer stop on the 24th floor of the Guiyant International Centre. "This is the site of an illegal cult and has been banned", a police officer shouted at the entrance to the church. "We are here to stop people from joining."
"A huge number of believers received numerous visits at their houses for ‘chats.’ They were directly told that their Living Stone church is an illegal organization, that all of its activities are illegal, that it’s banned by the government, and that they absolutely could not continue attending. Then they had their photographs taken and were asked to sign statements promising to sever their connections with the church. Our church has several hundred people, and 99 percent had received telephone calls, or been called in for face-to-face meetings, or had their homes visited."
Pastor Su Tianfu 

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The Triumphalist President

"Today the American people can be proud, because this historic agreement [Paris-UN Climate Summit] is a tribute to American leadership. Over the past seven years, we've transformed the United States into the global leader in fighting climate change."
"In 2009, we helped salvage a chaotic Copenhagen summit and establish the principle that all countries had a role to play in combating climate change. We then led by example with historic investments in growing industries like wind and solar, creating a new and steady stream of middle-class jobs."
"This would not have happened without American leadership. And, by the way, the same is true for the Iran nuclear deal. The same is true for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The same is true for stamping out ebola -- something, you guys may recall from last year, which was the potential end of the world."
"We’re going to defeat ISIL and we’re going to do so by systematically squeezing them... We’re seeing steady progress."
U.S. President Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Obama holds his last press conference of the year in the briefing room at the White House. Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Well, nothing quite like a firm dedication to belief in self, and nothing appears to have diminished or disturbed Barack Obama's self-confidence that he is the living proof that America is still great, remaining the world power it was destined to be, because a Nobel Laureate of his stature on the world stage guided it unerringly, despite occasions when inconvenient things happened in the world; like the 'Arab Winter', like the Syrian implosion, like Libya's disintegration, like Iraq's sectarian war, like the Islamic State, like Iran's nuclear ambitions, like Russia's annexation of Crimea, and above all, like those troublesome attacks by deranged people insisting they are Muslims, but clearly are not.

His legacy projects are firmly in place, and Mr. Obama is satisfied that his place in history is a regal one, that his global leadership on climate change reflects the unwavering courage of an environmental champion. He obviously doesn't recognize the United States as the world's biggest greenhouse gas per capita emitter. China may rate as the largest emitter of carbon, but it also has a population about five times larger than that of the United States. The U.S. emits 60 percent more greenhouse gas than the 28-member EU, and three times per capita that of China.

Coal-burning furnaces remain a dominating source of power generation in the United States, representing 32 percent of electricity generation, and is destined to remain so for the next two decades at least. And while, after seven years of study, President Obama finally refused to permit one single Canadian oil pipeline -- though Canadian oil will still travel to the United States, but by rail, making it infinitely less safer in transmission -- the U.S. proceeded with construction of 8,000 miles of oil pipelines, ten times the length of the refused Keystone project. So much for defense of the environment.

As for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the U.S. has the political power clout to defend its agricultural subsidies, while demanding that others lower or abandon theirs. The TPP, which Mr. Obama hails as an American initiative was in fact in existence, excluding the U.S., long before he assumed the presidency. But he certainly does enjoy taking credit for successful enterprises. Washington's sneak auto deal with Tokyo attempted to cut out Mexico and Canada, but it's doubtful this revelation caused the great man any embarrassment.

As for his lauding America's leadership in dealing with the Islamic Republic of Iran through the P5+1 negotiations on Iran's nuclear ambitions, no word on giving away the shop to Iranian promises that have never historically been honoured and ridding the world of its concerns about a nuclear-armed, terrorist-driven Iran, because it has the assurance of the United States that nothing can go awry. The International Atomic Energy Agency whom Tehran steadfastly refuses entry to Parchin and other questionable nuclear installations will keep tabs on Iran.

