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Why the US Almost Certainly Was Not Involved in the Turkish Coup

All the indications suggest the US had no part in the coup. However Erdogan and the Turkish government think otherwise and it is their opinion which matters.

Alexander Mercouris

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As relations between Turkey and Russia improve following the coup, relations between Turkey and its erstwhile Western allies – the US and EU – are deteriorating rapidly, with claims in Turkey that the US was involved in the recent coup.  That in turn opens up the question of whether the US was actually involved in the coup and if so to what degree.

Before discussing the question it is important to say that the answer so far as Turkey itself is concerned may no longer matter.  The conviction appears to be taking hold in Turkey – including amongst some members of its government and with Erdogan himself – that the US was in some way behind the coup.  That in itself will be enough to cause relations between the US and Turkey to become strained.  In international politics very often it is what people believe rather than what is true that most matters.

Was the US however behind the coup?

The first thing to say is that at this stage we simply do not know.   The information that would enable us to say for sure is simply not there.  The investigation of the coup is still at a very early stage.  Coup plotters are still being rounded up and questioned, and paper and electronic trails are still being followed up.  It will take months or even years before trials follow – if they ever do – and before we start to get definite answers to the questions like the one about the extent, if any, of US involvement in the coup.

The second thing to say is that when people talk about a coup being US backed they are using a blanket term that covers different things.  There are coups in which the US is not initially involved but which it backs after they succeed (eg. the coup which overthrew the Argentinian dictator Juan Peron in 1955).  There are coups of which the US has foreknowledge and to which it gives the green light (eg. the Vietnamese coup against President Diem of 1963, the Brazilian coup of 1964 and the Turkish coup of 1980); and lastly there are the coups which the US actively orders and organises (eg. the coup in Iran in 1953 and – despite continued US denials – the coup against President Allende of Chile in 1973).  All these coups are in a sense “US backed” but they clearly fall into different categories.

There is no doubt that if the coup against Erdogan had succeeded the US would have backed it after the event, just as in 1955 it backed after the event the coup that overthrew Peron, and to that extent it is legitimate to say that if the coup had succeeded it would have been US backed. 

The US has no love of Erdogan, who is far too independent minded for its tastes, and would certainly not have regretted his passing.  Besides the US would not want to sacrifice its longstanding relationship with the Turkish military and compromise its position in Turkey – a key NATO ally – by refusing to back a Turkish military government installed by a coup that had succeeded.  After a few muffled statements of concern and some token sanctions the US would have quickly come to terms with the new coup-installed government, whilst the Western media would by now be full of stories of what an unbalanced, authoritarian, corrupt and dangerous leader Erdogan was and why it was a blessing – and a true expression of democracy – that the Turkish military had acted to remove him.

What evidence however is there that the US either gave the green light for the coup or actually ordered it?  Briefly, at this stage there is none, and everything we know about the situation in Turkey before the coup and about US policy towards Turkey makes it very unlikely.

The US has very extensive and very longstanding links with the Turkish military.  Some of the military officers who were involved in the coup were based at the giant air base in Incirlik, which is the single most important US military facility in Turkey.  It seems that even the Turkish commander of the base was involved in the coup.  It would therefore have been easy for the coup plotters to tip the US off about their plans for a coup, presumably in order to make sure the coup had US backing, and that is what many people think happened.  What evidence is there however that it actually did?  Again the answer is that there is none, and the facts show that it is very unlikely.

The coup plotters would presumably only have tipped the US off if they had been confident of US support.  As it happens in every case I know where the US has given the green light for a coup there have been weeks or even months of intense discussions between the US and the military officials discussing the coup before it takes place.  That was true in Vietnam in 1963, in Brazil in 1964 and in Turkey in 1980. 

In all of those cases the US was willing to support the coup because it was reasonably confident it would succeed.  Would the US have been equally sure the recent coup attempt in Turkey would succeed given Erdogan’s popularity with so many of Turkey’s people and with its business community, and given that Erdogan has the powerful support of the Mosque and of Turkey’s intelligence agencies and of most of its police?  Would the US not rather be worried that if the coup failed – as it might easily do – its whole position in Turkey (a key NATO ally with by far the biggest army in NATO after the US) would be disastrously compromised if it became known it was involved?  Would the US be willing to take that sort of risk by colluding in a coup which might easily fail?

It is not as if the reasons for backing a coup look particularly compelling.  It is true that in the days immediately prior to the coup Erdogan had taken steps to patch up his relations with Russia.  However, as I have explained previously, there would simply not have been enough time to organise a coup in the time available since those steps were taken.

Besides would Erdogan’s fence mending moves towards Russia really have sufficed to make the US want to overthrow him?  If there is one thing one can say about Erdogan it is that he is unpredictable.  He has at various times been Putin’s friend and Putin’s enemy, just as he was once Assad’s best friend only to become Assad’s greatest and most dangerous enemy.  He was also once Israel’s enemy but is now becoming Israel’s friend. 

Only a few months ago there was worried talk of an armed clash between Turkey and Russia, with credible reports of the Russians warning they would use tactical nuclear weapons if Erdogan ordered the Turkish military to attack their forces in Syria.   

How in light of this record could the US be sure that any rapprochement between Erdogan and Russia would be for real?  Given the history of bad blood between Erdogan and Russia, would it not have made far better sense for the US to wait until Erdogan and Russia fell out again – as many before the coup expected them to do – rather than take the extraordinary risk of backing a coup to remove him when there was a serious risk that it might fail?

