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Here’s why the US failed to save the Jihadis in East Ghouta

The US military is not prepared to take on Russia’s military in Syria

Alexander Mercouris

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As the fighting in East Ghouta in Syria began to get underway in earnest last month, talk inevitably increased about a possible US military strike against the Syrian military in order to save the Jihadis under siege in East Ghouta.

Demands – or what amounted to demands – for military action to break the siege of East Ghouta began to appear in the Western media, of which this article in The Guardian is a good example.  Here is some of the things it said

……in the light of two significant military developments in recent weeks, western leaders should reconsider their reluctance to strike the forces responsible for so many atrocities. First, on 7 February, Russian private military contractors attacked a base in eastern Syria where US troops were based. The US forces appear to have killed a large number of attackers. The Russians were undoubtedly fighting in Syria with Kremlin approval, as a way of maintaining the fiction that Russia has no ground forces in Syria. Even so, Russia chose to cover up its casualties, rather than fight back.

Second, after Syrian air defences shot down an Israeli F-16 fighter on 10 February, Israel claimed to have destroyed almost half of Syria’s air defence system in retaliatory strikes. The Russians did nothing to prevent the Israeli attack. Israel’s success suggests that western military leaders were exaggerating the strength of Syria’s air defences to justify not striking regime targets earlier.

Taken together, these two defeats for the Syrian regime and the Russians suggest that a well-planned campaign (not the kind of one-off missile strike that Donald Trump launched in April 2017) could degrade Assad’s military capabilities, providing an incentive for him to look for a peaceful way out. A similar strategy, involving Nato strikes on Serbian forces, helped to bring Slobodan Milošević to the negotiating table and end the Bosnian conflict in 1995. A military campaign would need to be coupled with a strong message to Russia to stay out of the way and a plan for moving towards peace.

Or take this article in The Atlantic, which said amongst other things the following

As the slaughter continues in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta—a besieged area on the outskirts of Damascus that is home to some 400,000 people—the obvious question becomes even more urgent: How can this abomination be stopped? There are no risk-free silver bullets or magic potions. There is no diplomatic fairy dust or holy water. But one thing is inescapable: Unless the United States is seriously considering military strikes against Bashar al-Assad’s regime—a regime up to its eyes in war crimes and crimes against humanity—any discussion of “what to do” is empty

Reports duly appeared of US destroyers armed with cruise missiles approaching the Syrian coast, leading to warnings from the Russian military against US military action in East Ghouta.

This is from a Newsweek article dated 13th March 2018

Top Russian officials have threatened to retaliate with force if President Donald Trump orders an attack that could endanger the lives of its soldiers stationed there in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s campaign against rebels and jihadis near Damascus.

Army General Valery Gerasimov warned on Tuesday that the U.S. was preparing to launch raids against Moscow’s ally, the Syrian government, as it attempted to clear the pockets of insurgents—some of which were once backed by the West—in the suburbs of the capital city of Damascus. Gerasimov, who acted as chief of Russia’s general staff and deputy defense minister, claimed that the U.S. would strike under the false pretense of a chemical weapon attack—a tactic that Russia has denied the Syrian military utilizes—and vowed to fight back.

“In the event of a threat to our military servicemen’s lives, Russia’s armed forces will take retaliatory measures to target both the missiles and their delivery vehicles,” Gerasimov said, according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency…….

…….the Russian Foreign Ministry also pledged a forceful response to any U.S. attack that threatened Russian troops who were stationed throughout Syrian military front lines near Damascus. Accusing a “belligerent” Haley of promoting “criminal actions” in Syria, the ministry said, “In this case, required retaliatory measures will be taken,” Tass reported.

“If a new strike of this kind takes place, the consequences will be very serious,” Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a separate statement also carried by Tass.

“Mrs. Haley should understand that it is one thing to irresponsibly exploit the microphone in the U.N. Security Council and it is another thing when both the Russian and American militaries have communication channels and it is clearly

As it happens, on 5th March 2018 an article appeared in the Washington Post reporting a discussion which supposedly took place in the White House in which a possible attack on the Syrian military besieging East Ghouta was supposedly discussed.

According to this article US President Donald Trump’s then National Security Adviser, General H.R. McMaster, was in favour of an attack, but US Defense Secretary General James Mattis was adamantly opposed and US President Trump in the end decided against it

The Trump administration has considered new military action against the Syrian government in response to reports of ongoing chemical weapons use, officials said, raising the prospect of a second U.S. strike on President Bashar al-Assad in less than a year.

President Trump requested options for punishing the Assad government after reported chlorine gas attacks — at least seven this year — and possibly other chemicals affecting civilians in opposition-controlled areas.

