Thursday, February 28, 2019

NATO's Proud Resurgence

"Putin believes that NATO is a great threat to Russia and its ambitions and has publicly mourned the downfall of the Soviet Union as the greatest tragedy of the 20th century."
"No one knows better than he does the military and diplomatic solidarity that bound NATO together from its founding in 1949 to the end of the Cold War, during which it achieved its objective of containing Soviet Russia."
"During that period of 40-plus years, no European territory fell under Soviet influence because the United States' nuclear umbrella and Article V of the NATO treaty [an attack against one is an attack against all] simply posed unacceptable risks to any Soviet leader who may have been tempted to slice off Western Europe a piece at a time."
David J. Bercuson, fellow, Canadian Global Affairs Institute, director, Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies, University of Calgary
Image: FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump attends a working dinner meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels

NATO went into paroxysms of despair at the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency of the United States. President Trump's unalloyed suspicion and mild contempt for NATO was expressed during his run for the presidency when he questioned its usefulness and damned its members' propensity to lean on the United States as their major shield against any threatening moves by the Russian Federation's Vladimir V. Putin. For, as matters turned out, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, causing Western world powers to visibly relax, did not equate with the end of the threat of Russia to world peace.

Eastern European countries, quick to declare their independence from Russia, quailed at the very thought of Russia reasserting itself and forcing on them a new satellite system. It took awhile for Russia to recover from the shock of its neighbours shaking themselves loose from their 'coalition' where all were equal, but Russia much, much more equal in its power, entitlements and acquisition of the Union's member-states' resources. Russia's swift economic decline and its demoralization post sundering rendered it temporarily quiescent.

Vladimir Putin has changed all that in a renascent Federation and his own very personal mourning of the passing of power and prestige of the USSR, both of which he speedily set about reasserting; his nostalgia impelling a new confidence in Russia's entitlements of which several provinces in Georgia and then the reclaiming of Ukraine's east along with the Crimean earning him pride and prestige in Russia and vibrant condemnation in the rest of the world. Since then, Russia's re-entry to the Middle East and collaboration and support of Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad, and accommodation with Turkey and Iran have given Russia added confidence.
"The world has not forgotten the cynical lies Russia employed to justify its aggression and mask its attempted annexation of Ukrainian territory. [The United States denounces] the worsening repression by Russia's occupation regime in Crimea."
"The United States calls on Russia to release all of the Ukrainians, including members of the Crimean Tatar community, it has imprisoned in retaliation for their peaceful dissent."
"The United States will maintain respective sanctions against Russia until the Russian government returns control of Crimea to Ukraine and fully implements the Minsk agreements."
"Crimea is Ukraine and must be returned to Ukraine’s control.During the past five years, Russian occupation authorities have engaged in an array of abuses in a campaign to eliminate all opposition to its control over Crimea."
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, 2018.   KEVIN LAMARQUE/Reuters
NATO, it seems, is not in trouble, as it appeared when its purpose for existence was challenged by the collapse of the USSR. The very man who is invested in bestowing unto the Russian Federation some of the power and prestige elements of the Soviet Union, through his implied threats and his fulminations against the West interfering in Russia's business, furious that former allies have chosen to distance themselves in their eagerness to join the European Union and NATO, has ensured that NATO members have reacted by firming up their allegiance.

NATO's divisions are nowhere near as visible now as they were, for example during the Obama presidency. With the ascension of a president with whom most NATO members feel they have little in common, they have instead of disintegrating the union, re-integrated it into a power structure close to what it once exemplified in its challenge to the Soviet Union. Where not too long ago NATO members cut defence spending leaving the United States to shoulder the burden of financing NATO, most are now reversing that course.

Which didn't stop Donald Trump from berating them in 2016 for failing to commit to a fair share, threatening to have his administration leave NATO unless things improved. But the real force behind NATO's resurgence is Vladimir Putin , his military interventions in Georgia and Ukraine to dissuade non-NATO countries from dependence on NATO. Turkey remains an outlier, with its decision to take on military weaponry of Russian design and manufacture, more than adequate reason to invite it to leave, alongside its increasingly tyrannical Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist resurgence.

NATO has committed its allies' troops to eastern Europe and Baltic countries in the prevention of Russian military aggression. France and Germany have suggested the creation of a "European Army", to add military power to NATO's Europe faction. It is a confused Europe, however, when one of its strongest members, Germany, remains dependent on Russia as an energy source. Add to that less physical military jostling about and an increase in cyber attacks, and much has changed, even while Russia clings to its modernized technologically advanced military assets.

All of which incline NATO and its members, all suspicious and fearful of President Putin's proclivity for the unexpected to form a closer bond in unified opposition to his expansionary plans.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Islamic State Jihadi Wives

"You’re the first infidel I’ve seen in four years."
"The brothers are lions. They will fight on."
"The Islamic State remains. We are weak now but we will come back again."
Umm Hamza, 21, ISIL wife, from Baghuz, Syria former ISIL stronghold

"We stayed in the Islamic State because we want heaven. And we buy heaven with our souls and our children’s souls."
"God didn’t create us for this life, he created us for the next life."
:Our tents were like palaces because they were in the Islamic State."
"Everyone here [all the evacuated women and children] is from the Islamic State. Every one of us. Anyone who says they are not is a liar."
Umm Mohammed, 37, from town of al-Bukamal, Syria
US-backed fighters trucked out civilians from the last speck of the Islamic State group’s dying “caliphate” in Syria on February 22, eager to press on with the battle to crush the jihadists. More than four years after IS overran large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq, and declared a “caliphate”, they have lost all of it but a tiny patch in the village of Baghuz near the Iraqi border. Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP
“We are fighting a terror group. Either they surrender or they have to fight and die."
Adnan Afrin, an SDF commander
While the Kurdish-led militias of the Syrian Defence Forces were busy battling the remainder of the Islamic State terrorists in their last hold-outs, the evacuation of ISIL families, their wives and their children took centre stage as the women were searched for possession of explosives and documentation of the civilians proceeded, along with transferring them from the temporary holding centre to the refugee camps that had been set aside for the ISIS women and children.