Would a rapprochement between Erdogan and Russia anyway justify a coup?  Though Erdogan was making moves to mend his fences with Russia, he never before the coup questioned Turkey’s loyalty to NATO.  At NATO’s recent Warsaw Summit he co-signed the appalling NATO Declaration branding Russia an aggressor and he has staunchly supported the US regime change policy in Syria.  He even recently expressed regret for Turkey’s failure to support the 2003 US invasion of Iraq

Whatever view the US has of Erdogan, he was hardly before the coup a disloyal ally, and it is difficult to see why his very tentative moves to patch up relations with Russia would in themselves have made the US want to overthrow him.  On the contrary, if it is true that the conflict between Turkey and Russia over Syria during the winter became so bad that the Russians felt obliged to give Erdogan a nuclear warning, then the US might well have looked upon the limited  rapprochement underway between Turkey and Russia with a measure of relief.

Last but not least, would a coup in Turkey, even if it had succeeded, really serve US interests?  Would it not be far more likely to destabilise Turkey further, with much of the population bitterly resenting the overthrow of a democratically elected and popular President?  Turkey already faces multiple security threats from violent jihadists, from its large Kurdish majority and – potentially – from its large Alevi community, which is known to be unhappy with Turkey’s role in the war in Syria. Is this a good time to add to the instability by overthrowing the country’s democratically elected, constitutional and popular government?  Might that not risk a civil conflict or even a civil war in a country whose cohesion and stability is vital to the Western alliance?

I would add at this point that any US decision to give the green light to the coup would definitely have needed Obama’s approval.  Given the stakes involved it is inconceivable that any US official or agency would have acted without the President’s approval.  In all the previous US backed coups which I have discussed US officials were careful to keep the President informed and to consult him in advance.  Would Obama in the last months of his Presidency, at a time when he gives every impression of wanting to avoid an international crisis so as to secure his legacy and give Hillary Clinton a clear run to the White House, really risk a colossal crisis in a country like Turkey? Would he not have acted instead immediately to squelch the whole crazy idea, just as he has acted to squelch far less crazy ideas for interventions in places like Syria and Ukraine?

Overall, despite what some say, I simply do not see in Erdogan’s moves towards the Russians grounds for the US to take the gigantic – indeed existential – risk of backing a coup to remove him.  Those moves were tentative and carried out within definite limits and did not compromise the US’s position in any fundamental way, whilst the risks involved in backing a coup against him were so enormous as to make it crazy to have done it.

In summary, though it would have been possible for the coup plotters to tip the US off about the coup on balance I think it is very unlikely that they did, precisely because if they had I am sure the US would have told them that it strongly opposed it. In that case it would surely have been impossible for the coup to have taken place.

I suspect the coup plotters knew this perfectly well, which is why they almost certainly did not tell the US about the coup before it happened.

All the same arguments obviously hold true to an even greater degree against any scenario that involves the US actually instigating the coup.  Would the US really have taken the extraordinary risks of planning a coup against the popular leader of a key NATO ally when there were no compelling reasons to do so? Would Turkish army officers really have put their lives and reputations on the line to carry out US orders in such a case?  I can certainly see why they might have risked everything in a coup against someone like Erdogan if they thought they were doing it for their own reasons.  Would they however have done it simply because the US ordered them to?

Before leaving this subject there are two further points I do however want to make.

The first is that my whole case obviously depends on the assumption of at least a measure of rationality on the part of Obama and his officials.  Against that I have to accept that US policy in recent years has become increasingly detached from reality.  Indeed I have written about this at length.  However if US policy makers really are now so detached from reality that they took the frankly crazy step of instigating or colluding in a coup against Erdogan in Turkey, then they are much crazier and more dangerous, and the situation in the world is far worse and far more dangerous, than up to now I or I suspect anyone else has suspected.  It really would be a case in that case of us needing to reach for our fallout shelters.  Fortunately everything we know about the coup suggests otherwise.

My second point concerns the Gulen movement.  Erdogan and his government blamed the Gulen movement for the coup whilst it was actually underway, and have continued to do so since. 

I have previously expressed my doubts about this.  The statements of the coup plotters suggest a Kemalist secular ideology far removed from that of the Gulen movement.  I frankly doubt that the Gulen movement’s penetration of the Turkish state and military can have been so extensive as to enable it to carry out a coup of this sort.

Discussion of the Gulen movement’s exact role in the coup has however diverted attention from the far more interesting question of what it actually is.  No-one so far as I know has explained how Fetlhullah Gulen, a self-exiled scholar and cleric, has managed single-handedly to create the massive organisation that the Gulen movement has become. 

Whilst it seems that Gulen does enjoy some support from the Turkish business community and from Turkey’s Deep State, the most obvious explanation is that he has been able to build up his organisation because he has US backing.  The US after all is the country where he is based and where he lives.  The ideology of the Gulen movement makes it appear rather like the sort of religious based anti-communist pro-business and pro-free market movements the US actively sponsored in order to defeat Communism during the Cold War.  It would not surprise me if the US as part of its “soft power” policies used Gulen to set up that sort of organisation in Turkey to mould opinion there, and possibly also in other neighbouring states under Turkish influence.

If that is correct then it is at least possible that Gulen is a US intelligence asset, in which case that fact is likely to be well known amongst political insiders in Turkey. 

In that case Erdogan’s constant criticisms of the “parallel state” Gulen supposedly runs in Turkey should be understood as coded criticism of the US and its role in Turkey.  Certainly that is how they look to me.

If so, then going back to my original point, it hardly matters anymore in relation to the situation within Turkey whether the US really was involved in the coup or not.  Whilst I think it is very unlikely it was, Erdogan’s comments about the Gulen movement show he thinks it was.  Needless to say it is what Erdogan thinks not what I think that matters, irrespective of which of us is right.

That does not mean that the question of whether or not the US was involved in the coup is not important.  On the contrary it is very important because its likely non-involvement will effect the way the US responds to whatever Erdogan is now going to do.  The nature of that reaction will however depend on Erdogan’s moves, which will become clear over the course of the next few weeks.

