A Plane, Shot Down – And A Lottery

The common people, we think, have a kind heart and loathe injustice. They crave fairness, a good measure of tendential equality among people. And they abhor war and violence. Yes, perhaps.  I remember my aunt, the granddaughter of a landless farm laborer. She worked in a chocolate factory, and brought home sweets she could buy at a discount rate, from her employer. She was kind. I find her view regarding violence remarkable. On one occasion, she commented on a bank robbery that had occurred somewhere in the country. I was a young boy, then, but I still remember her words. She said, “If they haven't killed anybody, let them get away with it, and be happy with the money.” It was the reflex of somebody who felt sympathy for all Robin Hood types we encounter in popular narratives, in the folklore of the subaltern classes, that made her say this. But it was mixed with a longing that is typical of our society with its “free” market economy and emphasized importance of competition and money. What she had said, expressed also the dream  so many poor people dream – the dream to be a millionaire. Such manifest content of dreams veils a deeper existential thirst, the thirst to be free of scarcity, daily hardships, a household budget that is too small, that imposes constraints. No new shoes for the kids though the old ones are worn. A meagre diet, as the month draws to a close.  Yes, violence was not acceptable. Thou shalt not kill. It is engrained, part of the spontaneous morality of ordinary people. Decent ones, not those who have been thrust into such desperate misery that they they become crooks, perhaps thugs. 

What the common people, the decent ones –  thus, the majority –  don't want to understand, is that a human life, cherished by them, is often worth next to nothing for those who play their grand games. What they also don't recognize, very often, is the extent they are subject to the impacts of discourses the direction and intention of which they don't control, being neither owners of media nor those who draw up their policies. During the twentieth century, the masses in Europe fell at least two times for the nationalist propaganda that bedeviled adversaries of their own government and painted their own leaders as blameless defenders of the fatherland, justice, and truth. The common people can be gullible; they can be put to sleep, and the powerful know it and try to make use of it.

It is always the powerful who send young men (and today, also young women) into war. They think they sit safely in their office, behind large desks, giving commands. They keep their offspring, by and large, safely at home.  Those driven by a youthful lust to get involved in adventures, or more often, by the hopelessness of desolate towns and by high levels of unemployment, will join the armed forces. They are the one who will die.

Years ago, I heard a friend say, “How idiotic to kill somebody. He lives never again.”

In a newspaper, I read, during the days of the Second Gulf War, of a conversation  – if that is the word – between two truck drivers of big army trucks on a road to Bagdad, part of a convoi of trucks ambushed by Iraqi soldiers. The Iraqis were defending their homeland; can I blame them? Coming under fire, the driver in the second truck of the convoi, using  his walkie-talkie (or whatever they use) cried in desperation to the one right in front of him, “Go!” “Go! Speed her up!” The other driver yelled back, “I can't! I --- I have no legs anymore.” The result of a landmine –  that had exploded under his truck.

On a Russian website, reporting on the fighting in Eastern Ukraine, a television journalists told the readers of another experience that  lets us see what war means, not in abstract terms – geopolitical discussions – but concretely. A group of Eastern Ukrainian soldiers were guiding civilians through a combat zone,  hoping to lead them out of their village, into safety. The journalist saw, how one of the soldiers was pointing out the direction to the villagers, with his hand. The next moment, the hand was gone. Ripped off.  The soldiers dead, villagers, the other members of the television crew. West Ukrainian soldiers had shelled the location. It might have been the other way round. Death makes people very equal. Those who kill become equal, in a way, too.

And yet media always know (and tell us) who are the white knights and who is the devil. Hitler, they say today. Saddam Hussein was Hitler. Milosevic was Hitler. Gaddafy was Hitler. Now, Putin is Hitler. When the media refer to the Russian government, they write, The Kremlin. The Kremlin has been the dark prison, the hole where eventhing that is evil is being concocted. It has been depicted in this way for decade after decade. Before the Second World War, and in its wake. Until now. Perhaps they should paint it white. A White House can only produce white lies. Good lies. The lies we love. As for Westminster, they rarely write Westminster. They write, Blair, or Cameron. Such men, as prime ministers, live in Downing Street, not the Kremlin. It sounds almost cozy. Familar. When Thatcher was prime minister, she sheltered Pinochet, the man with so much blood on his hands. Refused extradition. Said he couldn't stand trial. Too old and incontinent. Blair visited India and Pakistan when they were close to war. And sold both countries, during that trip, British arms. Wasn't Westminster also the place that supported the Apartheid regime for so long? Wasn't the White House? White lies, you see – when they say they always supported freedom and peace.

