Destruction of Malaysia Airlines flight poses huge conundrum for Obama, Europe

The Obama administration and western European governments are in a real pickle over what’s going on in Ukraine, and it’s not entirely their fault.

As you know, a civilian Malaysia Airlines jetliner was shot down yesterday over Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers on board.

Today, the US government is saying that the plane was in fact shot down, likely by a Russian missile under the control of rebels that were created, funded and trained by the Russians. What’s more, it’s increasingly looking like the Russians themselves taught the rebels how to use the anti-aircraft missiles that the Russians provided them.

What does this mean for the US and Europe?

As you know, Russia recently annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, and now has been fomenting civil war in eastern Ukraine, possibly as a pretext for a renewed Russian invasion that would then annex more of Ukraine’s territory.

Until now, the US and western Europe have been loathe to get more involved in the Ukraine crisis. Kyiv is not Berlin, or even Tallinn (the capital of Estonia, a NATO member that we have no choice but to defend military). Ukraine was not considered vital to the national interests of either the United States or Europe, so no one was willing to risk going to war — or even cold war — over it, regardless of the ethical and humanitarian implications of letting Ukraine be reabsorbed into a neo-Soviet orbit, of sorts.

The thing is, as a friend explained it to me, western Europe thinks it’s the 19-teens, while eastern Europe thinks it’s the 1930s. What does that mean? It means western Europe is trying to avoid letting small skirmishes turn into World War I, while eastern Europe knows what happens when you appease despots (whether they have a German or Russian accent).

Fast forward to this week, when the Russians (apparently) decided it was no longer enough to kill Ukrainians, they started killing people the Europeans and Americans actually care about — their own citizens.

At this point, US intelligence thinks the Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine shot down the Malaysian airliner, and they suspect it was with a Russian (Soviet) “Buk” missile.  And the Pentagon said today that it was basically inconceivable that the rebels could have learned to operate the missiles without Russian help.  There’s also a serious question as to where the Russian rebels got their Russian weapons from (take a guess).

But it’s worse than that. CNN was saying yesterday that while it would have been obvious to the Russians that this was a civilian airliner, it would have been next to impossible for the Russian rebels in Ukraine to know the difference between a Ukrainian military plane and a civilian airliner.  The Russians knew they couldn’t tell the difference, the Russians knew they were providing weapons and training to people who were planning on shooting down planes in an area that was a major corridor for international civilian air traffic. And the Russians went ahead and trained them to shoot down the planes anyway (if, everything we now suspect ends up being true).

That’s not an accident. And it’s not simple negligence. It borders on premeditated murder.

You train someone to shoot down planes, in a zone full of civilian airliners, knowing full well that the people you’re training have no way of knowing which planes are civilian and which are military.  You know they’re going to be killing innocent people, and you simply don’t care (or perhaps even want them to).  That’s not a “mistake.”

And that puts both President Obama and western Europe in an awful pickle. It’s one thing to ignore a regional power that’s nasty as hell, and insists on brutalizing its own former satellites, but no one you “really” care about (i.e., a NATO ally). It’s quite another thing entirely when the despot starts brutally murdering your own citizens, including the 80 children who were on board that flight. (And then, they send their thugs to close off the crime scene and shoot at the international investigators, as the rebels have done, in an apparent effort to steal the evidence of the crime.) Then what do you?

At the very least, it’s no longer business as usual.  It’s no longer simply a matter of slowly ratcheting up sanctions. (How many western children does Putin have to shoot out of the sky before we doubly or triple-y ramp up sanctions — is there a sliding scale for this kind of thing?)

Screen-Shot-2014-07-18-at-7.31.24-PMBut, it’s even more complicated than that.  While Ronald Reagan was happy to go ballistic on the Soviets after they shot down that Korean Airlines Flight 007, killing 269 civilians (including an American congressman), and then denying it until the US proved it in the United Nations within some incredibly damning recordings.  But what do you do when you’re not Ronald Reagan, when you don’t think it’s in your national interest to declare cold war on Russia and Putin over Ukraine, but Putin doesn’t get the message and then shoots some of your citizens out of the sky in cold blood?

This wasn’t an accident. It was Russia’s new foreign policy. A foreign policy in which western civilian casualties are not just acceptable collateral damage, but perhaps, troublingly, they’re even part of the plan.

There’s been a lingering concern as to whether the new Russia, and the new Putin, were trying to truly reconstitute the Soviet Union in all of its deadly glory.  The hope was that Putin’s Russia could be contained, and that the Russian leader would restrain himself, and kill only his neighbors.  But as often happens with killers, an appetite for murder and lawlessness knows few boundaries.

If today’s suspicions become tomorrow’s truths, then Russia has crossed a line that demands a much sterner response than the one it’s gotten to date — whether we like it or not.

Here’s Reagan’s speech on the KAL shootdown. Whatever else you say about the man, he sure knew how to kick the Russians.

NOTE FROM JOHN: I know I say this a lot, but I’m not kidding, we need your help sharing our content on social media if we’re going to keep AMERICAblog alive. Please share our stories, which brings us visitors, and helps us earn more ad revenue.” Thanks for your help. JOHN

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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97 Responses to “Destruction of Malaysia Airlines flight poses huge conundrum for Obama, Europe”

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  6. quax says:

    The US has many flaws, honoring their military commitments has never been one of them. Germany had to rely on some US air support for the German troops in Afghanistan and even when the US focus was completely (misdirected) on Iraq the US military always came through.

