“I think that sanctions are a two-edged sword. I think that threatening countries is often an unsuccessful way to get them to cooperate with us, because most of the relationships that we have are very complex and involve many issues.”
– Susan Jacobs, in response to a request for the State Department’s opinion of the threat of sanctions to oppose Japanese International Parental Child Abduction
1 – “Nix” to Sanctions?
The U.S. Department of State sent Advisor Susan Jacobs to the hearing of the Congressional Subcommittee on Global Human Rights on May 9th, 2013 to tell the Congress, the public, the parents of abducted children, and most importantly, the government of Japan, that parental child abduction is at best a low-level priority to policy makers in the U.S. Department of State. The designated advocate and representative of parents and their kidnapped children, Ambassador/ Advisor Jacobs spoke for 15 or 20 devastating minutes at the hearing and surrendered the lives and fates of hundreds of American children and thousands of children worldwide without a fight by declaring that the world’s most powerful state would not resort to the threat of sanctions even if the Congress makes the administration a gift of the ability to sanction Japan for continuing to provide safe haven for thousands of child abductions, hundreds of which originated from within the United States. (You can see the hearings in their entirety by clicking on this link. There is wonderful, constructive testimony from David Goldman, Patricia Apy, Bindu Philips, Colin Bower, and Michael Elias.)
In her most bizarre response to questions from members of the Subcommittee, Jacobs belittled the importance of stealing and kidnapping children by comparing it unfavorably on a scale of importance and impact to trafficking and other illegal cross-border activities, and said directly that the Department of State will not comply with the will of Congress that it entertain the threat of sanctions, should Congress successfully act to make them possible by enacting reintroduced children’s and parents human rights legislation, The Sean and David Goldman Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, this year. Jacobs, apparently seeking to preempt efforts to support such enabling legislation, said that this was because U.S. military and business ties in Japan are more precious, more vulnerable, more delicate, and more precarious than the lives of 4 and 6, 8 and 10 year-olds who have been kidnapped, hidden, and kept out of contact with their parent and families. According to Jacobs, these all-important business and military relationships with Japan would be damaged and falter if children were to be firmly protected from kidnapping.
I’m left to wonder what could possibly constitute a more malignant child-state policy? The United States, possessor of the world’s largest and most overtly activist criminal justice and military apparatuses is not behaving this way out of weakness, as officials imply when bowing to the sovereignty and inadmissible jurisdictional claims of Japan and other abduction-friendly states. The Department of State, which knows a thing or two about historically threatening and/or sanctioning countries large and small from Russian to Greece to Iran to Syria to Afghanistan to Pakistan to Yugoslavia to Vietnam to Laos to Cambodia to Cuba to Chile to El Salvador to Nicaragua to Panama to Honduras to Grenada to North Korea, suddenly becomes shy about appearing to be too assertive when it comes to protecting children from devastating harm. This is how it appears, until one begins to study the actual policies pursued by the United States with regard to the delicate areas of jurisdiction, sovereign rights, and enforcement of international law and treaty obligations. The U.S. commitment in these areas has long been dubious at best, self-serving for the rest. See note (1) below.
Because we intend for it to be known that we are real advocates for our children, we ought, in my opinion, to be asking for Ambassador Jacobs’ job. It simply is not acceptable for such a callous and openly indifferent posture to be taken from the key representative diplomatic post in the US government regarding the protection of children from international kidnapping.
