A Tale of Three Aircraft Tragedies
Russia Bashing: Hatred, Hysteria and Humbug
by BRIAN CLOUGHLEY
Published by COUNTERPUNCH
“A civilian jet airliner shot down by US Navy surface to air missiles on 3 July 1988 as it flew over the Strait of Hormuz at the end of the Iran–Iraq War. The aircraft, an Airbus A300B2-203 operated by Iran Air, was flying from Bandar Abbas, Iran, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. While flying in Iranian airspace over Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf on its usual flight path, it was destroyed by the guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes. All 290 on board, including 66 children and 16 crew, perished.”
The captain of the ship that killed 290 innocent people was given a high military decoration by the United States of America “for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service” during his period in command.
The following report about Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 sums up the attitude of the great majority of the west’s media and political administrations to the disaster in Ukraine. It is from a British newspaper that I used to respect, the Independent, which announced that “The 192 bodies found after the Flight MH17 plane crash have been bundled into black body bags and unceremoniously loaded into large refrigerated train cars, bound, it is understood, for the rebel heartland.” The paper didn’t have a reporter anywhere near the place, and shifted its shaky ground a bit when stating that “the bodies were reportedly moved by Ukraine’s emergency services who were working for the rebels under duress on Sunday.” It had to inject that “under duress” bit, but couldn’t avoid admitting that experts from official Ukrainian emergency services were involved.
If the bodies had been dealt with in the way the Independent claimed then of course there would be reason for disgust and condemnation. But it didn’t happen that way. The bodies were not “bundled” into body bags, nor were they “unceremoniously” loaded into the refrigerated wagons. But lots of media outlets followed the same propaganda line. The UK Daily Mail, which is admittedly a joke of a newspaper, screamed that “pro-Russian rebels left the victims’ bodies to decay for several days in body bags dumped around the crash site before eventually allowing them to be taken by train to Kharkiv airport.” Absolute rubbish.
According to Euronews, to which (with Al Jazeera, AFP, AP, Reuters and the BBC) I increasingly have recourse in order to obtain unbiased accounts of world affairs, it wasn’t like that at all. It reported that “the Ukrainian government announced that it had reached an agreement on the removal of bodies with representatives of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk, the pro-Russian rebels who control the territory around the crash site” and that “International observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) inspected the train before it departed. The train was made up of refrigerated wagons to preserve the remains of the victims.” The BBC recorded that “the remains . . . have been loaded on to refrigerated rail wagons,” and that “Dutch experts examined some of the 196 bodies kept in refrigerator wagons in Torez, some 15 km away from the crash site. ‘I think the storage of the bodies is of good quality,’ team leader Peter van Leit said after the inspection.” There was no drama about these reports — because there was no drama.
But it’s essential for the US-dominated west to manufacture anti-Russian fantasies, and the Independent (and other hate-Putin fraternities) recounted that there were “reports from the crash site of the rebels blocking investigations and even allowing the bodies to be looted.” There were no verified first-hand reports of any such thing, of course, but then there was a bit of embarrassment when a western reporter at the crash site, a particularly nauseating little fragment of filth called Colin Brazier, of Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News, was shown on camera removing personal items from the luggage of a dead passenger. (Why does Murdoch come in to almost everything that is slimy and disgusting?)
It wasn’t exactly looting, of course, because no doubt Mr Brazier was well-equipped with personal items, but it must have been a little sad and upsetting for the relatives of victims to see on Murdoch television the set of keys and the toothbrush that he displayed. Make no mistake : the western media was at its most energetic — and hypocritical — in presenting the hideousness of the shooting-down of Flight MH17.
There is hypocrisy in the fact that western media castigated people — without evidence — for “looting” baggage while a strolling player of international television enjoyed a ghoulishly morbid dabble in suitcase contents. It must be pointed out that if local hooligans were acting as claimed by western media — forbidding entry of foreigners to the crash site — then how did the toothbrush-plucking Mr Brazier manage to get there for Sky News in order to titillate the world with displays of a dead person’s keys? Make no mistake : there are plenty like Brazier. And his only mistake was to misjudge audience reaction. An equally abominable Australian journalist, Phil Williams, was also pictured poking around in the belongings of the dead. There’s no limit to the depths to which these people will plunge. But it’s all in what they think is a good cause — the pillorying of Putin, the man who is trying to do his best for the citizens of his country which has lots of oil and gas and other goodies and thus presents an economic threat to Washington.
The ghoulish manufactured reportage about the aircraft’s flight recorders was another example of western media hysteria. The headlines fairly shrieked propaganda nonsense such as “Flight’s Black Box ‘Found and En Route’ to Moscow for Investigation.” But of course the two recorders were not on the way to Russia. They were found and handed over to officials of Malaysia Airlines, as was right and proper. No western reporter checked out the original story in spite of its being denied by the Russian government. Why should they? — They had got the headlines, and people believed their lies. The rebels handed over the recorders to Malaysia Airlines simply because they didn’t trust the Ukrainians not to interfere with them. But this wasn’t the sort of news that is acceptable to Russia-bashers.
The tsunami of malevolent anti-Russian propaganda surged on and still surges, thanks to such as the US Secretary of State John Kerry who is rarely at a loss for an intriguing declaration. (Remember his pronouncement of 2010 that “Syria will play a very important role in achieving a comprehensive peace in the region and in putting an end to the five decades of conflict that have plagued everybody in this region.”) He did his bit to whip up hatred by announcing that there was “extraordinary circumstantial evidence” showing that the missile that destroyed MH17 was “a system that was transferred from Russia in the hands of separatists.” But five days later, as reported by Associated Press, “intelligence officials were cautious in their assessment, noting that while the Russians have been arming separatists in eastern Ukraine, the US had no direct evidence that the missile used to shoot down the passenger jet came from Russia.”
