Gwynne Dyer: It’s pretty obvious who shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

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      “...and once the TAR (Target Acquisition Radar) has lock-on, this light will go green. Then just push this button here, and the rest’s automatic. Good luck! Oh, and make sure nobody’s standing behind the missile when you launch.”

      Maybe the crew who launched the missile that brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on Thursday afternoon (July 17) were trained professionals, but it seems unlikely. That crew (or somebody else) was good enough to down three Ukrainian Air Force planes over the rebel-held zone in the past week, but they weren’t good enough to tell the difference between a military aircraft and a civilian airliner.

      The Ukrainian planes were smallish aircraft flying low in a combat zone; the huge Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was flying straight and steady at 10,000 metres (33,000 feet). A fully trained operator would know the difference in an instant. Somebody who had just had a crash course in firing Buk missiles (two tracked vehicles and a lot of electronics) might not. So 298 people died.

      There are two questions to answer here. One is: who did it? The Ukrainian government, the pro-Russian rebels, and the Russian Federation have all denied responsibility. The other is: what happens if, despite their denials, the rebels and/or the Russians themselves are to blame? Is this horrible event a “game-changer”?

      Who did it is actually pretty obvious. At least one Buk launch team was spotted by an Associated Press reporter in the rebel-held zone on Wednesday, and there may have been more. The Russians have been trying to deny the airspace over the combat zone to the Ukrainians so that their army has to do all its fighting without air support and suffers increased casualties. Six Ukrainian planes have been shot down in the past six weeks.

      The Ukrainian government says it has no surface-to-air missiles in the area, and it is probably telling the truth. With one possible exception, there have been no reports of Russian planes overflying the region, so anti-air defences were not needed.

      The really damning evidence, however, is on the social media sites. First there is a post on a top rebel commander’s site, just at the time MH17 went down, claiming to have downed a Ukrainian transport plane. Within hours that post was deleted. Then the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) posted intercepted telephone conversations between rebel commanders on YouTube.

      “Demon”, commanding the rebel troops who are the first to the crash site, reports: “Cossacks from the Chernunkhino checkpoint shot down the plane....They found the first body. It’s a civilian.” “Were there many people?” asks his superior, nicknamed “Greek”. “A fuckload,” replies Demon. “The debris rained right into the yards.”

      “Any weapons there?” asks Greek. “None at all. Civilian things. Medical stuff, towels, toilet paper,” says Demon. “Any documents?” asks Greek. And Demon, finally realising what must have happened, replies: “Yes. From an Indonesian student. From Thompson University.” And he curses again.

      It’s probably not Thompson University, which is an entirely online institution in the United States. It’s almost certainly Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, which has a student exchange agreement with the International Islamic Education Council (IIEC) in Indonesia.

      And there’s no way, without access to the crash site and with only a few hours to do the job, that the Ukrainian intelligence service could have come up with that kind of detail to put into a fake recording. It’s genuine. The rebels did it.

      Russia didn’t want the Cossacks at Chernunkhino to shoot down a civilian airliner, but it has been giving the rebels heavy weapons while strenuously denying it. It has been caught red-handed, and hundreds have died. This is indeed a game-changer—but in which direction?

      One option would be for Moscow to admit it, apologize whole-heartedly, and abandon its clients in eastern Ukraine. That is unlikely to happen. As President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, “This tragedy would not have occurred if there were peace in that country, or in any case, if hostilities had not resumed in southeast Ukraine. And certainly, the government over whose territory it occurred is responsible for this terrible tragedy.”

      In other words, yeah, we gave the rebels the weapons, and they used them to shoot down the airliner, but the whole thing wouldn’t have happened if the Ukrainian government had just given in to the rebels. So it’s really Kiev’s fault, not ours.

      The signs are clear: Russia is going to brazen it out, and go on supplying the separatist rebels with weapons. The Western Europeans have been trying to look the other way (although the United States did impose some extra sanctions this week), but they can’t look away after this. Western sanctions against Russia are going to go up quickly and steeply now. It’s already ugly, and it’s going to get even uglier.

      Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles on world affairs are published in 45 countries.

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      Bruce

      Jul 18, 2014 at 10:38am

      Hey where's "I Chandler", Putin apologist extraordinaire? Got a new conspiracy theory for us? Don't disappoint.

