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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Malaysia Flight 17 -- July 20, 2014

On Thursday, Malaysian Flight MH17 crashed to the ground in Eastern Ukraine killing all passengers aboard. Deloris and nearly 300 mangled bodies were strewn across the countryside where Russian rebels are fighting government forces. The tragedy brought international grief and a demand for answers despite how the culprits were unmistakable. The Russian military has been providing the separatists in Ukraine with ever greater manpower, training, and weapons including surface to air missile systems. A Soviet made BUK obviously took down the Boeing 777 with separatists mistaking it for a Ukrainian military aircraft. The only question is how the West will respond. Russia seized Crimea and virtually nothing was done except verbal condemnation. After Russia continued to incite civil war to tear apart another chunk of the nation, Europe and the U.S. finally galvanized the courage to impose economic sanctions. The threat to increase them will not deter the Kremlin nor are they the least bit commiserate with the massacre of a few hundred innocent civilians. Western nations must commit full heartedly to Russian aggression even if it means the use of military forces.

Since Petro Poreshenko was elected president of Ukraine in May, the military has stepped up its offensive against Russian separatists in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. However, government forces have been using great restraint to avoid civilian casualties. The enemy is not the people living there peaceably, but armed separatists and Russian forces which are fighting a proxy war with Ukraine. Russia is the true source of the unrest in the east and is seeking to annex more territory. The Kremlin is looking for any justification to invade and in the meantime is providing massive covert support to the rebels. This support has increased as the Ukrainian military isolates separatists to a few enclaves and pushes them to the border. The rebels have grown increasingly desperate and it should not have been a great surprise they were to mistakenly shoot down a passenger jet. Incredibly, though, the denial of responsibility and subterfuge has caused some skepticism.

Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 left Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Four hours after take off, it suddenly burst into flames and crashed in the fields outside of Hrabove, Ukraine. Despite the airline losing a plane earlier this year, passenger jets just do not usually fall from the sky. On CNN, various theories were tossed about including terrorism and technical failure while the first images of the wreckage and plumes of smoke came in to the network. Initially, I was willing to entertain them until I saw the travel path of the airplane went over the war zone in Eastern Ukraine. The world media and public may have forgotten about the cauldron of fierce fighting in the area, but I did not. Nor for a second did I believe the Ukrainian military was to blame and that just left one suspect.

On the Rick Savage radio show, I was hoping to get more decisive indictment and commentary, but was greatly disappointed. Savage was actually accusing the government in Kiev of a conspiracy to frame Russia or their puppet insurgency. I can agree whole heartedly with some of the radio talk show host's opinions, however, occasionally he is just wacko. Furthermore, there is a divide between us on the use of America's military and influence abroad. Libertarians have excellent values when it comes to increasing individual freedom and reducing the size of government including the dismantling of the police and nanny state. However, they fail to understand these domestic laissez-faire tenets cannot be applied to foreign policy. Kentucky Senator and possible GOP presidential candidate Rand Paul also shares this same fundamental flaw in ideology which unfortunately buttresses the current president's disengagement with the world.

Largely ignored by the liberal mass media is Barack Obama's connection to radical left wing activists and ideas before his political career. The president's mindset can be gleaned from reading his article "Breaking the War" which was published for the student newspaper at Columbia University where he gained his Bachelor's degree in 1983. In the article, he blames Ronald Reagan for the Cold War. From his twisted perspective, Reagan was the antagonist fighting communism around the world as well as setting up nuclear missiles in Britain and seeking to add more in continental Europe. Interestingly, part of the reason Reagan sought to deploy tactical nukes in Europe was to counter the BUK surface to air missiles the Soviet Union introduced in the east in 1980. John Kerry who is now Barack Obama's Secretary of State also agreed Reagan was the problem and not the U.S.'s arch nemesis. The two were sympathetic to Marxist ideology and shared a belief there needs to be a bipolar world. They were horrified by the idea of a single global superpower much like the Rosenbergs who were tried for treason and executed for giving the Soviet Union assistance in creating the atom bomb. President Barack Obama's radical political beliefs did not change over time and this is readily apparent by his friendship with Bill Ayers, a former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, at the University of Chicago in the early 1990's. Even now with the powers of the White House, he continues to press for socialism and to weaken the U.S. at home and abroad.