2 – Slick Fumbling
There were other low-lights during the Department of State representative’s performance at the session. Global Human Rights Subcommittee Chairman Congressman Christopher Smith repeated the request he had made of the State Department a year earlier in his capacity as Chairman, to provide public information about the numbers of abducted children being held by both Hague and non-Hague treaty partners. Special Advisor Jacobs was not only unable to provide those numbers, but had no guess as to whether or not that was something that the State Department wanted to do, or had acquired the capacity to do, despite the Congressman’s repetition of a request that has also been frequently advanced by parents and activists. Parents of kidnapped children have for years insisted that the US Government has distorted, hidden, or refused to explore or keep proper records of the number of abductions in order to evade the appearance of supporting or insufficiently opposing a grave human rights violation in countries the Department of State considers friendly, “mature democracies,” such as Japan, Mexico, and India. With a polite but dismissive smile, Jacobs told the Congressman for the second year in a row since she took the job that she would “take [the Congressman’s request for numbers] back to the office.”
To many of us, Susan Jacobs’ unique qualification for her job seems often to be her sloppy imprecision, her ability to undermine any interlocutor’s confidence that she would ever have a substantive answer to a question so that henceforth they will give up on asking anything further from her. As one fellow parent recently wrote, this is the DOS/OCI “way of sapping the strength and spirit of LBP’s by forcing them to deal with … indifference, incompetence and hostility… In this way they can “resolve” abduction cases without ruffling any diplomatic feathers by grinding the LBP’s into the ground.” I cannot help but agree. Stupidity is a blameless vice, unless it is a pose of power. – See note (2) –In this case, it masks non-cooperation with Congress and much darker motives that aim at disciplining dissent with indifference to the perpetuation of trauma to mere children.
David Goldman reminded us all at the close of the hearing that Jacobs was appointed to her newly-created position in the Department of State only hours before legislation was introduced into the U.S. Congress to create a far more powerful and independent “Ambassador-at-large” to organize and discipline the prevention of abduction and the return of internationally abducted children. The creation of the position and her subsequent appointment appeared therefore to constitute an attempt by the Department of State to wrest control of the issue from political accountability among members of Congress in order to prevent effective action against international abduction from arising to inconvenience the Department of State in the pursuit of its usual business and military goals. That the move was a success is evidenced by the fact that the rate of international parental child abduction has continued to rise unabated into the thousands every year. This is how the Department of State defines success.
3 – Real Advocates Needed
Susan Jacobs should resign her post. And the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, – which by servicing corruption and crimes against children in Japan, India and elsewhere is an enormous threat to U.S. children – should either be eliminated or relieved of its position as the agency designated with primary authority within the U.S. government over international parental abduction. The office could be relegated to the role of the adoption services management agency with which it currently masks its cynical operations against children, and the matter of international kidnapping should be restored to those who are willing to recognize the need to protect children with a sense of strength and purpose. Economic and political sanctions, and at minimum the engagement of the most active, assertive, risk-taking criminal justice agencies of the U.S. government at least have the virtue of collectively providing potential means to achieve the aim of protection and return of the children we love from intolerable circumstances.
Our children deserve so much better.
See additions in the notes:
(1) See Human Rights in the United States: Beyond Exceptionalism, Hertal and Libal, editors; Cambridge University Press, 2011.
(2) It appears the Ambassador/ Advisor may have been unable to graduate from law school:
“Ambassador Jacobs graduated from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where she was a Regents Scholar, and later studied at Georgetown University Law School and the George Washington University.”
From the “About Us” bio-page of the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website: http://adoption.state.gov/about_us/our_leadership.php
(3) Patricia Apy testified at the hearing that the Department of State has repeatedly opposed a provision of the offered child abduction legislation under which members of Congress would be informed that there is a pending international child abduction case in their district. Now, why would the Department of State be opposed to informing members of Congress who might like to know how people in their area are being treated by and in a particular country with which the U.S. or the Congressperson might have dealings?
The State Department wants the information suppressed. It does not want people to know about this enormous human rights abuse, the kidnapping of our children from the U.S. to Japan, etc. If there were a groundswell against the thousands of international child abductions that happen every year, it would be “detrimental to the relationship” that DOS wants to maintain with members of those responsible governments.
This is precisely what Susan Jacobs and the Office of Children’s Issues represent; the suppression of information about International Parental Child Abduction.