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Fake news? 1 million Uighurs in Chinese “internment camps” (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 98.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss a recent Reuters report with a headline making an incredible claim of human rights abuse from the Chinese government: “U.N. says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps.”

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Turns out this headline was false. The United Nations stated it never said such a thing, or made such a claim.

Reuters and just about every mainstream media publication and television network picked up on the story and reported it as fact. No retraction has been submitted by Reuters, or any other news publication for that matter.

As Ajit Singh from Global Research writes, “one American member of an independent UN body made a provocative claim that China was interning 1 million Muslims, but failed to provide a single named source. And Reuters and the Western corporate media ran with it anyway, attributing the unsubstantiated allegations of one US individual to the UN as a whole.”


“No, the UN Did Not Report China Has ‘Massive Internment Camps’ for Uighur Muslims,” via Global Research

Numerous major media outlets, from Reuters to The Intercept, have claimed that the United Nations has reports that the Chinese government is holding as many as 1 million Uighur Muslims in “internment camps.” But a close examination of these news stories, and of the evidence behind them — or the lack thereof — demonstrates that the extraordinary claim is simply not true.

A spokesperson from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) confirmed in a statement to the Grayzone that the allegation of Chinese “camps” was not made by the United Nations, but rather by a member of an independent committee that does not speak for the UN as a whole. That member happened to be the only American on the committee, and one with no background of scholarship or research on China.

Moreover, this accusation is based on the thinly sourced reports of a Chinese opposition group that receives funding from foreign governments and is closely tied to exiled pro-US activists. While there have been many on-the-ground reports highlighting discrimination that Uighur Muslims have faced at the hands of the Chinese authorities, information about camps containing one million prisoners has originated almost exclusively from media outlets and organizations funded and weaponized by the American government to turn up the heat on Beijing.

A blatant falsehood introduced by Reuters and echoed across mainstream media

On August 10, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination conducted its regular review of China’s compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The review, which is conducted periodically for all 179 parties to the Convention, has generated a frenzied response by the Western corporate press — one which is uniformly misleading.

On the day of the review, Reuters published a report with an explosive headline: “U.N. says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps.”

Screengrab from Reuters

The claim was feverishly reproduced by outlets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post to denounce China and call for international action. Even The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan belted out the breathless headline, “One Million Muslim Uighurs Have Been Detained by China, the U.N. Says. Where’s the Global Outrage?” The impression readers were given was that the UN had conducted an investigation and had formally and collectively made such charges against China. In fact, the UN had done no such thing.

The headline of Reuters’ report attributed its explosive claim to the UN; yet the body of the article ascribed it simply to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. And this committee’s official website makes it clear that it is “a body of independent experts,” not UN officials.

What’s more, a look at the OHCHR’s official news release on the committee’s presentation of the report showed that the only mention of alleged re-education “camps” in China was made by its sole American member, Gay McDougall. This claim was then echoed by a Mauritanian member, Yemhelhe Mint Mohamed.

During the committee’s regular review of China, McDougall commented that she was “deeply concerned” about “credible reports” alleging mass detentions of millions of Uighurs Muslim minorities in “internment camps.” The Associated Press reported that McDougall “did not specify a source for that information in her remarks at the hearing.” (Note that the headline of the AP news wire is much weaker than that of Reuters: “UN panel concerned at reported Chinese detention of Uighurs.”)

Video of the session confirms that McDougall provided no sourcing to back up her remarkable claim.

This is to say, one American member of an independent UN body made a provocative claim that China was interning 1 million Muslims, but failed to provide a single named source. And Reuters and the Western corporate media ran with it anyway, attributing the unsubstantiated allegations of one US individual to the UN as a whole.

In an email to the Grayzone Project, OHCHR spokesperson Julia Gronnevet confirmed that the CERD was not representative of the UN as a whole.

“You are correct that the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is an independent body,” Gronnevet wrote. “Quoted comments were made during public sessions of the Committee when members were reviewing State parties.”

Thus the OHCHR implicitly acknowledged that the comments by McDougall, the lone American member of an independent committee, were not representative of any finding by the UN as a whole. The report by Reuters is simply false.

“Credible reports” from a government-funded opposition group with zero transparency

In addition to this irresponsible misreporting, Reuters and other Western outlets have attempted to fill in the gaps left by McDougall, referring to reports made by so-called “activist group” the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD). Conveniently left out of the story is that this organization is headquartered in Washington, DC.