Some of the women, fearful and frantic, repeated time and again that they were innocent bystanders, had nothing to do with Islamic State, were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. Umm Mohammed (mother of Mohammed) viewed them with contempt and advised the Kurdish command that they were all with Islamic State but hadn't the pride and the courage to defy their fears. Fears she had none herself, the mother of seven children, her two oldest boys fighters, both now dead.

Her remaining five children surrounded her, faces immobilized by dread of the unknown, large eyes reflecting uncertainty and fear. They were dirt-encrusted and unhappy children. Their mother was nothing but proud of the sacrifice of her two oldest sons who died as martyrs for the Islamic State. She was defiant and unafraid to speak to her Kurdish interlocutors, much less members of the foreign press, emphasizing the perfection of Islam and jihad, inseparable, implacable, triumphant.

Women and children who fled the Islamic State (IS) group's last embattled holdout of Baghuz wait to be searched by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters (not pictured) in Syria's northern Deir Ezzor province, on February 22, 2019.Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP
The latest exodus of civilians from the embattled town of Baghuz numbered around a thousand people, women and children, bedraggled and hauling whatever they could of their former lives with them, through the muck of the fields, ordering their children to remain nearby. The situation has reached the point that the SDF estimates around 5,000 civilians and 1,500 fighters yet remain in Baghuz, a larger number than expected but that the black banner of the jihadists commanded.

Most of the women exhibited the same level of fanaticism as the men they left behind. None expressed a vestige of remorse for the unspeakable atrocities committed in the name of Islam and clearly they all felt entitled to respect for their beliefs. Their current situation as prisoners of inferior beings was merely temporary until such time as their Islamic State husbands, brothers, fathers and sons reversed the situation with the fervour and favour of Allah.

Eventually order prevailed, the searches were completed, the questioning done with, the documents put in order and the trucks to carry the women and children to the camps that would house them until such time as their disposition would be more clear, were pulling up, awaiting their boarding. The Kurdish fighters patiently took it all in stride as they worked for hours to accomplish the task. While they waited, one of the woman said the ISIL fighters had informed them the UN would be there to greet them once they left Baghuz.

What a disappointment, not to be recognized by the United Nations as heroines, to be feted and congratulated, housed in luxury to await reunion with their heroic husbands. Only Kurdish fighters, their enemies, and inquisitive Western reporters with their endless questions awaited their presence. However, she hadn't been misled to entice her to leave the war zone: "There is no betrayal in the Islamic State", she averred with placid certainty.

Women and children who fled the Islamic State (IS) group’s last embattled holdout of Baghuz wait to evacuate the area in Syria’s northern Deir Ezzor province, on February 22, 2019. Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP

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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Celebrating A Generation Milestone of Islamic Republic of Iran Confronting the Corrupt and Unworthy World Order

"The depiction of him [Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini] as fanatical, reactionary and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false."
"Having created a new model of popular revolution based, for the most part, on non-violent tactics, Iran may yet provide us with a desperately needed model of humane governance for a third-world country."
Richard Falk, professor of international law, Princeton University, The New York Times, 1979
Speaking at a Washington, D.C. press conference, former UN Palestine Rapporteur Richard Falk lashed out at UN Watch for “damaging my reputation,” “stirring up trouble” for Falk and his colleagues, and “weakening” UN efforts to “document Israeli violations of international law.”

Infallible judgement from emeritus professor of international law at one of America's most prestigious elite universities. At a time when the Islamic Revolution in Iran emboldened university students in Tehran to lay siege to the U.S. Embassy and to hold American diplomats and citizens hostage for 444 days in a stand-off that then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter -- a conciliator of Middle East Arab and Muslim complaints over the presence of the State of Israel, supportive of the violence expressed by Palestinian terrorists whom he equated as struggling against Israeli 'apartheid' -- was powerless to conclude.

The Islamic Revolution made its debut performance on the world stage, in effect, by holding the most powerful nation in the world hostage to its ire over 'U.S. interference' in Islamic affairs of state. Notwithstanding that most Islamic countries depended on the United States to shield them from the consequences of their own ill-judged actions, much less the traditional hostilities they exerted in confronting one another through the paranoid lens of tribal and sectarian enmities.
Iran hostage crisis - Iraninan students comes up U.S. embassy in Tehran.jpg
Iranian students crowd the U.S. Embassy in Tehran (November 4 1979)

Richard Falk, infamously, was appointed United Nations Human Rights Rapporteur in the Occupied Territories where he distinguished himself by conspicuously demonstrating an outright hatred and contempt for the State of Israel, damning it at every turn for the 'suppression' of Palestinian rights and the 'occupation' over Palestinian territory:
"The best prospect for realizing Palestinian self-determination now is by way of pressures exerted through grassroots mobilization".
"We must strengthen the global solidarity movement, which includes the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) initiative in relation to businesses that profit from the settlements, as well as other forms of non-violent resistance."
"Third party Member States of the United Nations also have an important responsibility to ensure they are not complicit in human rights violations in Occupied Palestine."

Under his tenure the UN HRC issued countless sanctions against Israel for assumed human rights abuses, charging it with violations of basic human rights targeting Palestinians. No neutrality of judgement or balance in viewing the commission of violence against Israel, much less condemnation of Palestinian recruitment of future martyrs by a PA curriculum for school-age children groomed to hate Israel and Jews and inculcate in them a wish for martyrdom, much less the salaries paid to those committing atrocities against Israeli citizens and honours bestowed upon them.

So how did his prediction and smug confidence in the capabilities and direction and future of the Islamic Republic of Iran turn out? Given this man's orientation, very nicely. That the Ayatollahs preferred to slap down the hand of accommodation proffered by another American president, Barack Obama, was only Iran informing the U.S. it was aware of its secret agenda to elevate Israeli interests over those of the rightful inheritors of Jerusalem, the ancient city sacred to Islam, not Judaism. They certainly read Obama wrong.

From the Republic's spectacular introduction of itself to the world at large to the succeeding years when Britain authorized a security detail to protect Salman Rushdie from the fatwa issued for his life, forfeit for insulting the Prophet Mohammad, to the 1980s when Iran's Lebanese Hezbollah militia was authorized to launch attacks internationally against Jewish targets and the mass slaughter of thousands of political prisoners in Iran, the Ayatollahs made their mark on Persian annals of its civilized heritage.