Kerry then jumped on the body bandwagon and declared on NBC that “What’s happening is really grotesque. There are reports of drunken separatist soldiers unceremoniously piling bodies into trucks, removing both bodies, as well as evidence, from the site.”
What proof had he for saying that anyone was “unceremoniously piling bodies into trucks”? Or that the missile system had been transferred from Russia? The word “circumstantial” in relation to evidence means “indirect, inferred or conditional.” It is used by international political conmen like Kerry to make us believe they have proof about something they want us to believe. And the western media go out of their way to help them.
There was even more hysteria whipped up by the media which shrieked that it had taken far too long to collect the bodies — four days — and that this was absolutely scandalous. Does anyone remember the bombing of Pan American Airways flight 103 in 1988? The plane exploded and fell out of the sky onto Lockerbie in southern Scotland, killing 259 people. As the Guardian newspaper later reported “Search teams would comb through much of the 2,190 square kilometres of the county with the help of helicopters, airplanes and even spy satellites. But they would be unable to locate the bodies of seven of the passengers, as well as about 10 per cent of the plane. And in some cases they may have arrived too late: 10 years after the catastrophe, the chief pathologist reported that two of the passengers had suffered serious but not fatal wounds. Possibly they froze to death on the ground before the search teams found them in a forest four days later.” Four days later. There was no media frenzy about that four day gap. Why was there media mania about the four days taken to find the MH17 bodies? — Because there is a well-orchestrated campaign of vindictive anti-Russian propaganda.
The West thinks they’ve got Putin at last. The Sochi Winter Olympics were a great success, to the great vexation of governments in Washington, London, Warsaw and some other capitals, and the plebiscite in Crimea in which its citizens voted without a single instance of bloodshed to rejoin Russia (yes — rejoin; not a word you’ll have seen much in western papers), was similarly infuriating. But now there’s a chance to imply that Putin is responsible for everything that’s wrong in Ukraine, and especially the destruction of MH17, there is mega-lip-smacking in the corridors of conspiracy.
As noted above, many western newspapers and other media squealed and screeched about how terrible it was that the MH17 bodies were “ bundled into black body bags and unceremoniously loaded into large refrigerated train cars” — but at the site of the Lockerbie disaster “the first corpses were brought to the town hall, but people [ordinary villagers, just as in Ukraine] then started bringing them to the hockey stadium because it was the only place large and cool enough to store so many bodies.” There was no “ceremony” in Lockerbie. How could there be in any such circumstances? But the Putin-bashers seize on anything and everything that they think could whip up hatred of Russia. The “pro-Russia separatists” are guilty of everything that’s nasty.
Then Kerry leapt on the next bandwagon and pronounced that “it is clear that Russia supports the separatists, supplies the separatists, encourages the separatists, trains the separatists.”
Many of us remember the months before the US went to war on Iraq in 2003 when another US Secretary of State made similar pronouncements. We should remember that the then incumbent of that office declared “we have first hand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails.” He announced a lot more baloney about “rocket launchers and warheads containing biological warfare agents” —and so on — and there was not a scrap of proof or truth in any of it. It was all lies.
Why should we believe John Kerry’s rabble-rousing proclamations about anything to do with the stricken MH17? Where is his proof?
Sure, many of the separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine are vicious horrible people. Their cause might be reasonable but some of their actions are barbaric. Many are former members of the Ukraine army. They are the Taliban of Ukraine’s tribal areas. But their political leader Alexander Borodai said they had moved the bodies “out of respect for the families” because “we couldn’t wait any longer because of the heat and also because there are many dogs and wild animals in the zone.” That is an entirely practical reason, and would any of the ignorant and spiteful western critics have acted differently in such circumstances?
Borodai denies that the rebels shot down the Malaysia Airlines flight, but of course he would, wouldn’t he? Just as the government of Ukraine denies having done it.
So there must be a totally independent international inquiry into this ghastly disaster. It should be an investigation on the same lines and with the same terms of reference as the independent inquiry that took place following the shooting-down of Iran Air Flight 655 in 1988. Or does my memory play tricks? Surely there must have been a full independent inquiry into that atrocity, as demanded, now, about MH17, by President Obama who has demanded a “a rapid and credible investigation” ? Or perhaps there wasn’t.
Do you remember that international crime? It involved “a civilian jet airliner shot down by US Navy surface to air missiles on 3 July 1988 as it flew over the Strait of Hormuz at the end of the Iran–Iraq War. The aircraft, an Airbus A300B2-203 operated by Iran Air, was flying from Bandar Abbas, Iran, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. While flying in Iranian airspace over Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf on its usual flight path, it was destroyed by the guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes. All 290 on board, including 66 children and 16 crew, perished.”
There was no attempt to find bodies after Iran Air 655 smashed into the waters of the Persian Gulf. There were no toothbrushes to be brandished by the squalid morbid media — and nor was there an independent inquiry. The captain of the ship that killed 290 innocent people was given a high military decoration by the United States of America “for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service” during his period in command.
It’s OK for the US to shoot down an Iranian airliner and kill 290 people — there’s never been an apology to the Iranian people for that war crime — but when there’s an opportunity to claim, to shriek, to propagandise at cyclone-level, that a disaster has occurred in which there just might be the tiniest chance to blame Russia, then there is clamour for investigation.
Of course there must be an investigation. And let it take into account exactly where Washington stood in regard to the first rebellion in Ukraine, against the elected government, and precisely what it did to foment it. Let the whole gutter-gobbing sleazy tale be told. Let the culprits who killed the 298 innocent people on board MH17 be brought to justice. But without anti-Russian hysteria. Or western humbug. The hatred, of course, will remain.
Brian Cloughley lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.