There is a lot to be said for perspective, and by that I do not mean opinion, but the position from which one observes; ‘objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear’, that sort of thing. This is important to consider when comparing two individuals and the moral character of their actions, as often those who are foreign to the observer may appear further away and thus their virtues minimized, while the virtues of a rank charlatan who is familiar may be amplified, especially if said charlatan is writing articles at First Things.
I am thankful that the recent article written by George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (located in Sodom on the Potomac), is short and to the point. It means I can write more and quote less. As the war drums beat over the skies of war-torn Syria, Weigel is doing his bit to propagandize against Russia with a particularly stupid article on the leader of the country’s 58,800,000 Orthodox Christians, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Rus’. It’s not the first of its kind, and it certainly will not be the last.
The piece is framed around the ecumenical dialogue between members of the Eastern and Western churches, with Weigel (who is Roman Catholic) sternly demanding that the Russian patriarch and his colleagues be called out for supporting their country’s president, Vladimir Putin. Just what has annoyed Weigel so?
Well, you can guess. There are five paragraphs of complaints (Only five?!). The first is the usual laundry list: Nemtsov, Politkovskaya, Litvinenko, and now, of course, the Skripals. These are the people who have run afoul of Putin, and lost their lives for it… or so judge, jury, and executioner George Weigel would have us believe. The fact is, as has been pointed out on this website before, that there is as much evidence of Nemtsov and Politkovskaya’s deaths being linked to Putin, as those of Seth Rich and Michael Hastings being linked to Clinton and Obama. Two rather mysterious deaths in which the accused may have profited. What Weigel is doing here is trying a case from abroad in which he has no evidence, but it’s okay because he can’t be charged with libel overseas. As for Litvinenko, Weigel is perhaps unaware his own father has exonerated the Russian president, and in fact placed blame for the polonium poisoning squarely on a shady business magnate, Boris Berezofsky1. And the Skripal case is now awash in so much cloak-and-dagger it’s not unreasonable to assume that the British tried to kill them. They certainly have more motive than Russia, since Sergei Skripal had been walking around in the UK for EIGHT YEARS with all those damning secrets the Russian state apparently wants to keep under wraps. A little late, no?
In his second paragraph, Weigel decides to pretend he’s more stupid than he actually is, informing the audience of just how inconceivable it is that any country, after losing 700,000 square miles of territory, would dare call it a “geopolitical disaster.” I’m not even going to bother.
He continues on to refer to “brave dissident” Alexei Navalny, and his struggle against Putin’s “personality cult”. Just as in the case of Ukraine, the west will overlook abroad what it condemns at home, as I’m sure Weigel would be quick to say anyone running for office in the US who used ethnic slurs against minority groups would be unfit to even stand, but Navalny’s inflammatory statements about Azeris and Georgians (whom he wanted to deport en masse by the way… wait, isn’t Georgia our ally? Oh, forget it, too confusing), these do not worry Weigel in the slightest. And as Living Colour related in their hit single, the cult of personality exists as much for Gandhi and Kennedy as it did for Stalin and Mussolini. Being the popular kid isn’t a crime. If it is, high schools across America need to be investigated immediately.
Then we get to the really boring stuff…. Crimea… blah blah… Ukraine… blah blah… destabilization in the Baltics which isn’t happening… blah blah… and onto Syria. Now, this part is interesting, not because Weigel is interesting, but because this is being published in an ostensibly Christian publication. While many mistakenly assume all of the Christians in Syria are part of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, in fact, a great many are Melkite Catholics in communion with Rome, and I want to emphasize that because it is, in fact, Weigel’s co-religionists who are being delivered a death sentence by his neoconservative friends. I don’t think we need to outline here how Bashar al-Assad is the only thing standing between these Christians and genocide. We’d be beating a dead horse. But it should come as no surprise that Weigel is very much willing to sacrifice their lives on the altar of the international world order (i.e – America and Israel’s unquestioned right to impose dildocracy and the Church of McDonald's wherever they want.) After all, this wouldn’t be the first time. Weigel was an ardent supporter of George W. Bush and his war on Iraq. Here are some choice quotes:
“We certainly know that Saddam Hussein has chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction that are a threat to his neighbors.”