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The Trump Miracle and the Logical End of US Democracy: What Happened?

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I don’t wish to dine with a Clinton Snowflake.

And a Clinton Snowflake would rather see me off to San Quentin, the Deplorable that I am.

Something happened under Obama-Clinton rule that has never happened before, not even in the heat of passions culminating in the Civil War. The country polarized, splitting into two groupings. Forever.

Obama’s, Grand Canyon divide was cemented, subsequently, by Clinton’s “Deplorables” gaff interpreted as disdain and disrespect for the working, one-half of the country. Millions of Americans will never accept her and her Snowflakes and vice versa. “Never say never,” it’s said, often enough. But, this time, “never,” is an unequivocal: “Never!”

Quite simply, the Obama-Clinton regime politicized that which should never be politicized, namely, core beliefs and values, starting with God.

Debate is one thing, but the regime followed up with direct and indirect actions, which some writers call rainbow fascism. “You won’t bake a wedding cake for two gays out of some fossilized belief in scripture? We’ll shut you down.”

The regime’s aggression against the Church, the family, and the infant in the womb is dynamite inserted into the foundation on which the country stands.

Along with compassion and sensitivity to opposing views, compromise used to help mend political wounds. It allowed the nation to move on after an election. However, when religious tenets are challenged by a political Party with executive order power, the door on possible compromise slams shut. Obama-Clinton politicized the sacred and the Holy, a big no-no considering that politics divide. It wasn’t done out of ignorance, disrespect, or plain arrogance. It was a conscience, systematic attack by the Godless against God-fearing Christians.

God either exists or He doesn’t – no compromise, here. That is, “He might exist,” placates neither the believer nor the atheist. The Bible is either the Word of God as delivered through His prophets or it isn’t. No compromise possible.

Abortion-on-demand is another issue without compromise considering the commandment: Thou shalt not kill (murder). There is also common sense compassion, which makes us human and says that abortion is wrong. You’re either for murder of the defenseless or against it.

A partial birth abortion, despite the insinuation of compromise in the term, is actually a viler variant of infanticide because it’s performed in the last trimester, at 5-7 months. The well-developed, living infant is pulled out of the womb, legs first. The medical executioner then plunges a probe with a catheter into the living brain in order to suction out a bloody slurry and collapse the skull. Is it murder of the defenseless or a “woman’s right” as Snowflakes call it?

Clinton claims: “Fetuses feel no pain and have no rights.” Curiously, Himmler leaned on a nearly identical contention to justify ghoulish, medical experiments on pregnant women in Konzentrationslager. Is there a difference? Indeed, there is. Clinton is a woman, making her serial murders more of a monstrosity.

The Holy Bible is either the Word of God or it isn’t. It’s not a book to be adapted to one’s whims or sexual lusts. Scripture strictly condemns male homosexuality in at least three passages and, implicitly, in some one-half dozen others. Nonetheless, Obama-Clinton attached the promotion of LBGTq-ism to the Democratic plank, overriding scripture. Clinton informed one audience that Christians would have to change their beliefs on some issues.

Hold on! “I’m getting my musket,” as more than one American has said.

I used to enjoy dialogue. But a sour aftertaste remains from the last time that I waded, innocently enough, into an after-dinner, back-and-forth. The topic was the upcoming primaries.

Dodging a flurry of leftism hooks from a New York Cityite at a Hamptons hideaway, I smiled through early-round attacks recalling how Mohammed Ali used to taunt opponents and cockroaches until they lost their cool. It worked. My opponent promptly tangled himself up in the ropes of his emotions.

It became apparent, in the ensuing minutes, that the Achilles heel of the Left was the absence of a viable candidate. That is, one who could be liked – a leader with charisma with a realistic chance winning.

Hillary was the only figure looming big on the horizon. After flying about on her crooked broom, peddling influence and laundering bloody cash from terrorism-sponsoring sheiks, wads of cash stuffed her Pampers. The Wicked Witch of the West, as victims of her foreign policy still address her, apparently, had it all. Except likeability. Or, something new to offer millions of working Americans beyond the scandals, a world in flames, and the same old corrupt things, starting with her foundation, which kept the cash but forgot Hattian children.

Deep-down inside, my opponent knew that getting excited about Hillary would be a daunting task. It’s precisely Hillary’s inability to generate enthusiasm that eventually metamorphosed into, “What Happened?” It wasn’t Russia; it wasn’t the dog that ate her homework.

As Secretary of State, Clinton’s role in creating and sponsoring head-choppers, baby burners, and heart-eating fanatics in ISIS’s jumpsuits was already well-established for anyone who was interested in looking beyond the hyaluronic acid smile and the praise of her attendant, media handlers.

Propagandists led by CNN and MSNBC did their best to sequester her “Arab Spring” fiascos. Her ties and support of the Muslim Brotherhood, apparently, inspired by live-in aide and right-hand woman, Huma Abedin were off limits for the press. Lesbian lover or not, the real issue is the between-the sheets confidences of one woman, holding one of the highest positions in the US Government and another with connections to jihadist circles inspired by Sayyid Qutb, the godfather of al Qaeda. What would have been made of it by the press if Trump had a mistress whose grandfather was Osama bin Laden?

Clinton’s connivance, her intrigue, and her use of the sword to overthrow foreign governments constituted the essence of her foreign policy. Now, the rich, sweet thing is crying over supposed, Russian interference that she claims cost her the election! No proof of Russian involvement has been found, despite massive efforts and the wasteful expenditure of millions of dollars. Even so, in her warped sense of reality, it’s inconceivable that American voters chose a vulgar, thrice-married, casino operator who trash talks instead of her. Curiously, it was Christians, in particular – Catholics, Protestants and the Orthodox – fearing a de facto Obama third term, who voted in droves for Trump.