After 298 people were murdered above the skies of eastern Ukraine, I thought the U.S. President would be compelled to act strongly. Yet, I was again disappointed and reminded of his global world view where America is not a leader but just another partner in the international community. The president simply called the crash a tragedy and expressed empathy with the victims' families. Vice President Joe Biden was not much more reassuring when he said a team of U.S. experts was being sent at the Ukrainian government's request to help "determine what happened". To determine what happened?! The Pentagon knows exactly what happened. They eavesdrop on U.S. citizens pervasively and I know they have massive surveillance over war torn eastern Ukraine. Were top American officials not immediately given Intel or were they just stalling for time? The White House administration would not want to or even talk without all their peacenik thinking heads coordinating a plan to do nothing.

While the U.S. officials waited to respond to the crash, propaganda was quickly spewing forth from the Kremlin and Russian rebels to warp world opinion. A pro-Russian separatist commander even had the audacity not only to deny responsibility but to claim the Malaysian jetliner was stuffed with dead bodies and then taken down by the Ukrainian military. Igor Girkin AKA Strelkov gave his ludicrous version of events to Russian media and the pro-rebel news website "Russkava Vesna" which ran with the story. According to Girkin, soldiers under his command had notified him that numerous bodies found on the ground were drained of blood and had signs of lengthy decomposition. To cover up the ruse, Ukrainian authorities had planted large amount of blood serum into the plane. How Ukrainians carried out this conspiracy with the collaboration or without the knowledge of Malaysian Airlines, the Dutch, and various other officials was not explained, nor do I think it could be with any semblance of sanity. The former Russian military intelligence agent was apparently an idiot, nutcase, drunk, or all of the above.

Russian government controlled news outlets were better at deception, although not much more. Reporters from Russia claimed the separatists did not have the capability to take down the passenger jet which was flying at an altitude of 33,000 feet or over 6 miles and therefore only the Ukrainian military could have done it. However, this deduction was contradicted by evidence the rebels were equipped with the SA-11 or Soviet-era BUK mobile anti-aircraft missile system. The BUK has a range of 72,000 feet and Ukrainian police surveillance already provided proof of it being in the hands of pro-Russian insurgents before the plane's explosion. On Friday, one truck was also recorded fleeing into Russia with only 3 of its 4 missiles aboard. The Ukrainian government had even intercepted communications between rebel commander Igor Bezler and a Russian intelligence officer that his men had just shot down a passenger jet. He goes on to describe to Colonel Vasily Geranin the immense wreckage and human carnage. It is extraordinary Russian separatists would even attempt to deny responsibility when immediately after the Boeing 777 was obliterated at 2:15 GMT, rebels bragged of shooting down what they believed was a military transport plane on social media. These messages and film footage was quickly deleted after they learned their mistake, but were still stored online.

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attempt to deny separatists struck down Malaysian Flight MH17, but astonishingly placed blame squarely on the Ukrainian government. They were responsible because it occurred over their territory and if they had not pursued taking back control of their own land, the death of 298 people would not have happened. This Orwellian double speak was difficult to comprehend and I had to take a moment to follow his words. Russia had wrested control of another part of Ukraine and because they fought to gain it back and it was still technically their territory, they were the guilty party. This was the most absurd, backwards logic I had heard in some time. Contrarily, it was Russia which was to blame and I was glad when U.S. and other national leaders officially condemned the Kremlin.

British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote an Op-ed in England's Sunday Times stating the growing weight of evidence suggests the separatists shot down the plane and if so it was a direct result of Russia destabilizing a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, and providing militias with training and armaments. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also finally weighed in saying the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine destroyed Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 and the Kremlin was complicit. Russia was supporting the insurgents with training and equipment including heavy weaponry like the BUK anti-aircraft missile system. All of the world leaders, however, parsed their words including Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans who demanded the culprits be found. "Once we have the proof, we will not stop until the people are brought to justice," he exclaimed. Proof? What more proof does the world particularly the Netherlands need? One would think that after an atrocity such as this where 192 of their citizens were massacred, the Dutch would be prepared to drop their tulips and pick up some rifles.

Although Vladimir Putin was to give the most insincere condolences, the Russian rebels who shot down the Boeing 777 were much more forthcoming with their ambivalence. These soldiers saw Holland as much of an enemy as the government in Kiev. Newly elected Ukrainian President Petro Poreshenko sought closer ties with the West and Europe was more than welcoming them into the fold from Russian nationalists' point of view. At the very least, dead Dutch civilians were simply collateral damage. The bodies were allowed to rot under the hot summer sun and periodic bursts of rain. Birds pecked at their eyes and other animals gnawed on their flesh. The personal effects were plundered or treated without concern. On CNN, I saw film footage of an insurgent twirling a child's doll before tossing it on the ground. When the bodies were finally collected, they were not treated much differently. Drunken separatists stacked bodies on the backs of trucks which were then loaded on cars of freight trains which I was surprised were refrigerated. Karlijn Keijzer, a pretty 25-year-old Dutch graduate was shown on television and I wondered if her decomposing corpse was on one of those first trains that left the rebel held town of Torez where the BUK missile was fired killing her and another 297 passengers.