Assassinations and bombings of international targets though clandestinely pursued, were linked by intelligence agencies to their source; gifts from Tehran to Buenos Aires and Berlin, for starters. A different kind of student protest in 1999 was brutally suppressed, followed by the green revolutionaries hoping to thwart the Republic's plans to rule and ruin the nation indefinitely. And then came the covert activities to acquire suspect nuclear facilities.

And who wants to recall Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's declaration in the United Nations that the shining light of the Hidden Mahdi enveloped him as he addressed the General Assembly? Or that even there in that hallowed hall of world peace, unification and equality, he promised that Iran would destroy the presence of the State of Israel, to barely a murmur of dissent, more than equalling the earlier dated presence of Yasser Arafat, dove in one hand, pistol in the other.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Azadi Square, Tehran, on February 11, 2019.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Azadi Square, Tehran, on February 11, 2019.

Yet eventually, the world saw and acclaimed the election of a 'moderate' President of Iran when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who in an earlier manifestation as an elite follower of Ayatollah Khomeini successfully practised the art of deceit and boasted of it afterward, presenting Iran's aspirations as being wholly immersed in peaceful pursuits despite all indications to the contrary, then led his country to another victory with the implementation of the nuclear agreement, allowing the country to get on with its intercontinental ballistic missiles program, its nuclear program less prominently.

That Iran dedicated its Revolutionary Presidential Guard al-Quds division to aid and support to the Alawite Shia Syrian regime enabling the destruction of a half-million Syrian lives and the displacement of millions of its Sunni citizens suited Shiite Iran very well indeed, dispatching Hezbollah to the conflict zones and later Shiite militias looking for blood to spill. And then came the Yemeni Shiite-brand Houthis to destabilize Yemen and bring it firmly alongside Syria, Lebanon and oddly enough Qatar, into the Iranian orbit.

Most certainly, the Islamic Revolution has earned its notorious place as a threat to security in the Middle East, having aligned itself with Russia and Turkey, all pleased to be seen as a  triumvirate of solid resistance against the West and its rapacious interests in despoiling the Middle East of its inestimable resources which they would be far more adept at doing in a far more collegial spirit of co-operation. For the time being.

Protesters carry life-sized cardboard images of iconic revolutionary figures, including Supreme Leader Rouhallah Khomeini.
'Death to America' protesters carry life-sized cardboard images of iconic revolutionary figures, including Supreme Leader Rouhallah Khomeini.

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Monday, February 25, 2019

An Alliance Undiminished, Merely Blemished Through A Dark Lens

"No one any longer believes that Trump cares about the views or interests of the allies."
"It's broken."
Senior German official

"Two years of Mr. Trump, and a majority of French and Germans now trust Russia and China more than [they do] the United States."
Karl Kaiser, analyst, German-American relations

"It's very odd to talk of American leadership of the alliance when it's Trump who has caused the crisis."
"The Trump administration is seen by many Europeans as chiefly responsible for the tensions and the weakening of the West."
Marietje Schaake, Dutch member, European Parliament

"[For Europeans, the divide went] to the heart of how we view international relations and our national interest."
"We're small and understandably need partnership both inside Europe and outside, with NATO."
"We want to believe it will be fine again later because we have no alternative."
Nathalie Tocci, senior adviser, European foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini
The 55th Munich Security Conference, in Munich, Germany, 15 February 2019. [EPA-EFE/RONALD WITTEK]

U.S. President Donald Trump is no gift as a politician much less a head of government, let alone president of the most powerful nation on Earth, but he has made some decisions that make sense if you're an American; placing America first. Europe may have favoured his predecessor but Barack Obama as President of the United States withdrew his country from the place it had in world affairs just as much as his successor has done, but for different reasons.

Both may have stated they have the larger interests of their country at heart, but President Obama apologized for U.S. strategic interests while President Trump will never fault his country for leading as he wills it to.

Perhaps European leaders were more comfortable with Mr. Obama because he was malleable, prepared to bend and to listen and to exercise his will in tandem with that of his allies, although he had no compunction over jettisoning some of his country's allies when the mood took him. He could, however, be relied upon, to listen to and accede to the 'progressive' agenda of the EU.

And so the world-class problem of how to deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran's aggressive support for terrorism could be overlooked for the fiction of restraining its nuclear program.

Federica Mogherini's supine, simpering submission to the Ayatollahs of the Iranian Revolution make her a somewhat more unsavoury character in many respects than is Donald Trump whose many and manifest faults lie in other directions altogether. His decision to withdraw from the agreement with Iran and re-institute sanctions had made life very difficult for the eager European investors in Iranian oil.

Europe, so long dependent on U.S. muscle and armour for protection against the rapacious re-entry of the Russian Federation to the world power structure doesn't much care for America First.

There is little likelihood, despite Donald Trump's incessant loose words emanating from a distracted mind accustomed to grabbing impressions and certainties from questionable sources, not the least of which is his level of understanding of world affairs to begin with, that the trans-Atlantic alliance is in any trouble.

The strain that has been occasioned by Mr. Trump's sloppy analysis and errant conclusions aided by his propensity to blurt half-baked impressions for public disclosure hasn't helped, but brighter minds should be able to interpret them more cogently than he can express them.

The presence of over 40 American lawmakers at the annual security conference in Munich to assuage fears should have succeeded in doing so, even if their expressions were mostly those of faith from Democrats that the Republican administration of President Trump would be short-lived. This is one time that U.S. politics intersects neatly with European expectations in a commonality of detestation for one man and a collective fear of his unbridled, untutored impulses.
pence merkel munich security conference

Vice-President Mike Pence, speaking at the event, following German Chancellor Angela Merkel, no champion of the U.S. president, predictably made no positive impression on the gathering with his exhortations to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. He's right, they're wrong, in viewing that agreement as tied to their security; it may be, but negatively.

Mr. Pence's point of view, self-interested as it is, was to praise his president and credit him with the restoration of American leadership which should perhaps have impressed his audience but failed to.

