The Mystery of Flight MH17: Motives, Missiles, Flight Plans, and the Media

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

“It’s a very old tactic,” said Meredith.

“Though new to their audience…” said George, “who as you point out are thirteen years old.”

— William R. Gibson, Zero History

I don’t plan to solve the mystery — “Colonel горчица in the Library with the missile battery” — and I’m not even going to connect any dots. Rather, I’m going to take some prominent aspects of the current narrative and critique them, primarily by asking questions. I’ll begin with two caveats.

First, there’s just no getting around the fact that the United States government — or, as we like to call it, “our” government — just… just… Well, there’s really no nice way to say it: They just make sh*t up. Especially when they’re beating the war drums. And gosh darn it, our famously free press helps them! You’d be stupid to trust them! To understand this, we don’t have to believe three impossible things before breakfast, or buy into the Illuminati, or Area 51, or problems with the Apollo landing, and we don’t even have to attempt to disentangle ginormous tangled hairballs like the JFK (RFK (MLK (Wallace))) assassinations or (dread words) 911. (No. Don’t. No. I’m not going to “just look at the video.” Go away.) Let’s make it easy on ourselves, and more importantly, whoever we want to persuade, because all we have to do is remind people of a recent episode in our history that’s on the public record, easily accessed, and impeccably sourced: The Iraq WMDs debacle. There weren’t any. Remember? I got into the detail a bit more here, but I think there’s one money quote that sums up the whole sorry, murderous era, and it comes from what was known as “The Downing Street Memo.”

The Downing Street “Memo” is actually the minutes of a meeting, transcribed during a gathering of many of the British Prime Minister’s senior ministers on July 23, 2002. Published by The Sunday Times on May 1, 2005 this document was the first hard evidence from within the UK or US governments that exposed the truth about how the Iraq war began.

Now from the memo itself; I’ve helpfully underlined the money quote. (C is like “M” in James Bond.)

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

(We now know that over $200 million dollars were spent doing the “fixing,” and over 50 stories were planted in the press, and that the effort was organized by an entity called the White House Iraq Group.)

Now, the foreign policy establishment is, like, an establishment: It doesn’t change much year to year, and the same bad actors — like the neocons! Like the Kagans! Like Victoria Nuland! Like John Brennan! — appear, Flexian-like, over and over, though playing different roles in  different episodes. So, if “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” before the 2002 midterms by Bush, you can bet your bottom dollar that “the intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy” before the 2014 midterms by Obama (or, as we like to call him, “the President”).[1] Please file all objections with The Department of No! They Would Never Do That!

Second caveat: In our critique, we should use as little digital evidence as possible. No Twitter, no FaceBook, and no YouTube, unless the provenance is absolutely ironclad, which for all practical purposes means hardly ever. (Judy Miller, after all, was once a respected reporter.) That is, when the Christian Science Monitor prints a headline like Web evidence points to pro-Russia rebels in downing of MH17 we should guffaw, and point out that “web evidence” is a contradiction in terms. Why? Because intelligence agencies can “seed the Internet with false information,” that’s why, and that includes tweets, Facebook pages, and YouTube videos.

So here are the three questions I’m going to ask:

  1. Who had the motive to shoot MH17 down?
  2. Was MH17 diverted from its course? If so, by whom and why?
  3. Was MH17 shot down by a missile, and if so, how could that happen?

Now, before going on to answer — or fail to answer them — we should understand one thing about the overall context. I don’t always agree with The Saker, but here I think he’s got hold of the right end of the stick:

[I]t is a pretty safe guess to say that, especially considering the war going on right across the border, the Russians literally had it all on [the day MH17 went down]: civilians radars, of course, but also long range radars (ground based and airborne), lots of advanced advanced surveillance (long range detection) radars, lots of tracking and fire control radars numerous radio and signal interception stations.  Since all the data from this integrated network of systems could be fused at the higher level command posts we can safely assume that the Russian side had something like “20/20 radar vision”: just about as good as it can get. … [A]nd speaking of Uncle Sam and his EU minions.  They also know.  The US and NATO maintains a 24/7 surveillance of Ukie and Russian air space at least to the Urals, possibly even on the other side (though I am not sure).

All the intelligence services already know the story. It’s only the public that’s in the dark. So as you read our famously free press baying and howling and speculating, keep that in mind.

1. Who had the motive to shoot MH17 down?

Shorter: Cui Bono. Here again, The Saker has good perspective:

Cui bono?

Well here at least the reply is unambiguous: only the junta in Kiev could have benefited from this tragedy. For the Russians and the Novorussians [the “rebels,” or “separatists”], this is something between a real pain and a disaster. Just when the Novorussians were winning without any overt help from Moscow and just when Moscow was gradually successful in denouncing the human costs of Poroshenko’s murderous policies – suddenly the entire planet focuses just on one downed aircraft and the imperial corporate media blames it all on Russia. As for Poroshenko, this disaster is God-sent: not only has everybody forgotten that much promised “surprise” turned out to be a disaster, he can now kill scores of Novorussians with no risks of that being reported in the corporate media. Not only that, but that gives the Ukies a golden excuse to ask for “protection” from their “aggressive and threatening neighbor”.  Again, the only party who can benefit from this disaster is the junta.

So, in summary, we have this list of candidates:

1) A deliberate or mistaken Russian attack: superlatively unlikely

2) A mistaken Ukrainian attack: most unlikely

3) A deliberate Ukrainian attack: most likely

4) A mistaken Novorussian attack: possible

5) A deliberate Novorussian attack: most unlikely

I don’t know about you, but to me #3 is the one blinking red.

(The Saker forgot “the US administration in an election year,” but never mind that.) Of course, motive isn’t dispositive, but it’s nice to be clear. For myself, I’d give #4 (a mistaken “Novorussian” attack) more weight, but as we shall see, a lot of that depends on the concrete, on-the-ground operational characteristics of the missile batteries themselves.) Do note, however, that the Ukrainian media implicitly supports The Saker’s thesis. BBC:

The reaction of the Ukrainian media to the disaster is near unanimous on one point made forcefully by various newspapers including the popular daily, Segodnya. It says that the crash has become a “a turning point” in the armed conflict between the Ukrainian government forces and the pro-Russian separatists and that the war is no longer a local conflict.

Well, that’s an interesting point of view, isn’t it? If it’s no longer a “local conflict,” just what kind of a conflict is it? 

2. Was MH17 diverted from its course? If so, by whom and why?

We ask this either if we’re the management of Malaysia Airlines, lawyers for the people killed, or if we have a scenario where MH17 was sent to its doom by being deliberately diverted into a war zone. Here’s how a diversion would have happened in the air traffic control system. Note there are two dimensions: left and right (into the zone), and up and down (into range of the missile). Here’s how the flight plan filed before departure and ATC works together in this context. Guardian:

Nico Voorbach, a pilot who flew the same journey earlier this summer for KLM, and who is president of the European Cockpit Association, said poor weather might have been the reason why flight MH17 found itself in the sights of a surface-to-air missile launcher. The aircraft was shot down in the separatist Donetsk region of east Ukraine.

Voorbach said: “I heard that they were diverting from some showers. I think there were thunderclouds. You would ask air traffic control to divert left or right, and they would give you the permission.”

It also emerged that flight MH17 had initially filed a flight plan requesting to fly at 35,000ft above Ukrainian territory. On entering Ukrainian airspace, however, the plane’s pilots were instructed to fly at 33,000ft by the local air traffic control due to other traffic. Malaysia Airlines said the pilots had to follow the lead of the local authorities.

Malaysia Daily Star (hat tip NotTimGeithner) confirms:

Ukraine’s air traffic control (ATC) did not permit Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH17 to scale 35,000 feet, said MAS director of operations Captain Izham Ismail.

He said MH17 planned to fly at 35,000 feet but according to the ATC, there was other traffic at that time, and the ATC ordered the doomed plane to fly at the next best altitude at 33,000 feet, which was above the restricted altitude.

According to Malaysian Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, the direction given by the ATC needed to be obeyed since the route was under the ATC’s jurisdiction.

Izham said the route which MH17 flew was located about 100km from the restricted area, adding the ATC was actually the one which ensured whether any aircraft could use the route.

So that’s what reports at one remove tell us. Seeking independent confirmation, the pilots being dead and the Ukrainian Air Traffic Controllers not being available for interview, we ask ourselves subsidiary three questions: 

  1. Where is MH17 flight plan?
  2. Where are MH17 flight recorders?
  3. Where are the audio recordings of conversations between Ukrainian ATC and MH17?

Where is MH17 flight plan? Nobody seems to have actually seen it, or provided a copy of it. (Readers, feel free to add to my hasty research in comments.) So we really don’t have ironclad proof of deviation at all; deviation relative to what?

Where are MH17’s flight recorders? The Telegraph says this (July 18):

A tug of war is under way for possession of doomed flight MH17’s “black box” recorder amid reports the device, which could provide the key to the crash investigation, has already been sent to Moscow.

Aviation experts said the black box, comprising cockpit voice and data recordings, would establish for certain whether the plane was shot down and where the deadly missile may have been fired from.

The news service Interfax reported that rebel Russian separatist forces in Ukraine had already found the black box and agreed to give it to a Russian-run regional air safety authority.

But Russia Today says this (also on July 18):

Moscow has no plans to seize the flight recorders from the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which crashed in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, told Rossiya 24 channel.

The seizure of flight records would violate international law as it’s up to relevant international agencies to investigate of the incident, he explained.

The analysis of the flight recorders “is the responsibility of ICAO International Civil Aviation Organization; it’s the responsibility of those states which have the most direct connection to this tragedy – the Netherlands, Malaysia and the states whose citizens were on board, and of course Ukraine,” Lavrov said.

And the following day, the Telegraph has this (July 19):

11.22 Failure to make available the “black box” flight recorders from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane would cause Russia “major embarrassment”, a UK computer systems engineering professor has said.

Not handing over black boxes to the appropriate investigating authority is “not playing by the rules”, said Professor David Allerton of the University of Sheffield.

He went on: “The only reason you would do something like this is if you had something to hide.”

His comments came amid reports that Russian separatists have possession of the black boxes – actually orange in colour – at the crash scene.

And there the trail goes cold.

Where are the audio recordings of conversations between Ukrainian ATC and MH17? This is simpler: Apparently, the Ukrainians have them. (I’m assuming these are records taken by the ATC, not on the plane.) BBC:

15:29: Ukraine’s SBU security service has confiscated recordings of conversations between Ukrainian air traffic control officers and the crew of the doomed airliner, a source in Kiev has told Interfax news agency.

So, if we want to establish, with some degree of certainty, whether MH17 deviated from its flight plan, we need the flight plan, the flight recorders, and/or the audio recordings. We don’t have the flight plan. The flight recorder, if indeed it has been found, is either still in the hands of the separatists, in the hands of the Russians, at ICAO, or possibly in transit to ICAO. (Actually, there are two boxes, one for data, one for voice, so there are 8 possibilities, not 4.) And the audio recordings — which I assume would be pilot to ATC only, and hence would not include others in the cockpit, which the cockpit voice recorder would do — are in the hands of the organs of state security in Ukraine. (Yes, we could use Flight tracker, but that won’t help us with deviations without the flight plan.) So how much do we really know? Not a lot. 

3. Was MH17 shot down by a missile, and if so, how could that happen?

(I ask whether the MH17 was shot down by a missile on the theory that somewhere out there, there’s a theory it was shot down by fighter planes, or blown up by a bomb. From now on, I’ll assume a missile did the job.) The media converged on a “theory of the case” for the type of missile and the putative perp early on. Reuters is representative:

As Russia and Ukraine [and not the US?] trade blame over the apparent shooting down of a Malaysian airliner, they appear to agree on one thing: the type of Soviet-era missile that brought it down.

But if an SA-11 Buk missile, known as “Gadfly” in NATO, struck the aircraft and killed all 298 on board, that won’t solve the mystery of who did it: Russia, Ukraine and Russian-speaking rebels have all claimed the missile in their arsenals.

Circumstantial evidence points increasingly to the separatists, Western officials and analysts say, pointing to rebel claims of shooting at Ukrainian military aircraft at approximately the same time.

The rebels were believed to have used a similar system to shoot down a Ukrainian Antonov AN-26 [transport] aircraft on Monday.

OK, “rebels” + BUK. (There is also an SA-17 model besides the SA-11. Note that all the players in the region — Russia, Ukraine, and the rebels — had access to the BUK.) The theory then evolves to suggest that the rebels shot down MH17 by accident. The Mirror:

Leaked audio clips reveal the moment Russian rebels realise they have shot down flight MH17, Ukrainian intelligence agencies claim.

The Daily Beast:

The missile operators—relying on their limited information—may have mistakenly presumed that the Boeing 777 airliner was a military transport, like the Ukrainian An-26 shot down by rebels on Monday. “It definitely could have been an error,” Zaloga said.  “I can’t imagine that anybody would take a deliberate shot at an airliner. I don’t think the Russian separatists are going to take a pot shot at a Malaysian airliner, and I don’t think the Russians are going to do that.”

Finch was more succinct in his initial opinion. “They got something on their radar screen, and they engaged it and now they’re like, ‘Oh shit, what have we done?’”<./p>

Now, to be fair, militaries with far more sophisticated command and control systems than the separatists have shot down civilian airliners with great loss of life. So it wouldn’t be the first time. But how exactly did the rebels come to make the mistake? (There’s a massive controversy on whether the separatists were sophisticated enough to operate the BUK without a lot of training from the ground up. I’m guessing they could; Russian engineering is famously simple and rugged, and designed for a conscript army; and I would further guess there are BUK subject matter experts in Ukraine. In other words, no, it wouldn’t take Spetsnaz types coming over the border.) There seem to be two questions:   Whether the BUK could receive transponder signals from civilian aircraft[2], and whether a transponder was needed in the first place. (Transponders on civilian aircraft  send out a four-digit “squawk” signal; military aircraft don’t, necessarily.) Bloomberg:

The SA-11 missile system has a device known as an IFF, or Identification Friend from Foe, and commercial airliners typically have a beacon [the transponder] that transmits their identification, [Theodore Postol, a professor of science, technology and national security policy at MIT] said.

It’s possible the shooter didn’t know how to interpret the data or use the IFF properly, Postol said. It’s also possible the airliner’s beacon was turned off or not working [Huh?], he said.

“A trained radar operator should be able to tell the difference between a Boeing 777 and an AN-26” cargo plane, said Bruce MacDonald, a former assistant director for national security at the White House Office of Science and Technology, who is now an independent consultant. “They operate at different altitudes, fly at different speeds.”

In other words, it should be possible for an operator to distinguish between an Antonov, which flies at 22,000 feet, from a civilian airliner flying at 33,000 feet, even absent an IFF reading. However, the MIT Technology Review suggests a different scenario:

Being a Soviet design, the user interface is fairly simple, says Michael Pietrucha, a former F-4G and F-15E electronic warfare officer and expert on air defenses. Pietrucha says he trained with German forces operating a similar Russian-built system during the 1990s.

Pietrucha says that the Buk variant that is likely to have been operated by the rebels might have been especially unable to distinguish between civilian and military air traffic because of a quirk related to aircraft transponders. The transponder is a device that broadcasts an aircraft’s identity when a radar “interrogates” it for information.

Military and civilian aircraft often use the same transponder modes and therefore that signal is not used as a “discriminator” for a military targeting system, Pietrucha says. The system has to be tied into the national air traffic control system to use that information effectively.

Finally, the Aviationist, a well-regarded amateur site, after presenting pictures of the BUC radar unit, flatly says the BUC has EFF:

But, Soviet-era air defense systems as the Buk are equipped with IFF (Identify Friend or Foe) systems meaning that they are able to detect if the system is targeting a civilian plane through its transponder code. Therefore, provided the operators are trained enough, they’ll be able to distinguish between a Ukrainian transport plane and a large airliner. If not, they will simply shoot.

So, there are two ways the accidental shoot down theory can be wrong: First, height is a sufficient discriminator. Second, the EFF system is installed and working. In each case, operators have to be sufficiently trained. But all agree that the rebels have no incentive to shoot down a civilian aircraft, and therefore somebody else did. Interviews with the operators and an examination of the missile battery would resolve this. That may, however, be unlikely:

Intelligence, including photographs and electronic intercepts, compiled by Ukrainian spies show that three Buk-M1 systems [ also known as the SA-11 Gadfly under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization designation] were shipped out of eastern Ukraine on flatbed trucks in two waves in the early morning of July 18, said [Vitaly Nayda, the head of the counterintelligence division of Ukraine’s security service]. A system missing a missile crossed the border in a flatbed truck to Russia at 2 a.m., and two other missile systems with complete set of missiles crossed at 4 a.m., he said. Mr. Navda said that his agency has shared this intelligence with U.S. officials, but it wasn’t possible to immediately verify his information.

And at this point, I’m irresistibly reminded of Saddam’s (non-existent) WMDs, which were also said to have disappeared, on trucks, over the border into Syria. Once again, how much do we really know?


Readers, I hope you’ll add much more information in comments, especially if you agree with me that there are far more questions than answers. Basically, I’m trying to make the case that looking to institutional structures, technical and operational issues, and cui bono will always be more fruitful than looking to “web evidence.” Of course, I weaken that case by not presenting a thesis, but the drumbeat for war, or at the very least war-like posturing, provides all the theses one could ever hope to fling. (And I hope readers with knowledge in all these areas will correct and extend this post.)

And remember: “The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”


[1] I don’t want to belabor the history here, but the average age of a House personal staffer is 31. Therefore the average House staffer was 31 – (2014 – 2002) = 19 years old when Bush fixed the intelligence and facts around the policy to get the country into the Iraq War. I don’t know if you can remember what you were doing when you were 19, but if you were like me, whatever it was you were doing wasn’t a critique of White House tactics for trumping up the case for war. 

[2] I’ve gotta say, the separatists aren’t dunces — I mean, at least they aren’t Nazi wannabes or Mad Max types; Ukraine isn’t Somalia — and so even with a somewhat fluid and organic command structure, it’s hard for me to imagine a rebel commander handing over a missile battery to what must be a reasonably technical team without saying something like: “Oh, and before I go, try not to shoot down any civilian aircraft, OK?” And if the command structure is fluid, wouldn’t the missile guys feel free to respond “Sorry, chief. No can do. Do we still push the button?” But I don’t have a military background, so I’m not sure my sense of the absurd has been triggered appropriately. And it’s not unknown for officers to do extremely stupid things.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. dearieme

    “justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD”: brilliant, isn’t it? The terrorism had nothing to do with Iraq, and the WMD were imaginary.