Jonathon Van Maren writes: “…Christians are having conversations around the dinner table about what do if the government forces curricula on them that they cannot accept, because their own government is increasingly indicating that Christian parents are too homophobic and too hateful to teach their own children.”

Fear is setting in at both ends of the political spectrum. Meltdown, weep-in snowflakes fear Trump yet he and Christians are not forcing the LGBTq groupings etc., to make lifestyle changes. In contrast, Obama-Clinton’s Rainbow Fascism demands core value changes, or else! It’s already ruining the lives of those who cannot compromise religious tenets. What’s next? Obviously, children must be taken away from homophobic and irresponsible parents. It’s already happening in Norway and Sweden.

Curiously, WaPo’s entire editorial board endorsed her. Isn’t endorsement of Clinton’s terrorism by proxy tantamount to being a terrorist? Can WaPo be trusted, again? Another liberally slanted paper, the NY Times largely swept Clinton’s sordid past under the carpet, with about 90 percent of its articles casting her in a positive light. In contrast, it was open season on Republicans and, soon enough, on Trump.

“Considering her international war crimes record, if you vote for her, as I’m sure you’ll end up doing, you’re going to be an accomplice. Of terrorism,” I sighed. “So unfriend me now, please.”

Swinging, aimlessly – now, a bug in my web – my opponent’s accusations turned Archie-Bunker-personal – “You’re a SOB, M#*/!er. All you do is criticize but you haven’t done squat! Do something in the community instead of blaming everything on Obama and Clinton.

“Some time ago, I saw little, practical sense in it,” I replied. “That is, in wasting time to change the system.”

If it was ever possible to improve matters on a local level, those days are gone. Plato, Socrates and Aristotle did not consider the rule of money to be compatible with democracy. After three, consecutive, two-term geniuses steering the US Titanic – Clinton, Bush, Obama – the scraping sounds of hitting the iceberg are all-too-audible. The mass media orchestra plays on yet the waterline has reached the nation’s gunwales.

“Sorry, trends are apparent enough. Liberty, freedom of expression – all on the wane. Government as well as media controls are tightening! Prisons are full. Stalin has been outdone. His maximum Gulag stay was 15 years regardless of the charge. What’s ours? A life sentence for being in a romantic relationship with a drug smuggler? Common sense is being pushed aside by nonsense. Sorry, I find little sense building sandcastles at ebbtide.”

My opponent had had enough. Spilling whisky to get away from me, he spewed more venom and parted the room. Forever.

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How American propaganda bypasses the Constitution

While the First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press, this amendment only guarantees the government will not manage the news.

Seraphim Hanisch

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We are in a propaganda war unlike anything anyone ever expected in the United States. As recently as the 1970’s and 1980’s, the common knowledge even among young elementary school students was that the Government of the United States cannot restrict the operation of a free press. Freedom of speech was taught and vaunted as one of our most precious rights, and the Soviet Union’s history of oppression was the catalyst by which love of the right of free speech was protected.

Do not let go of this freedom, or we will become like them, we were told.

But the most recent couple of years we are seeing media control in very clear obvious ways.

On October 11, Facebook’s internal news site noted that it was removing what it calls “inauthentic news sites”:

11 October 2018

Removing Additional Inauthentic Activity from Facebook

Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior. Given the activity we’ve seen — and its timing ahead of the US midterm elections — we wanted to give some details about the types of behavior that led to this action. Many were using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names and posted massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages to drive traffic to their websites. Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was. Others were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking that they were forums for legitimate political debate.

But on October 20th, with this information known, Google searches on “Facebook fake news midterm” elections first revealed absolutely nothing any earlier than August, and nothing related to the recent developments in October.

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In research for this piece, one known article on The Duran was found and brought up. By use of the specific search term “removing additional inauthentic activity from Facebook”, we were then able to get the Facebook news page. Subsequent searches on “Facebook midterms fake news” revealed quite a different response:

Oh! There it is! But several Google searches made before directly fingering the information yielded nothing, just as though the news of FB’s efforts didn’t exist.

We already know that Facebook has a core corporate culture that leans left. We also know that many groups have been removed for suspicions of being dishonest or fake news.

What we may not get is how well intertwined the majority of information services on the Internet are, and how they cooperate to manage information.

Google was the search engine used in this research. And indeed, the big four major purveyors of information and social media are Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These sites are so widely used that they are easy to consider the first stop, the last stop and the only stop for anyone seeking information from the Internet about anything.

The absence of a search result is often enough to lead one to believe the story doesn’t really exist, or that it is a rumor. After all, if it is real news it must be on Google, right?

Wrong.

This would seem to fly in the face of the First Amendment, but it doesn’t, because the Amendment applies only to a limit of powers on the Federal Government. It cannot touch private industry, and indeed, the First Amendment actually protects the rights of individuals and companies to make any statements they wish, or to not make them.

Think of it this way: A newspaper that supports the conservative party writes and publishes news and opinion in such a manner as to bolster support for that party. The paper and its staff are entirely within their First Amendment rights to do so because the Constitution never said anything about reporting the truth. It only says that the press’ freedom cannot be abridged by the government.

So if a liberal paper wants to report the same news and give its editorial bias that supports its own causes, it may. There is not a soul in government that can stop them. But the owners of the company can.

However, those owners and editors can certainly be influenced by hidden efforts. While there is no law restricting free speech in the US, there is certainly a lot of power and money that can accomplish the same thing.