Today, as I open the paper, my mood is subdued. I feel helpless, at a loss. Like all the common people I imagine, who must also feel helpless and at a loss. A plane has been shot down. Human beings died in a single moment; three hundred of them, the paper says. No one of them will live again. How idiotic to take their lives.

The paper says, the American government will investigate the incident. And those who did it, who downed the plane, will be made to pay a price.

The government in Kiev says, We didn't do it, the separatists – or rather, the terrorists, as they usually say, did it.

I don't know what the Russian-speaking population in Eastern Ukraine says. The paper did not report it. Do they worry now what will happen to them when America, the American government, determines they have to pay “the prize”? How do you make someone pay a price if you have a location but don't know who was there and who shot a stinger missile?

Do you make a local population pay, quite at random, the way Israel's government makes the people of Gaza “pay a prize” at the moment?  Thirty, then more than 70, now perhaps more than one hundred dead human beings – women, children, old men, young men, middle aged men. And already more than 500 wounded; many badly wounded by bombs and shrapnel, by air raids and ship artillery. All of it in retaliation for three murdered Israeli teenagers, living in the settlements that carve up the West Bank and make the Palestinian state look like a Swiss cheese. Yes, it looks as if is not in retaliation for three teenagers but in response to the “government of unity” formed by the PLO and Hamas. The murder of the teenagers and the occasional rocket fired by reckless militants at Israel just a pretext – the real basis being perhaps that the political strategy of the government of Israel demands that Hamas be smashed, and that any serious striving for a separate Palestinian state must be subverted. 

Did the passengers of the Malaysian airliner die as a result of a strategy, too? And if so, whose strategy? At this point, one can only speculate. But one thing is certain: There are no white knights confronting devils. There are only dark knights. That the Russian government is capable of a lot was obvious when we saw how they dealt with Chechnya. Yes, our media told it, clearly. They can be focused in a very sharp way on the evils committed by “our adversaries.”  Our adversaries? Is it not more correct to say, “The adversaries of our governments, the governments which we, strangely or stupidly, or for many quite selfish reasons, elect?” When people in Chechnya died, our media did not tell us what independent media told us: That the American government supported the insurgents, that Saudi money and foreign arms and foreign men – people who had fought in Afghanistan and elsewhere against the empire bedeviled by Reagan and Bush and “our” media – beefed up the resistance to Russian rule. And that, understandable as Chechnyan craving for independence was, a new brand of political and “religious” extremism inspired many of the “freedom fighters.” Exactly the brand of politico-religious fanaticism that the White House describes as the main cause of its “war on terror.”

We should think twice perhaps, before we assume that those who support the very groups that they claim they are combatting have exceedingly white hands. Perhaps, if we look more closely at their white lies, they turn dark and dirty. 

Why, for instance, has the government in Washington, bent as it is, on integrating Ukraine into the Western (US-dominated) sphere of influence, pursued a policy of escalation all along, when the key political leaders of the European Union (who are also bent on integrating Ukraine, but softly) pursued a strategy of deescalation? The exclamation that made headlines when Victoria Nuland's conversation with the US ambassador in Kiev was leaked (and then confirmed as authentic by the American government) Iis worth thinking about. Her “Fuck the EU” was not an irrelevant, emotional obscenity; it expressed if not a world view (which would be too big a word for it) then a manifest stance of the American “elites” – their arrogance of power. Something already diagnosed many years ago, by Senator Fulbright. And apparently nothing has changed, if we see how they react to Ms. Merkel's anger that she, too, is a victim of NSA wiretapping, of “breach of trust between friends.”  But the exclamation expressed, of course, also something more concise, more related to the actual situation and an actual conflict of interests. For a reason not yet fully clear (we have only a hypothesis), a conflict of interest is at the root of the two divergent strategies, the strategy of the US to escalate conflict with Russia over Ukraine, and the strategy of the EU to deescalate.