    Let’s hope we won’t have to find out the hard way that this commitment will go both ways.

  7. putaro says:

    How could I entertain such an abysmally low opinion of other nations? Well, having lived outside the US for many years and being a student of history, I can say that it’s just reality. Countries go to war for their own interests and rightly so. Treaties are honored when it’s in the interests of the nation, not just “because”.

    As far as besmirching other countries honor, I’ve never noticed any hesitation on the part of Europeans to criticize the US whenever given the chance. I’d never dream of telling a European how to run their countries but it’s certainly offered to me on a regular basis.

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  9. quax says:

    You clearly have an issue to keep your categories sorted “NATO’s 2 percent guidance” for the defense budget is in no way mandatory, mobilization in case of an attack on a member state is.

    Failure to comply would be criminal and tantamount to treason.

    That’s why the question of who files suite is entirely hypothetical, it is extremely unlikely that a NATO nation wouldn’t follow this obligation, even more so that this decision was so unanimously that nobody would bother to prosecute.

    I presume you never ventured outside the US. Have no idea how else you could entertain such an abysmally low opinion on other nations, and think it’s perfectly OK to besmirch their honor when it comes to following treaty obligations.

  10. putaro says:

    The judiciary does not act independently. Someone needs to file a lawsuit, Presumably the executive would not be filing against themselves. NATO filing suit to force a country to go to war seems…insane. The supreme court would need to issue a ruling – that usually takes time. I’m not sure if there has ever been an instance of a court ordering a country to go to war – it would be an interesting precedent if it got that far. I think it’s naive to think that something like that would happen.

    No, treaties are broken all the time. It would probably be the end of NATO if that were to happen. Most of the European NATO members have been not fulfilling their treaty obligations already with their cuts in defense spending (

  11. quax says:

    As in all democratic countries the judiciary is independent of the government.

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  14. putaro says:

    Prosecuted by whom? And in what time frame?

  15. quax says:

    Treaties become law of the land, a French government not complying with it could (and should) be prosecuted.

  16. putaro says:

    Laws and treaties aren’t computer programs – there is no automatic. Suppose France decides not to uphold its NATO obligations. What would force them to do so?

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  18. lynchie says:

    All the more reason to use that Russian dependency by freezing assets and not trading with them until this is resolved. I would much rather do that than as McCain wants and send in arms, rockets and whatever.

  19. MyrddinWilt says:

    No, the Europeans decided to make themselves dependent on Russian oil as part of a deterrence strategy. The dependence is mutual, Europe depends on Russian gas, Russia depends on Europe as customers. That is called entanglement and is a very important and useful strategy deterring aggression by either.

    Only it fell apart the minute Putin started trying to use the gas supply as leverage it has all fallen apart. Europe has been forced to investigate other suppliers and they have been making big investments to make those supplies available.

    Net result is that Russia is going to be selling a lot less gas this year and next because of Putin’s threats. Once money has been spent securing supplies in Libya, those are going to be landed regardless. The fact of the matter is that Russia is far more dependent on Europe than the reverse.

  20. quax says:

    BS. NATO is not a paper tiger precisely because war is automatic and binding for treaty members in case of an attack. I am thoroughly pissed off by your cavalier attitude to assume that simply because Europe has been treating lightly that the European nations wouldn’t step up as required.

    And as to not messing with nations that you need for energy supply, when exactly has the US ever opposed the nauseating Saudi regime at anything?

    Europe was of course hoping that cooler heads would prevail in the Ukraine crisis, but now the pressure clearly has to be revved up

  21. MyrddinWilt says:

    I don’t think it was a mistake to be reluctant to denounce Putin early on. I don’t think he would have changed course for the better and it would be very difficult to convince people that the emerging situation hadn’t been created by the West rejecting Putin’s olive branch.

    In short even though it was obvious he was a NAZI, we had to let him to provide the proof while trying to limit the damage he could cause. Even so Dr Henry Kisinger, the famous war criminal has been criticizing both parties for being nasty to Mr Putin.

    What we didn’t need to do of course was look into his eyes and pronounce his soul to be beautiful.

    Putin himself seemed to be drawing back from the abyss in recent weeks. At this point he has the choice of letting Ukraine become integrated with Europe and NATO without complaint and starting a civil war which Russia would lose. They would probably lose control in other areas as well.

    The similarity to George W. Bush grows stronger every day. Bush tried to look strong by using brute force but he ended up looking a brute. And few people would regard him these days as having been ‘strong’. He was a weak man trying to look strong with a bad act. Putin is very much the same.

    Shirtless man on a horse…

  22. lynchie says:

    Funny the rest of NATO probably would not. They love them so Russian gas and oil. Time to freeze all their assets in every country and to stop trading with them. That is the only thing Putin might recognize. I am not on the side of the Repubs, but it is time to play some hardball and Obama can’t pitch the high inside pitch.

  23. I’m sure Republicans will, as Becca wrote, it’s what they do. That has little to do with my analysis of the conundrum this poses from Obama and western Europe when neither, understandably, wants to geting in to a new cold war, particularly over Ukraine, but now they’re being forced to nonetheless.

  24. If Putin makes a move on a NATO country it’s going to be WWIII. I disagree with Becca on this one. Regardless of what Europe does, America will go to war over an incursion against a NATO country.

  25. Bill_Perdue says:

    Wrong. The US is not a fascist country, although fascist groups are forming and solidifying.