A sweetheart deal between a company CEO and his or her senator or congressman can subtly change the balance. There is no law to break involved here, though such efforts can rightly be called “collusion.” Collusion happens all the time, though, and it is always a cooperative effort so there is very little that can be done to stop it. It is not illegal in most situations, either.

Conservatives know this. They have seen the slant of mainstream media lean unerringly to the side of secular humanism, suppression or humiliation of traditional values and lifestyles, and the crazy, psychotic mixture of pacifism or warmongering as best suits the desires of the Left. We have observed this in stark fashion just this year, as critics hysterically railed at President Trump for his tough stance with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and as they hysterically railed at President Trump for going against his promise to get out of Syria, and then again for not attacking them, and sanctioning Russia even more.

The reasoning behind the Left’s attacks was simple: If Mr. Trump wanted it, they didn’t. This is simple reasoning, indeed but it is also hysterical reasoning, which means it is insane.

The most recent outburst of media control came during the Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination and confirmation events. The eleventh-hour attacks alleging that Brett Kavanaugh was a drunken would-be rapist and the testimonies of Dr Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnik were reported with a heavy emphasis on “believe the women” and they were also tailored for a time to target Judge Kavanaugh for his anger in his response, with CNN heads saying that this anger shows that the Judge is unhinged.

Conservative media efforts to give the truth to this story were certainly going full force on Fox News and with conservative media hosts like Rush Limbaugh, but they were heading for failure. The reason for this was that the conservative arguments were not fielded on mainstream media, so they were not heard or read.

The Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation might not have gone through because of this. But one move saved this nomination.

President Trump began talking about it in his rallies, which the media had to cover. When Mr. Trump noted in clear language that none of these allegations were corroborated by anyone, most significantly the named witnesses of Dr Ford’s, the widespread dissemination of that news (because the press had no choice) helped turn that debacle into the nothing-burger it always was.

When news gets around that someone is trying to suppress a story, that often can result in the story getting much bigger. Social media networks have to give the appearance of fairness, after all, and refusing to report a huge story because it runs counter to the political opinion of the network is a risk no network (except maybe CNN) is willing to take.

The First Amendment means the government cannot control our news media. But this also means that the responsibility lies with the American people to control it, to uphold its freedom and to uphold the freedom of speech, be it risky or offensive or politically perilous. There is a good reason for that need.

The most risky, offensive and politically perilous pieces of news are quite often the truth.

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How other jurisdictions view Constantinople’s actions in Ukraine

Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro puts the present Orthodox dispute in simple and understandable terms while not demonizing anyone.

Seraphim Hanisch

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This piece is reprinted almost entirely from its original posting on orthochristian.com. We hope it offers a clear perspective that shared across the Orthodox Christian world regarding the recent moves by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, in regards to the legitimization of two canonically schismatic church communities in Ukraine.   
A note for US or Western European readers:While Western culture regards church affairs as something middling at best, and “not in touch with the ‘real world'”, the Orthodox Christian world takes the opposite view. These matters of how the Church’s faith and practice are handled are extremely important to millions of believers. The aforementioned actions are profoundly difficult events for Orthodox Christians and have great repercussions that extend into the geopolitical realm of secular politics.

It is for this reason that this story is being followed closely on The Duran.Recently, Metropolitan Archbishop Amfilohije of Montenegro gave an interview with Russian Channel One about the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I of Constantinople, to grant canonical status to two schismatic communities in Ukraine, pursuant to the creation of a national Ukrainian independent Orthodox Church in that region.This particular set of events also has a geopolitical basis, as the reader will discover as they peruse the interview. Any emphasis in bold is added strictly for the ease of comprehension.


The decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew and his Synod concerning the Ukrainian issue, are, in my opinion catastrophic, both for the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and for resolving the Church question in Ukraine, as well as for the unity of the Orthodox Church. We in our Church are simply shocked at how the Ecumenical Patriarch—an expert on the canons—made such a decision, which is without a doubt uncanonical,” said His Eminence Amfilohije, Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral, and Brda, Archbishop of Cetinje, and Exarch of the Throne of Peć in an interview with the Russian Channel One.

Commenting on the canonical aspects of the latest decision of the Patriarch of Constantinople and his Synod, Archbishop Amfilohije explained that the Patriarch of Constantinople “in this decision refers, as other bishops of the Patriarchate of Constantinople have recently referred to, the right to appeal to the Patriarch of Constantinople from other Local Churches. This is the so called “Ekkliton.[1]

The body of the interview follows, with all the text except the Interviewer being the speech of Met. Amfilohije:

Whenever a problem arises in any of the Local Churches between individual bishops, it is alleged that they have the possibility of appealing to Constantinople, and then Constantinople could make its decision on the matter.

“However, do they actually have this right of appeal? Especially in the spirit in which Denisenko applied to it now? The Ecumenical Patriarch validates this with some historical facts, and certain Church canons. For example, the 9th, 17th, and 28th Canons of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which were written in antiquity, and therefore, which relate to the status of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and its role at that time.

“On what basis then, was this right given? First of all, this right concerns the Metropolises under the canonical administration of the Patriarch of Constantinople. It did not apply to the whole Church. Secondly, this right is based on the canons of the Ecumenical Council, according to which the Ecmenical Patriarch received this status as the Bishop of the City of Byzantium—Constantinople—on the grounds that this city, in which this bishop is located, is the Imperial City—the residence of the emperor and the Imperial Council.

“Now, however, the imperial capital no longer exists. Constantinople ceased to be the imperial capital in 1453. And therefore, this right to which the Patriarch of Constantinople is referring is questionable. The Orthodox Church does not question its status as the first in honor in the Orthodox church, but this does not give him the right to interfere in this way in the life of any other Local Church, including the Russian Orthodox Church.

