By Roger Annis, New Cold War.org, Aug. 14, 2015
‘Could be.’ ‘Might be.’
‘Can’t show or prove anything, but maybe.’
Is there any wonder that with such language coming lately from the “official” but secretive investigation of the July 17, 2014 crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, there is little reason for confidence in a final report? And lots of reason for concern of what a flawed or reckless final report could spark?
On August 11, the Dutch Safety Board and the ‘Joint Investigation Team’ investigating the MH17 crash issued a speculative statement saying they have discovered pieces among the debris they collected from the fields in eastern Ukraine where the plane came down that “possibly originate” from a spent Buk missile.
They say they can’t be sure. “At present, the conclusion cannot be drawn that there is a causal connection between the discovered parts and the crash of flight MH17.” And they can’t show us anything. But they are making the statement anyway.
The statement was reported widely by Western media along with predictable spin and wild interpretation. Western media has reported all along that the thinly-equipped self-defence forces in eastern Ukraine are the “likely” culprits in bringing down the MH17, “possibly” with backing coming from ‘somewhere’ in the Russian military command.
Manipulation and misreporting of the known fact of the crash of the plane is disrespectful toward the victims and their loved ones. Much more troubling is the fact that it disregards the deadly context of events surrounding the investigation, including the string of military exercises upon which NATO is embarked in eastern Europe and now the latest news that Ukraine is moving heavy artillery back to the front line of its war in eastern Ukraine, to be unleashed on the civilian population.
Here is how the European correspondent of Canada’s daily Globe and Mail, Mark MacKinnon, reports the Dutch investigators’ statement in a special, center-spread article in the newspaper on August 12:
The recovery of the missile fragments adds to the bulk of evidence implicating pro-Russian fighters in the downing of the passenger jet, which killed 298 people. Moscow, which accuses the Ukrainian military of shooting MH17 out of the sky, recently used its veto at the United Nations Security Council to block the establishment of an international criminal tribunal to prosecute the case.
Who needs an official investigation with such an apparent, open and shut case? The implications of such thinking and writing are becoming unthinkable considering the exceptionally dangerous context reported in the opening of the very same Globe article:
War between Russia and the NATO alliance should be unthinkable. But a new study of recent military exercises suggests both powers are preparing for just that possibility.
Researchers at a European think tank [the European Leadership Network] warned that while there was no evidence that either side intended to go to war, the increasing frequency and size of military exercises on both sides [sic] of the NATO-Russia border heighten the possibility of an unplanned incident that could spark a wider conflict (Read the report PDF). The finding raises the spectre of a continent-wide clash of conventional armies, the sort not seen since Russia and the Western allies combined to defeat Nazi Germany in the Second World War.
The British press is piling on. Bryan MacDonald explains in RT.com on Aug 12:
‘So it WAS Putin?‘ headlines London’s Daily Express following the release of a statement by the Joint Investigation Team saying that it is investigating “several parts, possibly originating from a Buk surface-air-missile system”.
‘Russian missile shrapnel in MH17 wreckage’, bellows the London Times.
The British government has announced that it will double the number of Ukrainian soldiers and extremist militia members that it plans to train this year, from 1,000 to 2,000. Presently, Britain says it has 75 soldiers in the country. Speaking in Kyiv on August 11, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon described the conflict in eastern Ukraine as “red hot”.
Rebel forces in eastern Ukraine have been receiving vital humanitarian aid from the Russian government and from widespread citizen initiatives. They have also received important political/diplomatic support from the Russian government.
The Russian government makes the utterly evident argument that Kyiv should respect the terms of the Minsk-2 ceasefire agreement it co-signed on Feb. 12, 2015 and negotiate the grievances which the population of eastern Ukraine has expressed over Kyiv’s radical, extremist turn to a pro-Europe, anti-Russia and pro-austerity orientation for Ukraine.
The issuance of another unfounded, speculative accusation by the Dutch-led MH17 investigation, then seized upon and manipulated by reckless journalists and editors, is another reason why this investigation must be treated with great caution, if not dismissed altogether for its excessive bias and secrecy.
The Dutch government is refusing demands by Dutch media that it release documentation pertaining to its response to the crash last year. A formal request to this effect was made by RTL Nieuws.
The government defends its refusal by saying that documents contain the names of individuals and that the release of the documents could have negative consequences for relations with other countries.
RTL Nieuws has said the following in response to the government’s decision:
We think it perplexing hat the minister does not work harder to disclose more information. Of course, we understand that not every piece of information can be thrown into the street. But withholding basic facts and decisions? We will study the decision and decide if going to the courts is desirable and useful.”
Late last year, the Dutch news magazine Elsevier revealed some details of the secret agreement signed on August 8, 2014 by the four countries composing the so-called Joint Investigation Team which is investigating the disaster and will recommend criminal proceedings. The four are Holland, Belgium, Ukraine and Australia. (Malaysia was added to the JIT late last year following pressure and protest over its initial exclusion.) The secret agreement said that any one of the member countries of the JIT can veto release of any information gathered by the investigation.
The implications of an official report that ‘goes rogue’ by leaving vital questions unanswered and throwing anti-Russia speculation and prejudice to the wind are very serious.
The words ‘Russia’ and ‘Buk missile’ have been pounded out in tandem so frequently by Western governments and media during the past year that any speculative report of a “Buk” missile in relation to the MH17 crash just reinforces the ‘blame Russia narrative’ they have worked to establish.