    “There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.” But it was the obvious, inevitable horrors of the aftermath that concreted my objections at the time. Wicked bastards: it’s a pity that they’ll never have to pay the price.

    1. Banger

      The conduct of the Iraq War showed that the war was not fought for specific objectives but in order to a) destroy Iraqi civil society and b) make a ton of money for the MIC not necessarily in that order. As corrupt as our wars tend to be the Iraq War/Occupation was, in every possible way, a legal theft of taxpayer money from the beginning–it was a machine for enriching cronies of whoever was in charge at a particular time and place.

      1. Vatch

        I heartily accept (b) as an objective of the Iraq war: making money for the Military Industrial Complex. I’m more skeptical about (a) as an objective; of course it was a consequence. But (a) is probably a result of incompetence rather than planning. I just don’t believe that the people in the U.S. government can work together with enough coherence to achieve a major objective (other than making loads of money for insiders).

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Knocking over Iraq was easy. I think it’s in one of the Woodward books, but there was anecdote about Rummy complaining about a lack of targets. We had all these weapons and no opportunity to use them, so there was a quest for a place to take our post-9/11 anger and replicate the success of Afghanistan in November 2011 when the Marines were on ponies. Iran and North Korea would fight back, but everyone wanted to n replicate the SNL sketch of Will Ferrell singing about the places we had seized in Afghanistan with funny names.

        2. Fiver

          The “people in the US Government” have managed to do plenty. They let off everyone in the Bush Admin, who would’ve under any real form of democracy been variously convicted of war crimes, vital Constitutional crimes, and treason for starters. They also let off a very substantial number of senior individuals, people with power and responsibility public and corporate, who should’ve been convicted not only for financial crimes, but for crimes against the State in more than a few instances, considering the incredible, and still growing, negative consequences inflicted on the great bulk of Americans and much of the globe.

      2. Jackrabbit

        Banger: your “its all about the money” theory ignores neocon planning in the years before the war. The fact is, neocons/neolibcons push for what they want and manipulate bring everyone else along (MIC, media, etc.) as described here in this recently published Counterpunch article:

        Planned Chaos in the Middle East and Beyond

        H O P

        1. Banger

          I agree with you on the lead up to the war and I take your point there–but by the time the war was in place ideology was pushed aside in favor of hordes of opportunists to rush in. I don’t think the ideologues expected that degree of naked criminality on the part of contractors and and cronies of Bush/Cheney nor did they expect the degree of internal rot inside the U.S. bureaucracy that enabled a half-dozen different policies to exist at the same time during the Occupation.

          1. Ed

            The reasons for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 will have to remain a mystery, except that we know it wasn’t for any of the reasons stated by the US government and media.

          2. Synopticist

            The chaos and incompetence within the WH and in Iraq itself were stunning to me, as a loyal new labourite at the time. I had no idea the US could f*ck it all up so badly, and have people get away with such open corruption.

          3. sd

            The “opportunities” were well known and well planned which is exactly why Cheney worked so hard to prevent any information leaking out of the Energy Task Force (National Energy Policy Development Group) – they were busy divvying up Iraq.

      3. wageslave

        one must always point out when when mentioning the just below surface “reasons” for iraqi invasion the fact of the impending congressional election of 2003. just a reminder.

  2. dearieme

    “the rebels have no incentive to shoot down a civilian aircraft, and therefore somebody else did”: I disagree. Life is littered not just with blunders, but with cases of people carefully doing something where the incentives are obscure to anyone else.

    As to which lying liars I should believe: I have no need to believe any of them. Time will tell, or more likely it won’t.

    1. Banger

      Ok, but you need to still provide us with an explanation of why the rebels did it other than “it was an accident.” Reasons for such things are not usually obscure–they are obscure whenever the authorities pick out some chump to pin the blame on–and, btw, time will not tell–there is enormous disagreement about many modern historical events that are always unresolved because there is no “place” to resolve them. There is just propaganda, usually on all sides.

      1. RepubAnon

        The article links to the 1998 incident where a US Navy vessel shot down an Iranian civilian airliner:

        A U.S. warship fighting gunboats in the Persian Gulf yesterday mistook an Iranian civilian jetliner for an attacking Iranian F14 fighter plane and blew it out of the hazy sky with a heat-seeking missile, the Pentagon announced. Iran said 290 persons were aboard the European-made A300 Airbus and that all had perished.
        Navy Missile Downs Iranian Jetliner

        Washington Post, July 4, 1988.

        After that incident, there were many conspiracy theories about how the Navy must have deliberately shot down the Iranian jetliner – but it seems to have been an accident. I very much doubt anybody would take the risk of deliberately shooting down a commercial jetliner in the hopes of making the other side in a conflict look bad. In a situation such as this one, never underestimate the power of human stupidity: someone at a BUK missile site sees a blip. Eager to shoot it down and make a name for themselves, they push the button. Why speculate about some evil false-flag scenario absent any evidence?

        The real issue, of course, is the stupidity of clearing civilian air traffic over an area where nervous combatants are known to have anti-aircraft missiles. If I were going to construct a theory of the Ukrainian government seeking to make the rebels look bad, I’d suggest that if you send enough civilian aircraft into a war zone, sooner or later a mistake will happen. This is especially true if one were to, say, send military transports in to land after noticing a civilian airliner overhead. Remember the allegations regarding a USAF RC-135 surveillance plane’s seeking to use KAL Flight 007 as a shield against detection?

          1. RepubAnon

            I’m still holding out for stupidity over conspiracy, though. The Ukrainian government wanted to downplay the seriousness of the separatist threat, so they let civilian traffic through. The airlines decided to take the risk of flying over a war zone because nobody would want to shoot down a civilian airliner – and besides, it saved money on fuel. The separatists operating the BUK missile launchers were eager to win the approval of their fellows by shooting down another Ukrainian military transport, and so didn’t stop to see whether the target was civilian (or lacked the knowledge or ability to check this).

            1. KFritz

              “When in doubt, choose stupidity,” is almost as safe as the old soccer maxim, “When in doubt, kick it out.”

            2. hunkerdown

              Matthew 10:16 (“sly as serpents but simple as doves”) is a guideline to exploiting Hanlon’s Razor. Is Hanlon’s Razor itself malice or incompetence? Based on Robert A. Heinlein’s history, I’m gonna go with malice.

              1. ewmayer

                Re, Hanlon’s Razor, Wikipedia notes what could serve as a corollary (and which provided me with a much-needed laugh in the face of the tragic context here):

                A similar saying, patterned after Arthur C. Clarke’s famous comment about technology and magic, has often been called Grey’s Law: “Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice”. The origin of this attribution is unknown.

                1. hunkerdown

                  Heh! Grey’s Law is worth more than a dry smile for the snowclone but is, in practice, precisely backwards. Perhaps that “sufficiently advanced malice is indistinguishable from incompetence” is a really uncomfortable conclusion for the sci-fi community — the few cons I’ve been to don’t do much to rebut the presumption.

            3. optimader

              Again, Occam’s Razor.
              You smell like vodka, sit here and don’t fall asleep!… Now if that Green light EVER starts flashing Yellow, then goes solid Red, do NOT turn that key!…Ill be going to lunch now.

              I’m squarely in the camp of if incompetent shit can happen, eventually it will, and until I hear otherwise, it doesn’t really matter too much who did it.

              1. Lambert Strether Post author

                Well, I think of accounting control fraud. That’s a massive upward transfer of wealth successfully accomplished by the elite. If you look one level of detail, it looks like incompetence — the botched title transfers, the robosigning. If you look at it from the 30,000 foot view, it’s stunningly brilliant and malevolent.

                So perhaps incompetence and malice are sometimes a matter of perspective rather than being opposites.

          2. Furzy Mouse


            the time stamp on the YouTube upload of separatists discussing the downed airliner, which was released by the Ukrainians, PRECEDES the shooting of FL 17…

            BUSTED! Ukraine Caught Trying to ‘Frame Russia’ for Shooting Down Malaysia Flight MH17!
            2,432 475Published on Jul 17, 2014
            I have to say, They were gonna fool a whole lot of people with this one! Thankfully, they have been caught!
            The Ukraine Government supported a youtube clip that they say proves Russia had involvement and that Rebels shot down Malaysia Flight MH17. However, Due to their sloppy work, They have been caught! They have since tried to delete the file, but not before it was downloaded over 800 times! More info at links!


            Attachments area
            Preview YouTube video BUSTED! Ukraine Caught Trying to ‘Frame Russia’ for Shooting Down Malaysia Flight MH17!

          3. Fiver

            The Guardian “ain’t what it used to be” for some time now, Snowden/Greenwald or no. Note the Guardian has often tacked along the lines of the official British position from Libya, through Syria (worst case) to Ukraine to ISIS and back to Ukraine. Much of the evidence cited here comes out of Ukrainian intelligence – the guys who think of things like confiscating the ATC logs.

      2. dearieme

        No: I need provide nothing. I have no idea who did what. The only point I’d add is that you’re dealing with a part of the world where much of the male population spends as much time as possible drunk.

    2. Massinissa

      HOW did they shoot it down? Psychic powers? Ray guns from mars?

      Even if Russia gave them the complicated missile equipment to do so, of which theres no evidence, the rebels wouldnt have the training to use such equipment, and again theres no evidence they have been given any.

      1. Vatch

        Don’t some of these missile systems have pretty sophisticated heat seeking capabilities? Or other capabilities that I haven’t guessed? How much training is required?

        1. Massinissa

          Theyre not operable without sufficient training. Heat seeking doesnt make it any easier to shoot, it makes it less likely to miss.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            Training is needed. It’s the level of training that’s at issue, and whether you can put together a team easily enough, or whether you’ve got to call in outsiders. The latter is what the US thinks, because that’s what they would do: Call in the contractor. The former is what a nation with a large conscript army, accustomed to simple, rugged equipment, would do.

            (Now, I freely admit I’m just painting a picture of “how it must be,” but perhaps we can agree that Western and Ukrainian/Russian ideas of “training” might be very different, as their doctrines and militaries are different.)

        2. OIFVet

          Not the “Buk” though, it is radar guided. And everyone claims it was a “Buk that shot down the airliner.

      2. ToivoS

        There is no need to question whether the rebels had the ability to use the Buk system. They used it to shoot down the AN25 last Monday.

            1. OIFVet

              There is no such plane Lambert, unless the google is determined to hide its existence. I know he meant An-24, but I was a bit miffed that he couldn’t provide the correct plane model yet presented its shoot down by a “Buk” as a fact while providing no supporting evidence whatsoever.

                1. OIFVet

                  Many years ago I saw this monster parked at the Indianapolis airport as the plane I was in taxied for take off. Impressive sight.

  3. Steve H.

    בתחבולות תעשה לך מלחמה

    One difference in this situation is that both NATO and Russia presumably have full-spectrum surveillance over the area, so the missile launch point can be pinpointed to the meter.

  4. YY

    The pattern of news memes that bother me to no end is the expectation (with rhetorical expectation of refusal to cooperate) that Putin (never referred ti as Russia) is able to deliver the “separatist” cooperation for full red carpet Western access to the scene of destroyed plane. This without first ensuring that there is cooperation of Kiev. First item on agenda should be a cease fire on ALL sides for there to be any reasonable collection of bodies and wreckage. If Obama (as in America) can not dictate to Kiev this simple request for halt of hostilities maybe they should send atta boy Biden in again (As problematic as America being involved in Ukraine is, given they are financing this particular lunatic political venture, they might as well participate). The rebels need to be engaged for these tasks by Kiev, not Moscow unless everybody has forgotten the small matter of sovereignty which break-away or not technically is still within “Ukraine” just as the airspace above the wreckage site is. Insisting that Putin delivers is essentially asking that the area be treated as if it belonged to Russia, which is not consistent with the position that the West is taking. Kiev is acting as if they are external to the process and in meantime doing stuff like not releasing air traffic control information to no apparent Western press critique.

  5. Banger

    Lambert, this is a really rough issue. Your commentary is confused and makes little sense–but the situation is confused and makes little sense and what can anyone say about this incident? So I commend you for your efforts. Certainly we can’t jump to conclusions like the MSM has from the beginning.

    The problem is that the Russians have no motivation, like Assad with the “gassing his own people” narrative, to do the deed. And isn’t it interesting that after the Sy Hersh story and Assad’s agreement to dump his gas supplies that story completely disappeared from view.

    Anything is possible in our hyper-Orwellian world and nothing is what it seems since we live in a world whose Narrative and conceptual framework is controlled by the central authorities. We have to remember one thing–the State, in the U.S. at least, regards the population as those it must manipulate and control. Outer events exist as opportunities to encourage conflict and, ideally, war. Political power today is based on fear and it is fear that keeps Washington prosperous and hopping (a lot of adrenaline junkies there). The sad part is that we have methods and procedures to resolve conflicts today if we want to use them. Ukraine or Palestine are thorny issues all of which could be solved in mutually beneficial ways among the inhabitants of the regions there. But those in power in the region and here in the West don’t want to resolve these issues because their power depends on conflict, hatred, war, fear out of which flows our insatiable need for mass quantities of every f–king thing.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I just think we know a lot less than We think. My goal was not to produce a counter-narrative, but push to the limits of evidence and implication in each of the three topic areas; there are others. The results are as you see. Things don’t add up because they don’t add up. Personally, I think we should wait for them to do so before beating the war drums. If that’s confusing, so be it.

      1. Banger

        You handled it exactly right, as I implied, Lambert. It is confusing and I mean major-league confusing. There is nothing we can say that will make much sense. For me there is only the patterns that are already in place and you’ve articulated those. I take it farther than you, of course.

      2. fresno dan

        I saw a great bumper sticker a couple of years ago, “I’m already against the next war”

        I already don’t believe the US government. If they say the Russians are behind it, I say the Russians are not behind it.

        1. OIFVet

          This is, I think, really damning commentary on just how little trust an increasing number of people has in the government and the supposedly independent media. The media has rushed to conclusions supplied by the government without presenting any direct evidence to support the conclusion, and people like Kerry, Biden, and McCain are sounding as frothy and bellicose as opposed to calm and measured. The first two in particular are in the executive branch and should know better than to sound like raving lunatics. As this mirrors the way the Iraq war was sold, why should I or any other rational being trust our supposed “leaders”?

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            Few people mentioning Obomba’s bumbling support of Israeli genocide, McCain’s meeting and cheering on ISIS, Kerry’s bumbling and pissing off both sides from Cairo to Baghdad every time he opens his mouth…I mean stupidity is a resource in ample supply on every side these days

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              I think everyone besides the obvious bots remembers our governments less than reputable history. If we didn’t, we would be up rating a photo diary of Obama’s latest round of golf at DKos.

              Team Red and Team Blue are on the same side. They are fighting over the glory by jockeying for support among different sets of rubes.

        2. dearieme

          “If they say the Russians are behind it, I say the Russians are not behind it.” If they say the Russians are behind it I say that their statement sheds no light whatever on who was behind it. All it tells you is that they have a beef with the Russians.

  6. John Zelnicker

    At the age of 19 (1969), I was questioning the White House justification for another war started on false intelligence and facts that were fitted to the policy, Vietnam. Seems like nothing really changes.

    1. Banger

      The pattern goes back to the hijacking of the Cold War by the National Security State where, pretty quickly, the CIA (in the fifties) became the senior partner. I believe that Vietnam was the method Johnson used to keep the martinets at bay–remember, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Joint Chiefs and other leaders wanted to use the opportunity to launch an attack on the USSR in which they calculated they would lose 150 million people and we would lose “only” 40 million–that was an acceptable number to these people. These are the sorts of people that still dominate Washington today. The slaughter in Indochina was a better deal for all of us–they wanted blood and the got it. A lot of money was made from that war and today even more can be made which is why Washington is always ready to spread chaos and misery everywhere it can. It’s not personal–it’s just what Washington does and has done for several generations–it is very deeply set in the bone. Today it’s even easier than back in the day since all the mainstream media is controlled by the State it was somewhat less controlled back then.

    2. Ned Ludd

      American Planes Hit North Vietnam After Second Attack on Our Destroyers; Move Taken to Halt New AggressionWashington Post, August 5, 1964.

      Nothing but lies:

      In 1965, Lyndon Johnson commented: “For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there.”

      But Johnson’s deceitful speech of Aug. 4, 1964, won accolades from editorial writers. The president, proclaimed the New York Times, “went to the American people last night with the somber facts.” The Los Angeles Times urged Americans to “face the fact that the Communists, by their attack on American vessels in international waters, have themselves escalated the hostilities.”

      An exhaustive new book, The War Within: America’s Battle Over Vietnam, begins with a dramatic account of the Tonkin Gulf incidents. In an interview, author Tom Wells told us that American media “described the air strikes that Johnson launched in response as merely `tit for tat’ — when in reality they reflected plans the administration had already drawn up for gradually increasing its overt military pressure against the North.”

    3. Ray Duray

      Hi John,

      Similarly, I was 15 in 1965 and took up a subscription to Ramparts Magazine. Within a year I was educating my civics teacher in H.S. about the Viet Nam War and being labeled “Mr. Marx” by my classmates for daring to be informed and honest about Viet Nam.

      The thing about a disinformation campaign, such as is being waged regarding MH-17, is that most Americans sincerely want to believe the propaganda and don’t give a hoot about the truth.

        1. John Zelnicker

          LOL, we also got an early start on our surveillance files at the CIA/FBI/US Army/etc. I was involved in the draft resistance movement, so I’m pretty sure I was among those targeted, along with those “Marxist” readers of Ramparts, etc.

          The US Army had a surveillance unit based in Ohio that was discovered by a committee investigator working for Sen. Sam Ervin of North Carolina. Congress insisted that the Army destroy those files, but no one believed that they actually did so.
          “He got his start in investigative matters, even before Watergate, when in January 1970 it was revealed by Christopher Pyle, an investigator for Ervin’s Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, that the U.S. Army was performing domestic investigations on the civilian population.[9] Ervin’s further investigations on the matter over the following years, together with the Church Committee inquiries, led to passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (after Ervin had left office).” – He also chaired the Senate Watergate Committee.

  7. Lexington

    3) A deliberate Ukrainian attack: most likely

    Depends on facts not in evidence.