My hypothesis is that, like China, the EU wants to diversify export markets and sources of imports, and like China, it seeks to achieve a certain (independent) weight as a geopolitical power. In other words, while still being an ally of the US – and being forced, by the current relations of forces –  to “act” at least like a “junior partner” (the Chinese used to call this, many years ago, a running dog, when referring to their own Chinese “partners” of Western imperial powers), the so-called elites in the EU seek to emancipate themselves from their arrogant and overwhelmingly power-conscious US friends. Not that they will not continue to share similar goals – but the junior partnership is what they are getting sick of.

Conversely, the US “elites” – conscious of waning economic prowess but still aware that the US is the most powerful military might on earth – don't like such emancipative moves at all. They didn't like in the 1980s and '90s when Japan was having gigantic trade surpluses and dollar reserves, and when Japanese Capital began to dream of overtaking the US economy and when they began to buy up prime real estate assets, including the Empire State Building. There are many complicated discussions of the East Asian financial crisis, but the most basic trends are being obscured. Leading up to the East  Asian financial crisis, there was a concerted effort of American financial capital which speculated against the yen. When Japanese exports were hit hard, the banks were the next in line, largely because credit- financed expansion of industry supposed growth, and with slow growth, servicing of loans became difficult. When the banks were forced to write off large sums, they were in difficulties, and thus asked foreign lenders (in South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia) to repay their loans. Refused prolongation of loans threw corporations in these countries into difficulties;  in South Korea, in particular, the big chaebol were insuffiently self-financed.  As an effect of the crisis, Western corporation (including GM in South Korea and Renault in Japan) gained a foothold in Asian industry, and this rather cheaply.

As for the present financial crisis in the EU, US capital and US rating agencies have pursued a coordinated strategy against both the Euro and bonds issued by a number of EU countries. Even a liberal Keynesian like Krugman is against the Euro. Regardless of the reasons the common people in Europe may put forth for or against it, it is quite clear that the Euro expresses the desire of the European “elites” to have a currency at their disposal that is of equal importance as the dollar, as a global reserve currency. They remember the bad effects of the Vietnam War and huge US deficits coupled with the printing of dollars: the US, for a number of years, were heavily exporting inflation to the rest of the world market. If the Euro as an alternative reserve currency weakens the role of the dollar, and if Chinese exporters diversify their foreign currency holdings (for fear that the dollar, one day, might be worth no more than green wallpaper), then it is clear that the US “elites” must be precoccupied with letting the Euro crash.

As far as commercial relations are concerned, transatlantic exchange is still  vastly important to corporation on both sides of the Atlantic. Thus, the pressure for TTIP comes from interested parties in the US and the EU.

But at the same time, the US turns to the Pacific region (including Vietnam, Indonesia, and especially India) and tries to reassert itself in South America, especially in Brazil. Conversely, the EU – and especially Germany – steps up trade with and foreign investment in Russia. At the same time, Volkwagen moves its attention from Tennessee to Mexico, which gives it, due to NAFTA, free access to US markets. The shifting of the focus to Russia, on the part of EU countries and their corporations, is not seen with favorable eyes by US administrations. It is as unwelcome as an independently operational European army, a European federal government,  or a European joint Euro currency. Fuck the EU. American governments would rather deal on a bilateral basis (and in the context of NATO, which they dominate and command) with individual European governments, losely allied, but bound together by their ties to the big American “partner.”

Well, it helps to remember this when reflecting on the present escalation of the crisis in Ukraine. Involving the EU, too, in heated-up conflict with Russia and wrecking the business prospects attached to investment there, will force European governments to become more loyal and dependent American allies again. And it will weaken the EU, economically.

The backdrop of the Ukrainian crisis of course is concrete and specific and must be seen fully conscious of past wrongs done. By whom? The white knight or the black (sorry, red) devil? If we go back far into history, we will remember how Ruthenian (West Ukrainian) armies, recruited in arch-Conservative, staunchly Roman Catholic small towns and villages, helped the absolutist Viennese court to put down the democratic revolution in Poland in 1848-49, just as the equally conservative and equally Roman Catholic Croatian soldiers serving their Austrian emperor, murdered the Viennese democrats after the city was beleaguered and taken by them. 

If we move further into the present, we will remember the pogroms in Ukraine that took place under Czarist rules, driving tens of thousand of both religious and secular Jews out of the country, and to places like Berlin, Paris, Boston and New York.

If we move still further into the present, we arrive at the outbreak of the October Revolution, then the years of civil war. Civil wars are never good times for the common people.  If they defend their cause, they can get killed. If they remain anxiously hiding in their huts and houses, hoping to find shelter from the storm of history, they can also get killed.