A survey of the circumstances of the crash and the composition of the investigation underlines the danger of the situation.
The armed forces of Ukraine and quite possibly the extremist, right-wing militias allied with it possess the Buk missile system. The government in Kyiv failed to close the airspace over eastern Ukraine when it launched a war there in the spring of 2014. This flew in the face of decisions by the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States and major international airlines months before the MH17 crash to prohibit passenger planes from flying there.
Following the crash/shoot down, Ukraine ignored the July 21, 2014 resolution at the Security Council demanding that the investigation be given unfettered access to the crash site. Investigators were forced in and out of the area, according to the exigencies of the war which Kyiv declined to put on hold. To the point where parts of the plane and parts of bodies are still being randomly discovered today by visitors to the scene.
The circumstances of the crash should easily argue in favour of excluding Ukraine from the international criminal investigation, or at the very least, they argue for including Russia since its border lies only a few dozen kilometers away from the crash site. But no, the JIT investigation is being conducted by governments that are hostile to Russia and to the pro-autonomy rebellion in eastern Ukraine.
Malaysia showed its colours last month when it introduced a resolution at the UN Security Council on July 29 proposing that a witchhunt-style tribunal be established by the Security Council to investigate matters. The resolution was a win-win for the anti-Russia crowd. A special tribunal could conduct an investigation without having to go through the motions of impartiality required of the JIT. The terms of the Dutch-led investigation is that it establish the facts, not search for guilt.
Russia vetoed the resolution. The Russian government argued that with two investigations already taking place, what was the purpose of adding a third? Russia’s suspicions were already on high alert given the fact that its offers to cooperate with the investigation have been rebuffed or treated at arm’s length.
Russia’s ambassador to Britain explained his country’s vote:
Our partners preferred to conduct a vote that is impossible to explain by any other motive than seeking a fresh pretext for pointing a finger at Russia.”
Progress towards justice must be seen. So far, we have seen nothing.
Canadian writer Patrick Armstrong explains in his biweekly report on Russia on August 6:
Before you agree that Russia’s veto of the UN tribunal idea is evidence that Putindunnit, you should know two things. First, there already is a UNSC resolution calling for “full, thorough and independent international investigation” and “those responsible for this incident be held to account”. It is UNSC Resolution 2166 and dates from a year ago. Who needs another?
Second, that one of those calling for the new resolution – Australia’s Julie Bishop – condemned Russia a year ago for refusing to accept responsibility for the shootdown. Clearly a kangaroo court (as it were) was intended. As we have seen before with Milosevic and Qaddafi. Rather than stunts, Washington should first show us its “mountain of evidence” as a group of retired US intelligence professionals demand.
The vetoed Security Council resolution looked for all the world as a staged ‘aha’ moment. As in, ‘Aha, what is Russia trying to hide by vetoing a tribunal?’ That’s exactly how much of Western media and Western governments reported the veto.
So far, as I have reported, the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) stands out for an investigation that has failed to bring to light and analyze the most obvious sources of data or explain why the Board, the Dutch police and prosecutors have failed to do this.
For example, in public disclosure so far, there has been no analysis of U.S. satellite images, including infrared images, of the MH17 site just before, during, and just after the strike and crash, and no disclosure of whether the Dutch investigators requested this data, what they were told, or if the Dutch believe the data exist and is being withheld from the investigation.
I’ve seen no DSB analysis of the silence on the last four seconds of the Cockpit Voice Recorder, and no explanation of how this is possible. There has been no published analysis of the Ukrainian air traffic control radar and radio tapes or confirmation of whether Kiev handed them over to the Dutch, and if they haven’t been handed over, why not. So far, too, there has been no disclosure of evidence from the autopsy and post-mortem data collected from the victims’ bodies.
What is missing is obvious. So what to make of particles of evidence whose provenance, authenticity and authority of disclosure are far from obvious? The Dutch want to be thought of as careful, methodical, clean. Why so careless all of a sudden?
The “official” investigation is proceeding at the speed of a turtle and in unprecedented secrecy for a civilian airline disaster. Meanwhile, journalists and hostile governments are promoting a ‘blame Russia’ narrative and speculating on worst case scenarios. It’s a dangerous and toxic mix.
The Globe writes further, “… for now, the two sides were just posturing, ‘but posturing is the path to war. It always has been’.”
This article also appears on Counterpunch, Aug. 14, 2015.
 The website of the Dutch Prosecution Service (OM) explains: “The Joint Investigative Team conducts the criminal investigation and the Dutch Safety Board the investigation into the cause of the crash. Both investigations are conducted separately but JIT and DSB occasionally share material.”
* MH17 – ‘Buk plume’ burns witness – Part I, by Max van der Werff, July 26, 2015
* Black boxes and black holes in the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 investigation, by John Helmer, July 17, 2015
* Preliminary report into the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014 (link to pdf), issued by the Dutch Safety Board, Sept. 9, 2014. The report is 34 pages long. (And related: MH17 preliminary investigation omits U.S. ‘intel’, by Tony Cartalucci, New Eastern Outlook, Sept. 19, 2014)
The website New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond contains an extensive dossier of articles on the July 17, 2014 crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. These include the extensive writings on the subject by U.S. journalist Robert Parry.