July 21 — A civilian passenger plane is rerouted over a war zone. The plane crashes mysteriously in rebel-held territory. Within hours, the rebels and an “enemy” government are blamed for deliberately downing the plane and killing everyone aboard.
Welcome to the Reichstag fire, 2014 edition.
In February 1933, fire engulfed the German Reichstag (parliament) in Berlin. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, appointed chancellor weeks before, blamed communists and the Soviet Union, based on the forced confession of a young immigrant.
The fire became a pretext for mass roundups and executions of communists, socialists and trade unionists. The Nazis staged a show trial of leftist leaders.
Today, we have the tragic crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in the Donetsk People’s Republic, the deaths of nearly 300 passengers — and a rush to judgment by Washington, its European allies and the corporate media, though no investigation has been held and what evidence there is suggests a very different scenario.
The far-right junta in Kiev, Ukraine, immediately declared that rebel forces in Donetsk had shot down the plane on July 17 with weapons supplied by Russia.
Within a day, U.S. President Barack Obama joined the chorus, declaring that Russia and the rebels were guilty. Newspaper headlines shout condemnation, declaring Russian President Vladimir Putin “evil” and the anti-fascist uprising in southeast Ukraine his “thugs.”
The question which needs to be asked — and will not be asked by the big business media — is: Who stands to gain from this tragedy?
Who gains from plane tragedy?
The Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and Russia had no motive to down a civilian aircraft flying over Ukraine.
On the contrary, this is a serious blow to their efforts to break through the information blockade of the U.S. and Europe, and to get a hearing from international bodies about the war crimes the Kiev regime is carrying out against civilians in southeast Ukraine.
Some progress had been made in that regard, through the hard work of anti-fascist activists like Sergei Kirichuk of Union Borotba (Struggle). Forced into exile by Kiev, Kirichuk has crisscrossed Europe, speaking to activists and left parliamentarians, helping to inspire solidarity networks and raising the resistance perspective in the European Parliament.
The plane’s downing closely followed Putin’s successful Latin America tour — culminating in the BRICS summit, where Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa declared their intention to set up an alternative for developing countries to the U.S.-dominated International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
Further, just a day before Flight MH17 crashed, the Donetsk people’s militia set back the Ukrainian military’s campaign to encircle the capital city of Donetsk. Kiev’s forces had to retreat or face capture. (ITAR-TASS, July 17)
Similarly, the volunteer militia in neighboring Lugansk repelled Ukrainian army attempts to enter their capital twice in a single week, on July 13 and July 19.
Now these hard-fought victories are jeopardized in the tidal wave of hypocritical condemnation by Kiev and its Western backers.
Ukrainian President Peter Poroshenko, who heads a far-right regime of neoliberal politicians, oligarchs and outright fascists, has already called for the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics to be declared “international terrorist organizations” following the crash.
Silence on war crimes in Donbass
While global media focus on the plane crash — casting blame without evidence — they have been silent about Kiev’s war crimes.
Kiev’s shelling killed 19 people and wounded 101 in the city of Lugansk and surrounding suburbs and villages July 16 through 18. Mortar and artillery struck homes, schools and medical facilities, as they have throughout the area of tactical operations, in scenes reminiscent of the Israeli siege of Gaza. Ukrainian Grad rockets destroyed the Lisichansk refinery and knocked out the city’s water system and electricity on July 18.
Independent journalist Harriet Salem, who spoke with the Red Cross in Lugansk on July 21, tweeted that they were trapped in a basement office under heavy shelling from the Ukrainian army. The Red Cross reported 44 people killed July 19-20.
Since the beginning of June, 250 civilians have been killed and 850 wounded in Lugansk, according to a report issued by the Special Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on July 19, excluding civilians killed “in close vicinity of combat zones outside of the city and casualties among combatants.” (ITAR-TASS, July 19)
Why is Kiev blocking investigation?
Repeated pleas by the governments of Donetsk and Russia for a speedy international investigation of the crash site have been ignored. Although the site is overrun with journalists, after four days no international investigative team had arrived.
By July 21, after guarding the crash site for several days in preparation for the expected international delegation, the Donetsk militia was forced to gather up the human remains and put them in refrigerated train cars to stave off complete decomposition. (RNS)
“Several dozen experts are currently in Kiev,” Donetsk Prime Minister Aleksander Boroday declared July 19. “Can they please come here faster? We are surprised and frankly angered that we have to keep the area untouched while we are waiting for them so long.” (RT.com, July 20)
Yet the headlines of U.S. media blare that the Donetsk rebels are obstructing the investigation.
Could the delay be because the evidence so far, though not definitive, suggests the Ukrainian military’s possible responsibility for the plane’s destruction?
Kiev and Washington charge, with no evidence, that militia attacked the airliner with a Russian-supplied Buk ground-to-air missile system. The rebels are only known to possess one Buk battery, captured from the Ukrainian military. Military experts doubt that the militia has the additional equipment necessary to operate it, much less successfully target a plane at 33,000 feet.
Journalist Robert Parry — awarded the George Polk Award for National Reporting in 1984 — asked: “What did U.S. surveillance satellite imagery show? It’s hard to believe that, with the attention that U.S. intelligence has concentrated on eastern Ukraine for the past half year, that the alleged truck of several large Buk anti-aircraft systems from Russia to Ukraine and then back to Russia didn’t show up somewhere.” (CommonDreams.org)
Ukraine, however, does have an operational Buk system, which eyewitness reports — and a U.S. intelligence source cited by Parry — placed in the region on July 17.
On July 21, the Russian military released radar data and satellite photos indicating that a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet tailed the airliner. Kiev must explain why a military fighter was tracking a civilian flight, the Russian Defense Ministry said. (RT.com)
“The key, one undisputed fact we have is that the Ukrainian authorities changed the flight path of MH17 on July 17 and moved it more than 200 miles north — right into a war zone and the very space where Kiev was carrying out, that very day and during that critical moment, combat missions with its air force,” notes political and military analyst Vladimir Suchan.
Washington has a history of using such tactics to escalate a war fever. Consider the 1983 crisis over the shooting down of Korean Airlines flight 007, deliberately rerouted in violation of Soviet airspace to gather intelligence on Soviet air defenses. The Ronald Reagan administration used this incident to bolster its arms buildup against the USSR.
U.S. escalates war danger
Only Kiev and Washington stand to gain from the Malaysian Airline tragedy, using it to further demonize their enemies.
If the airliner was downed by the Donetsk militia — and there is no evidence to suggest they did, or even had the capability — then it was a tragic mistake, not deliberate.
Mistakes do happen in war. The Donetsk militia is composed of volunteers, mostly workers with limited or no prior military experience. Even armed liberation movements with many years of experience have made deadly errors.
While what actually happened is important, what’s most critical is to fight against Washington and Kiev’s propaganda drumbeat. U.S. big business parties and their Ukraine clients are using the tragedy to isolate and terrorize Donbass’ people and prepare steps against Russia.
The breakup of Russia, the incorporation of its skilled workforce, technology and natural resources into the imperialist orbit, and its elimination as a potential rival has been Washington’s long-term strategy since the fall of the Soviet Union. But the introduction of a pro-NATO, Nazi-dominated regime on Russia’s border is a leap forward for them.
Whoever shot down MH17, the U.S., the EU and the right-wing junta in Ukraine are responsible for the ongoing war crimes in Donbass — and for jeopardizing a civilian airliner.
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