    Correct. Both political parties in the US are owned by corporatists.

    Correct. The US has an empire composed of the lands of native peoples and the peoples of Mexico and exercises imperial hegemony over most of the globe.

    Correct. In spite of the fact that the US in not a fascist state it remains the main enemy of the people of the world, followed closely by the zionist bunkerstadt, where they burn young men alive and use artillery and bombs on children in their homes, playing on beaches and in centers for the care of children disabled by earlier bomb raids.

    You passed. Unless that was meant as satire, in which case you failed miserably.

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  27. quax says:

    Don’t buy it. Estonia is not Crimea. In the latter territory there is little doubt that the majority was perfectly OK to join Russia. On the other hand Estonia is a nation with distinct language and history. And the NATO treaty is pretty clear with regards to attacks on member nations, it’ll mean that all countries within NATO will immediately be considered to be at war with the attacker.

    As a German I find it a tad insulting to insinuate we wouldn’t live up to the treaty’s obligation.

  28. quax says:

    Of course it is entirely possible that this was pre-meditated, but as others here have pointed out the possibility of sheer ignorance cannot be discounted. After all Putin is a lot of things, but stupid isn’t one of them, and clearly Russia does not benefit from this barbaric act.

    But there is yet another possibility: Putin may not be in full control, neither of the Russian extremists nor rogue nationalist factions in the Russian army. He thought he could instrumentalise hyper-Nationalism but he may have left a genie out of the bottle that he can no longer curtail.

    Frankly, I think that’ll be the scariest scenario.

  29. Bluestocking says:

    The trouble with that argument, John, is that saying we shouldn’t have gone into Iraq doesn’t change the fact that we did. One of the reasons why Iraq turned out to be such a boondoggle was because the higher-ups kept ignoring the realities of the situation on the ground. Well, one of the realities of the situation on the ground right now is the fact that our military is overstressed precisely because we went into Iraq — we have to deal with the situation as it is, not with the way it could have been or should have been.

    There’s also the little matter of the fact that Iraq isn’t even ranked in the world’s top twenty countries in terms of firepower — and yet we failed to achieve much of lasting value there despite more than eight years of fighting. (Of course, as I pointed out before, the fact that the high muckamucks refused to face reality didn’t help.) Imagine how much harder it would be to fight Russia, given that they’re not just in the top twenty but in the top five right behind us…

  30. angryspittle says:

    But, but, but, didn’t W look into Putin’s eyes and see his soul? That is the type of abject fucking stupidity I was talking about.

  31. Badgerite says:

    Hard to say.

  32. Badgerite says:

    It depends who you are dealing with and what their aims are.
    During the lead up to WWII, both the Tories who supported the government policy of negotiation with Hitler, the Labor party and the German press sought to portray Churchill as a war monger. What Churchill knew is that negotiations with Hitler would only embolden him. And he was right.
    It depends who you are dealing with and whether their complaints are valid or just a pretext. In Putin’s case, I believe they are just a pretext to do what he wants, which is recover lost empire and lost influence in the world. He is falling back on all the old methods that the Soviet Union was so well known for.

  33. Badgerite says:


  34. emjayay says:

    Regular supermarkets and Russian stores in my Brooklyn neighborhood sell tons of all kinds of Russian beer. Being Russian it commonly comes with up to 8% alcohol or more, it’s good, and it’s cheap.

    How much do I have to suffer for the murder of a planeload of people and Crimea and oppression of gay people and stuff anyway?

    OK, I’ll stick to the Ukrainian beer, damnit.

  35. emjayay says:

    The fascist imperialist corporatist United States is totally culpable for every bad thing that ever happens anywhere in the world.

  36. emjayay says:

    I appreciate anyone who understands that it’s aluminum, not tin, foil.

  37. cambridgemac says:

    John, I think your post failed to recognize that horrible, cruel mistakes happen – and Americans have a double standard when they do.

    When the US Navy shot down an Iranian Airbus with over 350 innocent civilians on it ( a shuttle flight down to the Emirates) because the Navy wasn’t listening to civilian air traffic control – a case of criminal negligence if ever there was one – there were no calls for war by other nations or by foreign journalists (your counterparts). Likewise when Israel shot down an American airliner near Egypt back in the 70s.

    The destruction of the Malaysian flight appears to have been a mistake, too. Like the downing of the KAL flight by the Russians. What was NOT a mistake was the arming of the Ukrainian-Russian insurgents. The same mistake that we are making now in Syria, have already made in Libya (how’s that working out?), and that we made when we armed Bin Laden and his buddies in Afghanistan. We could contribute more to world peace by cleaning up our crazy militarists than by calling for Russian heads.

  38. mark_in_toronto says:

    I did come away thinking that “huge conundrum for Obama” – “what do you do when you’re not Ronald Reagan” – “Whatever else you say about the man, he sure knew how to kick the Russians” was a bit . . . earnest. Not an accusation . . . more of a predication in that the Repubs will certainly spin this around to somehow make it Obama’s fault and they may even bring up Reagan . . . just like you did.
    BTW . . . I don’t do twitter.

