Sep 11, 2014

Troubling questions about MH-17 crash remain following release of Dutch report

DSB report on MH-17 crash

The Dutch Safety Board's (DSB) preliminary report on the causes of the crash of Malaysian Airlines MH-17 is noteworthy for what it fails to report. It tells us pretty much what we already know or have surmised from analysis of damaged sections of the plane at the crash site. The report states that - "The damage observed in the forward section of the aircraft appears to indicate that the aircraft was penetrated by a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft... It is likely that this damage resulted in a loss of structural integrity of the aircraft, leading to an in-flight break up."

No word as to what the mysterious "objects" may have been... whether they were the result of a missile attack (the word "missile" isn't mentioned in the report) or other fire and no hint either when it comes to possible parties involved.

The report has confirmed that the cockpit took a lot of the damage... damage noted at first hand by one of the first OSCE investigators at the scene of the crash, Canadian Michael Bociurkiw. In a CBC interview Bociurkiw said that he saw sections of the plane that were "pockmarked." He described the visual appearance as resembling  "machine gun fire... very very strong machine gun fire."

The report has no comment either on other pertinent matters leaving the field open for spin that a few commentators have been quick to supply.  Much of the speculation on the heels of the report's release  has come from "experts" in government and media, a number of whom are more than willing to fill in the gaps in order to further their case about Russian involvement.

That a surface-to-air missile of the Buk type - possibly armed with a fragmentation warhead - may have been involved is a distinct possibility. Who the investigators believe was behind the targeting of the plane is a question unlikely to be addressed until a much later date, if at all. Given the DSB's extremely cautious approach at this stage of the investigation it's hard not to conclude that a number of key considerations remain opaque or have been understated or shelved for whatever reason.

Radar data is a case in point. The DSB received ATC surveillance data from the Russian Federation yet remains silent on the issue of the Ukrainian Su-25 fighter that the Russians claimed their radar tracked as it climbed to within 3 to 5 kilometers of MH-17.

Russian radar isn't the only source that places Ukrainian fighter/fighters in the vicinity of MH-17 on July 17. As mentioned in an earlier post, a BBC report by correspondent Olga Ivshina places eye witnesses at the scene who specifically refer to the presence of Ukrainian military aircraft in the proximity of MH-17 before it crashed. The women who Ivshina spoke with were not militia members, just local civilians. They came across as entirely credible in the related BBC video.

The report by Ivshina was subsequently deleted by the BBC. Was it censored because every eye witness interviewed claimed the presence of Ukrainian military aircraft on July 17? Or did it have anything to do with claims - mentioned in other reports -  that Kiev has used civilian planes flying over the region as cover for its military aircraft when carrying out strikes, a number of which have resulted in civilian casualties?

In a recent article - Malaysian Airlines Whodunnit Still a Mystery - investigative journalist Robert Parry points out another missing link in the Dutch report:

The report is also silent on the “dog-not-barking” issue of whether the U.S. government had satellite surveillance that revealed exactly where the supposed ground-to-air missile was launched and who may have fired it.

The Obama administration has asserted knowledge about those facts – initially pointing the finger at ethnic Russian rebels using a powerful Buk anti-aircraft missile system supposedly supplied by Russia – but the U.S. government has withheld satellite photos and other intelligence information that could presumably corroborate the charge.

Curiously, too, the Dutch report, released on Tuesday, states that the investigation received “satellite imagery taken in the days after the occurrence.” Obviously, the more relevant images in assessing blame would be aerial photography in the days and hours before the crash that killed 298 people on the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

In mid-July, eastern Ukraine was a high priority for U.S. intelligence and a Buk missile battery is a large system that should have been easily picked up by U.S. aerial reconnaissance. The four missiles in a battery are each about 16-feet-long and would have to be hauled around by a truck and then put in position to fire.

Parry also notes in his article that Russian satellite imagery purported to show "... Ukrainian government Buk missile systems north of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk before the attack, including two batteries that purportedly were shifted 50 kilometers south of Donetsk on July 17, the day of the crash, and then removed by July 18."