CHRD, which receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding from unnamed governments, advocates full-time against the Chinese government and has spent years campaigning on behalf of extreme right-wing opposition figures.

CHRD is not at all transparent about its funding or personnel. Its annual reports contain notes stating, “This report has been produced with the financial support of generous donors.” But the donors are never named.

Publicly available 990 IRS filing forms reviewed by the Grayzone show that the organization is substantially funded by government grants. In fact, in 2015 virtually all of the organization’s revenue came from government grants.

CHRD’s 2015 form 990 discloses that $819,553 of its $820,023 revenue that year (99.94 percent) came from government grants. A measly $395 came from investments, with another $75 from other sources. According to its 2016 form 990, CHRD received $859,091 in government grants in that year.

Which government provided these grants is not clear. The Grayzone did not receive a response to several emailed interview requests sent to the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

However, it appears likely that CHRD could be receiving funding from the US government-backed National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

A search of the NED’s grants database shows funding from 2014 and 2015 totaling approximately half a million dollars to “support the work of Chinese human rights defenders.” It is not clear if this is a reference to the organization specifically, but the description accompanying the grants matches that of CHRD.

CHRD has used its generous funding to provide grants to opposition activists inside China, bankrolling dozens upon dozens of projects in the country.

On its tax forms, CHRD lists its address as the Washington, DC office of Human Rights Watch. HRW has long been criticized for its revolving door with the US government and its excessively disproportionate focus on designated enemies of Washington like China, Venezuela, Syria, and Russia.

Human Rights Watch did not respond to an email from the Grayzone inquiring about its relationship with CHRD.

CHRD’s forms 990 also reveal that the board of the organization is a Who’s Who of exiled Chinese anti-government activists.

The chair of the group is the US-based activist Su Xiaokang, who proclaimed that the Chinese public supposedly “wants the U.S. to watch over activists, and is disappointed when Washington fails.” Fellow US-based dissident Teng Biao is a CHRD director who has sarcastically boasted of how the Chinese communist party dubbed him a “reactionary.”

CHRD’s secretary is the American academic Perry Link, who has built his public reputation on winding up on the Chinese government’s academic “blacklist.” Link testified for the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs in 2014, claiming that the Chinese government is threatening academic freedom in the US.

In his congressional testimony, CHRD secretary Link insisted the US government should crack down on the Chinese government’s Confucius Institute organization and instead fund its own pro-US Chinese-language programs. Link characterized Chinese-language programs as a potential American weapon against the Chinese communist party, arguing they could “very arguably do more to blunt the CPC’s advance than the [B-2 Spirit Bomber] airplane could.”

These are some of the pro-US, anti-Chinese government figures who lead the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

Otherwise, there is very little publicly available information about CHRD. It appears to largely be the brainchild of its international director, Renee Xia, an opposition activist who has publicly called for the US government to impose sanctions on Chinese officials under the Magnitsky Act.

Support for the “non violence advocate” who loves America’s wars

CHRD’s founder, Xia, was a strong supporter of the imprisoned hard-right neoconservative Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, and she campaigned years for his release.

An archived version of the group’s website shows that as far back as 2010, CHRD was vociferously advocating on behalf of Liu, while likening the Chinese government to Nazi Germany.

While Liu Xiaobo became a cause celebre of the Western liberal intelligensia, he was a staunch supporter of colonialism, a fan of the most blood-soaked US military campaigns, and a hardcore libertarian.

As writers Barry Sautman and Yan Hairong reported in The Guardian in 2010, Liu led numerous US government-funded right-wing organizations that advocated mass privatization and the Westernization of China. He also expressed openly racist views against the Chinese.

“To choose Westernisation is to choose to be human,” Liu insisted, lamenting that traditional Chinese culture had made its population “wimpy, spineless, and fucked up.”

While CHRD described Liu as an “advocate of non-violence,” he practically worshiped President George W. Bush and strongly supported the illegal US-led invasion of Iraq, as well as the war in Afghanistan. “Non-violence advocate” Liu was even a fan of America’s wars in Korea and Vietnam, which killed millions of civilians.

CHRD’s most recent China report — the one cited by Reuters and other outlets to give credence to the allegations of Uyghur re-education camps — further highlights the organization’s links to Washington and compromised impartiality.