  39. angryspittle says:

    I remember Bob Hope saying in the 60’s that if we don’t stop them in Vietnam we’d be fighting them in San Diego or at the Golden Gate. And the Munich analogy has been the basis of the argument for engaging in military adventures for the past 75 years. Negotiating is not appeasement. Diplomacy is not appeasement. Using your goddamn head and coming up with solutions short of blunt fucking violence is not appeasement. It takes creativity, patience, intelligence, and wisdom. Something that the US has not been real good at exhibiting at times. In fact we are kind of proud of our stupidity, just look at the teabaggers. Take a gander at some of the absolute goddamn morons we send to congress, Gohmert, Bachmann, hell, the list of real doofuses is a long one.

  40. Badgerite says:

    The fact that it is an old ‘argument’ ( I would characterize it as a fact of history and not just an argument ) hardly means it has no validity.
    As to “every damn conflict we have found ourselves in”, I would beg to differ as to the cause. I think that Stalin and Mao did actually have something to do with why we found ourselves in those conflicts, mistaken ( like Vietnam) or not (like North and South Korea ).

  41. Bill_Perdue says:

    They won’t but they should. This is their responsibility. Just like the carnage in Libya is the responsibility of the US and NATO and the genocide in Iraq is the sole and direct responsibility of the Clintons and the Bushes.

  42. Bill_Perdue says:

    The mass murder of civilians, especially children is a characteristic trait of US foreign policy. The US and NATO started the war for the Ukraine. Just as they did in Libya, Iraq and a score of other nations. The US is responsible for all the deaths in Iraq since the Clinton baby killing spree which had half a million child victims and the Bush invasion and occupation of Iraq. Over a million died there and well over a million in Vietnam.

    The US is responsible for the deaths on the plane. It should not refuse to admit it’s culpability and it should compensate the victims, along with whatever group or government fired the missle. That’s something that was not done when 290 civilians were murdered by the US Navy when it shot down Iran Air Flight 655, a civilian passenger flight from Tehran to Dubai shot down by the United States Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes on 3 July 1988. The attack took place in Iranian airspace, over Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, and on the flight’s usual flight path. The aircraft, an Airbus A300 B2-203, was destroyed by SM-2MR surface-to-air missiles fired from the Vincennes. … All 290 on board, including 66 children and 16 crew, died. This attack ranks seventh among the deadliest disasters in aviation history… (from wiki) The US refused to apologize or compensate the victims.

  43. BeccaM says:

    The US and German governments will have to apologize and pay compensation along with whoever fired the missile.

    No, they won’t. Because there will never be a civil case brought against the U.S. or German governments for this or for anything else that happens in the hostilities between the Ukrainian and separatist pro-Russian forces.

    You might wish it to be otherwise, but it’s not going to happen. It’s like saying the Allied countries after WW I would have to pay reparations to the Jews and the inhabitants of all the countries invaded by the Axis forces in WW II because there was a link between excessive post WW I reparations and the rise of the Nazis and other fascist forces. But no blame to the Nazis and fascists themselves.

    The world doesn’t work that way. And neither does culpability.

  44. caphillprof says:

    There was a time when children and babies did not fly in planes. Perhaps we should return to that, especially when flying over a war zone.

  45. And it’s not a bad idea to be wary, or leery. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes, perhaps often, when you want to get involved for good reasons, things can go terribly bad. Not to go all Star Trek, but that’s one of the main points behind the Prime Directive. And while it’s science fiction, it’s based on a relevant fact of history. Sometimes helping doesn’t help. But sometimes it does, I would argue — if only to send a message to future bad guys, or the same bad guy, that enough is enough. Clearly Putin didn’t get the message, and 298 people are dead as a result.

  46. And that is why we shouldn’t have gone into Iraq. Do you fight battles just for the heck of it, lest you can’t afford to ramp up the pressure when it is necessary.

  47. Cool. So if someone else starts a war (hypothetically speaking), it’s okay to respond by slitting the metaphorical threat of every child and baby in sight. Good to know.

  48. BeccaM says:

    A big part of the problem right now is the U.S. does not have a functioning federal government. To be sure, the majority of foreign policy remains in the hands of the Executive branch, but the old saw about “politics stopping at the water’s edge” is no longer operative.

    Today’s Republican party openly uses the language of secession, treason, and incitement to coup.

    In my opinion, much of Obama’s fecklessness is self-inflicted. But on the other hand, the GOP gladly undercuts him at every turn — which then unavoidably makes him weaker internationally. Through their constant obstructionism, the Republicans have also ensured that the U.S. will never be seen as a reliable negotiating partner.

    Putin seems pretty clearly to be looking to reconstitute the former Soviet, now Russian empire, starting with the most strategically significant territories. Europe and the U.S. are in disarray. Whether this is getting into the old “LIHOP” or “MIHOP” territory (the old acronyms associated with 9/11 conspiracy theory truthers and their constant arguments over whether the Cheney administration LET it happen on purpose or MADE it happen) is beside the point. Who benefits from atrocities and unrest in eastern Europe? Russia. Who will have opportunities to expand their ‘sphere of influence’ through intervention, occupation, and intimidation? Russia.

    At this point, I don’t even think we could count on the NATO treaty to mean much if Putin decided to do to Estonia what he did in Crimea. A common defense treaty isn’t worth the paper its written on if the nations involved won’t or don’t want to back up the promises.

    Back in the 1980s, when KAL 007 was shot down, the Democrats didn’t contradict their president, even as they were in the opposition in general. They didn’t undercut him. They didn’t immediately insist that everything Reagan said or did was 100% wrong.

    That’s not the GOP today. They not only oppose every last thing Obama and the Dems say and do, they yell it loudly enough to make sure the entire world hears it. Or to put it another way, if this was 1941 and Pearl Harbor had just happened, the Republicans wouldn’t vote to declare war but immediately convene impeachment hearings against FDR. Because political opportunism overrides everything else for the GOP.

