(The following was originally published in Liberation News, the official newspaper of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.)
Without hesitation, without waiting for an investigation into the tragic disaster of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the U.S. government immediately laid full responsibility on Russia.
U.S. imperialism is taking advantage of the terrible tragedy to exacerbate its current hostilities against Russia and to deepen the crisis in Ukraine.
President Obama spoke on live television Friday morning to claim, “Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine.”
What evidence? The disaster site is not even excavated nor properly searched yet.
Obama further accused Russia more directly. “A group of separatists can’t shoot down military transport planes without sophisticated equipment and sophisticated training, and that is coming from Russia.”
The British, French, Germans—all imperial powers that joined in to sanction Russia after Ukraine’s coup—are demanding more sanctions on Russia and a unilateral ceasefire by the rebels.
There is no similar demand that Ukraine’s government stop its aerial and missile assaults on its own population, precisely in the region where the plane went down.
On July 18, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s office issued a statement that “without compelling information to the contrary, it is increasingly likely that MH17 was shot down by a separatist missile.”
MH17 was flying at 33,000 feet, too high for any weapons that the eastern Ukrainian separatists possess.
Much mention has been made in the media, that only a highly sophisticated, heavy weapons system, like the Buk-M1 anti-aircraft missile battery, is capable of bringing down a plane at that high an altitude.
Russia’s Defense Ministry reported that on July 17, the day of the plane crash, radiation was detected from the radar component of a Buk-M1 system that has been deployed by the Ukrainian military in the Donetsk region, where the Boeing 777 was destroyed.
Ukraine denied it has a Buk missile system in the east. But Russia’s defense ministry says Ukraine’s military has actually deployed several Buk systems with a total of 27 launchers in Donetsk, since it began its offensive advance of thousands of army troops, the National Guard, fascist paramilitary groups, fighter jets and heavy weapons to crush the separatist movement.
Meanwhile, in a Russia Today interview, Sergey Kavtaradze, a leader of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, said, “We simply don’t have such air defense systems. Our man-portable air defense systems have a firing range of 3,000-4,000 meters (9,800 to 13,000 feet).”
Why is Washington so quick to condemn?
Even in civilian plane disasters in the United States, when the initial cause may be more evident—pilot error, mechanical failure or stormy weather—the National Transportation Safety Board and other entities take months to minutely reconstruct and examine the evidence to conclude the cause.
But smoke and fire were still rising from the terrible death scene when U.S. officials, from President Obama to U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, demanded that Russia be held accountable.
Hillary Clinton, ever eager to get her punches in, warned that the U.S. must “put Putin on notice that he has gone too far and we are not going to stand idly by.”
President Vladimir Putin’s immediate response was a call for a “thorough and unbiased” investigation, a message urged by other Russian and international leaders not beholden to NATO or the U.S.
Remarkably, in response to Russia’s statements calling for an objective inquiry, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott called Russia’s response, “deeply, deeply unsatisfactory.”
The former socialist countries in Eastern Europe, now led by reactionary governments, were also quick to condemn Russia.
The MH17 tragedy in the midst of war
The terrible tragedy of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 must be seen in the context of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which was set into motion by the fascist-led Ukrainian coup last February.
After the U.S. and European Union governments helped foment the coup against elected President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22, the coup “government” and later the newly elected billionaire President Petro Poroshenko, have launched a brutal aerial bombing and artillery war against its own civilians in eastern Ukraine. The violence by fascist parties against the Russian-nationality population and other opponents of the February coup prompted separatist movements in eastern Ukraine.
For weeks, Ukraine’s bombing—scarcely reported in the Western media—has rained down on densely populated cities and smaller villages in the east. First, Sloviansk was pummeled by thousands of tons of bombs. There was no complaint from the U.S. government about the hundreds of civilian casualties, no demand that the Ukrainian government stop killing its own people
Now the eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk are suffering heavy casualties, with 1,500 homes destroyed in Donetsk at the hands of Ukraine’s military.
It was only on July 8 that Ukraine’s leaders promised a “nasty surprise” in the offensive they were about to launch on Donetsk, a city of 900,000.
The real aim of the U.S. and its allies
The unsubstantiated charges by the U.S. and allies against Russia and Ukrainian separatists are not rash comments made out of anger and sorrow for the MH17 victims.
They are calculated accusations by those who have shed no tears about the horrific casualties in eastern Ukraine, nor for the hundreds of Palestinians murdered in Gaza by Israel.
In fact, juxtaposed to Obama’s fury and flash accusation about MH17 is his full support for apartheid Israel’s bombing of Gaza. He only slightly tempered his enthusiasm for Israel on July 17 after the ground invasion, saying, “…we are hopeful that Israel will continue to approach this process in a way that minimizes civilian casualties.”
What a shocking statement. Casualties are okay in Gaza, just “minimize” them.
This is why the West’s unsubstantiated condemnation must be understood as a pretext to justify more aggression, more sanctions and more deaths.
Since the demise of the Soviet Union, a powerful socialist country of 15 republics, the United States and NATO have expanded their military presence in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics.
In the days to come, the anti-Russia hysteria of the media and imperialism will intensify.
It is crucial that we look behind the blazing headlines of CNN, Fox and New York Times, analyze carefully the real issues involved, and demand true justice for the victims of Flight 17: An end to U.S., European Union and NATO schemes that put defenseless people in harm’s way.