Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The MH17 Crash and the US Government Hitting a New Low in Propaganda and Credibility

"Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves."  - Eric Hoffer

Sometimes I get the impression that those in the higher levels of the US government believe the average American is no smarter than a gerbil. This is one of those times.

The government’s case against Russia and the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine being directly responsible for the destruction of the airliner is weak and far from conclusive, yet they’re pushing it with a fervor and urgency of disturbing intensity. They’re apparently firm believers in shouting something loudly and often enough so many people will believe them simply out of apathy or exhaustion (sadly, it seems to work some of the time). Anyone who doesn’t at least suspect that there’s dishonesty and an agenda at work behind the accusations is either delusional or not paying attention.

The things in the official story that stand out as suspect to me include:
  • The lack of incentive and motive on the part of pro-Russian separatists or Russia to take down the airliner. The separatists are well aware that by the simple nature of defying their government’s authority they are already too easily associated as being “terrorists” and have a PR disadvantage right from the start. Simply put, they know it is far from their interest to have foreigners, especially civilian foreigners, killed in their area of operations. And when it comes to Russia, I am no fan of the Russian government and I think they’re capable of something like this if they had something serious to gain. But again there appears to be no obvious political or military advantage in doing so (at least when it happens to be in proximity to Russia or the contested region), and Russia also has a vested interest in preserving any international prestige and credibility in the face of the ongoing war of international opinion with the US and Europe.
  • The flight path of MH17 is over the contested area when the airspace was restricted and practically all other commercial air traffic had appropriately detoured around it (Was Flight MH-17 Diverted Over Restricted Airspace?). And Ukraine’s reaction in confiscating traffic control recordings demonstrates that Ukraine is less than forthcoming about the circumstances regarding any traffic control instructions or directions given to the pilot.
  • The US showed practically no hesitation before blaming Russia and pro-Russian separatists for the incident, and ever so conveniently slipped this unrelated story to the press immediately afterward (How Russian Hackers Stole the Nasdaq) as well as quickly applying new sanctions on Russia. This smells of the same kind of pre-arranged propaganda blitz we saw from the US government last year with Syria’s “chemical attacks” which were later found to point more towards elements of the Syrian resistance.
  • The separatists handed over the black boxes to Malaysian representatives in the company of numerous journalists. This doesn’t necessarily prove their innocence on its own, but unless they had methods available to quickly alter or edit the contents (seems unlikely given the very nature of the devices) they’d have little to gain and potentially a lot to lose by turning it over if they were in fact responsible.

So who is responsible? I wouldn’t start pointing fingers at least until the black box data has been analyzed, but I’ll take an guess at assigning probabilities:
  • 75% chance that this was orchestrated by Ukraine or elements within the current regime to portray Russia and the separatists in a bad light, and therefore receive more international support for their side. If this is the case then I suspect the US and some other Western powers are in the know, and since it was a useful propaganda tool they either decided to go and roll with it shortly after it happened or knew something about it beforehand and gave their tacit approval to Ukraine.
  • 10% chance that this was the result of a misidentification or blunder by Ukrainian military. A bit hard to swallow, but it does have precedent. In 2001 the Ukrainian military did shoot down Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 and after repeated denials eventually admitted it was their fault. I don’t see it as terribly likely though, given the shoddy video evidence that Ukraine produced (http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2014/07/video-of-rebel-buk-launchers-headed.html) and distributed very soon afterward. The video, if in fact is fake, indicates some amount of planning involved and wouldn’t be easy to arrange so quickly after a true “accident”.
  • 10% chance that this was in fact done by the separatists, likely due to mistakenly identifying the aircraft as Ukrainian military, with the direct or indirect material or training assistance from Russia. The one thing the mainstream news probably has at least partly right is that the users would need some substantial training with the missile system (though probably not the months of training some pundits and analysts are telling us), so unless the separatists already happened to have a trained operator in their ranks they would need outside assistance with training.
  • 4% chance it was orchestrated directly by Russian military forces. I only throw this out because the Russians might be playing a deep game with some goals we can’t see yet. In the realm of possibility, sure, but not likely given the information available.
  • 1% chance that this was done by Western special operations teams, again to make the separatists and Russia look bad. I assign a very low probability here simply because I expect they would not have done such a sloppy job in framing the separatists and Russians. I think they would have had the case wrapped up in a neater and more convincing package. This incident makes the staged chemical weapons attacks in Syria look convincing by comparison.

Given the number and scope of the lies the US government has told in my lifetime (and that is just counting the ones I’m aware of), it is a challenge sometimes to not automatically assume the worst of it as a kneejerk response. So I try to force myself to drop that baggage, at least temporarily, when looking at the bigger picture. And when trying to look at this objectively (as much as such a thing is possible for us humans) the motive and the circumstances around the incident do appear to point to Ukraine as being the culprit. And in the larger scheme of things, the US and NATO have gone through a lot of trouble to encircle and ‘contain’ Russia since the Soviet Union fell, and Ukraine remains a key element in that strategy. Furthermore, such propaganda plays well into the recent out-of-proportion US belligerence towards Russia, and the US government has never been picky about facts when it comes to building a case for... well... anything I suppose. Russia’s government is no stranger to untruths and blatant propaganda either, and while I suspect the facts are more on their side here it is only because in this case telling the truth is to their advantage. The news and statements coming from them deserve just as much initial skepticism as the ones coming from the US.

The whole situation is simply a mess, and I don’t think there are any good guys to be found here. In fact I suspect that the closest thing to it are some of the separatist groups, whose primary motivation appear to be self-interest and self-preservation in the face of an increasingly anti-Russian political climate by the current regime in Kiev. What makes this particularly sad is that Ukraine, which had suffered greatly at the hands of the Soviet Union during the Holodomor, appears to be starting down a similar dark path as its former oppressor with its hostility and racism towards ethnic Russian peoples who played no part in those past horrors. And it embarrasses me deeply that my government is actively supporting such a regime. Unfortunately the Ukrainians are just another pawn in the US/NATO and Russian Federation game of realpolitik, and neither side particularly cares about the future of the Ukrainian people. If I had to make a prediction, I’d say Ukraine within 10 years’ time will make places like Libya and Syria seem pleasant by comparison. Anyone living in Ukraine would be well advised to consider a relocation strategy as a contingency plan, at minimum. If it were me I'd be looking to move out by the end of the year, before the economic disruptions and the risk of escalating conflict become more pronounced.

At any rate, just don’t take whatever random mainstream news outlet's or pundit’s or government stooge’s word at face value. They’re not always lying, in fact most of the time there are elements of truth in what they say (they just like to deliberately leave out or distort the context behind the story). But make no mistake, they are in the business of selling you beliefs and ideas and opinions. Give their words and claims the same scrutiny you would when dealing with a car salesman.

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