If the claims about the Ukrainian Buk systems are accurate it is safe to assume that the Americans have similar satellite images for the dates in question. So it seems curious that they have only released satellite images for days following the crash. The DSB report states that the investigation received “satellite imagery taken in the days after the occurrence.”

Why would Ukrainian forces position their Buk missile systems in that location and at that time, when the east Ukraine self-defence militias they are fighting possess no air capability? The positioning of the Ukrainian Buks appears to have been for another purpose.

The Dutch report doesn't take us far on the road of discovery. There remain many unanswered questions. Assurances by the DSB that the final report will be released before the first anniversary of the crash in 2015 suggests we are in for a long wait. When the final report is released memories of MH-17 will have receded and we may be looking at an entirely different state-of-affairs in the Ukraine. This may suit the agenda of those for whom the revelation of key information pertaining to the downing of MH-17 could prove to be politically compromising.

Sep 6, 2014

Obama's Estonia claim that 'Russia trying to reclaim lands lost in the 19th century' bad history

Obama accuses Russia of imperial ambitions

Since the crisis in Ukraine began making headlines Russia has been cast as the villain with predictable stereotypes and misconceptions about things Russian showing up on MSM. From a Russian perspective a lot of it must seem clueless or outright offensive but such "insights" add to a tabloid narrative that gets very little critical scrutiny. The tendency to caricature Russia also shows up in the commentary of politicians in sometimes surprising ways.

Obama and his speech writers could use some remedial assistance when it comes to Russian history. During a brief stop-over in Estonia en-route to the Wales summit Obama gave a keynote speech in which he made a historical gaffe that has come under criticism from Russia's foreign ministry and media. He informed his hosts that Russia is "reaching back to the days of the tsars, trying to reclaim lands lost in the 19th century -- this is surely not the way to secure Russia's greatness in the 21st century."

The claim that Russia is 'reaching back to the days of the tsars' is more about political caricature than reality but adds to the propagandistic view of Russia's alleged "imperial" ambitions. The bit about Russia wanting to 'reclaim lands lost in the 19th century' is historically unconvincing and doesn't come close to supporting Obama's claims about "imperial" ambitions.

Russia didn't actually give up any lands in the 19th century that amounted to a significant loss of territory. The voluntary sale of land is entirely different from "loss" of land. During the time period referred to by Obama the Russian Fort Ross settlement in California was sold to a businessman for $30,000 and Alaska sold for $7.2 million - none of this is evidence of lost 'tsar-like' prestige. Russia's primary reason for selling Alaska was that it feared it might be seized by Britain in the case of a war. The move resulted in widespread mockery of US secretary of state at the time, William Seward, who Americans believed got the worst of the bargain - hence the reference to the purchase as "Seward's folly."

When it comes to Russia's borders, as an RT article makes clear - "Russia didn't in fact lose any lands on the Eurasian continent in the 19th century." The article includes two maps comparing the 19th and 20th century borders of Russia to make the point.

Russians sensitivity to Obama's interpretation of their history isn't surprising given the current crisis. It also reflects a more general view of Americans-as-challenged when it comes to knowledge of the world beyond their borders. John McCain's long list of foreign policy gaffes is an example of this tendency.

Sep 4, 2014

Fidel Castro compares NATO with Hitler's SS: says US/Israel responsible for the creation of ISIS

Fidel Castro compares NATO with Nazi SS
Below: demo in Poland protesting NATO summit in Wales

In an article published in Cuban state media iconic revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro, calls out NATO and imperialist war mongering. He compares statements by NATO representatives with Nazi SS talk.

Castro: "Many people are astonished when they hear the statements made by some European spokesmen for NATO when they speak with the style and face of the Nazi SS."

Castro's NATO remarks are timely given the summit currently underway in Wales that aims to increase troops and armaments in Eastern Europe in response to what NATO views as Russian "aggression." What we are witnessing is the militarization of Europe with all of the dangers associated with a build-up on this scale.