“The Patriarch is referring here to a certain decision in 1686, in which by economia[2] the right to ordain (appoint) the Metropolitan of Kiev was given to the Patriarch of Moscow, provided that the Metropolitan of Kiev commemorates the Constantinople Patriarch first at the Liturgy.

“However, Kievan Rus’[3], and Vladimir Rus’[4], and Muscovite Rus’[5] were one and the same Rus’ at that time; so it is impossible to separate Kievan Rus from Muscovite or Vladimir Rus’.

“300 years have passed since then, and Constantinople had never raised the question that it had ecclesiastical authority in Ukraine. He first raised this question just now, and it is absolutely impossible to accept.

“I am amazed at how the negative reaction of all the Local Churches did not stop him; the ancient Patriarchates of the East—Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch. The Patriarch of Antioch was just recently with us. I am sure that he will give his assessment.

“[The Patriarch of Alexandria] recently visited Odessa, and spoke there, together with the Metropolitan of the Polish Orthodox Church, who also quite clearly expressed his opinion.

“In general, all the Local Churches—and our Local Church—expressed at a council, a very documented letter in connection with this issue. Constantinople did not respond to our letter concerning this.

“Our Patriarch just met with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Thessaloniki. Our Patriarch gave him the position of our Church, and unfortunately, Constantinople answered as they answered.

“As it is, however, this decision, as I have already said, is catastrophic, including for the resolution of this important issue of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. It does not solve this question, but only complicates it. It creates a radical problem of interference in the life of another Local Church, and not only for the Russian Church, but for absolutely everyone.

“This at the same time calls into question the very unity of Orthodoxy. This has already affected Orthodoxy, especially the Orthodox diaspora, after that the conferences of Orthodox Bishops. According to my information, the bishops in Latin America already refuse to participate in pan-Orthodox conferences, and its going the same way in Europe[6]. I am sure that this will happen in the USA. It has partially already begun.

“But the role of the first among the patriarchs is not to separate the others, but to unite.

“By such actions, the Patriarch of Constantinople in fact separates. He does not solve this problem, but only pushes the problem deeper into the Orthodox Church.

“Recently, a lot has been said about the interference in the internal affairs of the Orthodox Church by the great world powers. Can you elaborate on which powers people are talking about, and what these power are trying to accomplish?

“Now it is seen in Ukraine itself. It is in fact the Ukrainian government that is the main player in the question of granting autocephaly to a Ukrainian church[7]. It should not be overlooked that the state would previously intervene—in other words, there was cooperation, the so called symphonia” of the state and the Church in Orthodoxy.

“But in those days, this was with regards to Christian states, and Christian rulers. In those days, the state itself defended the Orthodox Christian faith. Rulers, from the Byzantine Emperor to the Tsar of Moscow, to our kings were Orthodox Christians. The statutes of Montenegro even prescribed that the successor of King Nikola I would be an Orthodox Christian.

“Now, everything is different. These are all secular states, especially those created after the collapse of the Soviet Union. So the Soviet Union gave birth to these contradictions within the Russian nation, within the Slavic peoples of the former Russian Empire. The theme of a so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church[8] didn’t appear only now. It arose with the creation of Ukraine by the Soviet authorities in the 1920s. It was then that this topic appeared.

“Then the so-called “Self-Sanctifiers[9]” arose, who declared themselves Metropolitans of Kiev.

“And the [legitimate] Metropolitan of Kiev—Antony (Khrapovitsky), who was buried in Belgrade, was then a candidate for the position of Patriarch of Moscow. Having fallen asleep in the Lord in 1936, he along with more than thirty bishops were forced to leave Russia, and our Local Church helped them to create what was called the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which still exists today. This Church recently reunited with the Moscow Patriarchate.

“So it’s one thing—contemporary states, modern authority—and a totally different thing—the time when Constantinople was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, or when Moscow was the capital of the Russian Empire, as the successor of the Byzantine Empire.

“But this epoch, the epoch of the symbiosis of the Church and State, the so-called “Constantinian Age,” began with Emperor St. Constantine the Great, and it ended—in my, and not only in my opinion—with the murder of the Imperial Family in 1918.

“In other words, this imperial period of Christianity is dogmatically fixed in the West in the person of the Bishop of Rome—the Supreme Pontiff. In the East, it was and remains a temptation.

“However, after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, there was no longer a Byzantine Emperor, who previously provided the Bishop of Constantinople with the status that he had possessed since the time of Emperor Constantine.

“And then this role of the Byzantine Empire passed through Kiev, and Vladimir, to Moscow—that is to say—to the Russian Tsars. But the Russian Tsar and his family were murdered in 1918. And this completed the epoch of Constantine in the history of the Church. It has ended.

“And now the Church must return to the pre-imperial structure, without imitating what was in past centuries, when there was a symbiosis of the state, Church, nation. It must return to the structure that existed before Emperor Constantine, respecting everything that has happened since then, but not being limited to historical experience.

“Thus, the first Rome fell away from the faith, the Second Rome fell, disappearing in 1453, and after the murder of the Imperial Family, the Third Rome had already lost that place in the life of the Church it had occupied in past centuries. Therefore, the way the Church lived and functioned in the imperial period should be left to the past.

“From this point of view, Constantinople committed what it had no right to do.

“First of all, this state—Ukraine—is the fruit of Leninist-Stalinist communist secularism. And this situation for the people of Ukraine, the Christian people is also the result of the unleashing of the Unia[10] on Ukrainians of the 16th century, and what happened with these people in the 1920s.

“It is necessary to keep in mind the meaning of the name itself—Ukraine (Ukraina). It is similar to our word Kraina: a krai / borderland[11]. The question is—the edge or border of what? On the one hand, Kiev was the former Mother Church of the Russian Church, then its center moved to Vladimir (during the period of Vladimir Rus’) and then to Moscow.