In a Feb. 25 incident, residents and medical staffers in a rebel-held Damascus suburb, Eastern Ghouta, described symptoms associated with chlorine exposure. One child died, medical staffers reported.

The president discussed potential actions early last week at a White House meeting that included Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, officials said.

One official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to address internal deliberations, said that the president did not endorse any military action and that officials decided to continue monitoring the situation….

One senior administration official said that Mattis was “adamantly” against acting militarily in response to the recent chlorine attacks and that McMaster “was for it.”

However this same Washington Post article casts doubt on whether this discussion ever actually took place

Dana White, chief Pentagon spokeswoman, denied that Mattis took part in discussions about military action in Syria and said the “conversation did not happen.”

With the fighting in East Ghouta almost to an end it is now clear that a US military strike against the Syrian military besieging East Ghouta will not happen.

Given that this is so, it is worth asking why?  The answer to that is provided by what has happened previously since Russia first intervened in the Syrian conflict in September 2015.

Back in October 2016, at the height of the ‘Great Battle of Aleppo’, a serious discussion did take place within the US National Security Council debating whether or not the US should intervene militarily to break the Syrian army’s siege of the Jihadi controlled enclave of eastern Aleppo, and reviewing the military options for intervention which were then available to the US.

News of this discussion provoked a stern warning from the Russian military that any such intervention by the US military in the fighting in Aleppo would provoke a strong Russian response, with the Russians warning that their very capable air defence system in Syria was fully prepared to shoot down US aircraft if called on to do so.

Two days later the US backed down, publicly confirming that no US military action against the Syrian military was being planned or would take place.

Subsequently in April 2017, after the US cruise missile strike on Syria’s Al-Sharyat air base following the alleged chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun, the Russians retaliated by switching off the deconfliction hotline between the US and Russian militaries in Syria, which the two militaries use in order to inform each other of their respective activities.

As an article in The New York Times dated 8th April 2017 admitted, the result was an immediate drastic reduction in US air operations in Syria, with the US air force unwilling to risk confrontation with the powerful Russian air defence system there

The American-led task force that is battling the Islamic State has sharply reduced airstrikes against the militants in Syria as commanders assess whether Syrian government forces or their Russian allies plan to respond to the United States’ cruise missile strike on a Syrian airfield this past week, American officials said.

The precautionary move, revealed in statistics made public by the command on Saturday, was taken as Russian officials have threatened to suspend the communication line the American and Russian militaries use to notify each other about air operations in Syria.

After protracted negotiations the US was able to persuade the Russians to switch the deconfliction hotline back on.

However, shortly after in June 2017 the US shot down a Syrian SU-22 in eastern Syria, causing the Russians not only to switch the deconfliction hotline off again, but to warn the US that US aircraft flying over Syria west of the Euphrates would be tracked and ‘painted’ by Russian air defence radars

Any aircraft, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected in the operation areas west of the Euphrates River by the Russian air forces will be followed by Russian ground-based air defense and air defense aircraft as air targets.

The US response – under the cover of bluster about the US being prepared to defend itself – was to halt US air operations west of the Euphrates

As a result of recent encounters involving pro-Syrian regime and Russian forces, we have taken prudent measures to reposition aircraft over Syria so as to continue targeting ISIS forces while ensuring the safety of our aircrews given known threats in the battle space.

It is this game of cat-and-mouse which the Russians regularly play with the US military in Syria which accounts for the US failure to intervene in the fighting in East Ghouta.

Quite simply, as the events of October 2016, April 2017 and June 2017 show, the US military is not prepared to take on the Russian military in Syria and risk a full scale armed confrontation with Russia there.

I discussed all this in my article in which I discussed the Russian response to the US’s shooting down in June 2017 of the SU-22 fighter bomber in eastern Syria

The fact that the Russians have installed a powerful air defence system in Syria incorporating advanced S-400 and S-300VM Antey 2500 missiles means that the US is unable to confront the Russians directly unless it is prepared to risk possibly very serious casualties.

That is an option neither the US military nor the civilian officials of the Obama and Trump administrations are prepared to face.  This is because they know the extraordinary dangers such a clash with the armed forces of a nuclear superpower would risk.  They also know US public opinion is strongly opposed to the US becoming drawn into such a clash.

This is what explains the US’s failure to intervene in the fighting in East Ghouta.

On three prior occasions – in October 2016, in April 2017 and in June 2017 – the US has appeared to come close to an armed clash with the Russian military in Syria.

Following Russian warnings and counter-moves it has on each occasion backed off.

The same thing has now happened in relation to the fighting in East Ghouta.

