In the end we may never know with certainty who shot down the Malaysian airliner on July 17, and under what circumstances. My assessment, made in the immediate aftermath of the disaster – that it was engineered by deliberately guiding the airliner into harm’s way – will be further examined in this article. Patrick Buchanan’s opinion that “it was a horrendous military blunder like the U.S. shoot-down of the Iranian Airbus by the Vincennes in 1988” – in other words a manslaughter, rather than murder – is shared by the US intelligence community, whose early assessment is that the separatists shot the plane down by accident.

Numerous new, potentially troubling aspects of the story have emerged over the past ten days, however, and they should be scrutinized if and when there is an impartial investigation. For now, they remain underreported or simply ignored in the Western media coverage of the event. The nature of that coverage has been summarized by Andrew Marshall, Reuters’ two-term former bureau chief in Baghdad:

There is a tendency in the 21st century world of 24-hour rolling news coverage to overemphasize and dramatize individual incidents in a conflict, subjecting them to intense coverage, while at the same time failing to analyze the underlying causes and patterns of conflict. The task of analyses is to focus on the “signal,” not the “noise,” but most modern media do the opposite. It is also clearly true that powerful global interests seek to control the narrative by staging events to drown out the signal with noise… But sensible analysts need to avoid conflating the horror and blame of specific incidents within a conflict with the overall moral calculus of the conflict. The two are totally unconnected.

An extreme example of deliberate conflation was provided by French “philosopher” Bernard-Henri Levy in last week’s op-ed in The New York Times. In eastern Ukraine, Henri-Levy says, Vladimir Putin has mobilized the worst elements to be found in the region – “thugs, thieves, rapists, ex-cons and vandals” – and turned them into a paramilitary force. “He has watched as a vodka-soaked rabble army destroys or takes over public buildings, hospitals, schools and municipal offices of the country it is pretending to liberate”:

To this underworld without structure or discipline, to these undisciplined louts who know only the law of the jungle, to this new brand of fighting force that has only the dimmest idea of war and no idea, God knows, of the laws of war — to this motley collection Mr. Putin, the Russian president, gave a terrifying arsenal with which the amateur soldiers were unfamiliar and with which they have been playing, like kids with fireworks… We know what happened. Whatever the outcome of the eventual investigation – an investigation made well nigh impossible by these dogs of war who follow no creed and no law… an undeniable result was carnage, a war crime, an attack on Ukraine, the Netherlands and Malaysia all at once.

Never mind the Ukrainian army’s well-documented and indiscriminate shelling of all those “public buildings, hospitals, schools and municipal offices of the country it is pretending to liberate.” “Faced with this new Lockerbie,” Henri-Levy asks “will we in the West do no more than beg Mr. Putin to provide ‘free and complete’ access to the crash site and offer ‘full cooperation’ in the recovery of remains?”

Less rhetorically colorful but similar in substance, and more serious in potential consequences, has been the rush to judgment by the White House and the Department of State, which remains unsupported by evidence thus far. All along, the notable fact – the elephant missing from the room – is the failure of the U.S. government to disclose its own satellite imagery and other raw data that could support such claims. Contrary to Henri-Levy’s polemic, the fact remains that we do not know what happened.

There are two ways the disaster could have occurred. With the eastern militia handing the black boxes to the Malaysians, who gave them to the Dutch, who passed them on to the Britishi.e. to the UK and by extension U.S. intelligence services – we cannot assume that there will ever be a comprehensive and impartial investigation. In each of these two cases, an impartial look is called for at (1) technical ability; (2) motivation; and (3) moral character of the parties.

First possibility: the eastern militias really did shoot the plane down by mistake. (There is no plausible scenario they would have shot it down on purpose, as suggested by Henri-Levy’s “Lockerbie” parallel).

  • Technical capability: uncertain. Reports of whether they have BUK system remain conflicting, whether provided by Russians or captured from Kiev forces. If they have the BUKs, operating skill is also questionable.
  • Motivation: clearly not. They have every motivation to bring down Kiev forces’ airplanes attacking them and civilian areas of Donetsk and Lugansk, however.
  • Moral character: speculative. Contrary to earlier claims, however, the crash site has been made available to international investigators, alleged tampering remains unproven, and the black boxes have been handed over.

Early “proof” the rebels did it came from a supposedly intercepted phone call that was heavily edited, and a video purportedly showing a BUK missile launcher returning to Russia but which was actually shot in Krasnoarmeisk, which has been under Kiev’s control since May. Both were made available promptly, perhaps too much so, to the leading media outlets. Some analysts were not impressed:

(U.S. Lt. Col., retired)  FRANCONA: It’s convenient.

(CNN)  LEMON: Yes.