    As The_Fixer points out, the United States isn’t united on anything these days. And all Europe seems to care about anymore is deciding which of their poorer countries is ripe for more bankster plundering in the form of imposed austerity measures. For a would-be imperialist like Putin, there’s probably never been a better time to rebuild the empire.

  49. FLL says:

    Kiss the evidence goodbye. The victims’ relatives may not even be afforded the common human decency of being able to retrieve the bodily remains of the victims.

  50. The_Fixer says:

    Well, the right wing is blaming Obama for this, of course. But it is certainly no secret that G.W. Bush was a Putin enabler when he got friendly with him. I don’t know how a rational, cognizant human could look into Putin’s eyes – especially knowing his history in detail, courtesy of U.S. intelligence services – and see anything but a sociopath. Dimbulb George does it again.

    I think Putin has been emboldened first by buffaloing Bush, and then by the weak presidency of Obama. After all, it’s a hell of a lot easier to start pulling shenanigans when your chief adversary is busy arguing over the validity of a birth certificate, Benghazi and every other damn stupid non-issue under the sun. If there’s one thing you can say about Reagan, his acting ability made him appear to be a strong president. He also had a Republican machine behind him, supporting him every step of the way. I don’t think Obama has the same appearance of strength, and as a result, the Russians don’t think he’ll do anything of consequence.

    I was watching (part of) Washington Week on PBS last night, and one of the panelists noted that an economic boycott of Russia would be tough to pull off. Not so much for the United States, but for Europe, due to it’s dependence on Russian oil and natural gas. Suppose they do stop buying it. Will the U.S. be able to make up the difference? If we attempted, it would result in even more damage than we’re currently inflicting on the environment. Even if we were willing and able to do such a thing, it would take time to gear up for it.

    John is right – this is a conundrum for Obama, as well as the rest of the world. How do you reign in Putin and do so without resulting in a catastrophic military action? One thing is for sure, it would require a unified response from the whole of the U.S. government. The Republicans aren’t into that kind of thing these days – they much prefer to stymie Obama in any way they can, and bitch about refugee children.

    I’m afraid that Putin is going to get away with this one, and perhaps a few more if we don’t act like our name, the United States. We are not the world’s policeman and stick our nose into too many things. However, the only thing that bullies respect is powerful, unified response. That does not mean war, but oftentimes it requires strength, or at least the appearance of it.

    We can’t even pass a F’n highway bill in this country. As long as the Republicans act the way that they have been acting, we’re screwed. I put a lot of the blame on them.

  51. Hue-Man says:

    Agree whole-heartedly. Airplane crashes are one of the best examples as they often involve multiple system failures – mechanical failure, maintenance, weather, pilot decisions, etc.

    I’ve been thinking about my own air travels; I never gave a thought to what routes the airline and the pilots chose. The best example was a flight 15 years ago from Australia to Paris via Hong Kong – looking at the great circle routing, I didn’t spend a single minute of the 24 hours traveling, worrying about the likely route over Western China, Russia, Belarus, etc. I assumed that the airline would do everything in its power to get me safely to my destination and wouldn’t put corporate profits ahead of my personal safety. (I suspect there was a certain herd mentality at play here – “it must be safe to fly because SuperBigMonster Airlines is flying”.)

  52. PeteWa says:

    of course they can!
    and also, Planeghazi!
    what did Obama know and when did he know it?
    we need to ignore all those other deaths, what about the one precious American life that was lost?
    I look to Alex Jones and his squadron of flying monkeys for enlightenment on this pressing issue.

  53. 2karmanot says:

    Well done!

  54. 2karmanot says:


  55. FLL says:

    Some of the comments on this thread have warned about the dangers of warmongering, and I share the opinion that the correct response of our own country, the United States, is not to put boots on the ground and engage in hostilities in Ukraine. A few comments have implied that John’s post contains warmongering, and here I have to disagree. Is warmongering implied by including Reagan’s 1983 speech on the KAL Flight 007 disaster? There is no possible interpretation of Reagan’s speech (or John’s inclusion of it) through which the reader would conclude that this was an example of warmongering. Review the facts. We didn’t go to war with the Soviet Union in 1983, did we? Reagan’s response to the Soviet Union was limited to international diplomacy and restricting the access of Soviet Aeroflot flights to U.S. airports. Not a single shot was fired between the U.S. and Soviet Union following the KAL shoot down. The farthest John goes is to say the following:

    If today’s suspicions become tomorrow’s truths, then Russia has crossed a line that demands a much sterner response than the one it’s gotten to date — whether we like it or not.

    John’s statement is hardly a call for a shooting war between the U.S. and Russia, and his statement coincides with the vast majority of world opinion, and I don’t think world opinion is wrong in this case. Ever since Putin came to pawer at the beginning of the century, the Russian government has followed a pattern of fomenting civil wars in neighboring countries (and Republics within the Russian Federation) with ethnic Russian minorities, and Russia has followed this pattern with the very transparent motive of annexing pieces of territory from said countries and crushing popular resistance in non-Russian Republics within the Russian Federation: first in Chechnya, then in Georgia, then in the Transnistria region of Moldova and now in Ukraine. Latvia has a substantial ethnic Russian minority. The only reason that Latvia may not be the next item on Putin’s menu is the fact that Latvia is a member of NATO, thus proving the need for NATO’s continued existence.