In the aftermath of the October Revolution and of the First World War, different factions tried to assert themselves in Ukraine. For each faction, and for their “ideological heirs” today, the culprit is “the Other” – their adversary. The West Ukrainians tried to emancipate themselves. Under Austrian rule until 1918, they did not want to become Polish. But they were defeated by the Poles whom they had defeated in their quest for liberty, almost exactly seven decades ago. Their territory swallowed by the Soviet Union due to the “non-aggression” pact that Ribbentrop and Molotov concluded, many of them welcomed the Nazi armies when these invaded Russia in 1941. In those days, many people were standing next to their houses, in the village street, flowers in their arms. A quisling regime existed briefly. Ukrainians (mostly West Ukrainians) were fighting in the army formed by that regime, side by side with Nazi troops, against a Soviet Union that was an ally of the United States. In the death camps, among the worst sadists there were not only Germans amd Austrians but also Ukrainians and Latvians.

After VE-day, a right-wing nationalist resistance front, close to the former quisling regime, fought against Stalinist Russian soldiers, murdering town mayors, the directors of collective farms, and member of the Communist Party.

It was supported by the CIA for several years, as official Western documents and research by Western journalist has shown.

Among the historic traumas that are invoked to “explain” Anti-Russian feelings of many, but not all Ukrainians, the “big famine” caused by the “production strike” of collectivized farmers must be mentioned. Famine has hit Russia and the Ukraine repeatedly. The civil war often made farming impossible. Forced rather than voluntary collectivization had a cruel effect. The scorched earth tactics of the withdrawing Hitlerites left a path of destruction in Russia and the Ukraine and made food very scarce during and immediately after WWII.

Nationalist feelings in Europe, including Ukraine, clashed with class solidarity repeatedly. The Nationalists felt defeated by the Red revolution which won; the reds, among them many industrial workers, felt – at least initially – hopeful and liberated. The anarchists, many of them landless laborers and small peasants – were hunted by both Ukrainian nationalists (in league with big landowners) and by the Red Army.

Today, memories of the past, memories preserved in the context of oral family history, may still play a role. In one family, a grandfather fought on the side of the Nazis, then for Bandera against Nazis and Reds; in another family, the grandfather and grandmother were Red partisans. But the actual, contemporary factors count more, perhaps. In the West of the Ukraine, people have worked as immigrant laborers in Poland more recently and still continue to do so, perhaps. And generally, there is the impact of Western media – they kindle hopes and the desire for consumer goods, for a Western consumer society, not the East European poor copy of it.

In the Eastern part, people are affected by such perhaps questionable and at least unrealistic dreams, too. But they had overwhelmingly opposed the choice of independence during the referendum okayed by Yeltsin. Many are offspring of people who came from neighboring districts in Russia during the 1920s and 1930s when mines were modernized and expanded in the Donbas and when a heavy industrial base was created in cities like Donetsk. They have family ties across the frontier. For how many centuries was Ukraine a part of Czarist Russia, then its successor, the Soviet Union!  People could move freely in this vast realm. They moved and mixed, like people move and mix in the vast territory of the  United States. For many, the new boundary seemed nonsensical. For those in West Ukraine, no part of Russia (or Russian Poland) before 1918, the boundary makes sense. They  feel they are different. Culturally, too. Roman Catholics, looking to Rome and Vienna, not Constantinople, Kiev and Moscow. 

A few days ago, a village named Donetsk, separated from the city of that name by a river, was shelled. It is a Russian village, on the other side of the border. The Russian government has called it a provocation – and it is a provocation, but who provoked, and why? Russia and the East Ukrainian soldiers fighting the West Ukrainians? Or the militia and the army sent by the government in Kiev in order to assert their authority in the Donbas, in Slavinsk and Lugansk and Donetsk and all the other cities and villages that are now in revolt? If it was artillery fire by troops sent by the government in Kiev, Western media and politicians will say it is a regrettable mistake, and moreover that it caused only few casualties.  I don't think it is a regrettable mistake. If Kiev is responsible, my thought was when I read about it, They may well hope to provoke Russia to do something stupid in response – in order to be able to repeat, more successfully now, their request for EU and NATO intervention. Many statements by officials of the Kiev government were hair-raising and absurdly dangerous; they practically invoked the danger of a Third World War verbally, while at the same time demanding military action of Western countries against Russia, which would indeed bring us close to the threshold of war. Perhaps into a war that would invariably turn nuclear?, I ask myself. 

