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People are not equal in death, either. Some deaths are more newsworthy than others. The media and politicians love spectacular acts of terror, fires, disaster, the death of the wealthy and privileged, a death conducive to a cause. Such is the death of 300 passengers and crew of the Malaysian airliner flight 17 in the crash in Donbass, near Russian-Ukrainian border. Their deaths, regrettable as they were, are deemed to be of much greater importance, or at least newsworthiness than those of some ten thousand local people killed by the indiscriminate shelling of Donbass towns by Kiev regime troops, or that of a million Arabs. It is conducive to the cause of pushing Russia into a corner.
The US and its allies wanted Russia branded with a scarlet letter. They manoeuvred Putin into a no-win situation: appear submissive or appear a mass murderer. Heads I win, tails you lose. They introduced into the UN Security Council a draft resolution on the formation of a special tribunal for the crashed Malaysian liner, containing a reference to Chapter VII, the deadliest of all, dealing with “threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression” and authorising use of force. If such a resolution would pass, it would mean Russia gave up its sovereignty. Even in the unlikely case of fair trial, the impact of such a submission would be huge. And the trial would be by a hostile court for whom Truth Is No Defence.
It would be a miracle for Russia to escape condemnation at such a court. You say, but Russia is clearly innocent in the disaster. So what? These guys are not after truth at all – they hanged Saddam, they brutalised Qaddafi, they keep Palestinians locked in Gaza, they want to destroy and subjugate strong-minded Russia. And what would be a better gambit than a resolution with the magic words “Chapter VII”. Their magic can unleash the dogs of war.
However the worst consequence would be the surrender of Russian sovereignty. If they accepted this, they could be trampled upon at will. No great state ever agreed to be tried and judged. This is a sign of “limited sovereignty”, of submission to supreme authority.
The US never did. The US did not agree to join the International Criminal Court, so its citizens could never be tried. There were a hundred cases in which the US could and should have been brought to trial, but it never happened.
As I write this, the sad anniversary of Hiroshima reminds us of the greatest crime of the last century, never brought to trial, but it happened a long time ago.
In 1980s the US mined harbours of Nicaragua, and in 1986 the ICJ (International Court of Justice) found the US guilty. The US refused to comply. They did not recognise the Court’s right to judge them.
In 1989 they invaded Panama, kidnapped its president and locked him up in the dungeon of Barad Dur, Florida. The majority of the Security Council voted for the resolution condemning the invasion, in clear and unambiguous language: “The Security Council …strongly deplores the intervention in Panama by the US Armed Forces which constitutes a fragrant violation of the international law and demands immediate cessation of the intervention” but the US and its allies vetoed the resolution.
Since then, there have been many wars and invasions, but the US never agreed to be judged, always refused to comply with judgements and vetoed any draft implying a check upon its sovereignty.
Now, all of a sudden, they have become adepts of international law.
It would be a deadly error for the Russians to submit. Such tribunals are highly political, and they decide as they are ordered. The Russians had recently had an unpleasant experience: they agreed to a tribunal in the Hague to arbitrate with the run-away oligarchs who claimed Putin had stolen their hard-earned winnings. They thought their case was so clear, and they believed in the impartiality of the tribunal. They were surprised when the Hague tribunal ordered them to pay fifty billion dollars to the fugitives. They are not likely to step on the same rake a second time.
Poets describe such tribunals better than lawyers: “I’ll be judge, I’ll be jury… I’ll try the whole case, and condemn you to death”, in the words of Lewis Carroll.
Russia vetoed the draft, and there was a deafening media scream condemning Russia for non-compliance. None of these screamers bothered to demand US compliance in a single case of transgression. They knew it would not work. Not only the US: even the smaller Jewish state of Israel has never agreed to face a tribunal.
Why does Israel refuse? Justice is a great concept, and Jews are natural born lawyers, so the Jews know: a judge can always rule the way he finds fit and find reasons for the judgment he likes.
The law is so quirky, and changes so fast! Fifty years ago, an American would get a jail sentence for having sex with a person of a different race or the same sex. Nowadays, race is no objection, but a woman of 30 gets 22 years in jail for her amorous affair with three 17-year old kids in Florida. Why, she would get less if she were to kill them.
Vladimir Lenin, a lawyer by education, considered the courts and lawyers to be a tool of the ruling class. He did not believe in objective justice. Indeed, the judges do the will of the rulers. As the rulers want to find Russia guilty, so they will, given a chance.