    But a reply from BeccaM on another thread reminded me that the U.S. once shot down a passenger plane, Iran Air Flight 655, which was destroyed by surface-to-air missiles launched from the USS Vincennes in 1988. This shootdown occurred in the middle of the Iran-Iraq War. I think BeccaM offered a good summary:

    Major powers are perfectly capable of amazing levels of incompetence and negligence.

    The Soviets, however, shot down KAL Flight 007 in an area where no war was in progress, without the slightest reason other than cold-blooded murder. How about compensation for the victims’ survivors? In 1996, the United States agreed to pay US$61.8 million, ($92.9 million today), amounting to $213,103.45 ($320,446 today) per passenger, in compensation to the families of the Iranian victims. The Soviets never paid a dime in compensation. Putin seems determined to follow the Soviet track record in this regard as well. He ignores the documented fact of Russia supplying the separatists with surface-to-air missiles and training them to use those missiles.

    Instead, Russia’s UN ambassador maintains that the fault lies with the Ukrainian government for failing to take steps needed to ensure the safety of passenger aircraft.

    There is one notion, however, that the Russian government has not spoken of, and I can certainly understand why the Russians, or any sane human being, would avoid this notion entirely. I am referring to an idea that is deluded, paranoid and borders on mental illness, an idea which appears only on the comment pages of Americablog. Some commenters here are floating the idea that the U.S. government is to blame for the Malaysia Airlines shootdown because of its support for Ukraine’s right to enter the European Union. When Viktor Yanukovych reneged on plans to establish closer ties with the EU and moved toward joining the Russian-dominated Eurasian Economic Union, massive street protests ensued. Week after week, month after month, November through February, tens of thousand and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets in Kiev and elsewhere in Ukraine. They were not American agents. In May, Petro Poroshenko, who is determined to stop Russia from invading more Ukrainian territory, won in a landslide with 54.7% out of a field of 21 candidates. The American government did not exercise mind control over millions of Ukrainian voters. I seem to remember some Americablog commenters knocking on my door asking to borrow some aluminum foil. I have no objection to Americablog commenters occasionally borrowing kitchen items, but I thought they were using the aluminum foil for its intended purpose, wrapping food, not making tin foil hats. Please think before you offer paranoid conspiracy theories.
    I want my roll of aluminum foil back. Thank you in advance.

  56. Bill_Perdue says:

    This is qualitatively different. War with Russia would end civilization.

    All we need to know is how to avoid war.

  57. Bill_Perdue says:

    The Obama regime and it’s NATO allies are to blame. They created the civil war to make money for western banks.

  58. angryspittle says:

    John, I am just as wary of US heavy handedness. It so often seems as though the only tool in our box is a hammer or rather that seems to be the only tool so many of the idiots in Washington want to grab first.

  59. Okay, but this is pure me. You might have noticed that I kind of have a problem with Russian heavy-handedness on a lot of issues. :-)

  60. So do Russia or the actual Russian-backed rebels who actually killed all those people get any of the blame? Cuz that’s a pretty cool trick, giving foreign nations carte blanche to murder 80 children and 298 civilians because Amurika. :-)

  61. Houndentenor says:

    Of course it’s different. All situations are different. My point is that people are jumping to conclusions which may or may not be valid because we don’t have enough information. Nothing is lost from waiting a few days or even weeks. I guess with a 24 hour “news” system we expect immediate responses from everyone about everything, but the only responsible reaction is that this is terrible and we need to know more before deciding what to do next.

  62. Who said that? I think you meant to write that on Twitter. It’s the usual venue for accusing people of writing things they didn’t write. Far more effective when folks can’t see the original to confirm :-)

  63. Bill_Perdue says:

    This is different. The US on Iraq attack by Bill Clinton, aimed at murdering hundreds of thousands of Iraqi youth and the Bush attack and occupation, support by rabid warmongers like Hillary Clinton almost destroyed Iraqi civilization.

    A war/NATO attack on Russia would be the end of civilization. Aside from a few rightists I’m not aware of any major sentiment for war with Russia and as we’ve seen saber rattling doesn’t have much effect on a nation that possesses “Approximately 1,512 strategic warheads deployed on 498 ICBMs, SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missile), and strategic bombers . The Federation of American Scientists estimates Russia has another 1,000 nondeployed strategic warheads and approximately 2,000 tactical nuclear warheads.”

  64. angryspittle says:

    A great power does not necessarily mean the guy with the biggest guns. A truly great power must also have great wisdom, something we have sorely lacked in the recent past.

  65. angryspittle says:

    Ah, the old Munich analogy. That has been the excuse for every damn conflict we have found ourselves in in the past 75 years. If only Brits and the French had not sold out an ally in 1938 by giving in to Hitler…… Hell, if they had not allowed him to waltz into the Rhineland without any protest that might have stopped him too.

  66. mark_in_toronto says:

    Someone saying that we need another “reagan” in the white house to save us is WAY more scary than any of this violence. I am surprised at what I just read here.

  67. fredbrown5 says:

    my co-worker’s mom makes $63 hourly on the internet . She has been without a job for 7 months but last month her check was $18946 just working on the internet for a few hours. Get the facts

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  68. Houndentenor says:

    How about like 2003? I want more facts before we jump to any conclusions about what to do.