But can we exclude that the beleagered armed resistance in Eastern Ukraine was behind that provocation? We have seen this before. During the war in Bosnia, troops of the Bosnian Muslim government of Mr. Izetbegovic repeatedly shelled Muslim civilians in Sarajevo, killing quite a few from among their own, obviously unaware and quite innocent population, as several high-ranking United Nations commanders have confirmed. They did this, in order to create an outcry in the Western media, and a pretext of US armed intervention on the side of the Bosnian intransigent Muslim government that had previously rejected a peaceful settlement of the civil conflict that tore at the fabric of the state.

Easterners might likewise be tempted to provoke Russia to intervene in the civil war, coming to their defense.

No matter who was responsible, in the particular case of shelling the Russian village called Donetsk – the escalation strategy pursued by the Kiev government is worrying. Leading persons from neo-fascist or extremely right-wing  political movements are holding key posts related to defense. When the new government felt that the loyalty of the army and the old special forces was not to be taken for granted, a militia was formed – and there followed a massive recruitment of right-wingers and neo-nazis from West Ukraine by this militia. It was escalatory to permit the neo-fascists and right-wingers to occupy public and government buildings in Kiev even after Yanukovich (who was freely and fairly elected by formalist Western standards) was toppled as head of state – but to brand those who responded in Eastern Ukraine by doing exactly the same (occupying public buildings) as “terrorists” was stoking the flames of resistance. Certainly the opposition against Yanukovich, based in Western Ukraine, was multi-faceted, and it is simplistic to brand all protestors as neo-fascist and extremely right-wing; the truth is merely that the extreme right and the neo-fascists proved to be the decisive activist element during the days of confrontation in Kiev. Just as the term “fascist” is simplistic, while identifying a factual element present in the Maidan protests and now in the government and the militia sent to the East of the country, the description of Eastern protestors as “terrorists”  is totally unfounded. Or was? For more recent developments are still very much in the dark. 

The new parliament in Kiev aided the escalation strategy when it voted for a law that would strip Russian of its legal status as a second official language, making Ukrainian the only official language to be used by citizens and by the state in official communication, for instance when asking a policeman for help, or when applying for unemployment benefits, or for a passport. It was an act that would strip a very large segment of the population of Ukraine of their right to use their native and/or first language. Experts involved for many years in research on how to avoid violent conflict, like Johan Galtung, have warned very early on, against such an escalation strategy in Ukraine. The EU-mediators, despite the support for Svoboda (a neo-fascist or extremely right-wing party) coming from Germany, and despite the German government's official support for Klitchko, a boxer coming from a milieu that is notoriously close to organized crime, have advised against escalation, too, hoping for a soft landing, an adoption of Ukraine as an associated member of the EU, which would – they must have hoped –  not antagonize Russia too much, as long as Ukraine was being kept outside NATO.