    In cases like this I think the best policy is to apply Occam’s Razor and assume that the simplest explanation is the most likely one, which is that rebels shot the plane down thinking it was a military transport. There are any number of reasons IFF might have failed – malfunctioning transponder at either end (or one that for whatever reason was turned off), improperly trained operators, possibly even electronic warfare measures like jamming employed by either side (not necessarily targeting IFF specifically but which could have incidentally and unintentionally effected it). IFF is not regarded as failsafe by the military and the rules of engagement reflect this. It is also possible IFF worked as intended but the missile operators either misinterpreted or ignored the information for whatever reason, including the possibility that after the first transport was shot down the Ukrainians altered their IFF signatures to misreport aircraft as civilian.

    The alternative explanation that the Ukrainians shot down the plane and then blamed the separatists suffers from a lack of evidence -which doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but it’s a very high risk strategy and therefore less probable. The fact that rabidly pro-Russian bloggers like Saker and Bernhard at Moon of Alabama aren’t on board with this is to my mind completely inconsequential. I remain mystified why so many people defer to them on this issue when they openly wear their biases on their shirtsleeves.

    1. Banger

      I think “obvious” is in question here. For me, using Occam’s razor, I come to the opposite conclusion–first rule of investigation–cui bono which in the U.S. mainstream is never brought up in any question before the public just as the U.S. media always avoids describing history and context on any critical issue. History to them is just one damn thing after another. The problem with using the the Razor is that if you don’t share the same assumptions, it doesn’t work–which is why you look at the rules of evidence which, as I said, start with who benefits.

      1. trish

        I agree. With our administrations excessive lying history to achieve whatever ends desired, usually involving benefit not to the public (whom they supposedly serve), not to mention other publics, I cannot help but go to the opposite initial conclusion (or at least suspicion), as well.

        And for many of us it isn’t deference to pro-Russian” sites (this post didn’t strike me as deferring), just not deference to pro-Ukraine, pro-US propaganda sites (including the MSM). And still waiting for evidence.

      2. Lexington

        How does the Ukrainian government benefit from shooting down a civilian airliner? The only way that works is if they can convince the world that the seperatists did it. There are a couple of problems here: first, given that world opinion on the Ukrainian crisis is highly polarized it’s very unlikely that any claim by the Ukrainian government would be accepted at face value (for starters you know guys like Saker and Bernhard are going to scream bloody murder until the cows come home). The most likely result is to further polarize opinion rather than increase support for the Ukraine at the expense of the rebels. As I said before this is a very high risk strategy -including a huge risk of blowback – with very uncertain benefits. That’s why I think it is far more likely MH 17 was shot down in error rather than deliberately.

        But if you’re willing to assume for a moment that somone is crazy enough to take those risks, why do assume that person would have to be on the side of the Ukrainian government rather than the rebels? To the extent that this strategy has any rational basis it works equally well for either side. Indeed with the momentum in the eastern Ukraine seeming to swing toward the government, when combined with the fact Putin seems disinclined to risk direct intervention, one could argue that the rebels are the more desperate of the two sides to secure a propaganda victory.

          1. Lexington

            Clearly that world doesn’t include Naked Capitalism, Vineyard of the Saker or Moon of Alabama… ;)

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          They believe so; that’s why I included the quote from the Ukrainian newspaper to that effect. They wouldn’t be the first small power to rejoice in having drawn larger powers in on their side.

        2. Fiver

          Among other difficulties, you leave out the seizure of the ATC logs by Ukrainian intelligence resources instead of transparently placing them in highest-security, highest-visibility isolation until an agreed process for investigation (i.e., who make up the teams) was undertaken.

          The thing is, though, that even if responsibility was in reality split right down the middle (i.e., “you shot” vs “that’s exactly what you wanted to happen when you sent that plane into that airspace”) nothing remotely resembling that apportion of “blame” would ensue – you know as well as I do the media would quietly erase some of that shared responsibility from the narrative with every telling leaving only the dismal, mad roar of the ‘Get Putin’ Admin/media machine.

        3. OIFVet

          “why do assume that person would have to be on the side of the Ukrainian government rather than the rebels?” Because people in the west are convinced of their moral superiority over the rest of the world and are therefore easily outraged by by anything that confirms that narrative, even if it is completely made up. “We good, them savages” is the predominant belief in the west, a belief that conveniently turns a blind eye toward the suffering within their own societies. Suffering caused by government policies for the benefit of the rich, blaming that suffering on individual failings instead and thus making it unworthy of compassion and mustering outrage at its existence.

      3. Gaianne

        Thank you, Banger!

        “Who benefits?” is really basic. Any Occam’s Razor that can’t deal with that question needs to be re-sharpened or scrapped.


          1. toldjaso

            No mistakes. “Operation Northwoods” FOIA cop for the public revealed the mindset. Stanley Kubrick nailed the psychopathic mindset on multiple levels in Dr. Strangelove.

    2. Massinissa

      I used it a bit differently.

      The Ukrainians had the capability to do this while the separatists do not.

      1. Ned Ludd

        According to the Russian Defense Ministry:

        The Ukrainian military has several batteries of Buk surface-to-air missile systems with at least 27 launchers, capable of bringing down high-flying jets, in the Donetsk region where the Malaysian passenger plane crashed…

        The rebels, in contrast, may or may not have had a Buk missile system, it may or may not have been operable, and they may or may not have been able to operate it. Therefore, applying Occam’s Razor, the rebels clearly shot down the plane.

        Also, a reasonable question from Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister: “Can Kiev explain in detail how it uses Buk missile launchers in the conflict zone? And why were these systems deployed there in the first place, seeing as the self-defense forces don’t have any planes?”

      2. Lexington

        The rebels claimed responsibility for shooting down an AN-26 transport on July 14 while it was reportedly at an altitude above 20 000 feet, so by their own account they do have this capability.

          1. ewmayer

            No, because the shoulder-fired MANPADS which the rebels have used to bring down numerous low-flying transports and helicopters have range of only up to around 3000m (10000 ft). The only higher-altitude-capable anti-aircraft system the rebels have got hold of is the BUK, which goes up to over 10000m (33000 ft). As Lambert notes in his Item 3 above it seems generally believed – and not denied by them, AFAIK – that last week the rebels shot down an AN-26 (variously misreported as an AN-[pick a number]) flying at around 6500m (> 20000 ft), which implies they had a BUK and knew how to use it, at least in the “point and shoot” sense, not necessarily the “discriminate civilian from military, then if military, shoot” sense.

            1. hunkerdown

              No denying they had the missiles, but what about support vehicles which they do not claim to have or have had? There’s a comment at Saker’s making an interesting case that a missile must have been launched from somewhere several miles *into Ukie territory* to have successfully intercepted MH17 such that it came down where and as it did.

              Also, it is reported that Buks leave prominent contrails when fired, but there don’t seem to have been any, which may be evidence against any Buk theory.

              1. Lambert Strether Post author

                There’s science to be had in how the wreckage was distributed, but I decided not to look into that; not enough hard evidence. I seem to recall the wreckage covered 25 square miles or so.

              1. Lexington

                With small correction: the maximum intercept altitude of the BUK (SA-11) is about 75 000 feet.

                The salient point being that any SAM that could hit a plane at 20 000 feet could also do so at 30 000.

        1. zapster

          “The rebels claimed responsibility for shooting down an AN-26 transport on July 14 while it was reportedly at an altitude above 20 000 feet, so by their own account they do have this capability.”

          The operative word being “reportedly.” By whom? To date, they’ve been using manpads to attack planes on attack runs.

          Also, here’s a map of territory held by the Army as of the 17th. The entire strip along the Russian border is Ukraine Army. Any truck “heading for the border” is *in* army territory. Rather unlikely to be either Russians or rebels, in that case.

          1. Lexington

            The operative word being “reportedly.” By whom? To date, they’ve been using manpads to attack planes on attack runs.

            An AN-26 transport was most definitely not performing “attack runs”, and is very unlikely to have been flying below 10 000 feet where it could conceivably have been hit by a MANPADS. To the best of my knowledge the Ukrainian government said the aircraft was flying above 20 000 feet, and the rebels who claimed responsibility have not denied this or ever suggested a MANPADS was involved.

            You’re inventing convolutions to protect your pet theory. Simplify.

            Also, here’s a map of territory held by the Army as of the 17th. The entire strip along the Russian border is Ukraine Army. Any truck “heading for the border” is *in* army territory. Rather unlikely to be either Russians or rebels, in that case.

            So your intelligence on the disposition of Ukrainian forces amounts to a fuzzy map of questionable accuracy apparently taken from Russian TV? Do you want a moment to reconsider your position?

            In any case according to Saker’s own accompanying commentary what the map supposedly shows is not that the Ukrainian army (blue) controls the border area with Russia but rather that they have been surrounded by and cut off by the rebels (red), which would mean that the rebels control much of that territory and could have introduced SA-11s or comparable SAMs if they wanted to. Of course it is also possible that the missile that downed MH 17 originated from the Russian side of the border.

            1. Lexington

              And just to be extra clear, I’m not suggesting that it has been established that the missile came from Russian or rebel controlled territory as opposed to territory controlled by the Ukrainian government. I have no information at this point that would suggest any one of these possibilities is more likely than the others. My only point is that none of these possibilities can be positively excluded.

            2. OIFVet

              “rather that they have been surrounded by and cut off by the rebels (red), which would mean that the rebels control much of that territory”

              It actually means that the Novorussians control much of the SURROUNDING territory. The area being surrounded may be under Ukie control or may be under no one’s control while combat ops are ongoing.

    3. Ned Ludd

      Do you think criminal investigators use Occam’s Razor? “Well it looks like an accidental drowning, so let’s not ask the husband any questions. After all, his girlfriend gave him a solid alibi.”

      1. Lexington

        As a tool for getting to the truth by the shortest possible path I’m sure they do. If you have 3 suspects and 2 have alibis you start with the person who can’t account for their whereabouts when the crime was committed. That doesn’t mean you stop with the most likely suspect of course, but on average crimes will get solved faster if you start with the most likely suspect and work toward the least likely one rather than by doing the reverse.

        In any case in this specific instance I recommended Occam’s Razor because we have very little hard evidence to go on and in the absence of anything more substantive it’s a useful rule of thumb for improving the odds of guessing right.

    4. Crazy Horse

      How many Blackwater/corporate name of the month US mercenaries are currently in the Ukraine? And how many of them are trained in anti-aircraft command and control systems? Just asking?

      1. Lexington

        How many Russian troops are operating SAM batteries on the Ukrainian-Russian border, or even inside the Ukraine? ;)

        With due respect to Lambert while Russian materiel is intended to be used by conscripts I think its very improbable civilians could successfully operate a SAM battery by just reading the manual, so to speak. A missile that brought a plane down at 30 000 feet wasn’t fired from a shoulder launcher, it would have had to come from a heavy SAM battery with search and tracking radars. This requires the coordination of the specialized skills of a number of people.

        1. Ned Ludd

          From Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University:

          There’s the possibility that the Russians aided and abetted them, possibly from Russian territory, but I rule that out because, in the end, when you don’t know who has committed a crime, the first question a professional investigator asks is, “Did anybody have a motive?” and the Russians certainly had no motive here.

          It is too early to rule anything out, but I think it is useful to start with the question cui bono.

    5. Abe, NYC

      I remain mystified why so many people defer to them on this issue when they openly wear their biases on their shirtsleeves.

      There’s no mystery at all, it’s cognitive bias. Russian media use it very skillfully, far more so than even Americans. They keep churning out story after inconsistent story: the rebels don’t have the weapons (after reporting that they do); a Spanish air traffic controller working at Kiev airport reports there were Ukrainian jets nearby (has since proved to be fake); the Ukrainians were targeting Putin’s plane and shot the MH17 instead (it seems this has been mostly forgotten by now). But the audience swallow it hook, line, and sinker.

    6. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

      FWIW, Occam’s Razor really is “don’t multiply hypotheses beyond necessity” which isn’t always the same as “take the simplest explanation” Occams Razor works best for investigating physical phenomenon, but in human affairs what seems simple is usually anything but.

      1. Pepsi Girl

        Precisely, I hate when Occam’s razor is used to mean “take my explanation of events and not the other one.”

        As for the plane, it looks as much like an accidental Ukranian attack as an accidental Novoyrussian attack. Both have systems that can do this and neither has a sophisticated air defense network that would prevent such things.

        Of course the msm is using it to call for more violence and misery, because they’re monsters and idiots.

        1. Fiver

          “Of course the msm is using it to call for more violence and misery, because they’re monsters and idiots.”

          Could not agree more, and believe it is vital that good and decent people employ the sort of harsh descriptors you do – language that conveys the degree of contempt in which we hold these despicable lap-dogs of power.

    7. bruno marr

      Now that’s a thoughtful assessment. Yes, the US media is NOT to be trusted, but the facts are still emerging. There are at least four people (the SA-11 operators) that know what transpired. Soon enough the rest of us will, too.

    8. stopinvokingoccamsrazorinrealworldsituations

      Occam’s razor is useless in real world, because the real world is driven by biased narratives and mass complexity. Occam’s razor is primarily useful when applied to mathematics, not real the real world. The real world, actually, seems to favor random events driven by complexity that you can’t even begin to map out.

      1. hunkerdown

        And Hanlon’s Razor, too, best restated by Lily Tomlin as “A smart woman knows how to play chess, Twister and dumb.”

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        Love the handle. IIRC, evolutionary, adaptive processes work on the principle of bricolage; nature can only work with what’s already there, since one doesn’t build organisms from scratch. So you get all kinds of systems and structures evolved for one purpose and then repurposed, with traces of the original purpose left behind. (Sorry, I can’t recall an example.) So, “necessity” goes unexamined in the Law: Nature’s necessity is not necessarily what a designer or planner’s necessity might be.

    9. CDN

      There appears to be a misunderstanding in regard to IFF systems.
      IFF is a military technology. The acronym stands for Identification Friend or Foe. An IFF is intended to avoid Blue on Blue events where one engages and fires on one’s own units. IFF systems deliver coded responses so that when interrogated they provide positive confirmation of their status as a Friend. Absent this positive return the target is considered to be an enemy and is fired upon.

      The civilian version of this is a radar transponder. When interrogated by a ATC radar the transponder provides plane identification height and course. This information is then displayed to the ATC controller on his radar plot. It allows him to keep track of all the various planes within his area of control.
      Military systems will typically be tied into their host nation ATC systems. But this is a one way street. The military will have access to ATC transponder information. The civilian ATC is unlikely to have access to any of the flight information made available by a military system.
      While IFF systems are critical to the military, the ATC transponder information is nice to have but is unnecessary. Since the rebels lack any from of ATC control over their area they will have no access to any flight information provided by an aircraft transponder.
      The SA-11 BUK system comes in a large number of versions. The early versions did not have the capability to interrogate civilian transponders. The later versions did have this capability. If the rebels were operating a captured system it may or may not have had the correct IFF interrogation codes available to it as these codes are changed on a regular basis to avoid the enemy “spoofing” of your own identification codes.
      The upshot of all this?
      The operator of a captured BUK would likely be unable to obtain any transponder information and or any IFF information. All they would have would be a radar blip on the screen. This blip would tell them very little apart from the fact that an aircraft was present. From the rebel perspective all aircraft in the area belonged to the UAF, were engaged in bombing and strafing both rebel and civilian targets and therefore constituted valid targets.
      If Ukraine is unable to maintain territorial control it has a responsibility to all aircraft to advise them of the conflict zone and warn them in regard to overflights. The likely reason they did not do this is that overflights result in payments and moving aircraft through your airspace generates revenue.

      1. Anonymous

        Thank you. But someone got done what needed to be done. Some rebels who might or might not know enough to manage the BUK at all? And on the other hand, might know enough to understand the altitude and speed of the target – 33,000 feet, 550 mph – to bomb what? Who flies at 33,000 feet to bomb? No one in the Ukraine conflict.


        It just reeks of the Gulf of Tonkin and everything about US foreign policy since.

        1. CDN

          The answer to the height question is totally dependent on the version of the BUK that was in use.
          In the early versions of this system there were two key components: 1) the Transport Erector Launder (TEL) and 2) the Command post and central radar unit.

          In this early configuration a BUK battery would consist of 3 or more TEL units communicating with the command unit. The command unit would be capable of tracking multiple targets and determining target height, course and engagement envelope. It would then transmit this to the TEL which did little more than fire the missile. The missile contained a radar and this radar would find the target that was being “painted” by the command unit radar, arrive in the proximate area of the target and then explode showering the target with shrapnel.

          Later configurations of the BUK added a basic radar unit to the TEL. These upgraded systems are referred to as TELARs. The intent was to make it possible for the launcher unit to engage targets without being supported by the command post radar unit. It is not clear what tracking or monitoring capabilities are associated with the TELAR. To perform its functions the TELAR needs to do two things’ 1) Launch a missile; 2) transmit a radar signal which will paint the target and give the missile an aim point. The operator does not need much beyond that apart from some means of obtaining notification that a target is within engagement range.
          It is normal practice to fire missiles in a salvo to ensure a hit. Witness reports indicate hearing 3 explosions followed by a falling aircraft. This is suggestive of a salvo launch and would implicate the UAF as they are the only force in the conflict area with complete batteries of command radar units and TELARs. The NAF are reported to have at least one TELAR but no other supporting units.
          The other puzzle is the damage to MH17. There is a prior video of the NAF shoot down of a UAF transport plane. The plane is in free fall and one engine is on fire but otherwise appears undamaged. MH17 was a big wide bodied aircraft. If a single missile left a transport plane more or less intact then I would expect it would also leave a 777 more or less intact. But MH17 appears to have broken up in the air and spilled its contents over a wide area. Coupled with the reported 3 explosions this is suggestive of a missile salvo.
          Evidence to counter this interpretation is found in images of MH17 out skin. Some images show damage typically associated with air-to-air missiles which fire a barrage of rods toward the target. The BUK system typically fires a barrage of metal and the resulting damage would be more akin to a blast of shotgun pellets. But this is not conclusive as the BUK has different missile loads and the later versions are reported to be similar to other air to air weapons while the earlier versions give a shotgun pellet effect.
          What is peculiar is the fact that the BUK missile gives off a heavy contrail as it climbs to altitude. This contrail would have been visible for a considerable distance yet there are no reports of contrail sightings. This seems odd given that some of the witness reports observed MH17 almost immediately it was struck. There should have been a distinct line in the sky leading from MH17 to the missile firing position yet no one has reported seeing such a contrail.