  69. Houndentenor says:

    We have to stop the meme that one side is right and the other wrong. It’s possible for everyone involved to have done some things that are wrong. Someone else’s wrong doesn’t absolve the other party/parties.

  70. FLL says:

    I have no argument with angryspittle’s condemnation of war in general. No response to Putin’s aggression would be a mistake, however. If most of the world joins the move to impose sanctions on Russia, I have a feeling Putin will give up on his insane goal of annexing Ukraine’s eastern provinces.

  71. FLL says:

    There is nothing in your reply that I can find fault with or disagree with. Well said, as a condemnation of war in general. In this specific situation, I think Putin is going off the deep end by continuing to truck in weapons of war across the porous Ukrainian/Russian border. I’m hoping that world opinion/sanctions will convince him to give up his misguided goal of annexing more Ukrainian territory.

  72. Bill_Perdue says:

    The shoot-down is a terrible disaster and it’s linked to the fact that Ukraine is a war zone and has been since last year when the Obama regime promoted and paid for the fascist coup in Kiev that began the class and civil wars in Ukraine.

    The perpetrators of this incident, along with the Obama regime should be forced to pay compensation and the Obama regime should apologize for it’s role in causing war in the Ukraine. The US and NATO are the sole and direct cause of the war there and it’s a war to steal the wages of Ukrainian workers with austerity measures, much like their efforts in Greece, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, etc.

    Airlines are going to have to reconsider flights to and over Ukraine. Aeroflot has already banned flights and others airlines should follow.

    Shoot downs are more common than you’d think and usually involve the military and sometimes rebel groups. Here are some examples via Wiki:

    Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 – Libyan Airlines Flight 114 was a regularly scheduled flight from Tripoli, Libya, via Benghazi to Cairo. At 10:30 on February 21, 1973, the Boeing 727 left Tripoli, but became lost with a combination of bad weather and equipment failure over northern Egypt around 13:44 (local). It entered Israeli-controlled airspace over the Sinai Peninsula, was intercepted by two Israeli F-4 Phantom II fighters, refused to land, and was shot down. Of the 113 people on board, 5 survived, including the co-pilot.

    Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870 Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870 crashed in the Tyrrhenian Sea on June 27, 1980. Around forty minutes after takeoff from Bologna, Italy, an unknown object was seen approaching the aircraft and soon after, the plane disappeared from radar screens. All eighty-one people on board were killed and parts of the wreckage were floating on the water. The cause of the crash is unknown, but one of the leading theories is that it was shot down by NATO forces or jet fighters. This is supported by the then Italian Prime Minister Francesco Cossiga, who attributed the downing to French interceptors, later covered as a part of the Gladio clandestine operation by NATO. On 23 January 2013 Italy’s top criminal ourt ruled that there was “abundantly” clear evidence that the flight was brought down by a missile.

    Iran Air Flight 655 – Iran Air Flight 655 was an Iran Air civilian passenger flight from Tehran to Dubai that was shot down by the United States Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes on 3 July 1988. The attack took place in Iranian airspace, over Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, and on the flight’s usual flight path. The aircraft, an Airbus A300 B2-203, was destroyed by SM-2MR surface-to-air missiles fired from the Vincennes. … All 290 on board, including 66 children and 16 crew, died. This attack ranks seventh among the deadliest disasters in aviation history… The US refused to apologize or compensate the victims.

    2001 Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 – On 4 October 2001, Tu-154 crashed over the Black Sea. The plane may have been hit by S-200 surface to air missile, fired from the Crimea peninsula during an exercise of Ukrainian military. All on board (66 passengers and 12 crew) were killed. Then President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma and several high commanders of the military later expressed their condolences.

  73. TampaZeke says:

    100 AIDS researchers, who in Republican minds HAD to be gay, died in the massacre so they can still love Putin for that at least.

  74. TampaZeke says:

    If Obama goes hard on Putin, Republicans will call him a tyrant. If he goes easy, they’ll call him a wet dish rag. If he goes middle of the road, they’ll call him Satan. No matter what he does he can rest assured that he will have to battle Republicans every step of the way.

  75. heimaey says:

    Agreed. Even when I don’t always agree (which isn’t that often) the logic and eloquence is solid.

  76. caphillprof says:

    The world was much more peaceful when we were stronger; now that we are weak, we need to be careful. We talk like a great power and act like a great power but we have become a Potemkin village of a great power.

  77. caphillprof says:

    The United States is simply in no economic condition for waging war anywhere else on this earth. We need an economy, we need an industrial base, we need a healthy educated citizenry, we need an infrastructure. We have an exhausted military. And if there are bullies on the world stage, we are one.

  78. Indigo says:

    It isn’t war-mongering to see a war coming just the way it isn’t witchcraft to see a tornado coming. What we don’t want is a war that rips apart our comfortable lifestyles and that’s the part we’re trying really really hard to forestall. History does not support the view that it can be stopped, though. History shows us multiple wars that ripped apart the existing social fabric and I’m afraid we’re not going to be exempt from that. It won’t be Armageddon but it might feel like it. And when is this going to happen? It started over a decade ago, we haven’t let up yet, we keep moving the goal posts and the fighting fields but what’s clear is that these regular irruptions planet-wide and lots more than a Euro-centric civil war like the Hitler Crisis, these are planetary conflagrations and they’re not slowing down, they’re speeding up.