Talk of US intervention has again resulted in Russian warnings, which have again caused the US to back off.

I say this though I am actually deeply skeptical that a US attack on the Syrian military besieging East Ghouta was ever seriously considered.

General H.R. McMaster – President Trump’s eternally belligerent former National Security Adviser – may have called for it, just as he has called for attacks on North Korea and Iran.

However at this very late stage in the Syrian war, with the Jihadis routed everywhere in Syria and in headlong retreat, a US attack to break the siege of East Ghouta would not only have been supremely risky; it would make no possible sense.

Realistically, what did not happen in October 2016 during the ‘Great Battle of Aleppo’ – when the future of Syria was still in play – was not going to happen in March 2018 in East Ghouta when the struggle for Syria had already been decided.

That is why I never took the possibility of US military action in East Ghouta seriously, as I all but said in my article discussing the Battle of East dated 26th February 2018

…….if there are striking similarities between the uproar over the fighting in Aleppo in 2016 and the fighting in east Ghouta today, there is also one very important difference.

This is that this time the uproar lacks conviction.

Following the Syrian army’s victory in Aleppo in 2016, and following the establishment of permanent Russian bases in Syria, there is now no longer any possibility of President Assad being ousted by force.

That means that regime change in Syria is no longer practicable, which begs the question of why the war is being continued at all.

Putting that aside, since the US and the rest of the regime change coalition know that a “rebel” ‘victory’ in Syria is no longer possible, their protests against the Syrian army’s ongoing offensive against the Jihadis in east Ghouta inevitably lack conviction and have none of the force that they did in 2016.

I would add that for all of the above reasons I personally doubt that the meeting in the White House reported by the Washington Post during which an attack on the Syrian military besieging East Ghouta was supposedly discussed ever took place.  As the Washington Post reports (see above) Pentagon spokesman Dana White denies that it happened.

What is the source of much confusion is the persistent claim – made for example in the article in Guardian which I quoted above – that the Russian warnings against US military action are no more than bluff.

Those who make this claim have lately taken to citing the supposed Russian failure to respond to the following incidents

(1) the cruise missile strike on Al-Sharyat air base in April 2017;

(2) the Israeli attack on the Syrian air defence system in February 2018 following the shooting down By Syria of an Israeli F-16 fighter; and

(3) the US air strike in eastern Syria in February 2018 in which a number of Russian mercenaries were killed.

The first of these alleged examples of Russian inaction in response to attacks on Syria is in fact obviously wrong.  The Russians did respond strongly to the US cruise missile strike on Al-Sharyat air base.  They switched off the deconfliction hotline, causing a drastic cut in US air operations over Syria (see above).

As to the other two examples, they are based on the fallacy that the Russians have committed themselves to responding to every attack on the Syrian military by the US and its allies however minor such an attack might be, and that their failure to defend Syria from every such attack is therefore in some way ‘proof’ of their inability or of unwillingness to defend Syria when it is attacked.

For a classic statement of this view see these comments in the article in the Guardian article which I have cited

First, on 7 February, Russian private military contractors attacked a base in eastern Syria where US troops were based. The US forces appear to have killed a large number of attackers. The Russians were undoubtedly fighting in Syria with Kremlin approval, as a way of maintaining the fiction that Russia has no ground forces in Syria. Even so, Russia chose to cover up its casualties, rather than fight back.

Second, after Syrian air defences shot down an Israeli F-16 fighter on 10 February, Israel claimed to have destroyed almost half of Syria’s air defence system in retaliatory strikes. The Russians did nothing to prevent the Israeli attack……

Taken together, these two defeats for the Syrian regime and the Russians suggest that a well-planned campaign (not the kind of one-off missile strike that Donald Trump launched in April 2017) could degrade Assad’s military capabilities, providing an incentive for him to look for a peaceful way out. A similar strategy, involving Nato strikes on Serbian forces, helped to bring Slobodan Milošević to the negotiating table and end the Bosnian conflict in 1995. A military campaign would need to be coupled with a strong message to Russia to stay out of the way and a plan for moving towards peace.

This view is based on a completely false reading of the two incidents it describes (incidents (2) and (3) listed by me above).

Turning first to the US air strike which killed the Russian mercenaries, a detailed investigation by the German magazine Der Spiegel of this incident has established that the ‘scores’ or ‘hundreds’ of Russian mercenaries who were supposedly killed by this US air strike are  just as we reported previously – a figment of the imagination.

A team of DER SPIEGEL journalists spent two weeks interviewing both witnesses to, and participants in, the battle. The team also spoke to a staff member at the only hospital in Deir ez-Zor as well as an employee of the local military airport in an attempt to get a clear picture of exactly what took place during the three-day battle.