It was the US that supported the tough course. When the new government in Kiev decided to get tough with the non-violent, yet more and more radicalized protest movement in the East of the country, Biden came to Kiev and apparently encouraged them. (In return, Biden's son got a top corporate job in Ukraine. The “Americans” are obviously also interested in off-shore oil resources and in other business prospects in this run-down  country.)  As so often, one surge of very nationalist feelings in the West (the part of the country, that, admittedly, had suffered by being stigmatized as Nazi-backers, collaborators of Hitler) lead to a flare-up of nationalism in the East, among Russian speakers who remembered suddenly the sacrifices of their grandfathers who opposed the invading Hitlerites. As far as outsiders can tell, the Eastern Ukrainian nationalists armed themselves for several reasons: Clearly, they were in the grip of pro-Russian media and resentful of the crude toppling of the elected head of state they supported, but also resentful of the abolition of Russian as an official language, of the reported erecting of war memorials for people like Bandera and others who fought on the side of Hitler, and they were also aghast at being branded terrorists when all they did was what neo-fascists  and other rightists had done in Kiev – occupy public buildings, shoving around official figures (in Kiev, left-wing members of parliament had been victimized, and at least one journalist reporting for media close to the Yanukovich government had been murdered during the Maidan protests by neo-fascists). The armed struggle ensued when their road blocks securing the peaceful civil protest movement in the cities of the East were attacked by the militia dispatched by the Kiev government. Biden had probably told the Kiev leaders, Get tough and get it done quickly. The fact that apparently the resistance to this attack was beefed up by arms shipped across the Eastern border and by “volunteers” (that is to say, Blackwater-style mercenaries) from Russia, made the “clean-up operation” difficult. It stalled; there are many victims among the fighters on both sides, and also – sadly – among the civilian population in Eastern Ukraine.  This attack on a protesting civilian population was called a war crime and even a worse thing when it happened in Syria, and in Benghazi, the stronghold of anti-Gaddafy opposition in Eastern Libya. There are good reasons to call it a crime. Why not in Ukraine? Why was there no attempt to reach a peaceful settlement, in the form of a fair compromise? “Ah,” you will say perhaps – “the strategy of escalation. And who is behind it?” No, you will not say it – the media that you consume don't tell you this story; they tell you something that amounts to “reestablishing law and order – which is a legitimate operation.” Yes, the government in Syria (headed by Assad) and in Libya (headed by Gaddafy) also started legitimate operations against mass protests that soon became armed mass protests. The constitution of many Western countries foresees armed suppression of such mass movements. So who is right? The fathers of these constitutions, and Assad and Gaddafy and Biden, when they argue in favor of a clamp-down? Or those who argue in favor of peace and compromise, like Galtung – and incidentally, again and again, in the context of the Ukrainian crisis, the Russian government which valued both a neutral Ukraine as a bridge between Russia and the EU and stepped-up economic exchange with the EU? 

A respected German daily with a considerable nationwide circulation, Suddeutsche zeitung, recently reported that the Merkel administration is nervous because of so many leaks that reveal classified information collected by the BND, the German military secret service. One such leak, Suddeutsche  wrote, was the information gathered by BND in Ukraine that American Blackwater-type mercenaries (in other words, privately recruited “special forces”) were among those fighting the “terrorists.” It was leaked to Bild zeitung, a Daily Mirror type newspaper, and the Suddeutsche journalist argued that it should not have been leaked. 

It cannot surprise careful observers. After the leak of the Nuland phone conversation, it was clear to every intelligent contemporary who did not want to close his eyes to it, that the US government was conducting yet another regime change operation, regardless of the risks involved, including the risk of US-EU alienation. They estimated apparently that the EU leaders would cave in. Economic and military relations with the US are more important to them than the Russian market. 

This brings us to the plane shot down, three hundred people who will never live again. 

Why did it happen? 
Who is behind it?

American media claim that American electronic surveillance is perfect and that America knows everything, or will know everything.
We have heard already that the culprits will be punished.
Like Saddam? In that case, the Iraqi civilian population “paid the prize” (a term so dear, again and again, to Madeleine Albright; apparently, everything must be commodified, or seen through commodifying eyes, even death).

When I hear of planes shot down, I think of an Alitalia airliner, shot down over the Tyrrhenian Sea.  The US did everything not to clarify why, and so did Italy's leaders. Two Italian air force pilots, I think, died a suspicious death when they wanted to talk about what had happened.

When I hear of planes shot down, I think of a Korean Airlines plane, shot down after entering Soviet airspace over then militarily sensitive Sachalin. Investigative journalists found out the unusually long hours the crew of the Korean airliner had worked. And they discovered that a US spy plane full of electronic surveillance equipment had followed close behind, practically at the tail of the KAL plane. The hypothesis, at the time, was that civil opposition in Western Europe, against the stationing of US medium range missiles was gaining significant strength and that the US administration needed a turn-about in the dynamics of public opinion in Western Europe. When the KAL plane was shot down, it confirmed the image of Russia as the evil empire.

When I hear of planes shot down, I think of the Iranian jumbo jet on its way from Tehran to Mecca. It was full of pilgrims. It was shot down by a US destroyer who “mistook” the widebodied Boeing for an Iraqi jetfighter, its captain claimed.  The logic proposed was that civilian airliners should avoid war zones. But the war zone was far away, and the Iraqi air force had been destroyed already in the first one or two days of the second Gulf war.

When I hear of planes shot down, I think of Lockerbie. Innocent passengers, an innocent crew that died, innocent victims in that Scottish village on the ground, smashed by the fuselage of the wrecked plane.