Most sources on the Uighur “camps” story are US government-linked

The most-cited source in the CHRD report, accounting for more than one-fifth of the 101 references, is Radio Free Asia (RFA), a news agency created by the US government. Along with Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio y Televisión Martí, and Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Radio Free Asia is operated by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a federal agency of the US government under the supervision of the State Department. Describing its work as “vital to U.S. national interests,” BBG’s primary broadcasting standard is to be “consistent with the broad foreign policy objectives of the United States.”

The near-total reliance on Washington-linked sources is characteristic of Western reporting on Uighurs Muslims in China, and the country in general, which regularly features sensational headlines and allegations. In addition to CHRD and RFA, it is common for reports to cite the World Uighur Congress, an organization funded by the NED. At a recent NED event, Grayzone editor Max Blumenthalinterviewed World Uighur Congress chairman Omer Kanat, who took credit for furnishing many of the claims of internment camps to Western media.

Another favorite congressional and mainstream media source for information about China is the Jamestown Foundation, a neoconservative think tank founded during the height of the Cold War by Reagan administration personnel with the support of then-CIA Director William J. Casey.  Former Jamestown board members include Dick Cheney and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

The latest incident of misreporting by Reuters is part of a trend of increasingly hostile, Cold War-like coverage of China by the Western press that coincides with Washington’s push for conflict with Beijing. In a series of policy statements, the Trump administration has repeatedly identified the “threat” posed by “economic and military ascendance” of China, with Defense Secretary James Mattis declaring that “Great Power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security.”

Growing anxious about its diminishing global dominance, the United States seeks to forestall the rise of of an alternative node of international power. A longstanding component of US imperialism is the use of ostensibly impartial “civil society groups” and “think tanks” to promote narratives in the media supportive of US foreign policy goals. Often under the guise of “humanitarian concern,” such stories aim to stir up public outrage and weaponize it to advance imperial ambitions.

This time-tested program is at the heart of the intensifying campaign against China, and as the latest raft of bogus stories demonstrated, the corporate media is eager to play along.


Ajit Singh is a Canada-based writer, lawyer and activist. He tweets at @ajitxsingh.

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Nightcrawler136
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Nightcrawler136

I knew it was fake news as soon as I read the MSM headlines, as should anyone with a functioning brain.

tom
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tom

I am strongly reminded of an old story about the extremes to which US colleges would go to sign up promising young football players – regardless of their academic ability (or lack of it). The president of this college orders the coach to sign up player X, a teenager of prodigious football talent but rather weak on the classroom side. Meeting X and interviewing him, the coach quickly realises that he will not be able to obey the president’s instructions if he insists on the normal qualifications and entrance exams. So he tells the young man and his parents: “As… Read more »

musosnoop
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musosnoop

Agreed but make no mistake China certainly does have prisons filled with political thought criminals in residence.

louis robert
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louis robert

This is just part of the global, vicious, intensifying mediatic propaganda war launched lately by the Empire against China. It stinks and tastes like it must, ever since the very beginning. The Chinese Foreign Ministry was therefore right to simply tell the Empire (in essence) to first mind its own business, China being totally capable to deal with its own. We should all attend to more vital matters when it comes to world problems, the first being to demand said Empire be held accountable to the world for the well documented, innumerable monstrous war crimes and crimes against humanity it… Read more »

Bassan17
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Bassan17

Are the media obligated to tell the truth? Some years ago, that very question was raised in a lawsuit in the US. The lawsuit which appeared to have merit ended up being thrown out by the courts, leaving us to wonder if this meant that media were under no such obligation. In the wrong hands, the resulting gray area has become a powerful political tool in the likes of false rumours which are used to taint people/countries, even if the lie or rumour is eventually disproved. Doubt has a way to linger in people’s minds and promotes divisiveness between people.… Read more »

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Foolish French President Macron tests Trump’s patience (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 149.

Alex Christoforou

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US President Donald Trump was ridiculed for his nationalist agenda by the very unpopular, globalist French President Emmanuel Macron, in a very public display of disrespect towards the United States and its president.

Macron, in front of world leaders brought together to commemorate the end of World War I, thought it wise to chastise Trump for his ‘America first’ policy, stating that nationalism was “tearing the world apart.”