The accounts largely corroborate each other and the image of events that emerges is one that contradicts what has been reported in the Russian and international media.

At 5 a.m. on Feb. 7, around 250 fighters south of Deir ez-Zor attempted to cross from the west bank of the Euphrates to the east using a military pontoon bridge…..Witnesses say that no Russian mercenaries took part in the attempted crossing…….

……..right around the same time late that night, another group of Syrian tribal militia members and Shiite fighters came from the village of Tabiya to the south and also attacked the SDF base. And the Americans struck back with their entire destructive arsenal. They deployed rocket-equipped drones, combat helicopters, heavy AC 130 aircraft, nicknamed “gun boats,” to fire on targets on the ground, rockets and ground artillery.

They struck in the night, followed by an attack the next morning on a group with a tribal militia in Tabiya that had only come to retrieve the bodies. And on Feb. 9, they once again attacked a unit of the same fighters who had popped up on the eastern side of the river…….

Among those stationed in Tabiya was a small contingent of Russian mercenaries. But the two militia sources said they did not participate in the fighting. Still, they said, 10 to 20 of them did in fact lose their lives. They said a total of more than 200 of the attackers died, including around 80 Syrian soldiers with the 4th Division, around 100 Iraqis and Afghans and around 70 tribal fighters, mostly with the al-Baqir militia.

It all happened at night, and the situation became extremely complicated when the fighters from Tabiya entered the fray. A staffer at the only major hospital in Deir ez-Zor would later say that around a dozen Russian bodies were delivered. An employee at the airport, meanwhile, later witnessed the delivery of the bodies in two Toyota pickup trucks to a waiting Russian transport aircraft that then flew to Qamishli, an airport near the Syrian border in the north.

In the days that followed, the identities of the Russians killed would be revealed — first of six and ultimately nine. Eight had been verified by the Conflict Intelligence Team, a Russian investigative platform, and another was released by the radio station Echo Moscow. All were employees of the private mercenary company Evro Polis, which is often referred to by the nom du guerre of its head: “Wagner.”

(bold italics added)

In other words, far from ‘scores’ or ‘hundreds’ of Russian mercenaries participating in an attack by Syrian tribal fighters on a US position east of Euphrates and being killed by a US air strike,  the Russian mercenaries got caught up in a US retaliatory strike after Syrian tribal fighters on their own initiative advanced on a base held by Syrian militia allied to the US.

Far from ‘scores’ or ‘hundreds’ of Russian mercenaries being killed in the US retaliatory strike, the total number of Russian mercenaries who were killed was nine.

The incident does however seem to have provoked the Russians into complaining about what happened to the US, leading to steps being taken by the US and Russian militaries to ensure that nothing like that would ever happen again.

That no doubt explains why – as was recently confirmed by US Defense Secretary Mattis speaking on 27th March 2018 – the US recently acted to head off a possible further clash between the US military and Syrian tribal and Russian mercenary forces in the same area in eastern Syria

US forces in Syria narrowly averted another clash with Russian mercenaries like one last month that left more than 100 opposing fighters dead, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday.

Mattis told reporters that “Russian elements” moved across a deconfliction line into an area on the eastern side of the Euphrates river where the sides had previously agreed they could operate, he said.

But he said they came “too close” to positions of US soldiers in the area.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford, contacted his Russian counterpart, General Valery Gerasimov, about the incursion.

“And those elements fell back so we have also drawn off slightly to maintain the deconfliction between the elements there,” he said.

“So it seems that this time, it was resolved through the deconfliction communication line,” he added.

Mattis did not give a precise date for the incident, but on Thursday [22nd March 2018 – AM] the Pentagon issued a brief statement noting that Dunford and Gerasimov had held talks on Syria and other matters of mutual interest.

As for the Israeli strike in February 2018 – undertaken shortly after Syria’s air defence forces shot down an Israeli F-16 – it is true that in the days after the strike Israel made the usual inflated claims that it had destroyed 50% of Syria’s air defences and 900 Syrian anti aircraft missile launchers.

It says much about the current dismal state of international news reporting that this ridiculous claim has been taken seriously.

It is in fact well known that Middle East states – including of course Israel – routinely exaggerate the casualties they inflict on their opponents in order to make their ‘victories’ appear more impressive than they are.

In this case the true extent of the Israeli strike is actually known because before the propaganda machine got working the Israelis themselves provided what looks to be an accurate report of it

In retaliation for the downed jet, Israeli forces attacked 12 targets in Syria, including three aerial defense batteries and four targets described as Iranian, the IDF said.  An IDF statement described the four Iranian targets as “part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria.”