      2. Fiver

        Good comment. So if an experienced radar operator could not distinguish a 747 from the cited transport plane at that height and location vis a vis the launcher, there is therefore no need for an expert crew, just a ‘good enough’ crew. So either the separatist rebels or an anti-Russian militia could’ve had the weapon system and been able to fire it after some minimal training.

        Kiev knew the ‘rebels’ had captured one of those missile launchers. Surely the US did as well, and so with the Russians, too. Sending a plane through that airspace when a different transport plane had been shot down so recently strikes me as one of those useful errors, of the sort many more generous than I regard as endemic, yet disconnected, discrete episodes of incoherent ineptitude, stupidity, laziness etc., rather than the devastating effects of rational decisions rooted in a deranged values system.

  8. Brindle

    Pretty much same way I see it:
    “They just make sh*t up. Especially when they’re beating the war drums. And gosh darn it, our famously free press helps them! You’d be stupid to trust them!”

    For months now I have seen Obama, Biden, Clinton get before the TV cameras and engage in close to
    100% pure lies regarding Ukraine. They lie with bluster and arrogance, it’s a bizarre sight.

  9. Brooklin Bridge

    The Real News Network has been disappointing in it’s coverage of Ukraine in general and the plane crash incident in particular. Except for a very early piece with Bill Black, they have been tepid at best, resorting to the MSNBC and CNN perfected tactic of making believe they are covering multiple POV. In the Malaysian plane case, their slant is the convenient, “everyone is to blame” cop-out:

    It’s interesting just how much influence over the media the establishment has, when it can bring to heel (when necessary) such entities as The Real News Network. The question of “who benefits”, should be the first thing an organization of that caliber examines, yet it is noticeably and uncomfortably absent from the entire discussion as in “don’t dare go there”, so the assumption throughout the interview is that the “separatists” (“I’m not even sure that is the right term” – Jay Rosen’s cop-out for not saying “Federalists”) launched the missile that downed the plane using equipment they got from Russia..

    1. Banger

      Within the mainstream Narrative reality has little to do with anything. And if there is one thing I’ve learned about the left in the U.S. is that it mainly follows the mainstream narrative on most issues particularly since 1963. It’s a long story about how this all comes down and I don’t want to go into it now but the left failed to look deeply at the JFK and later RFK and MLK assassinations. To me, this is why the left has failed in the U.S. despite wonderful opportunities–it accepts the mainstream narrative about most things even when, like the assassinations the official story is demonstrably false. Part of the issue is the deep attachment the American left has to American Exceptionalism, i.e., Americans do not do the sorts of things that happen in other societies and so on. When confronting deep politics Americans, particularly in the center and the left, will demur with “even if it’s true, I refuse to believe it” sorts of ideas. Look at what Lambert says in his intro–he won’t deal with deep politics because he sees them as tangled hairballs–no they’re not. The evidence against the official conclusions in that area is unambigous, conclusive and very, very, clear. There’s nothing confusing or obscure about a Coroner’s Report, for example. I’ve challenged Lambert on that and he won’t answer–the Report (Noguchi’s report on RFK) is either real or it isn’t–there is no ambiguity possible–if Noguchi is right then the officlal story is wrong–and if that official story is wrong then what? But no one on the left, with some exceptions of course, wants to face that. Why? Because they will be ridiculed endlessly if they do accept direct and unambiguous evidence and will see their careers and ambitions ruined but also, perhaps deeper is that then a person will have to re-examine his/her world view! My God we can’t ever do that, can we? Where’s the Xanax?

      1. MtnLife

        Many intelligent people will not critically examine the facts regarding things that would totally alter their worldview. I can see Lambert calling certain things hairballs, like trying to explain the full machinations of JFK or 9/11, but things like exonerating Oswald are a walk in the park and ignoring that (not asking similar questions) I can only guess is either willful ignorance or being under the influence of the Kool-Aid. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve explain the science of many of those items and the response I get is “Well, the science makes perfect sense but I still don’t believe it.”

        1. Banger

          Conceptual frameworks are radically undervalued. We believe, contrary to social science evidence, that when people are faced with facts about an issue they will all come to the same conclusions. Without a coherent conceptual framework we suffer what used to be call “nervous breakdowns.” The authorities know this and that is why they can get away with such blatant lies. We can use the non-controversial case of the Iraq WMDs–how did “everyone” agree to the obvious and blatant information the Administration was putting out. There is no way, now way, you could have believed that fiction in the lead up to the war–most of the nerve gas had been accounted for during the decade long arms inspection regime thanks to people like Scott Ritter. But during the lead-up, he was summoned before CNN excecs and told that he would not be allowed to go on any media outlet and his opinion would not be considered unless he went along with the State’s agenda. This and many other bits of evidence prove to me that the mainstream media is controlled by the State–not influenced–but controlled.

          1. toldjaso

            All lies all the time, like “Spy v. Spy” — likely a great game/sport with sports betting in a “Gentleman’s Agreement” while the public is for looting, tricking, killing, ignoring, in the dark.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        The left needed more CT, as opposed to a base in the working class? Pull the other one, it’s got bells on! (Note that I’m not saying the left could have achieved this, even if the hare-brained SDSers hadn’t gone the Manhattan townhouse route. I’m just saying that was what was necessary.)

        1. Fiver

          No, Lambert. What he said was the ‘left’ needed to pull its collective head out of its arse when it came to assessing the lengths those with power will go to defend or expand it – as in any means necessary to negate or neutralize a threat. The entire US War in Vietnam was, from the perspective of any concerned citizen, one giant CT. The Johnson Admin and MSM across the board lied constantly from start to finish about what was actually taking place. Even events like the My Lai Massacre were repeatedly conveyed by Officialdom as freak, one-off tragedies chalked up to one or a couple of ‘bad apples’ rather than the direct effects of explicit US ‘counter-insurgency’ policy. The Phoenix program was for years denied as the lunatic fable of ‘conspiracy theorists’ until overwhelmed by the number of people willing to come forward. Even after the Pentagon Papers made it evident the whole War was a lie, Kissinger’s inhuman Christmas ’72 bombing of Hanoi was sold as paving the way for peace. Good God, the US officially and via its media still maintains a mythology within which the US ‘suffered’ as much or more than Vietnam.

          Serious people judge events based on the weight of the evidence. They also use terms such as “if this is true” or ‘assuming this is the case’ when indicating the final verdict remains open, and what follows is therefore to some degree speculative. Of course careful writing is wasted on careless or hostile or even duplicitous readers (or ‘followers’) trying to create trouble for their own reasons or misperceptions or whatever.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            No, that’s exactly what he said:

            I don’t want to go into it now but the left failed to look deeply at the JFK and later RFK and MLK assassinations. To me, this is why the left has failed in the U.S.

            Your rewordking is simply not the same:

            What he said was the ‘left’ needed to pull its collective head out of its arse when it came to assessing the lengths those with power will go to defend or expand it – as in any means necessary to negate or neutralize a threat

            Assuming for the sake of the argument that “the left” is even a coherent category, who do think uncovered all the examples you give? The left, that’s who. People who were fully aware of “the lengths those with power will go to.”

            Needless to say, the left didn’t fail because they failed to invest significant time in the assassinations hairball. That’s the claim, and it’s bogus.

            1. Fiver

              And the completion of his argument is:

              “To me, this is why the left has failed in the U.S. despite wonderful opportunities–it accepts the mainstream narrative about most things even when, like the assassinations the official story is demonstrably false. Part of the issue is the deep attachment the American left has to American Exceptionalism, i.e., Americans do not do the sorts of things that happen in other societies and so on. When confronting deep politics Americans, particularly in the center and the left, will demur with “even if it’s true, I refuse to believe it” sorts of ideas.”

              There was a blanket refusal on the part of the leaderships of the US ‘left’ (i.e., liberal Democrats), African-Americans, media or any other group to mount any sort of serious effort to drill down into any of these – because they accepted what Officialdom and its media said. Not until Walter Cronkite in 1968 told Americans the War was not going as well as claimed did public opinion sniff deception, and not until the Church Committee hearings years later were some (only some, mind you) other US Government crimes investigated. And of course, after the Draft was abandoned we all found out how many people resisted the War on principle vs the much larger opposition to the Draft. The ‘left’ evaporated and was not heard from again until the Internet provided some space.

              The “left” by and large still misjudges the nature of those who wield power. Both they and their political enemies prefer to believe events this century consist of a long series of ‘mistakes, errors, bad judgments, over-reach, blow-back, ass-covering, more mistakes, and on and on – anything rather than confront directly the thought that the people who actually run things will commit any evil imaginable to maintain or extend their positions of power. Anything.

              Which means the opposition to the status quo has to think in entirely different terms if it is to have any prospect at all for serious change, a novel non-violent approach with the capacity to offset the enormous advantages held by the war criminals in charge. The essential first step is to recognize the true degree of depravity of our opponents.

    2. Brindle

      Applying the “negative template” is useful in media coverage of events like MH17, basically one looks for areas and narratives that seem to mostly absent from coverage and ask the question “why”—this goes along with “cui bono” in developing a reasonable alternative to the MSM storyline.

      “The question of “who benefits”, should be the first thing an organization of that caliber examines, yet it is noticeably and uncomfortably absent from the entire discussion as in “don’t dare go there”

      1. Banger

        Indeed, why, context, history, patterns all of that is forbidden in the official Narrative. Stuff just happens and we have enemies and live in a dangerous world so build a lot of F-35 fighters that don’t function and send pallets of $100 dollar bills to Iraq and watch them all disappear and so on and so on, oh yeah, the Pentagon does not account for its spending–just spends.

  10. YoungExPat

    American living in Russia, here (although currently vacationing in Central Europe) —

    Americans don’t understand how awful their press is. I hate to generalize, but at least Russians know that Россия 1 is government talking points, all day, every day. When CNN goofs on WMDs, it’s just because there was no way they could have known!

    I think that it was Thoreau who said that if people stopped reading newspapers, it would bring the government to its knees. Actually, Karl Kraus put it best, many years ago: “How is the world ruled and led to war? Diplomats lie to journalists and believe these lies when they see them in print.”

    Yeah, except now the journalists ARE the diplomats. The revolving door between corporate media and government keeps spinning. And I’m not just talking about Jay Carney (former Washington Bureau Chief for Time magazine). No less than 24 “journalists” have signed on with the Obama administration, the latest being Richard Stengel, former managing editor of Time, who now serves as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Responding to Stengel’s big promotion, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) commented that Stengel’s contributions to Time were “less like journalism and more like propaganda. Which is the job Stengel’s taking now–formally.” And there you have it. Asking questions like Strether does, and drawing logical conclusions from these questions, won’t get you a nice job at State. It won’t even get you on teevee. So what’s the point? You really think that the 24/7 News Cycle cares at all about truth? Last week Diane Sawyer went on teevee and cried about Hamas rocket attacks, showing pictures of blowed-up Palestinian homes as Irrefutable Evidence of the suffering of the Israeli people. Oh ya of course it was an honest mistake.

    Look, no offense Strether but you’re wasting your time. Putin personally shot down this airplane, end of story.

    P.S. no matter who is really responsible (PUTIN!), let us never forget that the U.S. government awarded medals to the soldiers that accidentally shot down Iran Air Civilian Passenger Flight 655 in 1988, killing 290 on board, including 66 children.

    1. Banger

      Amazing–didn’t know about the medals–as an old friend used to say back in my stoner days “gasp.”

      We are living in a world of 100% propaganda on all sides. Information is now ammunition in an increasingly serious war on all of us. I’ll put is simply, in my country (the USA), the mainstream media is the main enemy of the people as a whole. Nothing it says can be trusted other than sports scores.

      1. Paul Niemi

        We are living in a world where more voices can be heard now than previously, so I think of early explanations I read as more approximating a Bell curve, even including all the liars. I would point out that when people search for an explanation to events such as these, recency bias is a factor: they prefer the explanation of an event associated in recent memory. For example, MH370 is recent, same airline, same model airplane, and an unexplained mystery, therefore I’m inclined to believe MH17 went down for the same or similar reasons. Also, confirmation bias leads people to prefer explanations which confirm their preconceived notions. For example, among Ukrainians I have known, there is alcoholism, so I am inclined to pore through the news reports looking for any hint of booze at the missile launch scene. Yes, propaganda is out there like chaff, and biased opinions are the norm, but eventually all the dots may form a recognizable pattern.

      1. YoungExPat

        Because that’s what CNN says! (I have not watched/listened to/read CNN in two years)

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        Duh…Hillary Clinton took time from her effort to help The Painter, formerly known as Dubya, with Vienna Art School Application to declare Putin as a super Hitler. Bill tried to talk Putin down to Stalin to make her appear less insane.

    2. Katniss Everdeen

      Glad you mentioned Diane Sawyer. I was beginning to think there was a gag order. Walter Cronkite she ain’t.

      ” Putin personally shot down this airplane, end of story.

      That’s it. Why this ex-KGB agent (O.M.G.!!!) who rides horses shirtless, wrestles alligators and does martial arts is not shouting “I am the GREATEST” for all the world to hear shall forever remain a mystery.

      1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

        I’m sure photo editors for CNN dot com are scrambling to find a picture of Putin holding a white cat.

        1. Chauncey Gardiner

          Wonderful allusion, Herr General Field Marshall. “Wag the Dog”, the film that keeps on giving.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            I think he was referring to Spectre head Blofeld. Poroshenko would be holding a kitten in the Wag the Dog metaphor.

      2. Commenter

        It must be frustrating for a world leader, brought up in a white shirt/grey tie, overcoat environment. Showboating must be a dream come true. In private, most of these “leaders” turn to porn-like adventures anyway. Meanwhile, I don’t rule out a photo op a’la Sigfried and Roy, wrestling a white tiger. I mean, he resurrected himself back to top dog after his term was over…just. couldn’t. take. being. out. of. visible. control.

        1. Rostale

          Living in a country where the legislature has a lower approval rating than venereal disease, I am not generally inclined to comment on other country’s governments, but I will say this. I think I would take a Big Swingin D*** rough rider strong man over a cabal of puppetmasters with dreams of a totalitarian state any day of the week.

  11. pdl

    Re: “if you can remember what you were doing when you were 19″…. I do as that is when I bought an MG-TD

    I am old enough to remember the feeble…initial…cover up attempts of both Iran Air 655 and TWA 800.

    I do recommend Pepe Escobar’s July 18th article in Asia Times as a good summation….

  12. Occam

    Simpler still: wait. The ICAO will suss it out. Or the PCIJ. Or the ICJ.

    Both the Montreal Convention and the Chicago Convention have multi-stage dispute resolution provisions. (Chapter XVIII)

    This commenter cares about one (1) thing: Watch who is willing to let pacific dispute resolution run its course and who is pushing to short-circuit independent investigation with sanctions or use of force.

  13. Ned Ludd

    The flight path deviated from the previous two weeks of flights. It is not clear if this change was made in-flight or before take-off. However, the plane did make a significant adjustment while flying over Poland.

    Looking at the flight history (select a date and then zoom, over the map, using the mouse wheel), all of the other flights stayed away from the rebel-held territory. The biggest diversion was on July 12th, when the plane flew south of Crimea.

    At the very least, a diversion into an area of active shelling, bombing, and downing of military aircraft represents a reckless disregard for the welfare of the people on the plane.

    1. Ned Ludd

      Crashed MH17 flight ‘was 300 miles off typical course’

      Robert Mark, a commercial pilot who edits Aviation International News Safety magazine, said that most Malaysia Airlines flights from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur normally travelled along a route significantly further south than the plane which crashed. […]

      “I went into the FlightAware system, which we all use these days to see where airplanes started and where they tracked, and I looked back at the last two weeks’ worth of MH17 flights, which was this one.

      “And the flight today tracked very, very much further north into the Ukraine than the other previous flights did … there were MH17 versions that were 300 miles south of where this one was.”

  14. Katniss Everdeen

    Impossible to forget The Downing Street Memo. It’s also impossible to ignore the fact that shooting down a passenger airliner and pointing a belligerent finger comes up time and again as a “strategy” to indict a chosen American “enemy” in the court of public opinion.

    I doubt we’ll ever know with certainty what actually happened. Although I agree with Lambert. Someone already DOES know.

    So I would add a corollary to “cui bono.” Who makes the most hay out of such an “event?”

    The emerging theme on American tv the past couple of days has been that the Europeans will now be “forced” to join the US in sanctioning Russia. The dead are mostly Europeans, after all, and it looks curious that America considers Putin/Russia more of a threat than Europe does. That PUTIN has not used Europeans for target practice “strains credulity.”

    This “whodunnit,” at least as far as the MSM is concerned, would appear to be settled. Time to stoke the “horror” of “this could have been YOU” with video of passports, cartoon character backpacks and tiny “I heart Kuala Lampur” t-shirts.

    This shines a renewed light on the recent discussion on NC of the possible manipulation of the BNP Paribas fine to pressure France to cancel its sale of “warships” to Russia. And what do you know. Check today’s links to see that that “issue” is back front and center.

    And John Kerry is on Meet the Press right now pounding the table for “tougher” European sanctions.

    So my money is on those who make the most “hay” out of a situation. If they didn’t actually press the button, I’m sure they at least PRAYED for something like this to happen.

      1. Katniss Everdeen

        Those separatists are THUGS. They are NEANDERTHALS. They are THUGGISH NEANDERTHALS.

        The next thing you know, they will be using drones to double tap first responders trying to provide medical assistance to bombing victims. On Putin’s personal say so. Rumor is, every Tuesday is “kill list” Tuesday in the Kremlin.

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              Have you read DKos since they went full Obama? The snark tag is unfortunately necessary. If I didn’t recognize the name, I would just assume it was some Obot.

        1. OIFVet

          I tried to peruse the comments there but had to run away in terror as the malice and calls for violence contained in them gave me bad flashbacks to the bloodthirsty calls to kill all Arabs after 9/11. I bet these Kos-ians are the same “peaceniks” who opposed “Bush’s War”. It’s OK when Obama launches the wars and orders the murder of civilians by drone though. These are “progressives” for ya, dutiful members of the Obama Cult.

    1. JCC

      Section V of Rebuilding America’s Defenses, entitled “Creating Tomorrow’s Dominant Force”, includes the sentence: “Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event––like a new Pearl Harbor”

    2. trish

      “Time to stoke the “horror” of “this could have been YOU” with video of passports, cartoon character backpacks and tiny “I heart Kuala Lampur” t-shirts. ”
      This aspect can be milked for a while. Warped titillation in a way, until the next good People mag fodder comes along. The admin is rolling in it.

      two-pronged PR.