Trump did find Macron’s smart ass tone to his liking, tweeting out his feeling the minute he landed stateside by reminding his European peers who pays the bills to keep the peace on the continent.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris reflect on Macron’s diplomatic gaffe, which Trump is unlikely to forget anytime soon.

Macron showed his boyish diplomatic skills, for which a man like Trump will make sure a heavy price is paid. The French President will certainly be at the receiving end of a very public and embarrassing dressing down at the hands of Donald Trump.

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Via Zerohedge

What was supposed to be a solemn visit to honor the 16 million soldiers who died during World War I alongside a coterie of world leaders in Paris was overshadowed by a mini-scandal surrounding President Trump’s missing an Armistice ceremony at an American military cemetery for purely cosmetic reasons (Trump reportedly didn’t want to get his hair wet during the ceremony which was held in pouring rain, though the White House maintained that he missed the beginning of the ceremony for security purposes).

Given the media’s focus on Trump’s purported vanity at the expense of nearly every other detail from Trump’s visit, it’s hardly surprising that the president has returned to the US rather agitated, and decided to lash out at his European partners in a series of tweets Monday morning.

While he said that his meetings with fellow world leaders were productive, Trump noted that it’s “never easy” to raise the issue that the US foots most of the bill for military protections in Europe thanks to its outsize shouldering of the cost burden of funding NATO.

Adding insult to injury, the US is paying “hundreds of billions of dollars” for the privilege of “losing hundreds of billions of dollars” with these countries on trade. Trump demanded that, going forward, the US must be treated fairly on military spending and trade.

It is time, Trump said, for these countries to either pony up, or find a way to start protecting themselves.

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Midterm Elections: A Disaster Denied, and What is Coming

The Democrats intend to mount a non-stopping offensive against the President.

The Duran

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Authored by Jeremiah Johnson (nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces ) via SHTFplan.com:


Before the 2016 Presidential Election, and both before and after the inauguration, I wrote specifically about how important the midterm election would be, and the results if the President should lose even one House of Congress.  That happened: the Republicans just lost the House of Representatives. Now that the Democrats control it, not one piece of legislation will pass that is on the President’s agenda. In the supreme act of denial, the Republican party claims the “Blue Wave” was not successful; even the President declared a “victory” with the midterms.

Nothing could be further from the truth, on either count.

The Democrats intend to mount a non-stopping offensive against the President. First, they are going to demand that Mueller go on the attack again. They are already demanding the President’s tax returns. On Thursday, 11-8-18, thousands of people marched in Times Square in New York City in protest of Jeff Sessions’ departure from the White House…although Sessions was the one who tendered a letter of resignation. The mob of protesters carried mass-produced “No one is above the law” placards and signs.

Not one of those Marxists carried those signs when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton resigned after Benghazi, where a U.S. Consular Outpost of the United States was destroyed, and the U.S. Ambassador and four of his staff murdered.

“Happy Veterans’ Day” is coming up, with the cliché eternal: “Thank you for your service.”

Nobody really cares about it, except the vets. Those who have to work receive time and a half for their pay, and Hallmark makes about another $50 million or so on the cards and gifts…about $10 million of that for the Government to “re-ingest” with the taxes….another day on the endless cycle:

The cycle of spending of disposable income, an indispensable part of the economy and all of the governmental employees on paid federal holiday, solemnly dispensed of at the expense of (to paraphrase Metallica) the government’s “disposable heroes.”

Where were the protests in the streets after Benghazi? Everybody was hidden, because at the time we were under Obama. When Donald Trump was elected President, a “hiatus” was granted from the nonstop march toward socialism/communism that reached a zenith as never before. Now that hiatus is shrinking, as the Communists and Marxists begin new offensives under their playbook “Rules for Radicals,” offensives targeting every area of the society.

Their plan should be obvious: to keep the President “backpedaling” and the economy faltering, in order to set the stage for the 2020 election. All of this I have written about before, and it came to pass with the Midterm elections. If they keep the President on the defense and keep pushing the “social issues,” it will render his administration ineffective…not delivering the change back toward the right that the voters wanted to see in 2016.