In this conference the two elephants in the room were China and Russia and their singular ambitions. Ambiguity in the Western alliance, claimed Jan Techau, director of the Europe Program at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin envisions a strategic vulnerability to the ambitions of Russia and China attuned to Europe's concern that a gap in reliance on American intervention has been created. "When that protection goes, then this strategic space is up for grabs", he claimed moodily.
"In the post-Trump era, there is no return to the pre-Trump era. The status quo was Europe's security is guaranteed by the United States."
"That won't happen again."
Norbert Ropttgen, chairman, German Parliament, foreign relations committee

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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Desperately Seeking Solutions

"Some youth in Manitoba have been confined in solitary, denied their basic needs and refused meaningful human contact for days and weeks on end."
"[Colton's case represents] a clear violation of human rights of international standards."
"What we discovered ... was extremely concerning, unacceptable and must immediately change."
"Ultimately, [these practices] may increase recidivism and compromise public safety."
Daphne Penrose, Manitoba children's advocate 

Data from Statistics Canada indicates that the Province of Manitoba has the highest rate of youth incarceration in the country. Over 80 percent of youth sentenced to prison in the province are of Aboriginal descent. The province's children's advocate along with provincial ombudsman Marc Cormier undertook an investigation co-jointly in the use of solitary confinement, segregation and pepper-spray in youth jails in the province.

Their investigation yielded a 100-page report recommending the province immediately end solitary confinement in excess of 24 hours for youth in custody. Among the recommendations was that Manitoba Justice restrict punitive segregation use overall. The report further called on the province to erect a facility with a focus on addressing emotional trauma, mental illness and associated psychological impairments in youth who are diagnosed with these conditions and frequently are locked up in prison.

She pointed out in specific a youth by the name of Colton who had been placed for over a year in isolation, a young man who had been diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorder and other cognitive issues. This very picture of a vulnerable teen was nonetheless made to endure over 650 days in solitary confinement, a condition whose toll on his already-fragile state of mind could only have exacerbated his problems to an inestimable degree of harm.

In 2015 the advocate's office received a number of complaints about segregation and pepper spray in two youth jails located in Manitoba: Agassiz Youth Centre and Manitoba Youth Centre. In their review the investigators discovered that between September 2015 and August of 2016, youth corrections staff had placed 157 males in solitary confinement in no fewer than 498 instances. Some 20 percent of those cases lasted for over 15 days.

Solitary confinement was defined by the advocate as being alone in a cell for over 24 hours with no meaningful human contact, much less mental stimulation; an emotional vacuum. The use of solitary confinement and segregation, the advocate pointed out, is harmful to youth, injurious to any options they may have in future to achieve successful reintegration into society.

On his part, the provincial ombudsman issued a separate report with 32 recommendations addressing segregation, mostly with a focus on reviewing compliance with correctional service laws and regulations. His suggestion was for jails to have policies that clearly indicate segregation cannot be used as a disciplinary tool.
"I think it is important to know that youth in segregation are there because their behaviour poses a risk to themselves, to other inmates or to staff."
"Every effort is made to ensure that youth go back into general population at the earliest opportunity."
"The health, safety and security of staff and inmates at our youth correctional facilities is one our top priorities."
Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen

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Fading Faith

Pope Francis will attend the summit. Photograph: Luca Zennaro/EPA
"The holy people of God looks to us and expects from us not simple and predictable condemnations, but concrete and effective measures to be undertaken."
"Hear the cry of the little ones who plead for justice."
"May the Virgin Mary enlighten us as we seek to heal the grave wounds that the scandal of pedophilia has caused [in both children and believers]."
Pope Francis,Vatican City

"You are the physicians of the soul and yet, with rare exceptions, you have been transformed into murderers of the soul."
"What a terrible contradiction."
Victim of predatory priests statement

"The first thing they did was to treat me as a liar, turn their backs and tell me that I, and others, were enemies of the church."
"This pattern exists not only in Chile. It exists all over the world, and this must end."
Victim of predatory priests statement
Victims of clergy abuse representing several countries from the Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) organization demonstrate in Rome on Friday. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)

"The competence of the state authorities should be respected. [Abuse] is also a crime in all civil jurisdictions."
"[When allegations are received they should be investigated] with the help of experts."
"The competence of the state authorities should be respected."
"Reporting laws should be followed carefully. And a spirit of collaboration will benefit both the church and society in general."
Archbishop Charles Sciciuna, Malta, Vatican sex crimes investigator
Close to two hundred bishops, cardinals and heads of religious orders in the Holy Catholic Church are attending a four-day meeting representing a gathering of the world's leading bishops for the purpose of discussing the Catholic Church's problem with clergy abusing parishioners, betraying the trust of children and their families, raping young believers, in effect blind-siding their respect by victimizing them and blemishing their futures. Women among the faithful, including nuns, trusting and vulnerable just as the children, exploited and raped.

A story as old and familiar as the church itself. Whispered and retold endlessly. The good priests and the bad, and how to tell them apart, how to know that a priest who had earned community respect and trust had corrupted that trust and the faith placed in him? Rumours spread and the community feels helpless. If complaints are laid, the complainant is made to feel guilty for smearing the church with unfounded claims. If the priest's predations are too obvious and frequent, he is merely moved elsewhere.

The church closes in to protect its own. A parish listens to a sermon about the evils of bearing false witness. There is shame to spare and furtive despair. On occasion the situation is turned into a bleak comedy of black humour and discreet warning whom to avoid, whose presence to never tolerate, but never, ever expose oneself to ridicule and shame. Until, finally, the chorus of plaintive calls for an end to the emotional and physical carnage could no longer be ignored.

Until, finally, public authorities dared to become involved and the justice that claims to be there for everyone decides to honour its claim. And the church is astonished and defiant that any outside authority might have the unmitigated gall to question its capacity to regulate itself, to hold to account any within who might bring infamy to an institution that does only good in the world, caring for the world community as a father would a child. A father ensnaring his children in incestuous relations.

Pope Francis issued a list of "reflection points" to be considered by the assembled on the first day of the summit meant to respond to sex abuse scandals around the world, by those within the Catholic Church. The conference, the first of its kind, places a spotlight on the Vatican. But the faithful are by now so weary and wary they give it short shrift. The church's decades-long effort to curb the abuse it could no longer ignore has wrought damage everywhere within its sacred confines, extending to the Pope himself.

Secure in the expectation that scandals will erupt in areas of the world where none have yet publicly surfaced, the Pope has urged bishops from every corner of the globe to examine the issue, to commit to its eradication, denials no longer feasible. Of 21 points Pope Francis assembled, the first speaks for drawing up "a practical handbook indicating the steps to be taken by authorities at key moments when a case emerges".