“I am convinced that it is real and present. I am convinced that it is a real and present danger.”
“The U.S. is doing this, if it does it, for the sake of world order, for the sake of international law.”
“No one should doubt that America bears a special burden of responsibility for creating the minimum conditions of world order in the world as it is today.”2
I often wonder how in the world anyone who said these kinds of things retains a job anywhere, but if John Bolton can work in the White House again, then it’s not surprising Weigel still has a job. We, of course, know in hindsight that Weigel was operating as a mouthpiece for the lies of Bush’s administration, his role being to sell the moral case for the Iraq War. Further, Weigel has never apologized for all the lives lost in part due to this kind of propaganda. In fact, if given another run at it, he’d do the same:
“I still think it was necessary to compel regime change in Iraq, and the invasion was the only way to do that.”3
But let’s look at the human cost of what Weigel is endorsing here, particularly in Christian terms. There were 1.4 million Christians in Iraq prior to the invasion. Today, there are less than 275,000. I emphasize the sponge-cake dribbling voice of Catholic neoconism does not care about these numbers. They are as much statistics to him as the victims of famine were to Stalin. These tragic numbers would repeat themselves in Syria were its president to fall. That’s not a speculation, that’s a guarantee. He laments the spreading of “confusion” by elusive “Russian internet trolls”, while there is no greater example of spreading confusion than what Weigel participated in during the run-up to Iraq, spreading sadistic lies about Saddam Hussein. Just as the Japanese Weigels of 1931 demanded the blood of the ‘Chinese dogs’ for their bombing of a rail line in Manchuria, today’s Weigel demands death to rain down onto Syria for Assad’s use of chemical weapons. The connection? Both incidents were staged as a pretext for war.
Unfortunately, as American conservatism went into the wilderness after 2008, gasbags like Weigel continued to foster the delusions of middle America, that Bush hadn’t lied, that Iraq was justified, even that WMDs were found but covered up by the mainstream media. Out of one side of his mouth, Weigel wants Christians to speak “truth to power,” while out of the other he is an apologist for perhaps the most corrupt, reckless, and profoundly stupid president in his country’s history. The irony here is important, and I will return to it after I have addressed the last paragraph detailing why he is so dismayed at the patriarch’s support of Putin.
Here we find outrage that Putin is seemingly “president for life”, and that he can ever be said to be enacting “the will of the people” when his elections don’t meet Weigel’s standards, despite virtually no international body disputing the actual result of any Russian elections. However, even if we grant that Russian elections are shams and that Putin is operating as a kind of monarch… is Weigel really so ignorant of Orthodox social teaching? I go further, is he really so ignorant of Catholic social teaching up until the last century? Monarchy is the Christian form of government (nay, it is Christ’s form of government), and in no way does it impede the “will of the people”, unless confined to America’s comic-book history of “oppression” under George III because he wanted them to pay for stamps. Monarchy is, in fact, the only way the people get any kind of representation since in a democracy they become the playthings of the bourgeois business class, yellow press cretins like Weigel, and reptilian politicians. In the great shining city of representative government, the people’s will has been overturned on marriage by the courts, on immigration by both political factions, and on privacy by pencil-necked silicon valley dweebs who need booster seats at their congressional hearings. To lean upon a great Russian statesman, “In a Democracy, the real rulers are the dextrous manipulators of votes, with their placemen, the mechanics who so skilfully operate the hidden springs which move the puppets in the arena of democratic elections. Men of this kind are ever ready with loud speeches lauding equality; in reality, they rule the people as any despot or military dictator might rule it.”4 Does every autocrat care about his people? No, but virtually no democrats do, in large part because the competitive democratic process itself invites bribery. Any leader who is seriously challenged at the ballot box is the tool of whoever funds his advertisements and skews his news coverage.
If I had to select the worst line from the essay, this one about the Church in Russia under communism has no equal:
“Its martyrs, who number in the millions, are dishonored when the bishops of a putatively free Church play the role of chaplain to the omnipotent and infallible czar, rather than speaking truth to power.”