In the article there is a call for a more progressive and inclusive world -- not one in which the people with the weapons "destroy cities; murder children; pulverize homes; sow terror, hunger and death...".

The following excerpt in translation covers some of Castro's main points:

The world has known no peace in recent years, particularly since the European Economic Community, under the strict and unconditional leadership of the United States, decided that the time had come to settle scores with what remained of two great nations [Russia and China] which, inspired by the ideas of Marx, had achieved the great feat of ending the imperialist colonial order imposed on the world by Europe and the United States.

Would a true society of nations be convenient or not, in the current world, one in which respect is shown for rights, beliefs, culture, technologies and resources in accessible places around the world...

And wouldn’t the world be much more just today…if people saw in others a friend or brother, and not an enemy disposed to kill, with weapons which human knowledge has been capable of creating...  Believing that human beings could be capable of having such objectives, I think that absolutely no one has the right to destroy cities; murder children; pulverize homes; sow terror, hunger and death anywhere.

In what corner of the world can such acts be justified?

A colossal fraud is what is seen today, as problems emerge which suggest the possible eruption of a war, with the use of weapons which could mean the end of human existence.

There are unscrupulous actors, apparently more than a few, which consider meritorious their willingness to die, but above all to kill in defense of their indecent privileges.

Cynicism is something which has become symbolic of imperial policy.

On the Middle East front, Castro considers the US and Israel responsible for the creation of ISIS... "... the Islamic State, which today controls a considerable and vital portion of Iraq and reportedly one-third of Syria as well." John McCain is called out as "Israel's most unconditional ally."

Castro accuses Western politicians of hypocrisy and aggression, describing the West as "a symbol of imperialist policy."

The US invasion of Iraq was indeed instrumental in sowing the seeds for the creation of ISIS  or IS as it is more generally known. IS is in key respects the spawn of American imperialist war mongering. This paragraph from a TomDispatch article - How America Made Isis  - describes some of the ways:

Though the militants of ISIS would undoubtedly be horrified to think so, they are the spawn of Washington. Thirteen years of regional war, occupation, and intervention played a major role in clearing the ground for them. They may be our worst nightmare (thus far), but they are also our legacy -- and not just because so many of their leaders came from the Iraqi army we disbanded, had their beliefs and skills honed in the prisons we set up (Camp Bucca seems to have been the West Point of Iraqi extremism), and gained experience facing U.S. counterterror operations in the “surge” years of the occupation. In fact, just about everything done in the war on terror has facilitated their rise. After all, we dismantled the Iraqi army and rebuilt one that would flee at the first signs of ISIS’s fighters, abandoning vast stores of Washington's weaponry to them. We essentially destroyed the Iraqi state, while fostering a Shia leader who would oppress enough Sunnis in enough ways to create a situation in which ISIS would be welcomed or tolerated throughout significant areas of the country.

Sep 3, 2014

NATO summit targets Russia: nuclear threat increases with risk of war

Protesters in Wales say no to NATO wars
Protest in Newport, Wales, against NATO aggression

Government leaders of NATO countries meet in Wales this week to make plans for the escalation of military preparedness, with Russia squarely in the cross hairs. This includes the likely endorsement of a rapid response force made up of as many as 4,000 soldiers capable of being deployed to any member state at short notice. It is also likely that the build-up of troops and armaments in Eastern Europe will be given the green light.

An article in World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) reports:

The NATO summit, to which Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has been invited, will focus on the Western diplomatic, economic and military offensive against Russia that has been continually escalated since the US and Germany triggered the crisis in Ukraine last February by organizing a fascist-led putsch that overthrew the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych.

Russia announced Wednesday that it will alter its military policy in response to the aggressive expansion of NATO forces into Eastern Europe as well moves by the Kiev regime to integrate Ukraine into the US-dominated Western military alliance.

Mikahil Popov, deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said in an interview with RIA Novosti that “the issue of drawing of military infrastructure of NATO member-countries to the borders of our country, including via enlargement, will remain one of the external military threats for the Russian Federation.”