In typical Middle East fashion an attack on three Syrian anti aircraft missile batteries became inflated into the destruction of 900 Syrian missile launchers (!) and the destruction of 50% of the Syrian air defence system (!!).

It is difficult to know what is more fantastic: the Israeli claims or the fact that so many people chose to believe them and report them as true.

As I have repeatedly pointed out, the Russians will not let themselves get drawn into unnecessary confrontations with the Western powers over minor attacks on Syrian military units which have no bearing on the course of the war.  The Israeli strike in February 2018 in retaliation for the Syrian shooting down of an Israeli F-16 fighter was exactly such a minor attack.

To be clear, the Israeli strike – part of a decades long conflict between Israel and Syria in which Russia is not a party – neither interfered with Syrian military operations against the Jihadis nor did it threaten the existence of the Syrian government.  The Russians accordingly were not concerned by it.

By contrast the Russians most certainly are concerned about the fighting in East Ghouta.

Not only is the Battle of East Ghouta a key battle which the Syrian military must win if the Jihadi threat to Syria is to be eliminated, but the Russian military is itself heavily involved in the battle, with the Russian Aerospace Forces actively involved in the fighting, and the Russian military brokering withdrawal agreements with the Jihadis which are paving the way for the Syrian army’s eventual victory in the battle.

Given that this is so, the US and its allies can be under no illusions that a US military intervention in the fighting in East Ghouta will be anything other than fiercely resisted by the Russians.

That guarantees that no such intervention will take place, which is why of course it has not happened.

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Fusion GPS founder trapped in legal jeopardy, bets on Democrat midterm win to bury Russiagate hoax (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 135.

Alex Christoforou

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Fusion GPS researcher Nellie Ohr and ex-FBI official James Baker are set to testify before Congress, but Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson is taking the Fifth.

The man at the center of the Russiagate hoax, Glenn Simpson, headed the espionage/PR smear firm Fusion GPS, which ordered the discredited and fake Trump ‘dossier’, which John McCain handed to the FBI, and which Buzzfeed News published as actual news.

Simpson has a lot of explaining to do, and now appears trapped in his “under oath” lies.

Simpson had previously testified under oath to the House Intelligence Committee that he never met with DOJ official Bruce Ohr, husband to Fusion GPS researcher Nellie Ohr.

Simpson also stated under oath that he never discussed with Bruce Ohr the Steele dossier prior to the October FISA application, which was used to spy on Carter Page and kick off the ‘Russiagate hoax’.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the legal jeopardy entangling Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson. Republicans are close to breaking the ‘Russiagate hoax’ wide open, but Simpson is betting on delay tactics, and a subsequent Democrat midterm House victory, to save his ass from prosecution, and bury his involvement in a brazen attempt to discredit and remove an elected US President.

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According to Zerohedge, Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson may be in “real legal jeopardy” over inconsistent testimony given to Congress regarding his involvement in a massive counterintelligence effort against then-candidate Donald Trump, including the infamous Steele dossier.

Speaking with Fox News Maria Bartiromo, John Ratcliffe (R-TX) said…

“I’m not surprised that Glenn Simpson is taking the Fifth.”

“He probably should. He’s in real legal jeopardy. Very clearly someone is not telling the truth.”

Via The Daily Caller… 

Simpson, who investigated the Trump campaign on behalf of the DNC and Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, informed Congress on Thursday that he will plead the Fifth to avoid speaking with members of the House Judiciary and House Oversight & Government Committee in an interview set for Tuesday.

“The reason for that … is that Glenn Simpson had previously testified under oath to the House Intelligence Committee that he never met with Bruce Ohr or discussed with Bruce Ohr the Steele dossier prior to the October FISA application in 2016 or the 2016 presidential election,” said Ratcliffe, a member of the House Judiciary panel.

Via Fox News ‘Sunday Morning Futures’

Via Zerohedge

Ohr told the Judiciary and Oversight & Government Reform Committees in an August 28 interview that he met with Simpson in August and December of 2016 to discuss Fusion GPS’s opposition research into Donald Trump.

Bruce’s wife, Nellie Ohr, was hired by Fusion GPS for the anti-Trump effort at the time.

Simpson, however, told a different story to the House Intelligence Committee on November 14, 2017, when he said that he hadn’t been in contact with anyone from the DOJ or FBI until after the election. While he did acknowledge meeting with Bruce Ohr (meetings which would result in Ohr’s demotion), Simpson never disclosed his wife’s employment.