A day before Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was blown up over the skies of eastern Ukraine, the U.S. imposed economic sanctions against Russia. For months, the Pentagon and other intelligence agencies have known Russia has been behind the insurgency and it is not a domestic uprising as the Kremlin would have the world believe. While Russian news outlets churn out propaganda, their military does little to hide their operations in Ukraine. Russian special Ops, technical advisers, and other soldiers are across the border leading separatists. Along with them is a free flow of military equipment, trucks, and heavy weaponry. Because of Barack Obama's opposition to engaging Russia like Ronald Reagan did in the 1980's, he instead is seeking the least confrontational approach.

The sanctions against Russia included its largest oil producer Rosneft and 3rd largest bank as well as some armaments manufacturers. Gazprom was also targeted and its stock share price fell 6% before rebounding partly the day after the airline disaster. The U.S. stock market seemed unperturbed by the sanctions and rose to record highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Avg. ended the week at 17,100. Interest rates are causing investors to pour into the market and the fear of a trade war with Russia is not daunting. The sanctions are not very tough and trade between the two countries only accounts for 2%. For Russia to be hurt economically, it will require Europeans to join the U.S. in totally shutting off trade with their menacing eastern neighbor. Russia is heavily dependent on selling the oil and natural gas to the West as well as their technology and finance. London banks and other financial institutions could squeeze billions of dollars in savings, capital, and equities in an instant. On Tuesday, European leaders will meet to consider further economic sanctions, however, I doubt they are willing to make the sacrifices necessary. I also believe more sanctions are not enough and military forces must be used.

Vladimir Putin strongly believes in restoring the former Soviet Union's territory and influence. These ambitions were encouraged by Barack Obama who wanted to "reset relations" and displaying weakness. Because of his radical liberal ideology, the U.S. president repeatedly missed opportunities to dissuade the Russian leader long before the Ukrainian revolution began. Now with his jaws clenched on another piece of Eastern Europe, it will be difficult to dislodge them. However, the Malaysian Airlines catastrophe gives Obama a chance to galvanize European support for not only economic sanctions but military actions. If Russia is going to aid the insurgents in Ukraine, the West can aid the legitimate government with all the heavy weaponry and manpower they need. The corrupt and precarious puppet government Russia has in Belarus can also be unhinged. If Putin fails to release Crimea, the little piece of Russia around Kalingrad can be seized. It should have been returned to Poland anyway a couple of decades ago. Finally, the Bosperus Straight which Russia's naval fleet in Crimea is dependent upon to get out of the Black Sea can be closed. If the U.S. had real leadership like Reagan who Obama so liked to criticize, there is no limit to what could be done, although America would have never been put in this situation to begin with.

Some Americans probably believe the U.S. does not have a duty to defend Europe. However, when Franklin D. Roosevelt allowed the Soviet Union to swallow up half the continent, there became one and it has never ceased. When Germany was crushed, it left a huge power vacuum that needed to be filled. Harry Truman recognized this and heavily supported the Marshal Plan and NATO. Over the years, the Truman Doctrine was wisely kept by succeeding presidents, most notably Ronald Reagan who saw his mission as destroying a malevolent communist empire. With its collapse this did not mean America could afford to walk away and NATO was expanded eastward. Furthermore, a treaty was signed with Russia guaranteeing Ukraine's sovereignty if it gave up its nuclear arsenal. Barack Obama has turned his back on this commitment and for that matter those around the world.

The geopolitical significance of Ukraine cannot be understated. It is the breadbasket of Europe and has vast undervalued national resources. However, more importantly, its inclusion into the European Union will create a balance of power. Having Ukraine as an ally or simply independent is a counterweight and check to possible Russian aggression. The country is pivotal and acts as a doorway to the European peninsula. Various Asiatic invaders have entered the continent going through the flat prairie Steppe from the Huns to Genghis Khan. Locking this gateway is vital to the national security needs of the U.S. and its European allies. Hopefully, the deaths of nearly 300 people on Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was not in vain and galvanizes the West's resolve to prevent a far greater tragedy.