Hundreds of protesters are also in Newport, Wales, to protest against NATO --- a banner that headed up a protest march read "no new wars - no to NATO."

A peace camp has been set up in Newport's Tredegar Park with more protesters expected in the run-up to the summit. Transportation was organized by groups such as Stop the War in an effort to get participants up from London, Birmingham and other UK cities.

John Rees from the Stop the War spoke of the gulf between NATO thinking and the views of ordinary people. He told RT -- "The world stands on the edge of a precipice. We have rhetoric which is off the chart about the possibility of a conflict between the major powers in the Ukraine. People think that these are world leaders who are out of control, they have no sense that these policies are deeply unpopular."

Western leaders blame Russia for "aggression" in Ukraine. But it was the West, not Russia, that set about destabilizing Ukraine. Washington and Berlin played no small role in the events leading up to the Kiev putsch that ousted the democratically elected government of Victor Yanukovych.

The specter of NATO military escalation places us all under increasing threat. In considering the consequences of a possible large-scale war, nuclear weapons are very much a part of the military calculus. Some pundits casually refer to "the new Cold War" but in a number of key respects this is misleading. The conditions that governed the Cold War are virtually non-existent today and this increases the dangers in the event of hostilities. During the Cold War checks-and-balances were in place to safeguard against nuclear escalation. Today nuclear weapons are no longer seen as a weapon of last resort, but as a tactical option, part of the military toolbox to be deployed when and if the situation requires it.

MSM hyperbole about a "Russian invasion" reflects yet more attempts to ramp up the perception that Russia is the aggressor, when in fact it was Western interference and aggression that worked toward the destabilization of Ukraine. There is no evidence of thousands of Russian soldiers and columns of military hardware "invading" Ukraine to engage in an openly declared war. Russian aid has naturally gone to the Russian-speaking people of Eastern Ukraine suffering under the guns of Kiev. Support has also come from other quarters. Volunteers from across Europe who recognize the injustice of what is going down have thrown their weight behind the resistance in Eastern Ukraine.

Former French paratrooper, Victor Lenta - pictured on the far-left in company with other French fighters in Lenin Square, Donetsk - is quoted in media reports speaking about the motivations that led him to volunteer.

French fighters in Eastern Ukraine

Lenta is very clear that it isn't Russia that has been the instigator of aggression in this conflict:

I served for five years with the paratroopers-in the 3rd Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment. It is one of the elite regiments of the French Army. We are preparing the arrival of other French volunteers and even also volunteers from Serbia, because we are a Eurasiste organisation - so Franco-Serbian, to come here and fight on the side of the rebellion. We are thinking about bring around 20 other people.

In France, for example, Russia is presented as the aggressor like the one that attacks Ukraine, like the one that wants to take the riches of Ukraine. But us, we know very well, and have seen in the alternative media on the Internet etc that all the aggression was coming from Kiev, clearly against the Russian-speaking population of the Donbass region.

In terms of the bigger picture Russia has shown considerable restraint as NATO has penetrated further and further into Eastern Europe posing an increased national security threat. Many argue that the "encirclement" of Russia is a deliberate strategy. 

By way of comparison, imagine a country the size of Ukraine bordering the United States. Picture Russian agencies and money pouring in with the aim of overthrowing the democratically elected leader - an ally of the United States. Taking the hypothetical scenario further, imagine that this country bordering the US has large populations of  "Americans" with blood and family ties to the US. Then imagine this pro-American region coming under sustained attack by a Russia-backed regime resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths due to criminal shelling of urban areas. Imagine that this crisis is used as an excuse to escalate the military threat to the United States throughout the region.

Do you think Washington would sit back passively in the face of such aggression? Compared to how the US would assuredly react to such developments on its borders, Russia is very far from being the architect and instigator of aggression in Ukraine and even further from being an "imperial" war monger.

Western hypocrisy on Ukraine

West blames Russia for aggression in Ukraine