At the time, Gaddafy was blamed. Truthfully? There are many reasons for doubt. Frankfurt Main airport security was blamed by US authorities for being ineffective and not identifying the suitcase with the bomb. Annoyed, Frankfurt airport security informed the nation-wide liberal daily Frankfurter Rundschau that they had been explicitly requested by the US Drug Enforcement Agency to not inspect the suitcase in question. They also said that they regularly got suitcases with drugs from Lebanon going to the US that they were asked not to inspect. The reason they had been given was that this was necessary in order to arouse no suspicion among the drug dealers whose network the DEA claimed it was about to unravel.

It throws a strange light on the US that they risked the bombing of a US airplane by asking airforce security not to inspect baggage from Lebanon that was known to be suspicious.
Did they even know that there was a bomb in that suitcase? There were rumors (or perhaps reliable leaks, by travel agency personnel) that American VIPs had cancelled their flight in the doomed plane at the last minute. 

American governments were always good at creating pretexts for violent military “reprisals,” some say. The invented Gulf of Tonking incident lead to heavy bombing of North Vietnam.
Lockerbie lead to bomb attacks in Libya that killed, among many others, Gaddafy's young daughter.

The Weapons of Mass Destruction lie offered to us as one of their many White Lies  by Colin Powell, Bush, Blair etc. led to a few hundred thousand victims in Iraq and the dubious “suicide” of Dr. Kelly in Britain, a man who exposed the fact that Blair was not naively misinformed but well informed when he lied about “WMD”  – the abbreviation that was to bring about so much suffering, but of course to “the Others,” not us.
It is of course a fact that we tend to suppress, mentally, that there is no guarantee that only “the Others” will suffer.

If the American military gets involved now, in Ukraine, they bet that Russia will back down. It's a lottery, betting. You can win or lose. If you  lose, we all lose. It will mean a US-Russian war, in that case.

- Hans Olsen


Go back to Art in Society #14, Contents



A commentary offered by the editorial board of the Washington Post on the tragic death of all passengers and crew members of the Malaysian airplane was published in that newspaper on July 18th, 2014.  It  featured the headline "The U.S. needs a more aggressive response to Mr. Putin’s war." The same tendency has been apparent in the last few months in practically all Western mainstream media. It is always toughness that is demanded. This discourse is clearly escalatory, as is the description of the Russian president as another "Hitler" by former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, by German minister of economics, Schaeuble, and others. As Henry Kissinger noted, "the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one." (Henry Kissinger, "To settle the Ukraine crisis, start at the end," in; The Washington Post, March 5, 2014.) 

To say that the civil war in Ukraine is "Putin's war" is not an objective assessment, of course. A civil protest movement among mainly Russian-speaking Eastern Ukrainians evolved in response to the protest movement that comprised a decisive segment of Western Ukrainians and that toppled President Yanukovich. The movement in Eastern Ukraine resorted to practically the same militant tactics as their counterpart in the West and center of the country had done. A shooting war erupted when the government dispatched troops in order to put down the protest movement in the East and to restore control over public buildings.  In anticipation, Easterners had armed themselves and manned roadblocks to the city where the troops wanted to quell the protests. The dispatching of troops against these "terrorist" was an escalatory strategy that people like conflict studies specialist Johan Galtung, but also Henry Kissinger, advised against while it seems that Mr. Biden and others encouraged exactly that sort of action during their visits in Kiev. Insofar the conflict is at least as much "America's war" as it is now also Russia's war (in view of the assistance they apparently give to the "rebels"),

In view of the factual developments that lead to civil war in Ukraine, it is far from escalatory that "Mr. Obama blamed Russia for continuing to stoke the rebellion in eastern Ukraine and hinted that his administration could add to the sanctions it has imposed on Moscow [...]," as the Washington Post wrote on July 18th in the article already referred to. 

President Obama's pledge that “the United States is going to continue to lead efforts within the world community to de-escalate the situation” is thus an attempt to rhetorically camouflage the fact that the US government has done quite the opposite all along.

This does not mean that the Russian reaction is above criticism. The obvious regime change strategy of  the Obama administration that was brusquely voiding EU efforts to opt for a softer course of "integration" of Ukraine into its orbit has in fact led the Russian government to a policy of supporting the internal Eastern Ukrainian protests against the ousting of President Yanukovich while also preventively safeguarding its naval base on the Crimean peninsula. But the Russian government has also asked time again and again for a peaceful solution to the crisis, in other words, a  solution entailing a compromise. The refusal of the new government in Kiev to talk with the "terrorists" who occupied public buildings and who resist efforts to quell protests by military force, has made not only compromise but even talks that could lead to compromise almost impossible. 