  15. mmckinl

    “There is the youtube video which purports to be a conversation between a Russian general and separatists who are discussing having mistakenly brought down a civilian airliner. According to reports, expert examination of the code in the video reveal that it was made the day before the airliner was hit.” ~ Paul Craig Roberts

    Ukraine’s news conference proof that Russia did it … And the US and Western Media jump right on it …

    “A good lie will have travled half way around the world while the truth is putting on her boots.”
    ~ Mark Twain

  16. Bozhe

    Janes published a useful overview of the Buk system a couple of days ago, excerpted below.

    Two points in it that (if true) seem of possible relevance:

    — The Buk IFF system is really just an IF system. I.e., it gives a “Friend” reading on receiving a known code and nothing otherwise.

    — A full-up Buk complex includes a large target acquisition radar that’s separate from the missile launching vehicles (“TELARs”). But the TELARs have their own engagement radar and can use it as a limited-capability acquisition radar if need be. I suspect that the engagement radar has only rudimentary height-finding and other discrimination capabilities and might not have been able to tell a 777 from an AN-26, whereas the target acquisition radar would have. It would be of interest to find out if a target acquisition radar was seen in the area, or just TELARs.

    From Janes:


    When fielded, a Buk firing battery consists of:

    the 9S18M1Target Acquisition Radar used to acquire potential aerial targets, and transmit their position and tracks to:

    the 9S470M1 Command Post (CP) vehicle (contains the missile battery’s data display and control system; digital fire-control computer, which assigns targets to individual launchers, and computes the engagement)

    one or more 9A310M1S launchers each armed with four radar-guided missiles.

    All three of these systems are vehicle-mounted.

    In a normal engagement, all three would operate as an integrated weapon system, and the crew of the Command Post vehicle are likely to have a good idea of the local air activity.

    However, a Buk launcher can also operate in stand-alone mode. Its built-in radar is normally used to track the target being engaged, but can be operated in a target-detection mode, allowing it to autonomously engage targets that were present in the radar’s forward field of view.

    Although it has it own Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system, this is only able to establish whether the target being tracked is a friendly aircraft. It is the electronic equivalent of a sentry calling out “Who goes there?” If there is no reply, all you know is that it is not one of your own side’s combat aircraft. It would not give you a warning that you were tracking an airliner.

    1. MtnLife

      So I did a few back of the envelope calculations using the data from that site. Given the height of the airliner at 33,000 ft, the 20 mi range of the missile, give it roughly 18.9 mi of horizontal coverage (no, I didn’t factor in curvature of the earth). At a cruising speed of 565 (avg, they may have been going faster) the maximum time it would have been in range, had it flown directly overhead, is 4 min 2 sec. Any other path the time drops. This seems like a very short window in which to decide and fire.

          1. Bozhe

            > target acquisition range approximately 140 km

            That’s with the separate target acquisition radar. If the TELAR was just using its built-in engagement radar for acquisition, the range would have been less, probably considerably so. Perhaps some radar-savvy reader could do an estimate of that.

            Anyway, it looks as if the whole scenario may have played out in not many minutes, leaving little time for mature consideration and adult supervision.

  17. Abe, NYC

    I said to a colleague at the time of the invasion, “Whether or not there are actually WMDs in Iraq, I’m sure Americans will find them.” I was wrong, they admitted there were none. Apparently it was too risky to fabricate hard evidence even in an area under their control.

    In this case it would be very stupid to try a “false flag” operation when there area is under a microscope, every movement and communication recorded.

    1. Banger

      With WMDs in Iraq there was no need to “find” them and put yourself into a position of too many lies. The war was a done deal and there was no reason to add to it. Americans quickly forgot the lie and there were no consequences and little dissent.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Hillary and Kerry didn’t become President. At best all they could do was argue about the conduct of the war, and even then, they had given W a blank check thus their complaints fell on deaf ears.

    2. Katniss Everdeen

      Abe, the administration would personally like to thank you for being a valued member of our “base.” What we like to call our “hook, line and sinker” voters.

      And if you need a ride to the polls in November, we will send a car.

      1. Abe, NYC

        Keep the car. Given the abuse I have poured on your administration here and elsewhere, I assume this is a trap to lure me into a poll site, then deport for voting illegally.

    3. Ned Ludd

      Any evidence that counters the official narrative will be ignored by the press.

      Daniel Hallin’s classic book The “Uncensored War” observes that journalists had “a great deal of information available which contradicted the official account [of Tonkin Gulf events]; it simply wasn’t used.” […]

      In the absence of independent journalism, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution — the closest thing there ever was to a declaration of war against North Vietnam — sailed through Congress on Aug. 7. (Two courageous senators, Wayne Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska, provided the only “no” votes.) The resolution authorized the president “to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.”

      The rest is tragic history.

      Nearly three decades later, during the Gulf War, columnist Sydney Schanberg warned journalists not to forget “our unquestioning chorus of agreeability when Lyndon Johnson bamboozled us with his fabrication of the Gulf of Tonkin incident.”

      Schanberg blamed not only the press but also “the apparent amnesia of the wider American public.”

      And he added: “We Americans are the ultimate innocents. We are forever desperate to believe that this time the government is telling us the truth.”

      1. Abe, NYC

        “You can fool all of the people some of the time, or some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

        Stoking hysteria, planting false stories, creating a bias and a biased context, is a time-honored method here in the US to rush legislation – just look at the Patriot Act. But it can only go on for so long; eventually the truth is reestablished. The purpose of powers that be is to do maximum damage until this happens.

        By contrast, in today’s Russia, as previously in the USSR, the media are practically monopolized by the state. This is still not the case in the US where the government’s hold on the media is far more tenuous by comparison. Russians in the meantime are moving to strangle blogs and social media. So in Russia the lies can go on for much longer. But even there, the truth is eventually revealed. Think of the downing of the Korean Boeing in 1983 for example.

    4. Fiver

      Abe in NY,

      The US and its fanatical right-wing Ukrainian allies had no problem breaking a brokered truce agreement with the Yanukovych Admin within 24 hours, then violently overthrowing the legitimate Government of Ukraine in a coup only the US Admin/NATO and US/Western big corporate media tried to label a ‘revolution’ – and this after the coup had already been explicitly telegraphed by neocon Victoria Nuland to the entire world. US media ignored what ought to have been a fatal blow to its immediate, coordinated “Blame Putin” theme, simply ratcheted up the war bluster and pathetic ‘expert’ bs and never looked back.

  18. Working Class Nero

    3) A deliberate Ukrainian attack: most likely
    4) A mistaken Novorussian attack: possible

    I’m going with a synthesis of these two options. The situation was that the Novorussians had recently turned the military tide and were starting to win. They had downed two military aircraft in recent days and this tends towards confidence leading to cockiness. At the same time the Ukrainians were getting just a little desperate and needed a big game changer. Just as any third world insurgent knows, the best thing that can happen is for your enemy to overreact and for example wipe out a mosque or a nursery school. I am no technical expert on this subject but I would say the Ukrainians manipulated the situation one way or the other so that MH17 both came into the range of the Novorussians and also appeared on their radar as at least no a civilian aircraft and perhaps even as a military plane. Ultimately the guys launching the missile are responsible for civilian deaths but if either the US or Russia ever release their surveillance data I am betting it will show Ukrainian involvement in steering MH17 into the kill zone.

    1. MtnLife

      I’m going to take your theory and push it a little further. Kiev is obviously responsible for moving the flight into the war zone. What if, to take some of the rumors as possibly true, the Ukies had a pair of jets shadowing the civilian air liner trying to hide in its radar shadow or using it as a human shield. The rebels fire at the fighter jets who drop countermeasures, explains the report of chaff, and break away leaving the missile to impact the civilian airliner. The Ukies can’t admit they were using the jet as a shield and the Novorussians can’t admit they shot it down, even if by accident, without world condemnation.

      1. Working Class Nero

        I totally agree. The phase using the MH17 as a “human shield” is key here. I meant to include it but rushed out my comment too quickly.

        1. MtnLife

          Also might not have been trying to hide. They could have been flying near enough to get the rebels to fire at them, knowing they could break away in time, and have the missile reacquire. Either way they were probably baiting them.

            1. Ned Ludd

              It may have been someone from the U.S. government who came up with the idea.

              In the publicity sheet that St. Martin’s Press has been sending out to spur interest in General Hugh Shelton’s new memoir, Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior, the last highlight is a doozy: “A high-ranking cabinet member suggests intentionally flying an American airplane on a low pass over Baghdad so as to guarantee it will be shot down, thus creating a natural excuse to retaliate and go to war.”

              As Sydney Schanberg wrote, “We Americans are the ultimate innocents. We are forever desperate to believe that this time the government is telling us the truth.”

            2. MtnLife

              The US and Russians both know what actually happened. Their radar coverage in that area is too thick not to. My inclination towards it being some mix is that neither side has rushed out any proof which you’d think they would to exonerate/blame. Why did Kiev seize (seized, not got a copy of) the ATC records? Why were they not immediately made public? Ukraine is acting guilty whether or not they did the actual shooting. If they did the actual shooting I’m sure it’ll be blamed on some patsy “rogue operators” and any national culpability deflected. There is a possibility of an accidental firing from the rebels but when asking cui bono the finger points towards Ukraine.

              1. CDN

                Military aircraft are equipped with radar warning receivers. They get notification when an engagement radar is painting them. Civilian aircraft lack this capability.
                If there were aircraft “shadows” they did not need to be at the same height as MH17. They may have been at an altitude below MH17 so that they were clearly visible to people of the ground.
                One witness report included hearing 3 explosions. It is possible that two of those “explosions” were actually sonic booms generated by the shadow aircraft breaking away and accelerating to clear the area.
                The NAF observe the fighter aircraft and fire a missile. The missile looses contact with the shadow fighters but engages MH17 at a higher altitude.

          1. Yata

            Somewhere out there is a suspicion that KAL-007 was deliberately routed closer to Kamchatka for…..aerial reconnaissance ???

      2. bruno marr

        The SA-11 missile isn’t designed to “impact the aircraft”. The missile warhead has a proximity fuse that detonates the warhead (explosives) near the target, which brings the intended target down.

        1. MtnLife

          I was using impact in a different way, slight miscommunication. Being hit by the missile had a huge impact on the flight. ;-) The missiles do so to hit smaller, faster moving objects like fighter jets. I’ve seen comments around (I’m no expert here) that the BuK doesn’t have the explosive force necessary to do enough damage to a huge 777 to bring it down, at least not without plenty of time for radio calls and maybe a hard landing, not so much a midair breakup. If this is true, I’ll be even more interested to hear the cockpit voice recorder. Anyone here have an informed opinion on this matter?

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          I believe the warhead explodes metal fragments (small metal rods?) and it’s the fragments that pierce the hull (and remain embedded in it). Like shrapnel, I think.

          That suggests that we will at some point have physical evidence….

          1. CDN

            There are multiple different types of warheads.
            The early BUK sprayed shrapnel forward and this has similar effect to a blast of shotgun pellets.
            Air-to-air missiles, and later BUK missiles, fired a bundle of rods forward toward the target. These penetrated and resulted in a loss of structural integrity leading to system damage and aircraft breakup. Aircraft breakup is promoted by the speed of forward travel. Essentially the wind tears the aircraft open once the missile starts the process.

    2. Ned Ludd

      Someone diverted the plane right into the war zone, unlike the previous flights of Malaysia Airlines 17. I did not put together this picture, but you can check the data at FlightAware. Use the mouse wheel to zoom into their map.

      On the day of the flight, there was also a significant adjustment to the flight path while flying over Poland, which led to the new flight path over the war zone.

      1. Paul Niemi

        True. I wrote about that here as soon as a map went up on Reuters, within hours of the crash, well before the question was grasped at other blogs. It has to be explained. You can see the adjustment in flight path started in the middle of Poland. What did the air traffic control in Kiev say to the jet? We need to know, and none of this “we can’t talk about that until the investigation is complete.” We also need to know who is responsible for investigating and interviewing witnesses. We need to know how they plan to investigate.

          1. Paul Niemi

            Reminds me of another jet, shot down by the Soviets when it, for one reason or another, strayed off course: Korean airlines flight 007 in 1983. It was also over restricted air space, and was shot down. The Soviets at the time claimed it was on a spy mission. For those who don’t remember, it was a 747 en route from New York to Seoul via Anchorage.

  19. Garrett Pace

    I have stopped paying attention to big stories like this one, at least in the first few days where nobody really knows anything. Discussion is fevered, and I get a sense people want to make up their minds before facts are in, because by then the news cycle will have moved on and diverted their attention to something else.

  20. larry

    Lambert, when was the last time you looked at Sam Gardiner’s “evidence”? If you look now, you will find that it no longer exists where it was. This is the essential problem with the cloud. Stuff can disappear. It is ephemeral. It cannot be trusted. I hope you downloaded it because you can no longer refer to it as evidence for your narrative.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Recently I had to dig them out again, and the PDFs seem to have gotten bit rot. (If anybody has copies, I’d be glad to archive them.) I did, however, find a full text copy, and now I can’t find the post where I linked to it. Google “Truth from these podia,” which is the title of his series.

  21. trish

    the US administration election year PR, and a cover here, as well.

    ‘One downed aircraft and the imperial corporate media blaming Russia, Poroshenko can now kill scores of Novorussians with no risks of it reported in the corporate media.’ Same for our admin. Helpful for all sorts current odious policies…And with it ensured a bigger conflict now, all the better, bigger cover, it seems to me.

    1. NYShooter

      Is it just me, or, does Obama really, really hate Vlad?
      He seems uncharacteristically firm, and, determined to clear the board of any alternative possibilities. I saw him on TV, and, with clenched jaws and all, his placing the bulls eye on Putin’s forehead was unequivocal.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Putin is the first person to have challenged Obama and not to have backed down when O’s cult started hurling insults, but since the Syrian War started, Obama has had no accomplishments in any form. He probably can’t recognize his own failures and blaming the GOP too much will raise questions about the status of the filibuster and his policy of kowtowing in the first place. Naturally, Putin has to be his enemy.

        Obama despises Putin because he can’t be dismissed as a hippie or a racist, and Obama doesn’t know how to conduct a real compromise where sides have legitimate concerns raised and answered. Putin is interested in tokens and neither are the Chinese. Name dropping Jay-Z won’t impress them, and Obama has no record of anything other than small steps and corporate giveaways with better branding. Between a lack of experience with genuine compromise, extreme arrogance, and not being as intelligent as say Leonard Nimoy, Obama is lashing out the man he blames for O’s tanking numbers and rather sparse library.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        Obama really hates him. Remember this?

        During Friday’s news conference, President Obama described Russian President Vladmir Putin as having a “slouch…looking like that bored schoolboy in the back of the classroom.”

        Typical Obama passive-aggressive shit. “Hey, just kidding!”

  22. Jim Haygood

    ‘So, there are two ways the accidental shoot down theory can be wrong: First, height is a sufficient discriminator.’

    Eastbound flight levels are set at odd thousands: 31,000 … 33,000 … 35,000 ft, etc.

    ATC directing MH17 to 33,000 ft is one step down from 35,000 ft. Also, a one-step change in flight level probably doesn’t cross a threshold of missile range. Flight levels reach up into the forties, so a versatile missile system needs a ceiling up to 50,000 ft or more.

    1. Working Class Nero

      I suppose effective missile range is a dome shape and is highest in the zone just above where the missile was shot. If you were trying to get an airplane into a missile’s range and you were stuck with a constraint of having it many kilometers away from the missile launch point, then the other variable would be the target’s flight level. I suppose though in the end of drop of +/- 600 meters (2000 ft) would probably only add a kilometer or two more to the missile’s range, pretty marginal but every little bit helps especially if they were right at their limits.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      This is good data, but I was thinking more that transports (big honkin blips) were far less likely than civilian aircraft (also big honkin blips) to fly at 33,000 feet. (I’m also assuming the radar gave an altitude reading, but that seems reasonable, no?)

  23. Abe, NYC

    And why can the story in Christian Science Monitor be dismissed so easily? Mr. Girkin himself never denied he made the post where boasts the rebels downed an An-26 in the morning of July 17th. He has since made numerous statements, none to the effect that he didn’t make the post.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      “Web evidence”

      If you need more explanation, I would recommend reading more books to work on your reading comprehension. The qualifying phrase is an indication there is no evidence except speculation from the usual suspects and unnamed sources from think tanks with a decided interest in the fight. There is plenty of “web” evidence to prove the Loch Ness Monster ate Tupac during a fishing trip with Andy Kaufman’s secret family before he could tell them the route the Nephites took to get to America w here they met Jesus.

      Then of course, the article only has references to speculation and never questions when Obama will take this to the UN or offers up a time table for the release of the ATC recordings.

      I know we shouldn’t feed trolls, but for all the money being spent on propaganda, can our government at least hire better bots?

      1. Abe, NYC

        Let’s see. The fact in question is whether or not the rebels claimed downing a Ukrainian An-26, which later turned out to be the Malaysian Airlines flight.

        Girkin boasted about it online and never disputed the fact he did. Russian news agencies also disseminated this news, I’ve quoted ITAR-TASS, in English. But I should disregard all this evidence, I should trust you when you say it’s akin to the proof of existence of the Loch-Ness monster.

        I’m not nearly as good as you at doublethink to disregard evidence that stares at me in the face. Your comment that I’m a bot, or paid by your government, or whatever, I take as a badge of honor. I’ve been called before an agent of the Russian government, commie sympathizer, CIA agent, etc. As long as I get those comments, I can be sure I haven’t grown scales on my eyes.

        1. Fiver

          And when someone with record as terrifying as John Brennan’s shows up in Kiev immediately prior to Kiev’s adoption of its current ‘all or nothing’ posture, you infer nothing about Ukrainian policy and tactics?

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Had you considered reading the post? It explains why digital evidence is not to be trusted. I’ll leave refuting “He didn’t deny it, therefore he agrees with it” as an exercise for readers. Works on comments sections, perhaps.

  24. Carolinian

    One aspect of this not talked about is the degree to which lame news coverage of the Ukrainian rebellion may have contributed to complacency by the Malaysians in allowing their plane to overfly the combat zone. For example how many people knew about the shootdown of that Antonov BEFORE the airliner downing happened? I believe it was mentioned in passing by our press outlets but the tenor of the coverage has been that the Ukrainian government was winning the conflict and basically in mopping up mode.