Mr. Obama's administration has failed signally in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, yet he gloats that his leadership has the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on the defensive, and it's only a matter of time before it is eliminated as a terrorist threat. His surrender to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the Syria, the Ukraine and the Iran files are merely a demonstration of the management of crises by a world leader with the confidence to do the 'right thing'. The right thing for this president was to abandon traditional allies whether in North America or abroad.

And this is the message that he celebrates, confident that the historical record will reflect his genius.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Looking Beyond The Headlines

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, stands with visiting Chinese official Liu Yunshan above the parade in Pyongyang.

"[The Chinese Communist Party is North Korea's major source of food, weapons and energy. The CCP sustains the tyranny of Kim Jong Un by its opposition of] harsh international sanctions on North Korea in the hope of avoiding regime collapse and a refugee influx across their border."
Council on Foreign Relations, New York
North Korea Anniversary
North Korean soldiers in historic uniforms march during a parade on the Kim Il Sung Square -- AP

North Korea has not been in the news very much lately. Space and attention has been taken up by the threat of terrorist attacks, the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, Russia's latter-day aggressiveness, and China's regional South and East China Sea tensions with its neighbours. Yet, if anyone believes that a quiescent North Korea is the future, they haven't been paying close enough attention to what North Korea has actually been up to.

The reclusive nation's military initiatives have been four-fold; expansion of fissile material (plutonium and enriched uranium); production of longer-range missiles to reach into the Pacific and on to more powerful models to reach the continental U.S.; development of a smaller, lighter nuclear warhead; and a survivable, strategic "deterrent" with small missile-launch submarine or mobile land-based missile launchers.

North Korean soldiers march beneath a portrait of late leader Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un's father, during the parade in Pyongyang.
Pyongyang October military parade

Admittedly ambitious for any country, all the more so for a country that has scant income, is subject to sanctions, and faces year-on-year food shortages for its population. But North Korea manages to surmount those difficulties, and it has been a major beneficiary of the indulgence of China, helping it to maintain itself, to sideline the necessities of life for its people, while pursuing its agenda of hostile mechanical and atomic science.

Satellite imagery demonstrates the restart of North Korea's plutonium reactor at Yongbyon and another plant that houses centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium. What other possible reason than to expand the nation's nuclear stockpile from the six to ten currently possessed to increase that stockpile by at least double or more by 2020. Propelled by paranoia, North Korea's little tyrant is determined to ensure "security" for his status as undisputed ruler of the cloistered country.

There are those, watching North Korea's preparations for a future assertion of itself as a dominant world power attacking actual dominant world powers becoming nervous at the prospect. That being an obvious scenario, given the hysterical threats emanating in the past from the pathological mindset of the Kim dynasty, and past offers to negotiate along with economic sanctions having failed, little is left but to employ threats that will not be rhetorical in nature, but backed by the conviction of follow-through militarily.

Unfortunately, there is always China, hovering in the background, like an anxious mother toward a wayward, unnervingly obnoxious child intent on doing harm to itself and to others. China has always been a staunch supporter of North Korea, and in the Security Council chamber has championed it. Yet China never quite can be certain of how the volatile Kim Jong Un will react to anything when the most obscure perceptions can set him off into a dangerous sulk.

And this appears to be one of those times. In October the North Korean National Security Department had arrested, imprisoned or executed over one hundred Chinese nationals, accusing some of them of being spies. Others accused of disseminating videos, supporting "defectors", being money carriers, or holding religious rites. Even the Chinese ambassador to North Korea was placed under investigation and being monitored, according to DailyNK, a Seoul, South Korea-based news agency.

DailyNK was informed by an anonymous source in North Korea that his country's campaign against Chinese nationals is involved with an "emergency investigation" taking place throughout North Korea. And that it represents the Kim regime's petulance with China for establishing cozy relations with South Korea. "Some Party cadres have even speculated that this move will spell the beginning of the end for Sino-North Korean relations", speculated the DailyNK.