"A handbook like this was drawn up in Canada back in 1992. So after twenty-five years, this is not new. These seem to be platitudes", remarked Bernadette Howell, an abuse victim originally from Ireland, now resident in Canada. "It's too vague, What counts would be zero tolerance, written into Church law", commented Peter Isely, the head of survivors' group Ending Clergy Abuse.

Then, another suggestion from Pope Francis, that "priests and bishops guilty of sexual abuse of minors leave public ministry". A nostrum. A reaction and remedy that should logically have been in effect since the very beginning of public ministry. Instead of the shrug and the wink that was the church's ready response to all such instances of failure to act with honour and probity.

The Vatican has sought to downplay expectations over the four-day meeting, which begins on Thursday. Photograph: Gerald Herbert/AP

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Friday, February 22, 2019

Chinese Students Studying in Canadian Universities

"We are asking for an investigation into the role of the Chinese government in these two incidents to ensure that we can freely exercise our constitutional rights."
Uyghur-Canadian Rukiye Turdush/Students for a Free Tibet

"[Beijing opposes anyone who] provides support and convenience of any kind to the Xinjiang separatists forces and Tibet-independent activities."
"We strongly support the just and patriotic actions of Chinese students."
Embassy of China, Ottawa

"It does seem to be quite problematic if the Chinese embassy feels it can direct the activities of Chinese students in Canada in ways not consistent with the norms of academic freedoms."
Charles Burton, professor, Brock University, former Canadian diplomat in Beijing

"This appears to be another case where Ottawa should step forward and make clear it will not allow [Chinese Communist Party] agents to mastermind acts of intimidation in Canada."
Jonathan Manthorpe, author, Claws of the Panda

Students from China studying in Canadian universities have become involved in controversial acts of harassment of Canadian students of Muslim Uyghur, and Tibetan backgrounds. Chinese student groups stand accused of interacting with Chinese diplomats stationed in Canada, alerting them to the presence of Canadian student activists of Uyghur and Tibetan descent who have been speaking publicly on the issues of Chinese intimidation and oppression of their ethnic groups in China.

There has been a call for the federal government to investigate the situation where Tibetan and Uyghur activists at two Ontario universities -- McMaster in Hamilton, Ontario and University of Toronto, have been threatened. Spokeswoman for the federal minister responsible for universities failed to respond to a call for Ottawa to look into whether Chinese diplomats use Chinese students to interfere in post-secondary institutions in Canada.

The concerns are there and they are real, backed up by actions directly attributable to Chinese government interference in Canadian affairs. In one instance a petition was launched by Chinese students, complete with 11,000 digital 'signatures' of Chinese students studying in Canada calling for a Tibetan-Canadian woman elected as a student union president at University of Toronto be reversed. The student involved, Chemi Lhamo, has been the recipient of a barrage of abusive messages online.
Chemi Lhamo, student-union president at the University of Toronto, believes a petition and threats against her are at least partly the work of Chinese diplomats.  Courtesy Chemi Lhamo

Five Chinese student groups who admit they have been in close contact with the Chinese consulate were hugely critical of Hamilton's McMaster University for inviting a discussion by a Uyghur-Canadian woman highlighting abuses against China's Uyghur minority in Xinjiang province. A situation that has been well documented and brought up as a human rights crime within the United Nations, in China's virtual imprisonment in 're-education camps' of a million people whom China accuses of 'splitism'.

"It is important to note that any malicious interference in domestic affairs by foreign representatives to Canada would be inappropriate", stated Universities Ministry Daniele Medlej, adding that any place of learning should be free of abuse, discrimination, harassment and hate. Political and academic experts on human rights have called on the federal government to be involved in this issue of China's soft-power strategy going awry.

Pointing out that if Beijing is indeed using Chinese students to monitor activities of other university students it would represent a violation of Chinese diplomatic status and present as possible grounds for a declaration of persona non grata, which would result in their being expelled from Canada, pointed out former diplomat Charles Burton.

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Venezuela, a Humanitarian Crisis Eluding Solution

"I'm not sure the U.S. has a Plan B if this doesn't work in getting rid of Maduro."
"I'm afraid that if these sanctions are implemented in their current form, we're looking at starvation."
Francisco Rodriguez, economist, Torino Capital, Venezuela

"We can't charge, we can't receive money; Our finances are paralyzed."
"There will be major collateral damage."
Reinaldo Quintero, head, Venezuelan Oil Chamber

"If these sanctions don't force the endgame soon, they will cause a lot of pain for the people."
"The rich will not stop getting richer, it's the workers who will shoulder the cost of these measures."
Jose Bodas, anti-government oil union leader, Puerto La Cruz

"They [Venezuelan opposition] want to draw a caricature of a country in a humanitarian crisis, a dictatorship, and the U.S. opening their hands to help a people in need."
"The reality is that it is not any help, it is a message of humiliation to a people."
Nicolas Maduro, President, Venezuela

"If this gets worse this week because of the measures to pressure the government, I'm going to go crazy."
"We're already just barely surviving. To get worse, we would have to be hit by a meteorite."
Juliana Lopez, owner, Caracas pharmacy
A crowd surrounds Juan Guaido during a protest against Maduro on Saturday.
A crowd surrounds Juan Guaido during a protest against Maduro

The Venezuelan opposition under self-declared President Juan Guaido, leader of the Venezuelan National Assembly, recognized by the United States, Canada and many other Western nations alongside much of Latin America, plans to have humanitarian aid sponsored by the United States brought into his beleaguered country to offer medical aid and food to feed starving Venezuelans. The aid convoy was meant to cross the border with Colombia, until the Maduro administration blocked its entry.

It would have represented nothing but a brief stop-gap measure, as much to reassure Venezuelans that the opposition leader purporting to represent their best interests as a much-needed replacement however temporary until democratic elections could proceed, to the current administration of Nicolas Maduro, the anointed replacement of Hugo Chavez whose ruinous policies Maduro has carried on, beggaring the Venezuelan economy and creating a vast stream of refugees.

Oil sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the Trump government in the United States are biting even deeper into the tragic failure of the country to support a standard of living for its population. Runaway inflation, a worthless currency, a drop in oil production, huge unemployment statistics, a shortage of medicines and basic foodstuffs, a situation reminiscent of Zimbabwe under its former dictator all now afflict Venezuela.