The Wall Street Journal published a piece on November 9 entitled Democrats plan to pursue most aggressive gun-control legislation in decades.” They have been receiving plenty of help on this one, with the Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, and the recent murders by a former Marine last week. Here they come again! All of the legislators…with armed protectors paid for by you, mind you…clamoring for the guns. Here’s a piece of it for you:

Democrats say they will pass the most aggressive gun-control legislation in decades when they become the House majority in January, plans they renewed this week in the aftermath of a mass killing in a California bar. Their efforts will be spurred by an incoming class of pro-gun-control lawmakers who scored big in Tuesday’s midterm elections, although any measure would likely meet stiff resistance in the GOP-controlled Senate. Democrats ousted at least 15 House Republicans with “A” National Rifle Association ratings, while the candidates elected to replace them all scored an “F” NRA rating. “This new majority is not going to be afraid of our shadow,” said Mike Thompson, a California Democrat who is chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. “We know that we’ve been elected to do a job, and we’re going to do it.”

Now of course the argument to this rationale will be that the Senate is needed before a law passes. Yes, we all watched “Schoolhouse Rock” and learned about the three-party system of checks and balances. The problem?  Nothing was accomplished when the Republicans held both houses of Congress, and the Reds and Blues counter one another, and more:

The Democrats’ strategy is not to pass any laws: it is to stir up public controversy, win support of the “Zero” generation, and either force actions through the “tyranny of the majority,” or make it so horrible an arena that it detracts from or prevents any positive efforts and actions from the administration…setting the stage for the 2020 election.

Ocasio-Cortez just entered the House of Representatives at the “sage/sagacious” age of 29, and she is a self-described “democratic socialist” who favors single-payer healthcare, gun control, abolishing border controls, and declared that she would support the impeachment of the President. She was also part of Bernie Sanders’ campaign movement in 2016.

Lenin espoused some “gems” that should be considered. Here is one that falls in line with the “newly discovered wonderful possibility of socialism” the Zero-generation and twenty-somethings have fallen in love with hook, line, and sinker:

“The goal of socialism is communism.”

New York just placed a “democratic socialist” in the White House…a declared socialist, among all of the hidden Marxists camouflaged under the “progressive” or “democratic” monikers.

Gun control, coming at us once again, and once more, a quote from Lenin for you:

“Disarmament is the ideal of socialism. There will be no wars in socialist society; consequently, disarmament will be achieved. But whoever expects that socialism will be achieved without a social revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat is not a socialist. Dictatorship is state power based directly on violence. And in the twentieth century – as in the age of civilization generally – violence means neither a fist nor a club, but troops. To put “disarmament” in the program is tantamount to making the general declaration: “We are opposed to the use of arms.” There is as little Marxism in this as there would be if we were to say: “We are opposed to violence!” – Lenin, “The Disarmament Slogan,” from October of 1916

The next two years should be interesting, to say the least. Keep in mind: the President is not throwing in the towel, however, he has one more year to turn the tide…before he has to campaign. There is still another way, though: I mentioned it in the last article that I wrote. Bush Jr. used this technique successfully when he was trailing Kerry in the polls. Margaret Thatcher used this technique when she was about to be shown the door, and turned it around, remaining in office.

The “technique” is a war, whether a “quickie” (such as the Falklands War…Malvinas, if you prefer), or a protracted one (Iraq “II” where victory was declared within months of started, and it was achieved…with the decades and a half of Military Industrial Complex contracts…and the transition of the United States into a Surveillance and Police State).

The technique is a war, and if you keep abreast of what is going on, you will see that Russia and China are gearing up for a war, the nations are “decoupling” themselves incrementally from the dying fiat-backed Petrodollar, and North Korea is once again raising itself as a nuclear threat (on its own, or encouraged by one or more nations). A war could either suspend elections, or propel the incumbent into a victory based on the populace’s perception of what they need. Remember this last quote from Lenin, and let it sink in good:

“A standing army and police are the chief instruments of state power.” – Lenin, State and Revolution, 1917

The ultimate truth: the elections are akin to the Stock Market, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average. It doesn’t matter how many shares are bought or sold, as long as there are fluctuations and flux. The winners are the brokers, who pocket their commissions on every trade…a sell or a buy. The same exists here. The blue donkeys versus the red elephants. The “tribalism” of men, and their needs of a social order…a cohesive social grouping that reflects what they believe in…is exploited to its maximum advantage. All the while, the paradigm shifts almost imperceptibly, until before you know it….twenty years have elapsed, and you are not looking at the same country anymore.