China, it seems, has its own use for North Korea; using it as a political tool for propaganda, as a reminder to Chinese of what China had been like in the dangerously repressive days of Mao; in that life could be worse for the Chinese than it is now under the current administration as opposed to the days of the Cultural Revolution. As for its external use of the relationship with pathologically jittery North Korea, it does keep the West on edge.
In a carefully choreographed show of strength and celebration to mark the 70th anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party, hundreds of troops marched in elaborate formations across Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square.
Kim il-Sung Square, Pyongyang

But the myth that China has clout with the Kim regime is a fallacy. While China has aided the North Korean madman in his lunatic schemes of self-aggrandizement to the status of semi-immortal playing with nuclear fire, the Chinese regime has become an uncomfortable target of North Korean spleen, so how much confidence can the world have that saner heads are capable of turning North Korea away from the threat it wishes to become to the outside world?

North Korean soldiers march below statues of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung and his son, Kim Jong Il.
North Korean soldiers march under statues of North Korean founder Kim il Sung and his son Kim Jong il

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Monday, December 21, 2015

 Startling, Stale Revelations

"The report, due to be published on Monday, says the greatest danger to the international community are groups who share the IS ideology but are currently being ignored - they number about 100,000 fighters.
"Current Western efforts to define 'moderate' and 'extremist' rebels are bound to fail, because the groups themselves rarely make the distinction, the centre says.
"Some 60% of Syria's major rebel groups are Islamist extremists, and many of the groups share the same aims, the study finds.
"Fewer than a quarter of the rebels surveyed were not ideological, and many were willing to fight alongside extremists and would probably accept an Islamist political settlement to the civil war." BBC report on hard line jihad study
So much for moderate Syrian rebels fighting the insanely 'secular' regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Baathist ideology that in its Alawite Shiite focus has demonstrably victimized the majority of Syrians who are sectarian Sunni in their Islamic devotion. Of course the reality is that once Assad began his demonic work of bashing the hell out of his Sunni subjects for their civic insubordination, Syria became an irresistible draw for Sunni jihadi militias who weren't too busy elsewhere at the time.

They flocked in their numbers, well armed, thanks to Libya's tribal-led disintegration and the distribution of arms depots freely available to enterprising Islamists who saw fit to use them elsewhere, like Mali for example, and Nigeria. And in Syria they found a situation well to their liking, with a government that had created a situation of such devastating carnage that it was left open and free for the jihadis to operate with impunity.

Thus formalizing Bashar al-Assad's characterization of his Sunni Syrian rebellious subjects as terrorists and scum. Among the jihadi groups that arrived in Syria to oppose the Syrian Sunni rebel militias and make the Syrian population even more miserable were al-Qaeda-linked groups like the Nusra Front, and the Iraqi group that would be censured by al-Qaeda for its brutality, reinventing itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Al-Nusra Front fighters. The report warned about leaving the group unchallenged.
Al Nusra Front Fighters : Photo Reuters

Whose poisonous penchant for shock and awe, repelled the international community through its pride in committing atrocities against the helpless, while awing recruits from across Africa and Europe by the quality of its uncompromising Islamist credentials. Islam has become infested with the infectious slime of butchery where no inhumane acts qualify as too extreme for video showmanship.

Within the black undercurrent of Islamist warfare where the House of Peace plots to spring surprises on the House of War, a confounding reversal of reality, painting Islam as inherently peaceful, struggling against the evil of Islamophobia emanating from the West, the onus is on non-Muslim states to surrender to Islam or pay the bloody consequences in feral onslaughts.
"ISIL represents a continuation of a way of thinking that started before it existed and will carry on if it is defeated. The West risks making a strategic failure by focusing only on ISIL."
"Defeating it militarily will not end global jihadism. We cannot bomb an ideology, but our war is ideological."
"If only ISIL is defeated, there is a high risk that dispersed ISIL fighters and other Salafi-jihadi groups will expand their horizons and launch attacks outside of Syria."
Centre on Religion and Geopolitics study
There it is, no surprise of stupendous proportions. That, in essence it is not only the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant that is infested with the disease of fanatical totalitarian Islamism, but an estimated 65,000 'fighters' who are part of rebel militias in Syria, separate and apart from those within ISIL. Defeat ISIL and like the fabled Greek monsters of yore, they will still rise up in their gory hordes to inflict death and destruction on the world.