  79. bettyjwidner says:

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  80. Badgerite says:

    In case you have forgotten, there are plenty of historical examples of appeasement leading to the opposite of peace and greater human suffering then could ever have been conceived of by the people who advocated for the policies of appeasement.
    I don’t think I even need to mention what I’m referring to. Its so obvious.
    The world is not a simple place. A peaceful intent (idealism ) does not ensure a peaceful outcome in the world.

  81. pricknick says:

    Sounds like a great excuse to start exporting massive quantities of LPG.
    Sounds like a bad excuse to start exporting massive quantities of LPG.

  82. PeteWa says:

    Conservatives are in a pickle.
    A) They love Putin! Wooo hoo, Pootie Poot!
    B) They hate Obama, he’s no Pootie!
    C) Oh wait, an American died? Can they still whine about Planeghazi?

  83. angryspittle says:

    John, While I read you and usually agree with you on so many issues, most of them, I just found this article a bit jingoistic and somewhat out of character.

  84. I have never in my adult life been on or off the war bandwagon. I don’t however like bullies. Nor plane loads of dead children. And as a I think I’ve shown over the years, I’ve never been one to shirk action when it’s required, nor demand it when it isn’t.

  85. Oh I think the airlines role in this must be questioned as well. Doesn’t diminish the crime, but as a lawyer I believe in solving problems, and you can’t do that without honestly admitting the causes. And if contributory negligence is involved, then the airline must be exposed or other airlines won’t fully learn the lesson.

  86. angryspittle says:

    Well, war is about the worst method of solving problems. And it is not just my wish to avoid war involving the United States but war period. War does nothing but murder and destroy and create animosities that live on for generations leading inevitably to more hatred and violence and the cycle continues ad infinitum. In the councils of governments there are no innocents, only greedy lust filled sociopathic monsters willing to see the destruction of millions of innocents with no greater wish than to live their lives in peace without being dragged into conflicts that do nothing but rob them of their treasure, their dreams, and the lives of their children. These cretinous monsters like Netanyahu, Putin, Cheney, and so many others who have wrought nothing but mayhem and destruction for profit and personal political ambition need to be relegated to the ash heap of history. While there are many in governments around the world who would govern more humanely they rarely, if ever, control the policies. They are routinely silenced in the favor of the jingoists and warmongers who promise simpler solutions rather the nuanced approaches to the problems of the world. Remember “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”? Bombs are not very good diplomatic weapons.

    Ok, go ahead. Call me a dreamer. An idealist. A hopeless romantic. A bleeding heart. I plead guilty.

    Listen to Governor Deval Patrick’s speech regarding the children on the border and if that doesn’t touch a chord, I doubt anything will.

  87. pricknick says:

    Nice snark warmonger.

  88. That was awfully nice of you, thank you :-)

  89. FLL says:

    I understand your wish to avoid a war involving the United States, and I agree with you on that point. As far as you or I or anyone else knowing better than millions of voters in another country… I think I’ll give Ukrainian voters the benefit of the doubt. It’s their country after all.

  90. Bookbinder says:

    Our choice is simple: Fight the Russians now or fight them later. But fight them we will, and this time we’d best finish them. “Never do your enemy a small hurt”

  91. angryspittle says:

    Yeah, you probably have a real good point. Yet there were thousands of protesters in Teheran in 1953, and Guatemala in 1954, and so many other places. And do not think for a minute that “millions” of voters cannot be deceived. There is obviously a whole lot more to this situation than any of us know right now and it would behoove us to all take a deep breath before we go off all half cocked and do something really stupid. You know, like in 1914?

  92. FLL says:

    At the 12:00 minute mark in Reagan’s speech, he raised the question of financial compensation:

    The United States will be making a claim against the Soviet Union in the next week to obtain compensation for the benefit of the victims’ survivors.

    I mentioned this possibility on the other thread, but some think that such court action would never succeed in court. Did the Soviet Union wind up compensating any of the victims’ survivors from the KAL flight in 1983? Probably not, but it might be a good idea for lawsuits to be filed anyway.

  93. FLL says:

    On December 11, there were more than 15,000 on the Maidan in Kiev. On January 11, there were 200,000 protesters in the streets of central Kiev. No matter how badly you want to deceive yourself or others, those were not American agents. In May, Petro Poroshenko, who is now determined to stop Russia from invading more Ukrainian territory, won in a landslide with 54.7% out of a field of 21 candidates. The American government did not exercise mind control over millions of Ukrainian voters. Would “this whole scenario” (as you put it) be happening without any American involvement? The answer that should be obvious to anyone is yes.

  94. Dave of the Jungle says:

    Putin wants to reconstitute the Russian Empire. He’ll be more than happy to remain at the top, naturally.

  95. barbarajmay says:

    No one writes like you do, John. It is such a pleasure when you write a piece like this and I get to see your mind work.

  96. Hue-Man says:

    This will sound like blaming the victim but MH made a profit-driven decision to fly over a conflict zone that had been identified by the FAA and ICAO. Other airlines were unwilling to take the risk:

    “Australia’s Qantas stopped flying over Ukraine several months ago and
    shifted its London-Dubai route 645 kilometres (400 miles) to the south. A
    spokeswoman declined to explain the change. Korean Air Line said it had
    rerouted cargo and passenger flights in early March amid the worsening
    situation over the Crimean peninsula.”

  97. angryspittle says:

    You just may regret some of the things you said here. Sounds like you’re jumping on the war wagon. “But as often happens with killers,an appetite for murder and lawlessness knows few boundaries” That could also very well apply to US foreign policy in the last 75 years.

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