The “art” is to make the people think they will be getting what they want…dupe them into believing it is something good, when it’s not. It took the blood of heroes to form and defend this nation.  The downfall is precipitated by traitors from within…bleeding the nation white by circumventing existing laws and replacing them with the greatest injustice and threat to personal liberty of all. What is that greatest threat? A foreign enemy? A spontaneous collapse of everything?

No. The greatest threat is the acceptance of the people of the illusion of “social justice,” that really translates into something for nothing by taking from those who have earned, and giving it to those who live within the entitlement cesspool of their own sloth. Such a mentality pervades our society today. In order to save the United States, we have to return to our fundamental values and become an ass-kicking, straight-shooting people who fear God and care for their families, neighbors, and nation once more. If we do this, we may emerge from the coming night as a nation once more. Ready your NVGs, and steel your hearts for the challenge before it arrives…now…at the twilight’s last gleaming.

May Veterans’ Day bring remembrance to your mind, may your heart find peace, and may any who serve in your family be safe and sound.


Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne).  Mr. Johnson is also a Gunsmith, a Certified Master Herbalist, a Montana Master Food Preserver, and a graduate of the U.S. Army’s SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape).  He lives in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with his wife and three cats. You can follow Jeremiah’s regular writings at SHTFplan.com or contact him here.

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Russia’s Next Weapon: A Church

The Russian military plans to build a military church to bolster the spiritual values of its armed forces.

The Duran

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Authored by Michael Peck via The National Interest:


Meet Vladimir Putin’s newest weapon: a church.

The Russian military plans to build a military church to bolster the spiritual values of its armed forces. Construction will soon begin of the Main Church of the Armed Forces, to be erected in Patriot Park outside Moscow, according to Colonel General Andrei Kartapolov, deputy defense minister and chief of the armed forces’ Main Military-Political Directorate, a new organization responsible for political education of the troops.

The “new church will be one more example of the people’s unity around the idea of patriotism, love, and devotion to our Motherland,” Kartapolov told Russian journalists.

To say the church, dubbed by some as the “Khaki Temple,” will have a martial air would be an understatement.

“The walls of the military church are really made in the color of the standard Russian missile system and armored vehicle,” according to the Russian newspaper The Independent [Google English translation here ] “…From the inside, the walls are decorated with paintings with battle scenes from military history and texts from the Holy Scriptures. The projected height is 95 meters [104 feet] and is designed for 6,000 people.”

“Kartapolov is convinced that the modern Russian serviceman cannot be shaped without shaping lofty spirituality in him,” Russian media said. “Speaking about ideology, the deputy head of the military department pointed out that this will be based on knowledge of the history of our Motherland and people and on historical and cultural traditions.”

“Even though the Russian constitution states that ‘no ideology may be established as state or obligatory,’ the Kremlin continues to search for a unifying set of beliefs,” notes the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office.

Religion has long played a role in Russian military life, first through the Russian Orthodox Church in Tsarist times, and then—in a secular way—through Communism in Soviet times. “In late imperial Russia, when they began to build garrisons, every regiment sought to build a regimental church, but not a synagogue or mosque,” Roger Reese, an historian at Texas A&M University who has written books on the Tsarist and Soviet armed forces, told the National Interest. “In Putin’s Russia, the Orthodox Church seeks every opportunity to represent itself as the national religion and tie itself to the state as it had under the tsars, so this act represents continuity broken temporarily by the Soviet years. Of course the Soviet regime did not build churches for the army, but it did build the ‘House of the Red Army,’ shaped like a star, in Moscow dedicated to the use of the Red Army and its soldiers.

In some respects it was analogous to a USO [United Service Organization that supports American soldiers] building. So Putin’s dedicating one particular building to the use of the Russian Army soldiers for purposes of morale—and morals—is in line with that.”

While the thought of a military church will be distasteful to some, Russia is hardly unique in linking the military and religion.

Many armies, the United States and Israel included, maintain chaplains who wear uniform and hold military rank. Chapels are common on military bases, and soldiers are given time for – and sometimes pressured to – attend religious services. While a Russian military church is likely to favor a specific denomination – Russian Orthodoxy – even that isn’t unique: non-Christian members of the U.S. military have complained of religious discrimination , especially by Christian fundamentalists.

What’s interesting is how little things change. Be it the Tsar’s conscripts, or the Red Army’s draftees or the volunteers who comprise much of modern Russia’s military, some spiritual reinforcement is deemed necessary to get soldiers to fight.

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