It is a movement, a religious-political ideology of conquest that speaks to the tribal conflict-and-vengeance-seeking mentality of desert Bedouin genetically wired to wage war and to inflict themselves as victors upon all those incapable of fending for themselves and denying them their conquest. The study points out that up to 60 percent of all rebels are invested with an Islamist agenda.

And of those over half embrace Salafi-jihadism, the very core of Saudi-spread Wahhabism that forms the hard line ideology of ISIL's self-perpetuating drive toward a universal caliphate. Aside from ISIL itself, points out the report, fifteen Islamist groups harbour jihadist values, including Jabhat al-Nusra, Saudi-backed Jaish al-Islam, and Ahrar al-Sham.

In the classic instance of the glass half full, the study concluded that support of democracy as a governing system for Syria is upheld by a larger number than those who champion an Islamic state. They have mobilized themselves, and they do represent the bulk of Syria's Sunni rebels, but their agenda has been submerged by the viral presence of the Islamists who receive greater notice because of the quality of their butchery not the quality of their democratic vision.

So does this latest study reveal anything not before concluded? Here is the result of a study published two years earlier:
A new study by Britain's IHS Janes defense and intelligence analysis agency confirms what many in the Intelligence community already believed: 50 percent of Syrian rebel forces are Islamist extremists.
The report estimates that 30,000 to 35,000 rebel fighters are hardline jihadists, 10,000 are affiliated with al Qaeda and around 30,000 belong to groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. The remaining are non-Islamic freedom fighters.
According to the study, up to 1,000 different groups are represented among the rebel forces.

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Triumph of the Anti-Terror Trio

"It’s not going to happen [Russia's plan to retake Idlib] because of the military difficulties. [The campaign in fact resembles a] failure [due to the] incompetence [of the Syrian army along with] the lack of determination of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps."
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Saban Forum, Brookings Institution

<p>Backing down?</p>
 Photographer: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images
Backing down?
Photographer: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images
"They are losing lieutenants. When you lose lieutenants it means you are losing people fighting on the front lines." 
"If the Iranians feel over the long term they need a deal, if the cost of maintaining the Assad government is too great for them, then these developments are a positive. If they feel the costs of the battle can be sustained for months, if not years, they may be able to pay that price. They put a high value on maintaining the Assad government as it is now."
Robert Ford, U.S. ambassador to Syria (2011--2014) 
"With regard to strikes from a submarine [at rebel forces in Syria]. We certainly need to analyse everything that is happening on the battlefield, how the weapons work. Both the [Kalibr] missiles and the Kh-101 rockets are generally showing very good results. We now see that these are new, modern and highly effective high-precision weapons that can be equipped either with conventional or special nuclear warheads."
"Naturally, we do not need that in fighting terrorists, and I hope we will never need it. But overall, this speaks to our significant progress in terms of improving weaponry and equipment being supplied to the Russian army and navy."
Russian President Vladimir Putin 

"[Would Russia use nuclear weapons on terrorists?] Of course not, and the president has stated this, that there is no need to use any nuclear weapons against terrorists, as they can be defeated through conventional means, and this is fully in line with our military doctrine."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

Image from footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official website shows cruise missiles launching from Rostov-on-Don submarine at eastern Mediterranean Sea in a direction of Syria. Cannot be independently verified by AP.
Image from footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official website shows cruise missiles launching from Rostov-on-Don submarine at eastern Mediterranean Sea in a direction of Syria. AP
It seems that on the surface there is complete confidence that the alliance between Russia, Iran and Hezbollah has succeeded in their goal to defeat the rebel "terrorist" forces doing their utmost under great odds to remove Bashar al-Assad from his post as chief slaughterer-in-residence. But Western intelligence is in business to probe the depths of veracity and it appears they are finding it lacking in substance. From what Israel and the U.S. have discerned from their intelligence-gathering all is not as the three Bashkateers had hoped.