I have to suspect that Weigel is simply relying on his audience’s general historical ignorance here. The martyrs of the Russian Orthodox Church INCLUDE the last czar! They also include scores of his die-hard loyalists who were murdered precisely because they supported God’s anointed. The Russian Orthodox clergy who were drowned, dismembered, shot, strangled, and burned by the Bolsheviks, with few exceptions, were died-in-the-wool monarchists who despised popular rule. St. John of Kronstadt, while he died before the revolution took place, can be taken as representative of the Russian clergy in the early 20th Century, and from him, we take this quote: “in heaven, there is a kingdom; in hell, there is a democracy.” Throughout Christian history, you know, before transgenders had more lobbying power than priests, the Church, and the monarch operated in conjunction with one another, in "symphony" for the good of all. For more on why monarchism is not just a preferable position for Orthodox Christians but is, in fact, unavoidable, I highly recommend the article by Vladimir Moss, ‘Must an Orthodox Christian be a Monarchist?’5
And so we come to an honest assessment of Weigel, who is guilty of everything he imputes to Patriarch Kirill. His accusation is essentially that Kirill is a Russian before he is a Christian, that he is an adherent of the doctrine, “my country: right or wrong” and is willing to back his president regardless of what he says or does. Perhaps there is some truth to this. Kirill would not be the first Christian leader to be a nationalistic chauvinist, and indeed I have my own criticisms of certain aspects of his patriarchate. But Kirill has never endorsed the genocide of Christians in the Middle East in pursuit of his country’s foreign policy objectives. Weigel has. And why? I hazard a guess Weigel knows nothing about Iraq or Syria, about Hussein or Assad, and that he has absolutely no personal animus towards people there. No, he supports America’s belligerent activities because he supports America. His nation: right or wrong. If both men are chest-beating patriots for their motherlands, then we must put them side by side, and not at a varied distance. Unfortunately, in such a comparison, Kirill makes Weigel look like a moral mosquito, which is, of course, fitting for a bloated DC bugman.
He sits brooding in a religious cesspool full of abusive, homosexual clergymen, buffoonish evangelicals who believe all manner of utterly heretical things, and the groundswell of American youth who have no interest in God whatsoever, but of course it’s the Christians in Russia who really need to look at themselves and their country, where once again Christian belief is becoming a central part of society. Patriarch Kirill has overseen the revival of a Church whose persecution rivals virtually all prior persecution in history and has been exceptionally warm (many would say too warm) in his charity towards the Church of Rome which is so shamefully represented by writers like this. These will be the things he is remembered for. Weigel will be remembered as that First Things columnist who never regretted spreading Bush’s lies and never apologized to the people who suffered and died because of his zeal for protracted, bloody war. Being a toxic neocon copypasting your talking points from Jay Nordlinger is bad enough, but to wrap it in Christian colors is beyond repellent. American Catholics deserve better than trash like this.
I’ll finish by bucking a trend here at Thermidor. G.K. Chesterton made a rather apt observation, that “for good or evil, it is the fact of history that Russia is the only Power in Europe that has never supported the Crescent against the Cross.”6 In reading Weigel’s thinly clothed hypocrisy, one is reminded of Britain siding with Turkey against Russia during the first Crimean War, because the ongoing persecution of the Greeks was not as important as “muhh waves”. On the issue of his president's moral character and the involvement of the Russian armed forces in Syria, I’m sure the patriarch sleeps soundly at night. After all, he doesn’t have the screams of Iraqi Christian boys and girls in his ears. Hope you have earplugs, George, because if you get your way in Syria, those screams are going to get a lot louder.
Litvinenko's Father Gives Name of His Son's Murderer. Sputniknews.com. 2018. Available at: https://sputniknews.com/russia/201803201062741017-litvinenko-father-lugovoy-hug-murderer/. ↩
The Morality of War with Iraq. Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly. 2003. Available at: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/2003/01/10/january-10-2003-the-morality-of-war-with-iraq/15466/. ↩
Desmond J. Novak and Weigel Discuss Iraq 2003 and Syria 2013. National Catholic Register. 2013. Available at: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/novak-and-weigel-discuss-iraq-2003-and-syria-2013. ↩
Pobyedonostseff K. Reflections Of A Russian Statesman. London: Grant Richards; 1898:27. ↩
Chesterton G. The Collected Works Of G.K. Chesterton. San Francisco: Ignatius Press; 1987:262. ↩