Under the sanctions exports have plunged and the country's banking system is frozen. Russia has stepped in to give aid to Venezuela to sell its oil. A country of 30 million people forced into a dire humanitarian crisis see themselves becoming ever mired into a deeper swamp of despair. Oil exports to the United States had given the country the largest source of cash, and now it has plummeted by 40 percent. A dozen tankers of Venezuelan crude are stranded.

Rosneft, Russia's state-operated oil company is hugely invested in Venezuela's petroleum extraction and plans now to increase its output in Venezuela, defying sanctions. Hardly surprising since there is no cooperation between Russia and the U.S., hugely at loggerheads with one another, in a classic understatement. Since the transfer of power to Maduro in 2013, the Venezuelan economy shrank by fifty percent, making survival in the country a matter of desperation.

Maduro's regime and its human rights violations led the U.S. to attempt to force it to withdraw in favour of Mr. Guaido, as the rightful president of Venezuela. U.S. companies and individuals have been banned from dealing with Petroleos de Venezuela, the state-operated oil company which provides a staggering 90 percent of the country's hard currency.

Maduro will not budge to demands that he resign. Before sanctions the country imported about 120,000 barrels of oil and refined petroleum products daily to blend lighter U.S. oil with Venezuela's thicvk crude oil to enable it to flow through pipelines to ports for export.

Energy experts feel Venezuela could retain some oil income through decreasing its price and shipping to Asian customers. For their part, Venezuelans worry that reduced revenue may still see Maduro remaining in power while worsening shortages of food and medicine, forcing the few remaining private businesses to shutter.

Guaido supporters hold huge Venezuelan flags during a protest against Maduro on Saturday.
Guaido supporters hold huge Venezuelan flags during a protest against Maduro

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

No Thanks, Shamima, Request Denied

"My first priority is my son, obviously. Because I don't know whether he'd be taken away from me or they'll let me keep him or give him to my family while the U.K. decides what to do with me. To put me in prison, to put me in a deradicalization course, I don't know."
"I do feel that it's wrong that innocent people did get killed. It's one thing to kill a soldier that is fighting you, it's self defence, but to kill people like women and children ..."
"Just people like the women and children in Baghuz that are being killed right now unjustly, the bombings. It's a two-way thing really. Because women and children are being killed back in the Islamic State right now and it's kind of retaliation. Like, their justification was that it was retaliation so I thought 'OK, that is a fair justification'."
"I just want forgiveness really, from the U.K. Everything I've been through, I didn't expect I would go through that. Losing my children the way I lost them, I don't want to lose this baby as well and this is really not a place to raise children, this camp."
"I didn't want to be on the news at first. I know a lot of people, after they saw that me and my friends came, it actually encouraged them ... but I wasn't the one that put myself on the news. The poster girl thing was not my choice."
Shamima Begum, 19, British Islamic State bride
Shamima Begum will be effectively now be banned from entering the UK.
Shamima Begum will be effectively banned from entering the UK.

Infamously, at age 15, an airport video showed her and several other young British teen-age girls spiriting themselves out of the U.K. and flying to Turkey to cross into Syria where they had plotted they would join Islamic State as brides. The propaganda out of Islamic State was that volunteers were badly needed to help the caliphate thrive and its fighters marry good Muslim women prepared to dedicate themselves to a brave new world, where they would raise children to be patterned into Islamic State lion cubs, fighters of the future.

And Shamima Begum, along with the other girls and any number of others who went before and who followed, were only too pleased to excitedly make that trip into that brave new world fashioned by Islamists eager to begin the process of overturning a flawed world order to more accurately reflect that deemed by Islam to become a reality when the entire world's population would see the blazing light of immortal divinity that would be theirs on ascending to Paradise after a life dedicated to Islam.

Begged by her family to reconsider, to return home she repeatedly refused, informing them in no uncertain term that where she had landed herself was where her future was meant to be. She married an Islamic State 'fighter' and bore three pregnancies. The Paradise-on-Earth that she anticipated would be her lot somehow turned out to not be quite that. Her two oldest-born failed to survive, dying of illness and malnutrition. The good news, however, is that the baby just delivered in the refugee camp she was installed in along with other ISIL wives, may live to reach maturity.

Just not there, she would prefer to be rescued from the crowded, squalid camp, cold and unfriendly where the accommodations are not quite up to her standards. She doesn't belong there, as though she is a war criminal for all she was during her years with ISIL, was a "housewife" to her Dutch-born fighter husband. Yes, she knew of the atrocities committed by Islamic State, but Sharia law doesn't view these as crimes, it speaks approvingly of women taken as sex slaves and men slaughtered. If religious texts say this is permissible and needed, who is she to deny her agreement?

She does feel compassion for women and children who have become victims of violent conflict, but her compassion is restricted for women and children of the Islamic State, inconveniently hit as collateral damage when those fighting the Islamists target the fighters. The Yazidi women and girls still kept as captive sex slaves represent permitted actions by Islamic law, get over it, you ignoramuses in the West.

And while she has no compassion to spare for the victims of Islamic State, she appeals to the United Kingdom to demonstrate compassion for her plight, not yet 20 years of age, already a mother of two dead infants, a new baby in tow, living in dreadful conditions in a cold, ill-equipped camp with a shortage of medication and food; a place which is clearly inadequate, a place where it is obviously not an ideal environment to raise a child.

Not her fault that her arrival in Syria represented yet another public relations coup for Islamic State, spurring other young woman to admire her audacity, and to do likewise, inspired by the prospect of being like her, committed to Islam and Islamist principles of good, clean living, supporting the men who slaughter other men, rape women and girls, enslave and sell them, commit horrible atrocities for their shock value that thrills some and repels all too many others.