      Duffy's Latest Love Child

      Jul 18, 2014 at 11:06am

      Another thing is obvious. Uncle Sam and his enablers will use this an another excuse to squeeze Russia. Uncle Sam is crapping his much soiled war mongering pants. Russia, Iran and China are exploring a move to replace the US dollar as a petroleum trade standard. Connecticut would look like one big Louisiana slum if that happened.

      Fuck Uncle Sam and the weapons mongering horse he rode in on. His hands have more innocent civilian blood on them than any other country.

      HellSlayerAndy

      Jul 18, 2014 at 11:10am

      Dyer is really selling it.
      After reading this I am very skeptical about these claims whereas 24 hours ago I wasn't.

      The 'expert' impulse for downed aircraft at 33,000ft is air to air, not ground to air. That 'more likely' cause is not even talked about because it would implicate the Ukraine, who DO control the air.

      So essentially the narrative seems to be created by simply looking at what exists in the Uk-Rus arsenal that could hit something at 33,000ft. SA11, SA17, SA20. The MANPADS the rebels are using can't hit anything that hit.
      The SA11 wins! It's a hard sell for a whole host of technical reasons...which Mr. Dyer is way more aware of than armchair pundits like me.
      That's what makes me suspicious.
      Oh and paragraphs like this:
      "And there’s no way, without access to the crash site and with only a few hours to do the job, that the Ukrainian intelligence service could have come up with that kind of detail to put into a fake recording. It’s genuine. The rebels did it."
      No Way? 'Detail' like that could easily be gained through the passenger lists, Mr. Dyer?
      This one is not very convincing.

      Intel/ Co-intelpro/ Spook Community

      Jul 18, 2014 at 11:10am

      I invite anyone with a questioning mind to research different internet sites from different parts of the world and decide for your self rather than just make one's own mind up based solely on western media.

      doconnor

      Jul 18, 2014 at 11:12am

      As you read the conspiracy theories that try to blame this on the US that people are going to post here, remember Hanlon's razor: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

      J.Menard

      Jul 18, 2014 at 11:15am

      How can you be so sure Mister Dyer? Why don't you wait for the International Inquiry Commission to do all their technical work and research before you reach yr ready-made conclusions which seem somewhat tainted with prejudice?

      DR-Montreal

      Jul 18, 2014 at 11:17am

      Once again Dyer makes his pro-Kiev bias very clear, jumping to point at the rebels for this responsibility while offering the flimsiest of arguments "someone said this or that"... evidence conveniently provided by the crypto fascist government in Kiev no less.

      To counter this I would offer the following considerations. After strenuously avoiding the NATO trap to intervene in eastern Ukraine and urging consistently for negotiations, why would Putin allow very advanced ground to air BUK missile platforms to be sent across to the rebels? They had been doing fine with shoulder launched ground to air missiles against Ukie transports and planes. Using a BUK would instantly indicate that it came from Russia and I don't think Putin is that stupid.

      Cui bono in this tragedy? Certainly not Russia or the separatists, but Kiev does in hoping to further demonize Russia and get help from the US with their faltering ground campaign in the east.. much as Georgia's Saakashvili went running to the US after his ill-advised and doomed effort to get the best of the Russian bear in Ossetia.

      This airline tragedy, along with the massacre in Odessa at the hands of right-wing Ukrainian thugs, the shelling of civilians in eastern Ukraine by the Kiev putsch government, can all be laid at the feet of the Americans in their perverse need to push right up on Russia's doorstep in their new game of Global Domination. Canadian soldiers were occupation patsies in Afghanistan for the Americans, and now Canadian F-16 pilots are in Romania... a ludicrous development. What happened to you Dyer? You used to be such a seasoned and balanced analyst whose independent perspective could be counted on. It's the Great Game all over again.

      Michael Zed

      Jul 18, 2014 at 11:17am

      Typo (2 occurrences): “Chernunkhino” should be spelled Chernukhino (Ru.) or Chornukhine (Uk.).

      Bruce

      Jul 18, 2014 at 11:45am

      And in case anyone doubted that pro-russia apologists are any less disgusting toadies than pro-american apologists, well, read this thread.

      MD

      Jul 18, 2014 at 12:44pm

      Dr-Montreal
      "Using a BUK would instantly indicate that it came from Russia and I don't think Putin is that stupid."

      Unless it was looted from the Ukraine army,which also has them, and has lost equipment

      Putin is smart enough to know that throws just enough plausible deniability into the air

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