Granting all that, what actually happened in the air over Donetsk? There are many versions: it was a bomb planted on board the plane, the plane was hit by a ground-to-air-missile, it was shot down by an fighter jet. There are complicated conspiracy versions aplenty, combining these causes, that would provide strong competition to 9/11. The more elaborate versions connect this crash with the mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 a few months earlier.
There is no doubt that the Russians did not want to hit the passenger airliner. The Donetsk rebels could not, for this feat of hitting a plane flying at such altitude is above their grade. It is said that Kiev regime, or the then lord of Dnepropetrovsk, the Chabad tycoon Kolomoysky did it in order to implicate Russians, but I doubt that.
There are witnesses to the flight of a Ukrainian Su-25 jet fighter based in Dnepropetrovsk that possibly could have shot down the airliner, believing it was the Russian airliner Rossiya carrying President Putin. They give even the pilot’s name: captain Vladislav Voloshin.
Alternatively, there are witnesses that saw a ground-to-air missile battery belonging to Kiev or even to the rebels (which is quite unlikely: they are not that sophisticated). Who knows the truth? Such things happen in wartime, and that was a time of intensive warfare between the rebels and the Kiev regime.
I’ll tell you an old soldier’s tale. In 1973 my battalion of Israeli paratroopers seized the Egyptian Ataka Heights, in the desert between Suez Canal and Nile Valley. We had sent a group of our best fighters out for a reconnaissance raid. A friend of mine took command. It was a dark night in October. On their way back, my friend forgot to signal his return, and our sentries opened fire. My friend and three soldiers were killed. Friendly fire is not a rare thing. If friends die of friendly fire, strangers who got into wrong place in the wrong time are also likely to suffer.
I would not blame anybody in the plane disaster, excepting those who had sent the plane over the fighting zone – Kiev or Dnepropetrovsk flight dispatchers.
Neither the Ukrainian nor Russian SAM operators, nor the rebels wanted to shoot down a civilian aircraft. Even if the Ukrainian jet fighter downed the plane, he did it without understanding the nature of the target. But in war, things happen. In 1988, the Americans shot down a civilian Iranian airliner Airbus A-300. 300 people were killed, including 52 women and 66 children – same as in the Donetsk tragedy.
Initially, the Americans denied their responsibility – they said the aircraft flew in a forbidden area, and the pilot did not respond to friend/foe request. President Reagan acquitted the commander of the cruiser that shot down a civilian airliner. Later it turned out, the airliner flew at a permitted altitude, gave the right responses to the query, but the ship’s missile defence system, the Aegis, misinterpreted the signals, and the captain pushed the red button.
In February 1973, Israel shot down a Libyan civilian airliner and killed more than a hundred passengers. The airliner strayed from its route during a sandstorm and Israeli fighter-interceptors shot it down. Israelis said the flag of Libya looked similar to the flag of Egypt, or the plane could be hijacked by terrorists, for it flew towards Israel … In the end, Israel has been deemed guilty, the state never conceded its guilt but paid for the insurance.
In these two cases, there was no real war, even though it was a tension in the area. But Donbass has had a full-scale war at the time. Anyone of the combatants could bring down the ill-fated aircraft, mistaking it for an enemy – if they had technical means.
The sloppy Ukrainians could do it even in peace time out of sheer recklessness as they downed the Siberia flight from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk ten years ago. To this very day the Ukrainians haven’t admitted their fault.
Conspiracy theories can be useful – they calm media-induced frenzy. But I would not take them seriously. At war, the qui prodest rule is not working. People and planes can be destroyed just by chance. Israel was a beneficiary of the tragedy, as it diverted the world’s attention from the bloody war in Gaza. Kolomoysky, an Israeli citizen, fiery Zionist, a tycoon and the ruler of Dnepropetrovsk, a man capable of anything, was a man partly responsible for the crash, as his dispatchers ordered the liner to lower its altitude, and the captain Vladislav Voloshin was under his command. But this does not mean that Zionists downed the plane.
I am certain the Russians weren’t knowingly involved, for they opened all their secret communications for the investigators to see. If they were involved, the Americans would see it via their satellites, and they would spread the word right away. But the US keeps mum; they did not present their data. Nor did the Kiev regime: they sit on the recordings of the dispatchers with the plane. Will they publish their records? I wonder.
One thing is certain – peace be upon the victims. Allah Yerham, Lord have mercy on them, as our Arab brothers say in such cases. Anton Chekhov, the playwright, said: a gun hanging on the wall in the first act will be shot by the last act. So is a resolution referring to Chapter VII. Good that the Russians had guts to veto the draft and postponed a war for another time. Otherwise, we would have to ask for the Lord’s mercy on great many people.
Israel Shamir can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org