“It is this continuum of the Orthodox Church in Russia, which begins in Kiev, passes through Vladimir, and then ends in Moscow. This is an uninterrupted succession. So what point is there to now appeal to a status that existed in the 15th or 16th century? The Ukrainian question today cannot be resolved on that basis.

“In reality, it must be resolved on the basis of the modern structure of this state—a secular state, not dissimilar to all the modern secular states in the West. It’s a fundamentally different relationship between a state and a nation, moreover no longer a ‘Christian nation;’ a similar problem has now manifested itself in Macedonia.

“There, the secular authorities, the communists, also created a so-called Macedonian Orthodox Church. The communists, the heirs of the Tito regime, tried here too, in Montenegro, to create a so-called Montenegrin Orthodox Church. The authorities of Montenegro killed 129 priests here during the communist time; the communist authorities killed the Metropolitan of Montenegro Joanikije.

“It was these authorities who were first to raise the question of the so-called autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church. The godless authorities, the atheistic powers, the secular authorities in a secular state, where the Church is separate from the state, are interfering in the internal affairs of the Church. The same thing is happening in Ukraine, and in other countries that emerged after the Bolshevik revolution.

“The Church should try to unite society, and thereby solve this painful issue for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

“There, under the guise of the “Ukrainian Church,” there exist the so-called Uniates—the Greek Catholics—and then the so-called Ukrainian Autocephalic Orthodox Church, and the self-proclaimed “church” of the “Kiev Patriarchate.”

“For the first time, Constantinople, on the basis of the alleged “right to appeal” (ekkliton)[12], the right to receive appeals in this way is interfering with the life of another Local Church, even over 300 years after Constantinople’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction over Ukraine ended.

“Thus, there is talk about these events as being an absolutely incomprehensible phenomenon. Until this very moment I still hope there is an opportunity to refrain from granting this Tomos, which cannot be issued without the consent of the canonical Church.

“Constantinople [previously] recognized only the Church of the Moscow Patriarchate as the canonical Church in Ukraine. But now, Constantinople has recognized bishops who were deposed from their positions and excommunicated from one of the Local Orthodox Churches. It’s simply inconceivable that the Ecumenical Patriarch could have gone through with this.

“As for these interventions, and I’d like to say that these are not only those from the Ukrainian authorities themselves, but it is clear that these interventions are directed against Russia, and in fact—against Orthodoxy.

“They were able to separate everyone in these krais[13] (borderlands/marches).[14] Only the Orthodox Church remained united. Now these forces, the demonic forces of this entire world are striving in the end to divide the Orthodox Church. For this they managed to use the ancient Church of Constantinople to apply a canon that belonged to it back in imperial times.

“In the battle for Ukraine—that is to say for undermining the foundation of Russia—the hand of America is visible.

“They speak about the supposed “Russian intervention,” but how can Russia intervene if Russia itself was born there? Kievan Rus’ was born there, and continuously developed for 1030 years. The fact that the Western powers, the EU, and above all, America are fueling and supporting fratricidal wars, as they did against us Serbs in Kosovo, reveals that what is happening in Ukraine is the second act of the tragedy of Kosovo: A group of evil-doers and criminals, who dishonor the worthy Albanian folk, have been made the rulers of Kosovo, and they recognized the so-called independent Kosovo—and the Orthodox Church of God, our age-old culture, and the Serbian people were expelled from there.

“What the communists began[15], the NATO bloc continued with their bombings of Serbia and Montenegro.

“What began in Russia with the arrival of the Bolsheviks and the assassination of the Imperial Family now brings such bitter fruit. I regret that the Patriarch of Constantinople did not understand how deep and serious these problems are.

“He went forth with good intentions—to unite—only this isn’t the road of unification, but only the deepening of the difficulties that seized Ukraine, as well as the creation of a deep schism in the Orthodox Church—which undoubtedly will not bring forth any good fruits if these efforts are continued.

“And this applies not only to Russians and Ukrainians, but also to us [Serbs]. After all, Denisenko[16]was the only one to recognize our Miraš Dedeić,[17] whom the Patriarch of Constantinople deposed and anathematized.

“We relayed this to the Patriarch of Constantinople, but he has of yet not answered this question. Of course, he does not recognize Dedeić, but by this act—by accepting as a canonical organization those who support all kinds of schisms in other locations—it involuntarily strengthens schisms that undermine the unity of the Orthodox Church.[18]

“And furthermore, this is all based on ethnophyletism,[19] which was previously condemned by the Church. Even the Cretan Council (it’s a pity that the Moscow Patriarchate wasn’t present, but despite this, it’s decisions remain valid) confirmed the decisions of this great council in 1872, condemning ethnophyletism as heresy and serpentine venom, destroying the unity of the Church.

“Constantinople confirmed and signed this decision of a large synod, and now a church is created on the basis of the demands of those formed under the influence of Bolshevism (like Macarius[20]), and now worshipers of Bandera[21]—Ukrainian fascists and former Nazis.

“Is this normal? Of course not! Not to mention the fact that Denisenko strove, when he was Ukrainian Metropolitan, for the position of Patriarch of Moscow, and when he was not elected, he declared himself Patriarch [of Kiev].

“Such is his madness. How can this be declared normal, without the consent of the Mother Church? And the Mother Church of Ukraine is not the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but for more than 300 years the Moscow Patriarchate.[22]”

[INTERVIEWER]: Not long ago, Milo Đukanović (The President of Montenegro) said that the Russian Orthodox Church is the striking fist of Russian Imperial interests. What did he mean by this?