“Ohr, who has been demoted twice since December, was also in frequent contact with Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous anti-Trump dossier. Steele, a former British spy, was hired by Fusion GPS in June 2016 to investigate the Trump campaign’s possible links to the Kremlin.

Steele met with the Ohrs on July 30, 2016, a day before the FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation into the Trump team. Ohr met just after with FBI deputy Director Andrew McCabe.” – Daily Caller

Following the 2016 election, Steel and Ohr met over a dozen times, despite the FBI having blacklisted Steele for improper media disclosures concerning his work.

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Hillary and Holder are hurting Democrat Party with their rhetoric

Democrat-written opinion piece points out the fact that the party has radicalized so much it has left its own supporters behind.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Fox News ran an opinion piece written by Douglas E. Schoen early Sunday. It points out how radicalized the Democrat Party has become, and it is noteworthy because Douglas Schoen is a Democrat himself. He writes (emphasis added):

As Democrats campaign for the Nov. 6 midterm elections, they have plenty of legitimate criticisms to level at President Trump and Republicans who control the House and Senate. But Democrats were hurt in recent days by amazing and disgusting comments made by Hillary Clinton and former Attorney General Eric Holder.

As a Democrat, I want my party to win as many seats as possible in the House and Senate and to capture as many governorships and other state offices as it can. But the Clinton and Holder remarks do not advance that effort – they hurt it.

Former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Clinton said Tuesday that “you cannot be civil with” the Republican Party because it “wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about.” She added that “if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again.”

But even worse than Clinton’s comments were those of Eric Holder, who said at a recent campaign event in Georgia that Democrats should abandon the advice of former first lady Michelle Obama, who said at the 2016 Democratic National Convention that her party and mine should respond positively to negative attacks from the GOP.

Mrs. Obama said that “when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high.”

Holder argued just the opposite, saying: “When they go low, we kick them. That’s what this new Democratic Party is about.” He later said he wasn’t advocating violence – not literal kicking.

I beg to differ with both Clinton and Holder.

The only way the Democrats can regain the majority in either or both houses of Congress is by being civil, and pointing out the differences between Democrats and Republicans on the issues.

This is the real issue that should govern elections. Rather than the politics of popularity, one needs to consider policy points and which side offers points that are actually achievable, believable, concrete, desirable and specific. Calling President Trump and his administration names does not offer any constructive dialogue on policy matters.

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Conservatives and Trump supporters know this and it is precisely because of this that Donald Trump won the White House.

While the mainstream media (and here we can include Fox News largely) tried every possible way to ridicule Donald Trump’s candidacy, the people that actually listened to what he had to say found him very impressive on policy as much as his ability to speak as the voice of the people. The recent hysteria around Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and confirmation to the Supreme Court was hysteria up front, driven by real policy fears from the deep core of liberals, as they know that this Justice is likely to form an effective wall against liberals ramming their agenda through the courts since their efforts fail legislatively so often.

Mr. Schoen continues:

As a centrist Democrat, the issue that strikes me most is the degree to which the national debt and the deficit are now out of control.

America faces uncertain and unstable times financially. Yet we are seeing a Republican-controlled Congress that has largely failed to do anything besides provide tax cuts for major corporations and the wealthiest individuals. This is by no means certain to have fundamentally altered the path of the economy or to provide economic growth.

Put another way, what the Trump administration has failed to do is to fix health care and cover pre-existing conditions more fundamentally; lead America in a fiscally responsible way; and pass tax cuts that help the average American. The Trump tax cuts have driven up the national debt and endangered funding for programs that benefit millions of people in our country.

So, here are policy points. Now we can begin to have a debate. Is Mr. Schoen right, or wrong in his information? This is far different than name-calling!

Democrats have long argued the need for a centrist agenda that focuses on:

  • Providing health-care benefits – whether private or public – to all Americans to cover expansively all pre-existing conditions.
  • Protecting the environment from the policies of the Trump administration that have only encouraged –and I dare say exacerbated – environmental degradation and climate change.
  • Promoting a pro-growth, inclusive agenda that seeks to put working people first, and the interests of Washington insiders and economic elites second. President Trump claims that he is doing this – he calls it “draining the swamp” – but this has not happened.

There is no justification for the angry rhetoric of Clinton and Holder, which only feeds into Republican claims that Democrats are an angry mob that can’t get over Clinton’s loss to Trump two years ago.

And Holder looks particularly bad because he was once the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, yet now sounds like he is effectively advocating what appears to be either illegal activities, or metaphorical initiatives that run counter to our traditions and our politics.

Hillary Clinton has said she won’t run for office again, but Holder has said he may run for president in 2020. Whoever the Democratic candidate turns out to be needs to be a responsible and respectable opponent – not one who calls for kicking the GOP or for incivility.