For both the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxy militia Hezbollah, the champions of the Syrian Baathist regime, are showing battle fatigue. Fatigue born of unsustainable losses. Not only have their campaigns to turn back the tide of rebel victories stumbled badly, but the losses being sustained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps -- whom unforeseen events have conspired to recommend retreat from the Syrian combat zone -- has greatly diminished their fighting numbers in Syria. The Syrian opposition has clearly been more functionally supported, realizing some notable advances.

The assessment was that over seven thousand IRGC members were actively engaged in forwarding the interests of the Syrian regime. Back in October, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford had testified on the presence of two thousand Iranian troops in Syria fighting for Assad. General Qassam Suleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard foreign forces had succeeded in persuading Iranian authorities to authorize a surge in Iranian fighters to achieve his planned goal.

A number of Iranian generals have succumbed to the war they have been dispatched to engage in, and reports have surfaced that in Aleppo in late November General Suleimani himself had been injured.  [Soleimani is "in perfect health and full of energy": Rameza Sharif, IRGC spokesman.] Now, it is believed by Western intelligence that one-tenth of the original number of Iranian troops fighting in Syria remain there; 700 in total fighting in the offensive under Russian air support, on top of the embedded Iranian Iranian forces fighting with the Syrian armed forces.

A Hezbollah funeral for one of its fighters killed in Syria. (YouTube/Channel 4 News)
A Hezbollah funeral for one of its fighters killed in Syria. (YouTube/Channel 4 News)

The challenge that Moscow had responded to in its support of the Syrian President has been further complicated not only by the withdrawal of the vast bulk of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps but the mirror-image withdrawal of Hezbollah. Obviously, it is demoralizing where in just one day of fighting a senior IRGC commander along with fourteen low-ranking personnel were killed in early December. The "Fateh Army" against whom the IRGC have concentrated in northwestern Syria appear to have gained the upper hand.

Which leaves Hezbollah in a rather uncertain situation. Russian air strikes, it appears, have proven less than decisive in aiding Hezbollah to advance their positions. Moreover, over a third of Hezbollah's fighting force is thought to have been killed or injured in Syria. An estimated 1,500 were killed, and an additional 5,000 wounded, according to intelligence figures. Iran hasn't relied solely on its Lebanese proxy militia, but has recruited Shiite militias from Iraq, from Pakistan and from Afghanistan, some of whom were forced to fight in Syria.

It was reported back in the summer by Israel Radio that Hezbollah had taken the rather unusual step of arresting 175 of its own fighters who had refused to be involved in fighting in the Syrian city of Zabadani, close to Lebanon's border. Asharz al-Awsat, the pan-Arab newspaper was quoted as having reported that Hezbollah fighters dispatched to Syria were evincing reluctance to confront the Syrian rebel groups. Evidently 120 Hezbollah fighters had been killed in conflicts with Syrian opposition groups and another 200 wounded.

Convincing reasons, evidently, as far as the Hezbollah fighters were concerned, to remain in Lebanon and do their battles from there. In fact, from the assaults that have taken place in Lebanon against Hezbollah-controlled areas, there may be a growing need, through the Sunni backlash, for them to remain there and defend themselves. So the next question is, where does that leave the situation in Syria?

General Soleimani had travelled too Moscow to meet with President Putin to offer convincing reasons why it would be in Russia's best interest to become involved directly in the military support of the Syrian regime against the "terrorists" who were besetting it. What was in Iran's interests, even with the reality that its good relations with Turkey would be turned inside-out, was also in Russia's interests. Turkey was so inside-out as to be sufficiently deranged leading to downing a Russian plane.

So the fallout of the fallout of the Syrian Shiite Alawites with their Syrian Sunni majority has, as Bashar al-Assad warned, should the "terrorists" lead him reluctantly into opposing their opposition to himself, a wider regional cataclysm. It has embroiled Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, NATO, the United States and Russia. And Bashar al-Assad, who began it all, is still enjoying his killing sprees.