    Also, re the flight path, as I said the other day there are ways of checking the likely flight path of a plane between two points using the built in Jeppesen’s data in MS Flight Simulator X. Between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur that would be to the south of the combat zone over the Sea of Azov. The U.S. in a fit of pique after the Crimea annexation did declare the airspace over Crimea as closed on the basis that Ukrainian and Russian ATC would be giving pilots dueling instructions. However it’s unclear whether this would apply to foreign airlines.

    But the flight path diversion is likely irrelevant unless you believe the Ukrainians did it on purpose to shoot the plane down (and why bother?….there were evidently other airliners to shoot down over that space at the same time….flights to more northerly Asian destinations doubtless do have great circle routes over the combat area).

    Also Pat Lang has said the black boxes are irrelevant as the pilots wouldn’t have been able to react to a plane exploding in midair. The jets do have onboard radar for detecting other planes (but probably not missiles coming from the ground).

    Bottom line: this was probably an accidental shootdown by either the Ukrainians (trigger happy about Russian fighters?) or the rebels. And if U.S. or Russia had hard evidence as opposed to Youtube evidence I’m guessing we would have heard it by now. Quite likely we’ll never know what happens unless some guilty party admits it.

    1. Jackrabbit

      complacency by the Malaysians in allowing their plane to overfly the combat zone

      AFAIK, The pilot has to obey instructions from Air Traffic Control so pointing fingers at Malaysians for failure to recognize the risk (or media for failure to better report what is going on) doesn’t really make sense.

      the flight path diversion is likely irrelevant . . . (and why bother?….there were evidently other airliners to shoot down over that space at the same time
      Links? AFAIK, many (most?) commercial airlines were avoiding the area. And the diversion is KEY if only because there doesn’t seem to have been a good reason for it (also: see my comment below). In addition, some scenarios (such as fooling the separatists to fire at a troop transport) require some degree of coordination/setup.

      Bottom line . . .
      Its difficult to trust, or give the benefit of the doubt to a desperate, belligerent Ukraine or its Western sponsors/protectors.

      1. Carolinian

        All airlines file a flight plan before departure and if the Malaysians felt the area to be dangerous then they had the option to avoid it then. As I said, and this also applies to Ned Ludd below, the great circle route using standard high altitude jetways between those two cities does in fact avoid the combat area and the Washington Post among others has already said the plane was diverted to the North although they didn’t say why. However it is my understanding that the pilot and the airline are the ultimate arbiters of safety and if they didn’t feel it safe to fly over the combat area they were under no obligation to do so. They could, for example, have diverted even further to the North.

        Several news stories have said there were other civilian airliners over the combat area that day. I don’t have good access to Google at the moment but this could probably be verified (or not verified). To be sure, the beat reporters writing on this often seem shaky on their facts.

        And the bottom line is still–imo– that short of hard proof of some kind we may never know what happened.

        1. Jackrabbit

          . . . if the Malaysians felt the area to be dangerous then they had the option to avoid it then.

          You’re just repeating yourself. So I will also repeat: It’s my understanding that they don’t have an option. A flight plan is just that – a PLAN. The pilot has to obey ATC.

          1. Carolinian

            Your understanding is incorrect.This is how it works in the US. The dispatcher works for the airline. ATC’s job is solely to separate traffic. Therefore pilots check with the controller for a particular area before making course changes. FAA procedures generally apply globally and all pilots are even required to speak english to avoid confusion. National governments can certainly forbid planes from certain areas (and send up interceptors if necessary) but my understanding–welcome to be proved wrong–is that they are not able to order a plane into danger against the pilot’s judgement.

            FAR 121.533 states that both the Airline Captain and Dispatcher are held jointly responsible for the safety of the flight. Each are required to sign a Dispatch Release before the flight can legally depart. The “two heads are better than one” concept is employed by the U.S. government.


          2. Carolinian

            More on this


            ATC is for traffic separation and airport control. Pilots are required to obey instructions about certain things such as altitude or a change of course if they are about to strike another plane. But ultimately the safety of the airplane is the pilot’s responsibility.

        1. Jackrabbit

          Well, we don’t know what those other planes were. Some may be military, regularly scheduled domestic, package delivery service, etc. In any case, I only see three other flights that are in or seem to close t traveling in to rebel airspace and one of these is very close to MH17 and traveling in the same direction. Could this be a military plane (there is some reason to believe that there may have been an escort AND/OR attempt to fool the rebels into firing).

          It seems kinda irresponsible that the WIRED reporter didn’t talk about different types of air traffic.

          1. Working Class Nero

            It would be interesting to see what Ukrainian policy had been in the weeks leading up to the crash on allowing civilian planes to overfly in this area. If for the two weeks before the disaster, planes had been regularly allowed to overfly this area, that would be one thing. If however they had generally not been allowed, but on 17 July there had been a shift in Ukrainain ATC policy and civilian planes were suddenly allowed to overfly this war zone, then that would raise some serious questions.

      2. timbo

        If you use flightaware for Indian Airline #116 and Singapore Airlines #305 on 17th July you will see they had a similar flight path to MH #17, around the same time of day.

    2. Ned Ludd

      There is a difference between flying over southeastern Ukraine and flying over the war zone where the Kiev government is bombing cities and the rebels have shot down military aircraft. On July 17th, Malaysia Airlines 17 was directed right into the war zone – a significant difference from its earlier flights over southeastern Ukraine. This is not my picture, but the data used to compile it is available at FlightAware.

      1. Ned Ludd

        CBS News also reported that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 deviated from previous flight paths.

        In the last two weeks, the plane flew roughly the same path 14 times, traversing the diagonal length of Ukraine to the Sea of Azov close to Crimea. But Thursday’s route deviated slightly. The Boeing 777 went farther north than typical. It’s unclear why.

        The deviation that led to this new flight path appears to have occurred while flying over Poland.

  25. Michael Hudson

    I’ve worked with national intelligence “fixers” for years at the Hudson Institute (Herman Kahn, mossad visitors, DOD people), and if there IS the strategy that Lambert plausibly suggests, it is placed in a BROADER systemic context.
    One key is, WHY NOW? Putin was making victory after victory in Brazil, and just yesterday Argentina. the war tide in Eastern Ukraine was turning — sufficiently to persuade even Western Ukrainians that their government had been hijacked.
    Did Obama want to go down in poetical history (six-month half-life) as “the president who lost Ukraine”? There was some urgency to DO SOMETHING — and the time was now.
    It IS possible that local federalists shot down the plane. IF Russia were somehow involved, it would NOT simply destroy the evidence. It would say, “Look, there’s an ethnic cleansing war going on here, Bosnia style. Bombers are bombing civilian centers, simply because federalists want the right to vote. Of course they’re keeping all the planes away, because the main planes there are bombers coming after them.”
    So assuming the Russians know what happened, this suggests that federalists did NOT do it.
    Also, what IS orchestrated is the English press and US press trotting out the usual suspects: Bildt from Sweden, Aslund from the Petersen Inst, and similar neocons one-sidedly.
    Such asymmetry usually has a motive when you look at the big picture.

    1. susan the other

      So that raises the question, Why would Russia be silent knowing it was the US who plotted to bring down this plane? And also, Why this particular plane?

      1. Cynthia

        Both the US and Russia have highly efficient radar systems that can track and record all flights and any missile launches. The cultural differences and strategies between the countries is likely at work here. The US is highly reactive, often shooting before thinking, whilst the Russians are more considerate and will thoroughly analyze their radar recordings and the plane’s black box info before speaking up. So I am not surprised that the Russians are being fairly quiet about this. But the Americans might well already know and are keeping quiet (about the truth that is, though very loud about the blame) in order to take advantage of as much of the initial propaganda against Russia as possible before the truth comes out. It’s like the Syrian poison gas issue – once the lie is pushed out there and people grab hold of it. It makes little difference once the real truth comes out later – by then it’s too late.

      2. Ned Ludd

        The rebels may have shot down the plane. I think it is too soon to rule anything out. However, someone, for reasons unknown, diverted this plane into the war zone, where bombs were dropping and military planes were being shot from the sky. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 took a different route than its previous flights. The initial deviation appears to have occurred while flying over Poland.

        In 2010, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote a memoir where he revealed that a high-ranking cabinet member suggested flying an American airplane on a low pass over Baghdad, so it would be shot down and provide a “a precipitous event” for military intervention. Justin Elliott, then at Salon, quoted this excerpt from the book:

        At one of my very first breakfasts, while Berger and Cohen were engaged in a sidebar discussion down at one end of the table and Tenet and Richardson were preoccupied in another, one of the Cabinet members present leaned over to me and said, “Hugh, I know I shouldn’t even be asking you this, but what we really need in order to go in and take out Saddam is a precipitous event — something that would make us look good in the eyes of the world. Could you have one of our U-2s fly low enough — and slow enough — so as to guarantee that Saddam could shoot it down?”

      3. Dino Reno

        As to this particular plane, Netherlands is/was Russia’s strongest ally in Europe. Maybe Russia is experiencing a “stunned” silence. Never, ever saw this coming. Can’t believe it came to this. Raising and calling Putin’s bet. The stakes have gotten Very High Limit now. Time for bluffing is over. Just give us back Eastern Ukraine and we will stand down or so said Kerry today on TV in so many words. This time we really, really mean it or things will start to go really, really wrong like exhibit A. You might say we blew his mind. He has the look.

      4. NotTimothyGeithner

        One issue could be combing the satellite data for the actual launch. There are only so many assets, so at some point, one probably still has to look in a given area. The view is probably top down if they didn’t have satellites turned at the horizon. Then they would have to track the vehicle’s firing location, subsequent destination, and point of origin to identify it. They probably aren’t set up for this given that only side is operating planes, most of which operate at a much lower altitude.

        The other explanation is they know already which leads to two major outcomes:

        -one, it was the separatists and the result is still the U.S. screaming and BRICS moving closer. Go to DKOS for more details.

        -two, it was the Ukrainians. The U.S. has no shame and can only supply the Kiev government as a practical matter. After Syria, the Odessa massacre, the coup, overstepping boundaries in Libya, the ISIS breakout, etc, its very obvious the U.S. and its gangs are deranged. Obama is incapable of reason and even reasoning, but he does understand fear and embarrassment. I wouldnt be surprised if the Chinese were given information. Let the U.S. expose itself. Without evidence, the Chinese wont accept propaganda. Who would look better announcing data given the two year long propaganda war against Putin? The Russians or Malaysians. Could you imagine the Malaysian PM and Venezuela asking to join the BRICS while leaving the Netherlands asking questions about what did NATO countries know?

        The last possibility is electronic gathering and satellites are really no match for on site witnesses and low level flyovers despite propaganda over the years to justify hideous defense budgets. Maybe they didn’t have a satellite over the region during the launch.

      5. habenicht

        I’m no 6 dimensional chess player, but I see it this way. Suppose Russia could demonstrate the Ukraine putsch govt was responsible. I think the choice would be framed this way:

        1 set the record straight now for +0 points or
        2 see what the Ukraine putsch govt come up with. Odds are they will make some kind of outlandish claims – at this point the truth would catch them in a big lie where Russia can maximize the amount of credibility lost by the Ukraine Putsch govt and their supporters. (+25 points!)

    2. Brindle

      Thanks for the analysis. The demonization of Putin by the US/UK and compliant media is obviously a planned project.

    3. Abe, NYC

      Let’s apply cui bono to perhaps the greatest unresolved mystery of the conflict: who sent the snipers to the Maidan. The party who benefited the most is undoubtedly Mr. Putin, who got to grab Crimea, sent his approval ratings through the roof, diverted attention away from the economic woes caused by his corrupt rule, and created a hysterical and jingoistic climate which has enabled him to crush the remnants of the opposition and likely keep his holds on power for years if not decades to come.

      So, did Putin send the snipers?

  26. FederalismForever

    Once again, on the issue of Bush deliberately lying about Saddam having WMD, Lambert fails to apply the principle of cui bono to draw the obvious conclusion that George W. Bush was a secret agent of the Democratic Party. After all, if one is going to claim that the Bush team deliberately LIED (as in “with intent and malice aforethought”) about something that would inevitably be revealed as false as the war progressed (a crucial distinction from the Gulf of Tonkin or battleship Maine incidents), and that therefore would inflict enormous damage on the credibility of the Bush Administration and the Republican Party in general (thereby benefitting the Democratic Party), then one must conclude (again, on the principle of cui bono) that Bush and his neocon advisors were closet Democrats! It was all a Democratic Party conspiracy! And a successful one, since the Republicans subsequently lost the Senate and each of the last two Presidential Elections.

    Or . . . maybe it isn’t so simple. Maybe Bush just isn’t that bright, and got played by smarter people like Chalabi and agent “curveball” and the Zionist agents in the Office of Special Plans who all have dual-Israeli citizenship. Maybe Bush and his team were only guilty of exaggerations and manipulations rather than bold-faced deceptions.

    1. Working Class Nero

      You are making the huge assumption, in applying cui bono to the political parties, that the Democrats and Republicans are in a competitive situation. Certainly concerning Israeli policy this is not the case, and aside a few meaningless Kabuki Kulture War issues, they have the same interests on other issues as well.

      On Israel, let’s hear it from that Honorable Dual Citizen from Florida, Debbie Wasserman Schultz after she had been accused of claiming their was a difference between Republicans and Democrats on Israel:

      “I didn’t say he said that,” she said. “And unfortunately, that comment was reported by a conservative newspaper. It’s not surprising that they would deliberately misquote me. What I always say is that unfortunately the Republicans have made Israel a political football, which is dangerous for Israel. And Ambassador Oren has said that we can’t ever suggest that there is any daylight between the two parties on Israel, because there isn’t. And that that’s harmful to Israel. That’s what I said, and that is accurate. We have to make sure that in America we don’t have people who put their love of party in front of their love of Israel. As the first Jewish woman to represent Florida in Congress, I take my love of Israel to work with me every single day, and I want to make sure that we re-elect President Obama.”

      I would say a more accurate way to describe the situation is that one party will burn as much political capital as possible supporting Israel. When these policies inevitably become unpopular, as sometimes happens when politicians from one nation place another nation’s interests above its own, then the other party is brought in to start burning whatever political capital they happened to accumulate by not being the party in the last round doing unpopular things for Israel. As Ms. Wasserman Schultz says, an American politician’s job is to place Israel’s interests above her own party’s, and by implication, her second nation’s (for the dual citizens) interests as well.

  27. Abe, NYC

    July 14th, 2014. Ukrainian An-26 downed over Donetsk from the altitude of 6.5km. Ukraine accuses Russia of the incident but the rebels quickly claim responsibility, Alexei Chmilenko states they have the weapons necessary.

    July 17th, 2014. Igor Girkin tweets that the rebels downed another An-26, “told them not to fly in our sky.” This later turns out to be the MH17.

    Now, to believe that Ukrainians downed the MH17 you’ve got to assume that the rebels were lying when they said they have the weapons, and then again lying when they said they downed the plane, but are now telling the truth that they didn’t. Occam’s razor.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I wouldn’t hang a dog on the basis of a tweet. You got farther than the first paragraph, right?

      (I wouldn’t hang a dog anyhow, but you see what I mean.)

      1. Abe, NYC

        I read your post in full, and also commented above there is no reason to doubt the authenticity of Girkin’s post. He himself never questioned that. Also, Russian news sites were full of the news “An-26 down” in the morning of the 17th.

    2. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

      Like I said before, Occam’s Razor isn’t applicable to psychological ops where the only people with the actual evidence in hand are the same elite factions who are running the ops. This isn’t anywhere near the physical sciences.

      1. Abe, NYC

        Occam’s razor doesn’t say which theory is true, only which one is the likeliest. It still applies in human relationships. The theory that the rebels downed the plane by accident requires the fewest assumptions; that the Ukrainians did it deliberately, the most. Therefore it is more likely that the rebels did it.

        1. Gaianne

          Fewest assumptions? How about half-way sane assumptions? The point is not the number of assumptions, but their quality!

          I think you have confused The Razor with Occam’s Baby Seal Clubbing Stick.


        2. Fiver

          And why not one of the Ukrainian military units under the control of fanatical anti-Russians from the far right ? Ukraine reportedly has a score or more of the Soviet-era mobile launcher systems, and more than one in the east. Why couldn’t a useful idiot/rogue element on the Ukraine side not be as qualified for scrutiny as the ‘separatists’?

  28. Jackrabbit

    Kudos and thanks for pulling all of this together Lambert,

    Wouldn’t it be logical to assume the change in flight PATH when the plane entered Ukrainian airspace represented a deviation from the flight PLAN? Then the key question becomes: was there a good reason for the deviation that would take the plane over a war zone?

    OIFVet says that the reason put forth so far (unofficially?) is weather. But as he has pointed out, that appears to make no sense.

    It is easy to answer this question. Ukraine has the recordings and access to the ATC people involved. They don’t need to wait for the black boxes to be retrieved. The longer Ukraine takes to answer this key question, the more likely that they are covering something up.

    And disingenuous innuendo from Obama – that a Russian-made missile downed the plane – knowing full well that Ukraine also has Russian-made missiles, is itself, cause for suspicion.

    H O P

    1. SP

      Not so much an innuendo, as an automatic “editing” of information to form opinion.

      Look at another example: there are THREE other events in which a passenger jet was shot down by someone’s mistake: 1983 USSR (Korean jet), 1988 US (Iran jet), 2001 Ukraine (Russian jet). Right? But the Telegraph live coverage for all three days had among top-liner “summaries” just the following line: “Similarity with 1983 USSR incident”. Well, why exactly this one and not all three? To form opinion. It is the 1983 incident that had USSR proclaimed as the axis of evil, and they will do exactly the same thing this year.

      1. Ray Duray


        If you review the literature you hopefully learn that KAL 007 was intentionally shot down by a Russian AF fighter pilot. This plane was not mistakenly shot down.

        And if you examine the evidence surrounding the USS Vincennes attack on the Iran Air Lines Flight 655 you will have to conclude that this was in fact intentional. One tell for intention? The fact that the Captain of the Vincennes was given a medal for the shoot-down. Even as callous and cynical as we are in America, we don’t hand out medals to fools perpetrating accidents.

        1. OIFVet

          “Only a decade later, when Snyder saw the complete transcripts — including the portions that the Reagan administration had hidden — would he fully realize how many of the central elements of the U.S. presentation were false.

