Humbug And Hysteria – Brian Cloughley

Following the tragic destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 the tsunami of malevolent anti-Russian propaganda surged on and still surges, thanks to such as the US Secretary of State John Kerry who is rarely at a loss for an intriguing declaration. 

Kerry did his bit to whip up hatred by announcing that there was “extraordinary circumstantial evidence” showing that the missile that destroyed MH17 was “a system that was transferred from Russia in the hands of separatists.” (But five days later, as reported by Associated Press, “intelligence officials were cautious in their assessment, noting that while the Russians have been arming separatists in eastern Ukraine, the US had no direct evidence that the missile used to shoot down the passenger jet came from Russia.”)

Kerry then jumped on the body bandwagon and declared on NBC that “What’s happening is really grotesque. There are reports of drunken separatist soldiers unceremoniously piling bodies into trucks, removing both bodies, as well as evidence, from the site.”

What proof had he for saying that anyone was “unceremoniously piling bodies into trucks”? Or that the missile system had been transferred from Russia? The word ‘circumstantial’ in relation to evidence means ‘indirect, inferred or conditional’. It is used by international political conmen like Kerry to make us believe they have proof about something they want us to believe. And the western media go out of their way to help them.

The following report about Flight MH17 sums up the attitude of the majority of the west’s media and political administrations to the shambles in Ukraine. It is from a British newspaper that I used to respect, the Independent, which announced that “The 192 bodies found after the Flight MH17 plane crash have been bundled into black body bags and unceremoniously loaded into large refrigerated train cars, bound, it is understood, for the rebel heartland.” 

The paper didn’t, of course, have a reporter anywhere near the site, and shifted its shaky ground a little bit when stating that “the bodies were reportedly moved by Ukraine’s emergency services who were working for the rebels under duress on Sunday.” It had to inject that ‘under duress’ bit, but couldn’t avoid admitting that experts from official Ukrainian emergency services were involved.

If the bodies had been dealt with in the way the Independent claimed then of course there would be reason for disgust and condemnation. But it didn’t happen that way. However, lots of media outlets followed the same propaganda line. The Daily Mail screamed that “pro-Russian rebels left the victims’ bodies to decay for several days in body bags dumped around the crash site before eventually allowing them to be taken by train to Kharkiv airport.” 

According to Euronews, to which I increasingly have recourse in order to obtain unbiased accounts of world affairs, it wasn’t like that at all. It reported that “the Ukrainian government announced that it had reached an agreement on the removal of bodies with representatives of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk, the pro-Russian rebels who control the territory around the crash site” and that “International observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) inspected the train before it departed. The train was made up of refrigerated wagons to preserve the remains of the victims.” The BBC recorded that “the remains . . . have been loaded on to refrigerated rail wagons.” There was no drama about these reports – because there was no drama.

Even more hysteria was whipped up by the media shrieking that it had taken far too long to collect the bodies – four days – and that this was absolutely scandalous. Some bodies have not been found, which is considered reprehensible by most western newspapers

But we should remember the bombing of Pan American Airways flight 103 in 1988. The plane exploded and fell out of the sky onto Lockerbie in southern Scotland, killing 259 people. As the Guardian newspaper reported later, “Search teams would comb through much of the 2,190 square kilometres … But they would be unable to locate the bodies of seven of the passengers, as well as about 10 percent of the plane. And in some cases they may have arrived too late: 10 years after the catastrophe, the chief pathologist reported that two of the passengers had suffered serious but not fatal wounds. Possibly they froze to death on the ground before the search teams found them in a forest four days later.” Four days later. There was no media frenzy about that. Why is there media mania about the four days taken to find the MH17 bodies?

There must, of course, be a totally independent international inquiry into this ghastly disaster. It should be an inquiry on the same lines and with the same terms of reference as the independent inquiry that took place following the shooting-down of Iran Air Flight 655 in 1988. Or does memory play tricks? Surely there must have been a full independent inquiry into that atrocity, as demanded, now, about MH17, by President Obama? Or perhaps there wasn’t.

Do you remember that international crime? It involved “a civilian jet airliner shot down by US Navy surface to air missiles on 3 July 1988 as it flew over the Strait of Hormuz at the end of the Iran-Iraq War. The aircraft, an Airbus A300B2-203 operated by Iran Air, was flying from Bandar Abbas, Iran, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. While flying in Iranian airspace over Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf on its usual flight path, it was destroyed by the guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes. All 290 on board, including 66 children and 16 crew, perished.”

There weren’t any bodies found after Iran Air 655 smashed into the waters of the Persian Gulf – and there was no independent inquiry. The captain of the ship that killed 290 innocent people was given a high military decoration by the United States of America “for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service” during his period in command. A truly cynical piece of contemptible hypocrisy.

It’s OK for the US to shoot down an Iranian airliner and kill 290 people – there’s never been an apology to the Iranian people for that war crime – but when there’s an opportunity to claim, to shriek, to propagandise at cyclone-level, that a disaster has occurred in which there just might be the tiniest chance to blame Russia, then there is clamour for investigation. Hysteria is fed by humbug.