We should have learned from the Senate confirmation hearing for now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh that resisting for the sake of resisting doesn’t work. In fact, Democratic attacks on Kavanaugh may well have backfired, recent polls show.

The Democratic Party itself is lost now, without a message, a direction, a strategy, or agenda to confront a Republican Party that is seen as in many ways as having let the American people down.

We need change – but it must be constructive change. This Democrat believes that the comments that Eric Holder and Hillary Clinton made are wrong, counterproductive, and deserve to be rejected by the leadership of the Democratic Party.

Perhaps Fox News ran this opinion piece because Douglas Schoen is the first rational Democrat contributor to say anything in some time. However, it also appears that Mr. Schoen is a minority in his own party. It is a greatly logical approach to argue policy, as he has and as anyone who really understands American government should. But it is unclear as to whether the bulk of the Democrat Party even has reasonable people remaining.

If they do, it may well be that they are being betrayed by their party’s increasingly leftist and radical positions. The Party apparatus seems focused, but it also seems to have left people like Mr. Schoen behind.

Who knows? Maybe that will bring them into the Trump camp.

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Patriarch Bartholomew lifts anathemas on schismatics in Ukraine (VIDEO)

Most of the Orthodox world is in strong opposition to this move by Patriarch Bartholomew, whose motivations seem not to be of Christ.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The biggest news in the Eastern Orthodox world in recent times occurred on Thursday, October 11, 2018. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, lifted the anathemas against two schismatic Ukrainian Churches and their leaders, paving the way to the creation of a fully independent Ukrainian national Orthodox Church.

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This announcement was given in English and is shown here in video with the textual transcript following:

“Presided by His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Holy and Sacred Synod convened for its regular session from October 9 to 11, 2018 in order to examine and discuss items on its agenda. The Holy Synod discussed in particular and at length, the ecclesiastical mater of Ukraine in the presence of His Excellency Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon and His Grace Bishp Ilarion of Edmonon, Patriarchal Exarchs to Ukraine, and following extensive deliberations decreed (emphasis added):

First, to renew the decision already made, that the Ecumenical Patriarchate proceed to the granting of autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine;

Second, to re-establish at this moment the stavropegion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Kiev—one of its many starvorpegion in Ukraine that existed there always;

Third, to accept and review the petitions of appeal of Philaret Denisenko and Makary Maletich and their followers who found themselves in schism not for dogmatic reasons, in accordance with the canonical prerogatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to receive such petitions by hierarchs and other clergy of all the autocephalous Churches. Thus, the above mentioned have been canonically reinstated to their hierarchical or priestly rank, and their faithful have been restored to communion with the Church;

Fourth, to revoke the legal binding of the Synodal letter of the year 1686, issued for the circumstances of that time, which granted the right through economia to the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev elected by the clergy-laity assembly of his eparchy, who would commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch as the first hierarch at any celebration, proclaiming and affirming his canonical dependence to the Mother Church of Constantinople;

Fifth, to appeal to all sides involved that they avoid appropriation of churches, monasteries, and other properties as well as every other act of violence and retaliation so that he peace and love of Christ may prevail.”

There are a few things that must be said about what this declaration is not before we get to the matter of what the points of actually are. The point of reference is the strict letter of the text above itself.

  • This is not a granting of autocephaly (full independent self-rule status) like the fourteen universally canonical Orthodox jurisdictions in the world. However, it is a huge step towards this status.
  • As far as Constantinople is concerned, Filaret Denisenko, the leader and “Patriarch” of the “Kyiv Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church” and Makary, the “Metropolitan” of the “Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalous Church”, and all their faithful are now restored to communion. The statement says that this applies to “The Church” which may be trying to state that these two men (and all the faithful that they lead), are now in communion with the entirety of canonical Orthodoxy, but more likely, this may be a carefully worded statement to say they now are in communion with Constantinople alone.
  • There is an official call for the cessation of the violence directed against the Moscow Patriarchate parishes and communities, who are the only canonically recognized Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and who are also the largest by far in that country. The Kyiv Patriarchate and Uniate (Roman oriented) Greek Catholics in Ukraine have gone on record for seizing MP church properties, often by force, with neo-Nazi sympathizers and other radical Ukrainian nationalists. So this official call to cease the violence is now a matter of public record.

However, the reaction has been far less civil than the clergy wished for.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko: “Expressing his view of the Moscow Patriarchate, Poroshenko added, “This is a great victory of the God-loving Ukrainian people over the Moscow demons, the victory of Good over Evil, the victory of Light over Darkness.”’