          The Soviet fighter pilot apparently did believe he was pursuing a U.S. spy plane, according to the intercepts, and he was having trouble in the dark identifying the plane. At the instructions of Soviet ground controllers, the pilot had circled the KAL airliner and tilted his wings to force the aircraft down. The pilot said he fired warning shots, too. “This comment was also not on the tape we were provided,” Snyder wrote.

          It was clear to Snyder that in the pursuit of its Cold War aims, the Reagan administration had presented false accusations to the United Nations, as well as to the people of the United States and the world. To these Republicans, the ends of smearing the Soviets had justified the means of falsifying the historical record.”

          “Even as callous and cynical as we are in America, we don’t hand out medals to fools perpetrating accidents” Ya think so? First, the medal was for the “tour of duty”, not for shooting down the airliner. Second, have you seen the list of the Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients? Many war criminals on that list, including Tony Blair who, as we know, conspired with Bush to fix the intelligence to justify the Iraq war. In general, your entire argument is retarded and your writing barely meets the standard for what is called ‘literacy’.

    2. Carolinian

      The Obama claim is that the missile was fired from a particular location inside the rebel area (village called Torez). But I’ve not seen any verification and as Lambert says all intelligence claims are suspicious.

  29. John

    Media missteps asside. One thing is for sure Russia and the USA are big helpers — Russia in Ukraine and USA in Gaza. Both provide arms that are used to #kill.

      1. ambrit

        Well, if the LDS are really descendants of one of the Lost Tribes, they most likely embarked from the Gaza Coast or Tyre. So, the U.S. would be helping ethnic cousins by sending ‘Assistance’ to Gaza today. (See how much fun conspiracy theories can be?)
        That would be a reasonable equivalency to Russia helping ethnic Russians in Donetsk and elsewhere.
        Which brings up one of those unexpected outcomes from the Wests’ stoking of ethnic rivalries in Ukraine: All of the other Russian population enclaves in now foreign countries. Such as: Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Caucasus States, the Far East (all those White Russians in Shanghai etc.) why, good heavens, parts of New York City!
        The true equivalency here is the status of the two ex superpowers as the worlds major arms suppliers. There is big money in Death.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          The U.S. has lost South America and Africa for 10 years as defense markets. Without Europe purchases, U.S. defense firms are cooked given the domestic situation.

          1. Fiver

            A microscopic reduction in the growth rate of the defense industry has rendered it “cooked”? Poor dears.

  30. Christopher Dale Rogers

    I note that John Kerry, US Secretary of State, is opening is rather guffaw prone mouth again on the subject of the Malaysian Airline disaster and once more apportioning blame to Russia, instructing Putin to rein in the Ukrainian Federalists, despite the fact that Russia does not control the Ukraine, something to do with the fact that it’s a sovereign nation state suffering civil war, a civil war instigated by the USA, EU and NATO.

    Perhaps Secretary of State Kerry needs to update himself a little, for was it not his department that has supported an illegitimately installed cabal to run the Ukraine instead of a much disliked democratically elected government, which if it were not for a coup supported by the Troika, would have been thrown out of power by the electorate via the ballot box – essentially, the Federalist issue and Crimean issue would not have existed, and hence the Malaysian plane would not have been blown out of the sky.

    Does not Kerry understand its his and the USA’s actions, aided and abetted by the EU and NATO member states that has contributed the most to this debacle, and not the Russian Federation and Putin administration.

    That most US, UK and much western media ignores these facts and continues not only to blame Russia, but now suggest further punitive actions against Russia beggars belief. And should we air these same facts in other mainstream media outlets, those actually telling the truth are accused of being Russian propagandists and Islamist – now beat that. Absolute madness, and yet it was absolute madness that within a 37 day timeline pitched most of Europe into a massive war of destruction only one hundred years ago.

    I suggest Kerry and his handlers read up on the origins of WWI, I further suggest they watch the BBC docudrama “Threads” to see where their bullshite, lies and sabre rattling will end. One is getting scarred and having lived with the Cold War for much of my life, I cannot understand why certain hidden forces desire this end result, which becomes more certain the more they point fingers and accuse Russia of crimes it itself has had no hand in whatsoever.

    1. Sluggeaux

      Yep. Finally somebody is talking about the roots of the “Ukraine Crisis.” Looking at the context and listening to the actual statements of Obama and Kerry, I can only conclude that their proxies fomented the Maidan Coup d’Etat, and that their motivation was to give Mr. Putin a black eye after he made them look like fools over their “Wag the Dog” attempted war in Syria.

      “Ukraine” as a nation-state is nothing but a fiction produced after of the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian and Czarist empires followed quickly by Bolshevik pogroms, famines, and ethnic cleansings perpetrated by Stalin and Khruschev briefly punctuated by Nazi German pogroms, famines, and ethnic cleansings, and finally by the disorderly collapse of the Soviet Union. The peoples of that region have no history of democracy or self-determination in the past century, and Obama and Kerry’s platitudes after fomenting an illegal Coup d’Etat are as embarrassingly disingenuous as Johnson’s Tonkin Gulf lies or Bush’s WMD falsehoods.

      It defies reason and belief that there is no discussion about the fact that the illegitimate government of “Ukraine” has been terror-bombing civilian targets, or that the BuK is a defensive missile system. Kerry’s blaming of Putin and Russia ought to be reasonably stood on its head as an invitation for them to invade Donetsk as peace-keepers — not at all a bad idea, except that it may create a massive wave of non-Russian refugees heading west.

  31. vlade

    While I’d be happy to say that Ukrainians don’t have tactics much better than the Russians or rebels, your “bliking number 3” is just…

    Let’s assume Ukraine did it. Then the rebels and Russians have enourmous incentive to prove it. One way to do so it by cooperating – and they DONT’T HAVE TO COOPERATE WITH EU! The plane was Malaysian, they could happily invite Malay authorities to come in and secure the site. Not to load the dead on a frozen meat wagon to be sent who knows where.

    So far, Russians and rebels did absolutely nothing reasonable that would be able to pin it on Ukrainians. The theories they spewed are just dumb (to assassinate Putin??? WTF).
    You rule out Facebook/Twitter etc, because “it can be hacked”. Yes, it can. Don’t you think Strelkov & co would notice? They never, be it with the picture of BUK or the boasting of a plane shot down said “someone hacked our accounts!”. They deleted the files – which is an entirely different action.

    Sorry, but you’re building a whole conspiracy theory that the BUK operators would notice the planes was civilian. Occam razor tells me that the simpler theory is that a captured BUK was operated by trigger happy rebels with minimum knowledge – and Russian and rebels behavior seem to confirm that.

    I have to say, that I find the pro-Russian/rebel stance on NC fairly disturbing – for a single reason, that it seems to be backed by nothing more than “an enemy of my enemy is my friend”. No, it isn’t. Obama is only trying to get where Putin already is, and it’s much much easier to derail Obama (or US leadership) in that that getting Russia to where US is even now.

    1. FederalismForever

      @vlade. Your second to last paragraph is spot-on.

      Although I will not try to defend the Obama Administration’s actions w/r/t Russia or the Ukraine, it seems foolish to conclude that Putin is “winning” the long game against the US and/or the West. If anything, he seems to be over-playing his hand. Although Putin despises NATO encroachment, these recent events are likely to increase NATO’s popularity in Eastern Europe. Moreover, how must the inhabitants of Chechnya feel about this? Could Chechnya become a ‘hot spot’ once again? Combine all of this with the ongoing flight of Western capital and the likely imposition of more sanctions, and one is left with the conclusion that Putin’s actions will only lead to increased instability.

      1. OIFVet

        So, we start something and Putin is to blame for reacting? Do you mind turning down the setting of the Exceptionalism Narrative Creator machine to a bit less obnoxious level? Thanks.

    2. hunkerdown

      Razors aren’t useful where the hairs can react and conform to the razor. The Western/Ukie ATC confiscation *not* being followed by immediate release of copies are the acts of a coverup. If the West is blameless why would they do that?

    3. Abe, NYC

      Agree on every point. I still cannot recover from the shock that a community which I have been a part of for years (if not so vocal until recently) and which purports to espouse independent thinking and progressive values, fell so easily for a corrupt, imperialist politician simply because he is opposed to a fainter American version of the same.

      1. OIFVet

        “fainter American version of the same”?! Wow! What sort of alternative reality do you inhabit? And WTF are “progressive values”? They seem to vary with the party affiliation of the occupant of the WH so forgive me for not knowing what “progressives” REALLY stand for.

        1. Abe, NYC

          Obama is only trying to get where Putin already is, and it’s much much easier to derail Obama (or US leadership) in that that getting Russia to where US is even now.

          Whichever universe I inhabit, vlade seems to be there as well as a small but significant number of others on this thread.

          And you are right, since the Ukrainian conflict broke out I don’t know anymore what progressives really stand for.

          1. OIFVet

            Trying to get to where Putin already is? Does Putin have military bases in 63 countries?

            And how the hell do you call yourself a “progressive” if you don’t even know what that means?

            1. Abe, NYC

              I would expect progressives to be opposed to war, imperialism, and oligarchical capitalism whether pushed by the US, Russia, or any other country. That is not what I see.

          2. Fiver

            You’re claiming to be “progressive” and in the same breath supporting the utterly reckless decision to “Get Putin” when he clearly out-pointed Obama on Syria and was making progress with Iran. Ukraine presented the opportunity. Even though key elements of the plot had been revealed to the public via widespread circulation of an officially acknowledged, taped conversation of a high-level US State Department official, the coup went ahead, in direct violation of a negotiated truce.

            Ukraine is drenched in blood as this illegitimate regime’s (backed by, if rhetoric means anything, iron-clad pledges of US/NATO power engaged) toxic birth has taken the minds of Ukraine’s leadership into a glaringly irrational pugnaciousness in its actions and conduct vis a vis a raft of legitimate counter-claims. It does not occur to them to negotiate on anything, and Obama must approve. The country is headed for an economic iceberg, signed away by buddy Yats who claimed he had no other option.

            Ukraine’s prospects are up the flue for years at best, with anyone’s guess how many more hundreds, or thousands dead, injured and impoverished, or how much infrastructure destroyed. All in exchange for a different oligarchy to begin the process of selling the choicest public and private assets in Ukraine off to the highest bidders.

            There’s your ‘progress’ – global corporate/financial looting – on the other hand, it could end up with a major war lasting 5 years killing tens or hundreds of thousands or more, and the country looking like Iraq. If the US and Ukraine do not back off, and there is no doubt it is they who press – a cardinal US posturing trait to demand ‘total surrender’ since WWII – making a worse event than this is all too likely.

            Ukraine is being used in the worst of ways and the recourse to extreme violence immediately and virtually continuously, together with the wildest sort of abusive, snarling, fanatic-but-directed hate rhetoric bears no relation to ‘progress’ so far as I can discern.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            Well, opinions are something everybody has….

            It would seem like the most obvious thing in the world to pin your accusation to the post, so since you have not, I can only assume you are not able to. Just because people don’t wave pom poms for war doesn’t mean they have “fallen for” Putin. Dear Lord.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      As for the incentives of the Russians:

      1) Given the attitude of the United States and our famously free press, it’s not clear that whatever proof the Russians would come up with would have any result at all.

      2) The Russians know what they have; but they don’t know what we have. Why should the Russians expose their hand first?

      3) The real incentive the Russians have is to get the flight recorders to an independent third party who would be credible; I gave evidence that’s why they’re doing.

      On all the varying stories, they’re all non-official sources, as smart or as dumb as anything you could read over here. (Paul Craig Roberts seems to believe that the Putin assassination theory is tenable, however.)

      On your CT accusation, that’s just dumb. All I’m trying to do is figure out the capabilities of the BUC operators, and I show plenty of differing views getting down to detail. And that’s a key issue in the game, right? Knowing if they could do what they are alleged to have done? If that be CT, I plead guilty. (The analogy between going to war with Saddam because we “knew” he had WMDS and wanting Hans Blix to complete his investigations is exact.)

      Your last para is even dumber. You’ve got tribal pom pom waving confused with finding out the facts, whether they’re inconvenient to your side or not. The door to Daily Kos is that way; I think you’ll be much more comfortable there.

  32. Chauncey Gardiner

    Despite the concerted efforts of a small group of the usual unelected suspects to make this tragic event a “Franz Ferdinand moment”, We the American People have no dog in this fight, at least not yet and hopefully not ever.

    But as Lambert has so astutely initiated, the further one goes down the rabbit hole on this matter, the “curiouser and curiouser” it all becomes.

    Setting aside emerging concerns regarding the possible engineering of this tragedy or a false flag, why is Ukraine being deemed in the strategic interest of the U.S. elite? Or has it now become a personal vendetta?… or is it being used to divert attention from other serious matters?… or all of the above?

    Dang if I know, but those seeking another war appear to be gaining the media attention which they so clearly cherish.

  33. SP

    How come nobody is mentioning the following version: Ukranian forces tricking the rebels into shooting down the civilan jet, by (a) misinformation (let’s “leak” to the rebels that a military jet is coming that route at known time) and then (b) diverting the civilian jet into the “leaked” path instead.

    So, the version is a mix of two: yes, the rebels shot it down, but by deliberate misdirection done by those for whom this would clearly be advantageous in all those respects you allude to in the main article. In other words, a perfect win for the Cui bono

    As for the “transponder” that helps distinguish military jets from the civilian ones – WHAT IF it could be switched off remotely somehow? Would it make the above plan far easier? What if the “technology” for this was already tested a few months back, when another Malaysian 777 inexplicably vanished from the radars?

    1. hunkerdown

      I’ve heard MH17 was being escorted by Ukie fighters until a few minutes before the hit, and one track I saw shortly after the crash for MH17 goes dead just east of Kiev, after a slight jog to the north. The Ukie jets would have been Bugs Bunny holding the red cape and MH17 would have been the brick wall concealed just behind it. That’s some sick jiu-jitsu, in more than one sense of “sick”.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      I’m thinking along the same lines. Rather than a mechanical, cause-and-effect, Brutus stabbing Caesar situation, a booby trapped environment and playing the odds. Set up minefield, shove enough people into it, and somebody’s going to blow off a leg. Just metaphors at this stage. The set of booby traps is a a portfolio to be managed…

  34. indio007

    All I know is that the relentless propaganda is on par with 9/11.
    Google News front page is chock full of misleading tag lines that do not even reflect what the relevant news article actually says.

    1. Brindle

      ‘Zactly…..The level of pure unadulterated propaganda is head spinning—-and why i do not browse Google News page much at all anymore.

  35. susan the other

    There was a disconcerting point made by PCR that the cover story in the western media both in the US and the UK was prepared (some proof of the time this stuff was made and submitted both to the media and UTube) BEFORE MH17 was shot down. If this is correct it means the whole thing was planned well in advance. This information is like the New Zealand newspaper reporting on JFK’s assassination the day before it happened because somebody misunderstood the international dateline.

    1. reset

      Point of clarification: the New Zealand newspaper published the story on JFK assassination on the day of, not the day before. The edition was on the street approximately 5-6 hours after the shooting. A U.S. air force colonel was in New Zealand and picked up a copy of the paper as he was searching for news of the event. The colonel noted that a fully formed story implicating Oswald – including photograph and biography – was carried on the front page, even though Oswald would not be charged with the shooting for a further 5-6 hours. He found the information to be suspiciously swift, particularly as an international story in 1963.

  36. John Puma

    I have read the airliner, at one point, had a Ukraine military fighter escort. This makes possible the “shoot-down” possibility.

    Since the debris in in Eastern Ukraine, if examination were to implicate a bomb, it is highly unlikely the US, and it’s running dog lackies would accept that information.

    Note the AN-26 transport operates at an effective ceiling of 22,000-24,000 and presumably is thus vulnerable to less sophisticated missile systems. (See below.)

    I followed embedded link in your quote: “Note that all the players in the region — Russia, Ukraine, and the rebels — had access to the BUK.)”

    It leads to a Council on Foreign Relations blogger who says: “Meanwhile, AP journalists claim to have seen a Buk missile launcher within rebel-controlled territory earlier in the day.”

    The link embedded in that quote leads to a Washington Post site which provides only: “In recent months, the rebels have shot down numerous Ukrainian military aircraft using short-range surface-to-air missiles. Experts said such rockets could probably not reach a plane flying at 33,000 feet, as Flight 17 was said to be. But UKRAINIAN AUTHORITIES authorities have said the rebels recently obtained Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missiles — a complex system using ground radar to guide a missile to its target and which, experts said, requires expertise and training to operate. Rebel spokesmen denied responsibility, saying they did not have weapons capable of downing the plane and shifting blame to the Ukrainian government.” (my emphasis)

    So, this hot line of evidence leads directly to US puppets and proof of nothing but “we say, they say.”

    To give reasons for your #3blinking red possibility (Kiev) from the list of candidates for the perpetrator: it is my understanding that the Kiev military campaign in its eastern provinces is going rather poorly and no one in the West, besides poodle UK, wants anything to do with US sanctions on Russia.

  37. docg

    When our President invited the Republicans to “call my bluff,” we learned he wasn’t a poker player. Now we know he isn’t a chess player either. One of the things one learns from playing chess: you cannot win from a losing position.

    It really doesn’t matter who shot down the Malaysian plane or why. The fundamental fact underlying this whole dispute is the fact that Putin, whatever his motives, whatever his intentions, is holding all the cards (to return for a moment to my poker comparison). In other words, he has already achieved a winning position. The only way he could possibly lose would be to let things get out of hand and find himself in a nuclear war. In which case, we would all lose. In chess, the other side would resign. Which in geopolitical terms would be the equivalent of: back off.

    Both Europe and Ukraine are dependent on the flow of Russian natural gas. Without it their economies would collapse and many of their citizens would literally freeze to death. Russia on the other hand is NOT dependent on the European or Ukrainian markets, because it can always sell to China. End of story. No contest. Putin has no need to shoot down any planes, no need to send in troops, no need to supply the dissidents with weapons. All he has to do is threaten to cut off the flow of natural gas.

    Nothing anyone can do. Nothing Obama can do. So the wisest thing for our perpetually stumbling and fumbling president to do would be: back off. But for some strange reason Obama, in some ways, one of our most intelligent presidents, lacks the ability to recognize when he’s been outsmarted. He has the smarts, but not the streed smarts. Or the poker smarts. Or the chess smarts. He’s going to just dig a deeper and deeper hole for himself (and us as well) until nuclear war becomes his only option.