This Feb. 23, 2015 file handout image of a three image combo of stills taken from CCTV shows Kadiza Sultana, left, Shamima Begum, center, and Amira Abase going through security at Gatwick airport, south England, before catching their flight to Turkey.
This Feb. 23, 2015 file handout image of a three image combo of stills taken from CCTV shows Kadiza Sultana, left, Shamima Begum, center, and Amira Abase going through security at Gatwick airport, south England, before catching their flight to Turkey.
Metropolitan Police via AP

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Poland ... Begs To Differ

US Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence, right, stand with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda and his wife Agata Kornhauser-Duda, left, under the gate during their visit at the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland, February 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

"[Poland is waiting in] expectation that the Israeli side will say in a clear way what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meant when he said the words that were quoted by the Israeli media."
"[Explanations from Israel are] unclear, [leaving Warsaw awaiting clarification]."
Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Szymon Szykowski vel Sek

"The Prime Minister's comments concerning Poland were misquoted by the Jerusalem Post, which quickly issued a correction clarifying that an error had been made in the editing of the article."
"Netanyahu spoke of Poles and not the Polish people or the country of Poland. This was misquoted and misrepresented in press reports and was subsequently corrected by the journalist who issued the initial misstatement."
Office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

"I am a son of Holocaust survivors and I was even born and grew up in a community made up of Holocaust survivor. The memory of the Holocaust is something we cannot compromise about; it is clear and we won’t forget or forgive."
"In diplomacy you try not to offend, but nobody will change the historical truth to do something like that. Poles collaborated with the Nazis, definitely. As Yitzhak Shamir [former Israeli Prime Minister] said, 'they [Poles] suckle anti-Semitism with their mother’s milk'."
"No one will tell us how to express ourselves, or how to remember our fallen."
Israel Katz, recently appointed acting Israeli Foreign Minister 
Holocaust survivors hold banners and wave an Israeli flag during a protest in front of the Polish Embassy in Tel Aviv, on February 8, 2018. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP/Getty Images/File)
Nazi Germany set up its death camps in every European country it occupied. Poland's concentration camps and death camps held and destroyed half of all lost Jewish lives; three million people. In all occupied countries nationals of those countries as citizens, along with their national police and military became voluntarily complicit with the Nazi killing machine, from France to Ukraine, Lithuania to Poland, sometimes with great helpful enthusiasm going beyond what their S.S. over-masters anticipated in usefulness in rounding up and dispatching Europe's Jews.

Some, but not all of those European countries have admitted their complicity while some, like Poland, stuck with the historical record it doesn't much care for, goes out of its way to try to exonerate itself and its citizens from claims it and many of its citizens were unusually helpful to the extermination work of the Final Solution. Last year, when Poland officially passed a law making it unlawful, a criminal offence, to speak of 'Polish death camps', rather than 'German death camps', an outcry from Israel and Holocaust survivors forced Poland to withdraw.

The killing camps located in Polish territory were often the last stop where Jews were collected from holding camps in other countries; the crematoria in Polish death camps were kept extremely busy. The European rail system transported Jews from across Europe -- from Greece and Holland, France and Italy -- into Poland where they were gassed, their bodies incinerated, the particulate matter that ensued up the smoke stacks and scattered around the countryside, enriching the soil for agricultural purposes.

<p>The European rail network played a crucial role in the implementation of the <a href="/narrative/2816/en">Final Solution</a>. Jews from Germany and German-occupied Europe were deported by <a href="/narrative/5789/en">rail</a> to <a href="/narrative/2746/en">killing centers</a> in occupied Poland, where they were killed. The Germans attempted to disguise their intentions, referring to deportations as "resettlement to the east." The victims were told they were to be taken to labor camps, but in reality, from 1942 onward, deportation meant transit to killing centers for most Jews. <a href="/narrative/5041/en">Deportations</a> on this scale required the coordination of numerous German government ministries, including the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA), the Transport Ministry, and the Foreign Office. The RSHA coordinated and directed the deportations; the Transport Ministry organized train schedules; and the Foreign Office negotiated with German-allied states to hand over their Jews.</p>

Israel often goes out of its way to diplomatically placate the injured feelings of countries like Poland and Ukraine when the issue of death camps and the willingness of their populations to deplete their countries of Jews led them to volunteer their help, in service to the Final Solution. This time around Poland once again making an effort to distance itself from the horrors of the Holocaust points out that it too lost millions of its people killed by the Nazis. As did Russia, when they turned against one another, Russia opting out of the Axis pact.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife and retinue were on a visit to Poland to take part in the commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Vice-President Pence and his wife were there for the solemn ceremony, as were Polish officials. The Warsaw Ghetto saw Polish Jews gathered within a geographic square in the city, off-limits to any but Jews, crowded together, living in squalor awaiting their final disposition. And when the transports began, and the rumours of death camps began circulating, the knowledge of their future in death camps spurred young Jewish men and women to rise against their oppressors.

Using the underground sewer system young Jews had for years smuggled themselves out of the ghetto to bring back food, medicine, and whatever arms they could find. Of the tens of thousands of Jews still left in the ghetto out of their total of 300,000 who had been steadily deported to death camps, an estimated 500 representing two defensive groups armed themselves and plotted the uprising. They built bunkers where the resistance could hide, they contacted the Polish underground which supplied them with some guns. Then they mounted their resistance and stopped the deportations temporarily.
The entrance to the gas chamber in Auschwitz I, where Zyklon B was tested on Soviet prisoners of war. [LCID: 50773]

Instytut Pamieci Narodowej 

Entrance to the gas chamber in Auschwitz IThe entrance to the gas chamber in Auschwitz I, where Zyklon B was tested on Soviet prisoners of war. The building in the background is a hospital for SS members. Auschwitz, Poland, date uncertain. 

Most of the resisters were killed by the Germans who had been forced out of the Ghetto. Individuals held on, refusing to surrender, until they were all killed, the rest of the Jews placed on transports to death camps, and the Warsaw Ghetto was demolished and razed, the uprising over; 1943. But they had managed to keep fighting for a month against the mighty German S.S. troops, a rag-tag band of desperate Jews using old, dilapidated weaponry and sacrificing themselves to restore hope and dignity to others.