FRANCONA: Not only this. The other recording, right after the shoot down, we get that first recording then we get this recording – and we’ve talked about this. And then we had that video of the missile launcher being driven away. All this comes just as perfectly. And I stand…

(CNN)  CAMEROTA:  But what does that mean, the fact that it’s too convenient for your taste? You mean that the Ukrainians are feeding this out to cover something else?? FRANCONA: I don’t know. It just – I’m saying it’s convenient. It’s just I spent 28 years in doing the intelligence (inaudible) and it never works that easy.  …

John Kerry’s assurances that evidence “obviously points a very clear finger at the separatists,” which he gave in a host of media appearances on July 20, were remarkably similar to those he made in the aftermath of the chemical weapons attack in Syria last summer. On August 30, 2013, he solemnly claimed, no fewer than 35 times, that “we know” the government of Bashar al-Assad was responsible for chemical attacks outside Damascus on August 21. “We” did not. This time it is “We know with confidence,” but raw intel is not provided, only social media chatter. All tell, no show. The likely purpose was to poison the well against any other possibility (Racak, Sarajevo, Benghazi, Damascus, sniping on the streets of Kiev etc.) by making immediate claims way ahead of the evidence, or lack thereof.

According to Ray McGovern, a veteran CIA analyst under seven presidents, at long last U.S. intelligence professionals are determined to avoid a repeat of the fraudulent intelligence performance on WMDs before the March 2003 attack on Iraq: “this time our former colleagues refused to ‘fix the intelligence around the policy,’ as the British Downing Street Minutes document put it. The opposition was so strong that not even the malleable CIA Director, John Brennan, was able to provide Kerry with the usual ‘Intelligence Assessment’ he wanted. So the best he could do was to issue a ‘Government Assessment’ bereft of verifiable evidence.”

With U.S. intelligence-gathering satellites and other devices focused on eastern Ukraine for the past three months at least, it defies belief that the launch of the missile itself, not to mention the alleged trucking of several bulky BUKs from Russia to Ukraine and then back to Russia, would not be detected, tracked, and duly recorded by radar or satellite imagery. Investigative reporter Robert Parry – who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for the Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s – has noted that MH17 went down during the afternoon, not at night, meaning the missile battery was not concealed by darkness.

Second possibility: Kiev forces shot the plane down. Since the militias have no air power, there is no plausible scenario Kiev forces would have shot the plane down by accident. If they did it, it would have been on purpose as a false flag, Sarajevo-Racak-Damascus style:

  • Technical capability: Yes, Kiev has BUKs.U.S. administration claims that they are all accounted for, but so far we have only their word and Kiev’s.
  • Motivation: Yes, definitely. Cui bono? The disaster was declared “game-changer” within hours, if not minutes of the plane hitting the ground.
  • Moral character: Definitive. No mainstream analyst has yet referred in this context to the Ashton-Paet telephone conversation of February 26. The people who were murdering their fellow Ukrainians on the streets of Kiev on February to pin it on the police are now the government (or a big part of it) in Kiev.  

Other reports have suggested that MH17 flight path was altered by Ukrainian air traffic control, placing it closer and lower to the war zone than prudence would dictate, and that the flight had been shadowed by Ukrainian fighter planes shortly before it was shot down. Russians have provided raw intel, showing one Kiev BUK deployed close to the front line near Donetsk, then moved away, and also indicating that one Ukrainian fighter was climbing towards MH17. Nothing provided by Moscow thus far seems conclusive, but it is at least indicative that Kiev may be hiding something.

False flag operations are used because they work. The very fact that they are so horribly unthinkable, they negate the needed ability to take them credibly. They are useful but, literally, unbelievable to most people – cf. “Investigation Concludes Bosnian Government Snipers Shot at Civilians,” headlined The New York Times on August 1, 1995. If Bosnian Muslim soldiers sniped at Bosnian Muslim civilians for political advantage, why would the likes of the Right Sector – who burned people alive in Odessa – shirk at killing a few hundred Dutchmen and Malaysians? As Erik Rush of WND – usually not a Putin-friendly source – concluded last week, given the character and actions of this White House, the Svoboda Party in Ukraine, and their past collaborative acts, failing to examine Kiev’s culpability would be imprudent: “Even if this tragedy was an intentional act and the brainchild of parties within the Ukrainian government, apart from the direct involvement of Washington, the fact that the Obama administration might enthusiastically advance a false narrative in a case like this would speak for itself.”

If it nevertheless turns out Russian-supported forces were responsible for the accidental shoot-down, they should admit it (as per Buchanan), offer to pay some share of reparations (as the United States did to the relatives of the victims of the Vincennes disaster), but also demand that some share be paid by Kiev for sending the plane into a war zone. If, on the other hand, Moscow – and presumably Washington – have evidence the Kiev government forces did it, they (i.e. in this case only Moscow) need to blow the lid off, the sooner the better.

Whichever way this goes, the underlying problem continues to be whether the authorities in Kiev will continue to reject ceasefire calls from Berlin and Paris (as well as Moscow) to set the stage for a negotiated settlement, or whether – egged on by Washington – they will continue with their quest to conquest the East, drive a significant portion of the Russian-speaking population into Russia as refugees, and re-craft the region in the image of Stepan Bandera and his unlovely heirs. Judging by their renewed military offensive in the immediate are of the crash, which is preventing any further in situ investigation, the odds are that the war will go on.