Perhaps this is the reason Metropolitan Onuphry of Ukraine (exarch under the Moscow Patriarchate) has been labeled an enemy of Ukraine and is now receiving death threats. Very civil.

Poroshenko’s statement is all the more bizarre, considering that it has been Ukrainian ultra-nationalists that have been violently attacking Moscow – related parishes in Ukraine. This has been corroborated by news sources eager to pin the blame on Russia, such as the U.K. Guardian.

The Union of Orthodox Journalists, based in Kiev and supportive of the Moscow Patriarchate, has been under intense cyber attack since October 11th, when the EP’s announcement was issued.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) Chancellor, Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Brovary: “What happened at the Synod in Istanbul yesterday shocked the entire Orthodox world. It seems the Patriarchate of Constantinople is consciously embarking on a path of schism in world Orthodoxy. Patriarch Bartholomew ignored the calls of the Local Churches to convene a meeting of the primates to work out a common and conciliar solution to the Ukrainian Church issue and unilaterally made very serious but erroneous decisions. I hope the Orthodox world will give this action an objective evaluation… Having received the schismatics into communion, Patriarch Bartholomew did not make them canonical, but has himself embarked on the path of schism. The schismatics remain schismatics. They did not receive any autocephaly or tomos. It seems they have lost even that independence, although non-canonical, that they had and which they always emphasized.”

Metropolitan Rostislav of the Czech Lands and Slovakia:“The Orthodox world recognizes the only canonical primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. This fact was repeatedly mentioned and confirmed by the primate of the Great Church of Christ His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on behalf of all present at the Synaxis of the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches that was held in Chambésy (Switzerland) from January 21 to 27, 2016. Therefore, any attempt to legalize the Ukrainian schismatics by the state authorities should be strongly condemned by all the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches.

Patriarch Irinej of Serbia wrote two letters to the Ecumenical Patriarch, advocating that the provision of a new autocephaly is possible only with the consent of all local Orthodox Churches. According to Sedmitza.ru (Translation by Pravoslavie.ru),

“In these letters, it was very clearly stated that the granting of autocephaly cannot be the prerogative the Patriarchate of Constantinople alone, that new autocephalies must be created only with the consent of all the Local Orthodox Churches, as the Holy Synod of Antioch also said in its recent statement.”

Pat. Irinej also warned the Patriarchate of Constantinople against making such major decisions unilaterally, because “it will not bring harmony and peace to the Ukrainian land, but, on the contrary, will cause new divisions and new schisms.”

The Holy Synod of Antioch, the oldest Orthodox Church, and actually the very first place where the disciples of Christ were even called “Christians” weighed in on the issue as well and they had several things to say:

“The fathers examined the general Orthodox situation. They stressed that the Church of Antioch expresses her deep worries about the attempts to change the boundaries of the Orthodox Churches through a new reading of history. She considers that resorting to a unilateral reading of history does not serve Orthodox unity. It rather contributes to the fueling of the dissensions and quarrels within the one Church. Thus, the Church of Antioch refuses the principle of establishing parallel jurisdictions within the canonical boundaries of the Patriarchates and the autocephalous Churches as a way to solve conflicts, or as a de facto situation in the Orthodox world.

To summarize, this move by Constantinople is not being warmly received by many, many people. Most of the local Churches are on record giving their reaction to this process. In brief, here is the list most of the Local Churches and a one or two word summary of their reactions.

Patriarchate of Georgia: Unilateral action is wrong; Constantinople and Moscow must cooperate and find a solution together.

Patriarchate of Jerusalem: recognizes Ukraine as a canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church alone, as do all other local Churches

Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa: The Church does not bow to politicians. Moscow-led church is the only canonical Church in Ukraine.

Archbishop of Cyprus: Decries the Ukrainian situation but offered to mediate a discussion between Moscow and Constantinople

Bulgarian Patriarchate: Interference of the State in Church affairs leads to serious and negative consequences for both.

Polish Orthodox Church: Metropolitan Sawa called for a council of Orthodox ruling hierarchs to discuss this situation.

Estonian Orthodox Church: Condemns Constantinople’s actions in Ukraine.

Greek Archdiocese of America: Supports Constantinople’s actions in Ukraine.

The Orthodox Church of Greece (Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus quoted): “Schismatics, as we know, are not the Church, and communion with them is forbidden by the Divine and holy canons and the Apostolic and Ecumenical Councils. Why then this persistence of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in recognizing schismatics as an autocephalous Church? To provoke schisms and divisions in the one universal and Apostolic Church of Christ?”

Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR): Ceased commemoration of Constantinople, ceased concelebration with Constantinople.

This issue has also rocked the secular geopolitical world.

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