Photograph from SS General Juergen Stroop's report showing the Warsaw ghetto after the German suppression of the ghetto uprising. [LCID: 34091a]
Photograph from SS General Juergen Stroop's report showing the Warsaw ghetto after the German suppression of the ghetto uprising. Stroop, commander of German forces that suppressed the Warsaw ghetto uprising, compiled an album of photographs and other materials. This album later came to known as "The Stroop Report." The right of this image from the album shows a column of Jews being transported out of the ghetto for deportation. Warsaw, Poland, April–May, 1943.
  • National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD

"To symbolize the German victory, Stroop ordered the destruction of the Great Synagogue on Tlomacki Street on May 16, 1943. The ghetto itself was in ruins. Stroop reported that he had captured 56,065 Jews and destroyed 631 bunkers. He estimated that his units killed up to 7,000 Jews during the uprising. The German authorities deported approximately another 7,000 Warsaw Jews to the Treblinka killing center, where almost all were killed in the gas chambers upon arrival."
Holocaust Encyclopedia
While in Poland for the memorial ceremony, Netanyahu commented that "Poles co-operated with the Nazis", meaning that some Poles were invested in killing Jews during the Nazi occupation of Poland. While the Prime Minister specifically did not indict all of the Poland, the Jerusalem Post article that has so enraged Poland, quoted him as saying "the Poles", a sweeping condemnation of all of Poland and its people. Mr Netanyahu, of course, is quite aware that over 6,800 Poles have been recognized for their help to Jews at risk of their own lives, recognized by Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial.

Poland's underground resistance fought the German occupation, and some Jews fought with them. The truth and reality are never clear-cut, however. The indisputable fact is that there has always existed anti-Semitism of a virulent, brutal and violent nature in Poland. Pogroms occurred as regular as clock-work over hundreds of years in Poland against Jews whose homes were established in Polish towns and villages. And that some -- a large enough number to be in the majority -- Poles approved of Jews being rounded up and shipped out, considered unwanted, foreign elements.
Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019. (AP/Michael Sohn)

Poland was sufficiently affronted by these declarations from Israelis in their views of Polish action during the Holocaust years, to threaten to pull out of a scheduled meeting of Central European leaders, the  Visegrad Group representing an alliance of nationalistic countries within the European Union supporting Israel; Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia more strenuously supportive of Israel than countries of Western Europe. That meeting was to have taken place today, Monday, but was cancelled when Poland withdrew.
"Accusing all Poles of anti-Semitism offends the Righteous; it also offends all those who today want to see in them the true representation of Polish society. And it also offends us, Polish Jews, who are a part of that society."
"One does not clarify lies by another set of lies. It is not honest [and] it is not moral to fight lies with another set of lies. What do you want? [Katz] functionally said that all Poles are anti-Semites. So how do you expect the Poles to react? There are irresponsible people on both sides and when an irresponsible statement is made it empowers other irresponsible people to react. This in no way justifies anti-Semitism in Poland, just as it does not justify distortion of the truth by Israeli leaders."
Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Union of Jewish Communities in Poland

Major Nazi camps in Europe, January 1944 [LCID: eur72160]

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Sunday, February 17, 2019

Closing an Atrocious Child-Marriage Loophole

"USCIS [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] is taking action to the maximum extent permitted under current immigration law to highlight special considerations in the adjudication of marriage-based immigrant petitions involving a minor."
"While these are steps in the right direction, ultimately it is up to Congress to bring more certainty and legal clarity to this process for both petitioners and USCIS officers."
USCIS Director L.Francis Cissna

"Everywhere we go, legislators, staffers, domestic violence professionals are surprised we allow child marriages in almost every U.S. state."
"We think of this as a problem that happens somewhere else, and I think that’s where we get the disconnect."
"The bigger question is: Why is this happening for something that seems like such a simple fix?" "How is it that our United States government is essentially facilitating child marriages?"
Amanda Parker, senior director,  AHA Foundation
The Homeland Security Department headquarters in northwest Washington is seen June 5, 2015. The Trump administration has announced new rules for scrutinizing petitions to bring in minor spouses to the United States.

"What we need is strong legislation that closes the dangerous immigration loophole that currently allows children of any age to petition for a foreign spouse or fiance(e) or to be the beneficiary of a spousal or fiance(e) visa."
"We need to stop incentivizing child marriage.
“I’m going to continue pushing and insisting that every state do what New Jersey and Delaware did, and that the federal government take basic steps to address the problem and to stop being complicit and actually encouraging child marriage."
“I’m going to keep screaming until the federal government is not complicit in child marriages anymore. It’s 2019 for crying out loud. Child marriage is an ancient relic from our sexist past, and it doesn't have any place in our society."Fraidy Reiss, campaigner, head, Unchained at Last
Data indicating over 5,000 instances of adults petitioning the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on behalf of minors, along with close to 3,000 instances of minors seeking to bring in older spouses or fiancees, in a move that is at the present time completely legal, enabling child marriages revealed by the Associated Press, has spurred the Immigration Services to clarify the situation by issuing guidance to adjudicators stressing marriages that involve minors must be given special alert attention.

At the present time men requesting authority to bring in children and adolescents as brides are being approved in a country which is attempting to stem the culturally-approved custom from abroad. The two-step visa process whereby visas are considered then granted by USCIS, and approved by the State Department has enabled mature men to take child brides into the country. In other situations, parental-guided minor marriages through coercion see the child brides sponsoring their adult 'husbands' or 'fiances' into the country.
The attention to the situation that the reportage highlighted has spurred USCIS to take action to flag and vet these petitions --  though by law no set minimum age requirements exist for the person making the request or for the person's spouse or fiance under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Contrarily, a petitioner must be at least 21 years of age to be able to bring a parent into the United States from overseas.

Officials hope that the changes instituted by USCIS, modest enough as they are will help to stem the child marriages entering the U.S, while knowing it will do nothing to stop them since age limits must be set by Congress as well as by individual states. Paying greater attention to these petitions, however, may result in the detection of instances where a child is being forced against her will to take part in such a marriage.

The situation is not one that advocacy groups laud, urging stronger measures be taken to protect children. Trust in the guidance of parental consent, used as evidence that an under-aged child consented to a marriage sidesteps the reality that many parents because of cultural, religious or heritage influences coerce their children into such troubling relationships and this is the issue that urgently requires addressing.

Child marriage US.jpg
In this Feb. 2, 2016 photo, Naila Amin, 26, looks out from a classroom window at Nassau Community College where she is a student in Garden City, N.Y. Amin, who was forced into marriage at the age of 15 to a 28-year-old cousin in Pakistan who beat and mistreated her, aspires to become a social worker and open a group home for girls trying to avoid or recover from forced marriages. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

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