    And then what? (to be continued . . . )

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Obomba may be smart but he’s not wise. One-term State Senator, who ushered in all of the previous experts (from Geithner to Gates) to back him up because he knew he didn’t know. Then we get the other snarky “smart people” from Jay Carney to Susan Rice to Samantha Powers failing upwardly with zero consequence, just more groupthink from the boss. And now the spectacle of the boss, finally self-aware enough to know his bluff has been called, retreating into golf games, irrelevant side issues, and intellectual dinner parties. Can’t wait to exit to the speaking tour, he’ll always be “the first black president”. As you state, is so inexperienced that he doesn’t know the difference between a winning hand, a chance to rescue a draw, or an obvious fold. What a fraud.

  38. William Neil

    Well done Lambert, very well done. I reached a very similar conclusion in my posted NY Times comment, and a commentator on my mine piped in with all the details of the US Navy’s shooting down of an Iranian airliner in the Iran-Iraq war and “keep the sea lanes open” operation. Mistake by very well trained (supposedly) personnel. I said I had cut my teeth on the Gulf of Tonkin incidents as a young man, 14, to be exact, in 1964. Haven’t recovered still, deep skeptic on matters like these. The closest analogy, NC readers, beyond Tonkin and Iraq’s missing WMD’s, is the gas attack in Syria from last fall. I’m supposing you have all read the Seymour Hersh report in the wake of it – “The Red Line and the Rat Line?”
    It follows a similar logic to Lambert’s here: who had the motive, who benefits? If you haven’t read it do so, the who done it has a surprising conclusion.

    I’ll put it succinctly readers: none of the three parties stood to gain under the “light of pure reason” by shooting down a civilian airliner which should not have been there in the first place. Any and all of the three would lose enormously in the court of world opinion. However, there could be something, very much to be gained, by framing one of the other parties “to take the rap.” And there is the possibility that is was error, lack of training incompetence. We can’t say yet. Be patient, we’ll see more clearly in a week, month, year…the length of time it took Hersh to do his piece on gas attacks in Syria.

    Best to you all, let us keep our heads on straight, a lot is riding on doing so.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I don’t really have conclusion. I have more an approach to a method. Or rather, my conclusion is that we can’t reach a conclusion (and the questions asked are big issues in the game). Any reason we can’t wait for the black box to be analyzed, for example?

      In a way, this discussion parallels the discussion of how to handle 9/11. Some said to treat it as a criminal matter. Others said to treat it as a military matter. The latter won, and we got the Global War on Terror, and Iraq. So how’s that been workin’ out?

      I want to highlight this paragraph:

      ’ll put it succinctly readers: none of the three parties stood to gain under the “light of pure reason” by shooting down a civilian airliner which should not have been there in the first place. Any and all of the three would lose enormously in the court of world opinion. However, there could be something, very much to be gained, by framing one of the other parties “to take the rap.”

      Machiavelli would be proud. Why am I never cynical enough?

  39. John

    It’s funny to follow the news from American officials. They claim they are in close contact with their European partners as it relates to our 9/11 — MH17. I wonder who they are talking to? Ah,yes, the officials they are talking to are on their vacations and it is not easy for them to break away to coordinate a crises. It’s embarrassing. They are waiting for Obama to take action, at least the way news is framing it.

    Our leadership is losing credibility.

    1. Chauncey Gardiner

      Thanks for your comment, John. I appreciate your effort to find a thread of humor to ameliorate the sense of loss in this tragic incident. Would only suggest a couple of minor edits: that the corporate media be included in your last sentence and that both subjects be put in the past tense.

      I hope you’re one of those able to vacation.

    1. OIFVet

      Did you check the publishing date of the video? June 6th. Can’t believe Mish just blindly posted the link either without going to the source first. This was the surveillance An-30 (russian: самолет-разведчик) shot down last month. Also take a look at the wings: no swept back wings but the rather perpendicular to the fuselage wings of a typical turboprop. Enough said.

    2. CDN

      The video link you posted depicts the fall of the AN-26 that was shot down a day or so prior to MH17.
      The best means of identification is the wing and wingtip configuration which is different from a 777.
      What is noteworthy is the fact that the missile did not cause a complete breakup of the aircraft and the AN-26 is smaller than a 777.

  40. Katniss Everdeen

    Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, they just might:

    Biggest Dutch Daily Calls For NATO Intervention To Protect MH17; Feinstein Tells Putin To “Man Up And Confess”

    But if the “facts” were so overwhelmingly against the separatists, why does it matter if Putin admits? After all it would surely assist the demonization campaign against Russia if the former KGB spy kept up his version of events.

    So facts be damned, everyone in the west, from the most crony politician to the biggest tabloid has “undisputed” proof Putin did it. But what now: what is the endgame?

    Once again the answer is simple: Western military intervention, this time in the conflict zone, under the guise of public anger against Putin, to reinforce the dwindling Ukraine army forces and to repel the separatists, in the process regaining the critical industrial regions of Ukraine which also are the location of vast natural gas deposits. Certainly showing to Gazprom just who was in charge of this key natural gas nexus wouldn’t hurt either. After all the west has already invested so much in the current Ukraine government, it can’t all be for nothing.

    And we know that because a few hours ago, the biggest Dutch newspaper, Telegraaf, openly asked for military intervention by NATO to protect MH 17 and calls Putin a “KGB liar.”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Hmm. I love the “let’s you and him fight” thing from the Dutch, especially given their performance in Srebrenica.

      I’m not exactly sure what SH means by “critical industrial regions of Ukraine which also are the location of vast natural gas deposits.” My impression was that the rebel regions were mostly decaying Soviet-style industry and dirty coal, and for that reason not really desirable.

      So Putin took what we wanted, Crimea (to be fair, with a plebiscite) and didn’t take what he didn’t want, the eastern Ukraine. To put this another way, if he had wanted it, he would have already taken it.

  41. Jacrabbit

    Brace yourself for the next stage when propaganda success is reported as truth, such: “While some may dither, the fact is that 4 of 5 Americans believe Russia was ultimately responsible for the downing of MH17.”

  42. Richard Smith

    Nice post Lambert.

    Some things:
    1. The descent from 35,000ft to 33,000ft could simply be an application of the “semicircular rule” (Googleable, aka “hemispherical rule”): that would just be ATC taking a routine precaution to ensure separation from other traffic on a converging course. We’ll hear about that in due course (maybe…).
    2. There’s just a hint that the course change which brought MH17 near the missile battery may turn out to have been instructed or suggested by Polish ATC, not Ukrainian ATC; worth watching out for news on this.
    3. The wartime transponders could really only identify *some* friendlies. If you were a friendly, you had a transponder, and your blip showed up super bright on the radar screen (there were other indicators, depending on the IFF version). Bad guys, and friendlies with defective transponders, stayed dim. So even back then there were false positives (where positive=hostile). Nowadays, everyone’s got a reliable transponder, so working out if you’re a bad guy or not, just from that, in a hurry, is still not easy. For instance in 1988 (the technology hasn’t changed much since then if at all) the USS Vincennes muffed it and downed an Iranian Airbus.
    4. Absolutely everyone (ICAO, Ukraine ATC, airlines, pilots, national aviation authorities) seems to have been oblivious to the risk of overflying this area, otherwise there would have been NOTAMs telling flights to stay away from it. A NOTAM about Crimea (re confusion about who was in charge of the airspace!), has been extant since April, but there was nothing about Eastern Ukraine until after MH17.
    5. I imagine if some idiot has vanished the black box from the crash scene, it’ll stay vanished. In case it isn’t obvious, the flight recorder, if it does resurface somewhere, won’t necessarily shed much light on the really hot issue (whose finger was on the trigger). The box will most likely just say the aircraft came down very fast, possibly with a big bang immediately before the start of the descent. That would at least support the hypothesis that a missile was involved. However, wreckage full of shrapnel holes would tell the story another way,

    The real point is yours: hard evidence of anything much is pretty thin on the ground so far; but there are one or two interesting bits of news flow to look out for. In the mean time, one reserves judgment and hopes forlornly that the international posturing doesn’t get even more out of hand.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      The black box will help with the course and altitude changes. The cockpit voice recorder, a separate box, could be far more interesting (“Wowers, look at that fighter jet coming right at us!”)

      Yes to your last paragraph. Some seem to look for justice, others for a casus belli, exactly as with 9/11.

  43. Jackrabbit

    Brace yourself for the next round where propaganda success is reinforced via reporting accepted truth as in: “4 out of 5 Americans believe that Russia was responsible.”

    H O P

  44. dearieme

    Let’s carry the “who gains” argument further. Who gains by amplifying the antagonism between Russia and the USA? (i) Islamicists, and (ii) China. Take your pick.

    There is no end to this sort of stuff. What’s needed is evidence, which I doubt will be forthcoming.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      China is building closer relations with Russia, seen as a partner and ally. The White House was very public with their Asian pivot earlier this year. Breaking that axis is probably impossible given U.S. behavior, but a major element of U.S. strength is the control of Europe. A prosperous Russia engaged in relations with Europe would reduce Europe’s desire to support the U.S. blindly against China.

  45. Rosario

    The conspiracy that is empire never begins and ends. I find the whole downing of this plane very convenient for US interests and very bizarre with respect to normal commercial airline behaviors. Why would the pilot choose to or be allowed to fly over a war zone where downing of aircraft is a regular occurrence? Flight maps seem to confirm this flight being an outlier. Maybe the pilots/flight controllers had an off day? At any rate, even if Putin, smiling devilishly, pressed a red button himself to down an aircraft full of unsuspecting people most Westerners can empathize with (nary a tear is shed for Arabs blown apart) the presentation of the tragedy via US media is dully similar to “our” reaction to the sinking of the Lusitania. We will shamelessly use this to our advantage. I said it before regarding the Ukraine mess, the US government is acting very irrationally, even for an imperial superpower. There is no reason for us to maintain such an aggressive stance. The quarterdeck is being manned by lunatics.

  46. Tiresias

    IF the separatists HAD the appropriate missiles one must assume a) they had the ability to use them and b) they had a reason for having them. As civilian aircraft are no threat the only reason for having them is a perceived threat from military aircraft.

    So the simplest explanation (once the question of ownership of the missile is settled) is that MH17 was shot down in the belief it was a military flight – and in this regard the matter of the ‘other flights’ in the area which necessitated the change in altitude of MH17 becomes relevant. Were these military flights with which MH17 became confused?

    This, being the simplest explanation (per Occam’s Razor in my book) the question of cui bono becomes irrelevant – as the event was a mistake there can never have been any benefit sought from it.

    If you must see it as intentional and ask cui bono, it seems to me that the US has most to gain – Kiev has no benefit to gain from provoking a Russian response but the US to judge from its actions so far has been loking for an excuse to demonise Putin for some time. Ergo it was the Yanks wot dun it.

    1. Jackrabbit

      AFAIK, the separatists claim to have captured the missile vehicle and the missiles on it. That doesn’t mean that they have the expertise to launch the missiles. Although they may actually have some people that might. OIFVet has raised the question of why they would bother actually setting up and manning such a missile system (at least at this point) when their MANPADs work just fine on planes that attack their positions. That doesn’t mean they didn’t fire, just that your theory that simple possession implies ability and willingness to use doesn’t hold and thus your attempt to apply Occam’s razor based on that doesn’t work.

      It DOES seem that if the rebels shot a missile that took down the plane, it was likely to be an accident (as pointed out above, the decision to fire would’ve been made within minutes). They have nothing to gain by doing this intentionally. But we can still ask: why was the plane in that space? Why was it diverted in such a way as to take it directly over the war zone? AND, -if- the plane was intentionally diverted it is logical to consider if Ukrainian forces fired on the plane in an attempt to blame the rebels.

      1. Jackrabbit

        Note: AFAIK, the Separatists have claimed that they DON’T have the system or the expertise to fire the missiles and may lack all of the equipment necessary to do so accurately*.

        Its confusing because, as I understand, it a full complement is three vehicles, one of which is a radar station. Having just the missile battery means you can point and fire but you may not hit anything.

  47. VietnamVet

    Thanks for this post. I want to reiterate the point that with radar and satellite surveillance including infrared missile tracking Russia and the United States both know exactly what happened in Ukraine. Still, there is the headlong rush to provoke a war with Russia that could end in a nuclear holocaust. We the people are not told a damn thing.

    It was said above, but once again; if the United States had not spent five billion dollars to overthrow the elected government of Ukraine and not pushed Kiev to eliminate the insurgents in Eastern Ukraine but negotiated a settlement to the civil war, there would have been no planes shot down and no loss of life.

  48. Susan Pizzo

    Oh let’s play. To Lambert’s cui bono and Michael Hudson’s broader systemic context, allow me to add the concept of Gladio B. NATO’s well-documented anti-leftist program Gladio A has been superseded by a new global strategy of tension – the Global War on Terror or Gladio B. This program primarily funds and trains terrorists (beginning with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan) and seems to have multiple goals – among them destabilizing regions, securing (other countries’) resources, ensuring military-industrial-intelligence complex funding levels, and societal control.

    While the Middle East and Africa have heretofore been the primary foci of Gladio B operations, knowledgeable parties reckon all of Eurasia is in the cross-hairs. What Pepe Escobar calls Pipelanistan. Informative discussions by John Corbet and Sibel Edmonds have covered this ground and in many instances jibe with my own macro-political and macro-economics research.

    Following a Gladio B line of reasoning and adding insights gained from Jeremy (“Dirty Wars”) Scahill and Nick (“Kill Anything That Moves”) Turse, it is not totally out of line to wonder if JSOC had a role. They are increasingly active internationally, specialize in sabotage and assasination, and actually have mobile apps on how to operate a Patriot missile. Add that Malaysia is a former UK/Dutch colony with oil interests shared by BP and Royal Dutch Shell and that the Netherlands had ties to Russia that needed severing – and things get interesting indeed.

    Of course, I write fiction for a living…

    1. Fiver

      At last! Someone else who remembers Scahill’s assertion re JSOC operations in Ukraine for years.

  49. juliania

    [Apologies in advance if this is a duplication – my computer was acting up first time around.]

    Thank you Lambert, and nakedcapitalism, for putting this thoughtful piece on here. I do not know what happened in this case, but I have been trying to find out by reading posts online, staying away from mainstream media reports on radio and tv.

    As you say, the ‘data’ is incredibly compromised by obfuscation, so I really appreciate your serious attempt to stick to questions and past experience – questions, most of which haven’t been answered, and past experience which does provide the two salient elements by which we ought to be judging what we are and are not being told: cui bono and governments manipulating facts to support policy.*

    With respect to the latter, my mind rests upon the good man who was found dead after first revealing that to us. I wish I could remember his full name – his first is David. I will never forget him.

    One man lost his life then, and now there are nearly 300 who seem to have suffered a similar fate. In the interim, the world has received a terrible education in duplicity and criminal behavior on the part of our United States government. I pray that the truth will be revealed sooner than (as will most certainly be the case) later.

    My thought is that if the separatists downed the plane, they did so lured into a trap set by the coup government of Ukraine. It is more likely, however, that your redlined suggestion is what happened, the motive being to discredit the separatists and the Russian Federation, a motive surely this our present government has amply demonstrated.

    * ‘Policy’ is too kind a word.

  50. YY

    There are “Western” reporters in the East who should by now have talked to residents as to whether anyone saw the trails of an antiaircraft missile launch. Population may be sparse but a missile taking off is not an invisible event (though maybe not so noisy). Absolute lack of even dubious eyewitness accounts seem to suggest that the plane just fell out of the sky, which tends to support air to air interception/collision, if the stuff about fighter jet accompaniment has any legs/wings.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Assuming reporters can move freely, yes. I still find it remarkable that there’s no ATC interview (though it may be out there in Russian or Ukrainian).

    2. Fiver

      Also no images of any kind released by US to support missile launch even with a tail 5 miles long.

  51. Rostale

    Probably going too far down the rabbit hole here, but considering that US government is acting in a way that makes one wonder if there trying to start WW3, I can’t help but think of an article I read.

    NASA estimated that an exchange of 50-100 bombs would cause enough cooling to offset global warming. Considering the implications of global warming and positive feedback loops, it does offer a potential convenient solution, getting rid of the problem without having to publicly acknowledge it and allowing for all sorts of lucrative financial chaos when emp takes out electronic systems.

    A bit farfetched, but considering the potential benefits to be gained by those in power if such an event plays out right, the only real question in my mind is just how reckless are they.

  52. tgs

    Excellent analysis.
    The points about citing youtube, twitter, etc., as ‘evidence’ is an important one.
    Has anyone else noticed that the reaction of the ‘west’ to these kinds of events border on the hysterical. Russian (better known in the west as ‘Putin’) reactions are always measured – let’s have an objective investigation. But they are naive. This kind of tragedy is a ‘political opportunity’ here in the ‘west’. It will be used by the WH to try to drive a bigger wedge between Russia and Europe. Isn’t it amazing, given our unilateral sanctions this week, that this event has given Kerry et. al., a platform to declare that now Europe should be able to ‘see’ how wicked Russia/Putin is and join us in the sanctions. This tragedy was a ‘gift from heaven’ for our rulers – and they will behave accordingly – facts be damned.

  53. peteybee

    @corrente – you start the article talking about the Iraq War era in the past tense…. if only.

    And yes, what a Media Circus this has become. Perhaps if we’re lucky, the large governments of the world will discredit each other and themselves forever, and we can all finally just stop listening to what they say, build some kind of brick wall around our capital cities locking everyone in, and begin the long painful process of un-f*cking everything they’ve f*cked.

  54. vidimi

    i think it’s highly unlikely that ukrainian or nato forces shot down the plane and almost certain that it was the rebels who downed it with russian equipment. if, as you say, we can “assume that the Russian side had something like “20/20 radar vision”: just about as good as it can get. … “, then we can rule out the plane being shot down by ukie or nato forces so close to the russian border. if there was any evidence of that, you could bet that putin would be letting us know about it.

    what is more interesting is whether the plane was deliberately diverted into that airspace by the ukies or nato in the hopes that the rebels would shoot it down with weapons they had only learned they had in the preceding few days.

    hopefully, more details about this will emerge and a transcript of the black box will reveal who gave the instructions to the pilot to fly north and lower than requested. it certainly doesn’t seem like the air traffic at high altitude was as heavy as claimed, and reports of a thunderstorm to the south can be verified.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I think it’s bogus. 1) I can’t find the promised section 5 where the author says he’ll propose his theory; 2) There aren’t any links or even notes, so the information isn’t checkable; 3) reviewers tell me that the physics aren’t right (the physics being a creditable sword for the author to choose, but one with two edges). So not going to link to it.

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