Creating the world's most unstoppable refugee crisis, flooding and enveloping all of Europe.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

It's Not A Pretty Life

"With time, you come to learn how to hurt people, to get the information you need. Of the people who have information you want, 99 percent will give you that information."
"[With the information in hand, the job of killing is seen to.] Usually with a gun."
"They do it [confess to guilt even if not true] in hope that you will stop hurting them. They think it's a way to get out of the situation."
"It's not a pretty life."
"For them [Mexican authorities] these [killings] are not justifiable under the laws we have, but my conscience -- how can I put this -- this is something that I can justify, because I am defending my family."
"If I died in a shootout, for example [rather than at the hands of a rival gang], the suffering wouldn't be as bad."
"Over time, you forget [how many people you kill, where they are buried]."
29-year-old cattle rancher, hired cartel killer:Anonymous

A man claiming to be responsible for kidnapping, torture and killing on behalf of a drug cartel speaks to the Associated Press in Guerrero state's Costa Grande region, Mexico, Nov. 29. (AP/Dario Lopez-Mills) - See more at:
A man claiming to be responsible for kidnapping, torture and killing on behalf of a drug cartel speaks to the Associated Press in Guerrero state's Costa Grande region, Mexico, Nov. 29. (AP/Dario Lopez-Mills) - See more at:
A man claiming to be responsible for kidnapping, torture and killing on behalf of a drug cartel speaks to The Associated Press in the Costa Grande region of Mexico. Dario Lopez-Mills/The Associated Press

Officially, 26,000 Mexicans were reported missing across the nation since 2007. Roughly one thousand of those missing come from Guerrero, along the Costa Grande, the southwestern state of Mexico where Acapulco is located. There also is where farmland growing heroin poppies and marijuana is located. And where large areas of the state are controlled by violent drug cartels moving opium paste onto the black market.

The young man being interviewed, made available courtesy of a cartel boss to accommodate requests by the Associated Press, began "disappearing" people at age 20. With the passage of nine years, he believes that he has been responsible for the elimination of at least 30 people. Among whom he reckons three were disappeared in error, because in all likelihood, under torture they confessed guilt, when they were innocent, yet desperate to stop the torture.

He believes what he does is a public service in defense of his community, keeping outsiders out. If rivals to the controlling cartel entered, the result would be destructive chaos. He is helping to prevent that from happening, so although some lives are lost, many others are defended by him. He kidnaps, tortures and kills. Once someone is "disappeared" it is forever, the body disposed where no one might ever discover it.

He does have his standards; so much for honour among killers. For he declines to kill women or children, nor will he force victims to dig their own graves. He is not a drug trafficker. He is not a professional killer. He does not do drugs himself. He learned how to effectively "disappear" on the job. There is a slight discrepancy in his description of himself; someone who is paid to do something is a professional; he would be an amateur, so to speak, without pay to credit his actions.

If the target is not armed, he explains, two men carry out a "pickup", the victim taken to a 'safe house', or into a secluded area where they will not be heard "getting information out of them by torture". The methods this young man who insists he is not a killer, but proudly defends his people against the incursion of other cartels, are various, but restricted to beatings, waterboarding and electric shocks to testicles, tongue and the soles of the feet.

He guarantees success.

"A lot of times your neighbours your town, your city is being invaded by people who you think are going to hurt your family, your society. Well then, you have to act, because the government isn't going to come and help you."
"I can't say that I am a vigilante, but I am part of a group that protects people, an autonomous group of people who protect their town, their people."
Whatever you want to say, you're hurting someone and in the end, you kill them and that leaves people hurting, the family hurting. It's the kind of thing that causes stress and remorse, because it's not a good thing."

Simply put: a necessary evil. Right!
"A lot of times your neighborhood, your town, your city is being invaded by people who you think are going to hurt your family, your society," he says. "Well, then you have to act, because the government isn't going to come help you." - See more at:

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