“You’ll have to ask him. He probably assumed that the Metropolis of Montenegro, which has existed here for over 800 years, still has connections to the Russian Church and to Russia, as it had for centuries, and especially during the time of Metropolitan Danil.

“Were it not for this “Imperial Russia,” as he puts it, there would be no Montenegro, neither in 1878, nor later. Russian Emperor Nicholas II saved Serbia and Montenegro in 1915 and 1916, when Montenegro was forced to capitulate, and King Petro with the entire Serbian army retreated through Kosovo to the Albanian coast. Then the Russian Tsar gave an ultimatum to the allies, threatening that if they did not help save the Serbian army (the Austro-Hungarian army was in pursuit of the Serbs), then Russia would conclude a separate peace treaty with Germany and Austro-Hungary. So the allies had to send ships for the Serbs.

“If Nicholas II had signed a separate peace treaty, he would not have been assassinated nor would his family have been murdered. The German Kaiser sent Lenin, who conducted a revolution in Petrograd in 1916-17. The Emperor and his family were murdered by the hands of the Bolsheviks, but in fact they were murdered by the Germans. The Imperial Family and tsarist Russia paid with their lives to save their brothers—Serbia and Montenegro.”

[INTERVIEWER]: So what is this all about; what is this “Imperialist Russia?”

“Montenegro, since 1700 and to this moment, was created through the efforts of Russia—it’s education, and the entire structure before King Nikola in 1918. The metropolia only continues the tradition. And no form of “Imperialist Russia” is interfering here. Russian Bishops visit us, with whom we recently erected a monument to the Royal Passion-Bearers at Duklevo monastery, on which their faces are carved. This may be the most beautiful monument to the Imperial Family. Is this what he calls imperialism?

“I sometimes say these are sanctions of the metropolia against Russia. Mr. Đukanović, in his fight against “Russian imperialism” has become a pawn in the hands of the Western European and American Empires, and the NATO bloc—those who bombed Montenegro, Serbia, and Kosovo, which was part of Montenegro when it was an independent Kingdom.

“Now Đukanović recognizes Kosovo, while the Russians tried to save the unity of our nation and state. Unfortunately, Russia was then ruled not by the one who rules today, but by his predecessor, who did not understand this.

“Therefore, I do not know what Đukanović implies when speaking of “imperialism.” If it’s about what I said, then yes.

“I would also add further about the decision of Constantinople: This decision is a catastrophe for the Constantinople Patriarchate and for the unity of the Orthodox Church. Therefore, we hope that in the near future, as called for by the Moscow Patriarchate and other Local Churches, which have the full right to do so, we will resolve this issue in a pan-Orthodox format.

“The Ukrainian Question cannot be resolved by any single Local Church, because this issue is so extensive that it requires the participation of all Local Churches. This question is more important than all that was discussed at Crete. Therefore, the position of Constantinople is shocking, as he had always turned to other Local Churches (for example, during the schism in the Bulgarian Church in 1994, Constantinople appealed to the representatives of other Local Churches to solve the issue of schism in a canonical way).

“And now there has been discussion that based on the Ukrainian precedent—invading the canonical territory of another Local Church—the issue with the Macedonian Orthodox Church could be resolved.

“The Ecumenical Patriarchate is prevented from doing so only because of his demand that they abandon the name “Macedonian Orthodox Church” (In Ukraine, the name “Ukrainian Orthodox Church” does not trouble him.[23] He is still a Greek, and I fear that this is how Hellenic ethnophyletism has manifested itself in light of the Macedonian issue.

“There is talk that this Macedonia goes back to the time of Alexander the Great and King Philip; that is to say, we are going back to the issue of communist myths. Just like in Montenegro, the neo-communists continue to develop them. They demanded that the Montenegrin Metropolis, that is to say, the Serbian Orthodox Church be re-registered, as if we existed only since yesterday.

“A 1987 law requires the registration of only new religious organizations, and not the registration of traditional Churches and religious organizations. But now our neo-communists have began to demand this, and almost begun persecutions. Russian monks and nuns live among us, and priests from the Republika Srpska[24], and from Serbia, and as they are not citizens of Montenegro they do not grant them residence permits. The same approach has been implemented in Macedonia.

“The so-called Metropolitan of Montenegro, who was created by the neo-communists—Dedeić—who was deposed by Constantinople, was recognized only by Philaret. For many years he served with him. And what will Constantinople do now if he recognizes Philaret who was deposed for violating the resolutions of the Moscow Patriarchate? Would it not follow that he would have to recognize someone who serves with Philaret, whom Constantinople himself had previously deposed from his position?

“This is how poorly our brothers in Constantinople have reasoned.

“I pray to the Lord, that He will help them.

“And we also pray that the Moscow Patriarchate and our brothers in Ukraine can overcome an unhealthy schism with patience and humility—a schism that is nothing but the fruit of all those political circumstances of the past, especially in the 1920s.

“The Church is the only force that united the nations created there, and now the demonic powers of this whole world, and destructive forces inside the Church, and the rulers of the world are carrying out the real imperialistic plans.

The war in Ukraine is already underway, and now Constantinople must confirm that this is in fact a war continuing against the Church, and the unity of the People of God—and against Russia as the largest-ever Orthodox country.

“This is not good, and there is nothing good here for Constantinople as well. He had no right to take such a step. There is still hope that people will still turn to reason and to the true canonical order.

“As I have already said, by such actions, Constantinople calls into question its primacy.

“I reiterate that he justifies his actions by saying that he is in the imperial capital, but that capital ceased to exist after the fifteenth century. It is no longer in Russia nor in Constantinople, and therefore there is no longer a Russian or Eastern Roman Empire, but the Church has remained, and it must function on a healthy evangelical foundation—just as it functioned prior to Emperor St. Constantine.”

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