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A Bloody Farce

Ukraine, MH 17, and the Charge of the Atlanticist Brigade

by PETER LEE

The bloody farce in the Ukraine took another ugly turn with the shootdown of MH 17.

And to be ugly about it, if the rebels shot the plane down, it shouldn’t matter very much except as a horrible and unexpected catastrophe in a war zone and an overwhelming tragedy to the survivors of the victims on board.  Call it an accident, collateral damage, manslaughter, there is no credible version of events in which it was intentional mass murder or terrorism, either by the rebels or Russian technicians that, according to the Ukrainian government, possessed the ability to operate the elderly but complex anti-aircraft systems fingered in the attack.

Recall the US shootdown of Iran Air Flight 655 in 1988 by the USS Vincennes.  It was also an ugly business.  The Iran Air jet was on a standard civilian flight path with its transponders on; the Vicennes through some bit of naval derring-do had actually intruded into Iranian territorial waters when it shot the plane down (something that was only admitted by the US three years later).  290 people died, the US never apologized, but eventually paid out some money to smooth things over, not in a particularly classy way, according to a 2002 account:

The US had compensated non-Iranian victims about 2.9 million dollars (not acknowledging any responsibility) but nothing to Iranian family members. In 1996, a 131.8 million dollar settlement was reached that included the ignored families (61.8 million). Seventy million was to be put into bank accounts and used to “pay off private U.S. claims against Iran and Iran’s expenses for the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, which is handling the claims.” The US stated it was for claims “involving banking matters, not the airliner,” while Iran said that 30 million was for the plane.

The shootdown was accompanied by the usual quotient of dishonest denial and blame shifting.

The following day, the Pentagon held a news conference on the incident. After originally having flatly denied Iran’s version of the event, saying that it had shot down an F-14 fighter and not a civilian aircraft, the State Department (after a review of the evidence) admitted the downing of Iran Air 655. It was claimed that the plane had “strayed too close to two U.S. Navy warships that were engaged in a battle with Iranian gunboats” and, according to the spokesman, that the “proper defensive action” was taken (in part) because the “suspect aircraft was outside the prescribed commercial air corridor” (Washington Post).

That it “strayed” from its normal, scheduled flight path is factually incorrect. And so was the claim that it was heading right for the ship and “descending” (emphasis, mine) toward it—it was ascending. Another “error” was the contention that it took...

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