Just a short while ago, the new minister of defense in Kiev who recently replaced an "ineffective" predecessor, boasted that the Kiev government will "celebrate the victory parade in Sebastopol." At the same time, the newly launched attacks on the "terrorists" have stalled.

In this situation, only a madman or an agent provocateur among the troops of  Eastern Ukrainian volonteers and professionals recruited by a Russian recruiting company akin to Blackwater Corporation  would want to shoot down a civilian airliner, thus turning a situation that is not too negative from their point of view, into a politically really bad, messy situation.

No one can of course exclude that too much consumption of Vodka can trigger absurd actions.

On the other hand, imbeciles and totally drunk persons can hardly operate modern missiles.  Alleging that it was a Russian "SA-11 surface-to-air missile" that was used and that only "rebels" were present in the location in question and are, in fact, guilty of shooting down the plane,  a Pentagon spokesman said, according to the quoted article published in the Washington Post on July 18th,  that "“it strains credulity” that the rebels could have operated a system capable of striking a high-flying airliner without Russian help." 

The event thus begs several questions:
- Was it a missile or a bomb smuggled into the plane that brought the aircraft down?
- If it was a missile, is it possible that another military team with non-Russian  modern surface-to-air-missile capable of shooting down the aircraft was in the area? 
- Is it possible that a provocateur or provocateurs infiltrated the "rebels" and fired the missile?
- Is it possible that the Kiev govenment sent a drone or military aircraft into the area, to provoke the "rebels,"  making them fire the missile which then hit, unintentionally, the civilian aircraft?

These are questions a layman would ask. Whether every question makes sense, from the technical point of view, is another matter.

It is theoretically possible that a bomb exploded on board. In that case, the question would be, Why was it detonated over "rebel" territory? Who would want to do it?

The US, on the basis of their perfect surveillance of the area, claims that they "saw" the fiery trail of a launched rocket.
The US or Kiev also claim to  possess footage that shows a missile launcher being transported back to Russia. If this is factual, it would rule out the bomb hypothesis.

It is well-known that forces dispatched by Kiev are in Eastern Ukraine and that control of areas is unstable and subject to change. It is not clear whether technical equipment needed to fire surface-to-air-missiles can be brought quickly into a spot and taken out quickly again. Could Kiev's troops have fired a missile?

The press also reported that "the approved flight plan" of the ill-fated plane had foreseen "a flying level of 35,000 feet, a safer altitude, but that the air traffic controllers in Ukraine directed them to fly at 33,000 feet." ( Michael Birnbaum and Anthony Faiola, "Ukranian officials accuse rebel militias of moving bodies, tampering with evidence," in: The Washington Post, July 19, 2014) This, in conjunction with the fact  that diverse other aspects of the event  remain unclear, is also disconcerting.

In view of the hoped for military successes of the troops dispatched by the government in Kiev and the unability to attain them, leading politicians in Kiev have called again and again for stronger Western support, if not military intervention, and have even painted the spectre of a world war on their imaginary "wall." 

If we ask, Who would have an interest in this kind of tragedy happening, it is the Kiev side, not the protest movement in Eastern Ukraine or the Russian government. 

So-called absurd things do of course happen. It is too early to say who is to blame. As the Telegraph, published in Kolkata (India), noted on July 18th, 2014, Kiev and "its western allies made it clear they held Moscow responsible for the crash." "British Prime Minister David Cameron, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US Vice-President Joe Biden specifically named Russia and rebels it backs as likely responsible for the crash of MH-17." The Telegraph also mentioned that at a rapidly convened "emergency UN Security Council meeting, France too criticised Russia." In contrast, "Indian officials pointed to what they described as more measured responses from some of the other nations that had citizens on board the plane." The paper specifically quoted an Indian official as saying, “When nations that have lost citizens can't take an objective view, there’s no reason for us to even contemplate a strong statement at this stage" - in other words, it is not wise to come to rash conclusions when so much is still in the dark. (The Telegraph, July 18, 2014) This is a view shared by other non-Western media, as well.

See also Zoltan Grossman's article on the role of NEO-FASCISTS and OTHERS ON THE EXTREME RIGHT during the events on Maidan Square in early 2014 and on the positions they now hold in the new government

backup copy