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Monday, July 28, 2014

The Propaganda and Politics of MH17

Eric Draitser

The downing of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 (MH17) is a tragedy that will be remembered for years to come. However, the way in which the West has distorted the facts about what happened is no mere accident. Rather, it is a clear attempt by Washington and its allies and proxies to capitalize on the incident, using it as a weapon in their continued belligerent and aggressive policies toward Russia. 

Recent days have seen a deluge of propaganda from both the US government and the Western media (especially US media) which, despite being short on facts, has attempted to place the blame for MH17 squarely on Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin. While this certainly is no surprise given the public demonization campaign of Russia throughout the conflict in Ukraine, it undoubtedly crosses the line from laughable to utterly irresponsible and dangerous. Given the already icy relations between the two countries, it seems that Washington has as part of its strategy the inflammation of tensions. 

But why? What does the US political establishment, which includes both major parties, hope to gain from this tragedy? Or, perhaps more specifically, how does the United States plan to capitalize on the incident? The propaganda, spin, and outright lies from Western media cannot be understood in a vacuum. Rather, they must be recognized as part and parcel of the larger political agenda of the West both in Ukraine, and Eastern Europe as a whole. 

Lies, Damned Lies, and Western Media 

Although the investigation into the crash has only just begun, that has not stopped Washington from attempting to shape the narrative into an indictment of Russia, accusing Moscow of being behind the attacks. Headlines such as White House Blames Russia For MH17 Crash, Saying There’s No Believable Alternative (Huffington Post) and Congress: MH17 Crash Is ‘Ac of Terror,’ and Putin May Be To Blame (The Daily Beast), both of which interestingly come from “liberal” media outlets, have become routine in recent days. The not so subtle, indeed overt, implication of such headlines is that Russia is responsible for the downing of MH17, despite there being no evidence to that effect. 

Essentially, the US political establishment, and its corporate media appendage, attempted to make a flimsy case into a politically expedient narrative that would bolster the US-NATO agenda in Ukraine, while simultaneously legitimizing the belligerent, anti-Russian rhetoric and policies that the White House and Congress have been pursuing. Moreover, Washington has attempted to use the incident to deflect attention from the brutal war crimes and other embarrassing aspects of the US-backed Kiev regime’s horrific war against the people of eastern Ukraine. 

The specific lies, omissions, and distortions propagated by Washington and its dutiful media servants must be recalled in order to debunk them, but perhaps more importantly, to demonstrate the clear and unmistakable way in which they have been used to cobble together a false narrative that, despite being an admitted fabrication, will be made permanent in the minds of many Americans. 

The Kiev regime has proclaimed repeatedly that Russia was behind the attack, offering “evidence” of “Russian participation.” The first piece of “evidence” were the tape recordings that purportedly provided proof that anti-Kiev rebels and, by implication, Russian agents working with them, had admitted to downing MH17. However, a careful analysis by renowned digital sound analyst Nikolai Popov and his team of experts concluded that that the recordings were not authentic, that is to say, they were cobbled together using various recordings from before the disaster occurred. As Popov noted, “This audio recording is not an integral file and is made up of several fragments.” 
While Popov’s team’s findings should not be taken as gospel, they do call into question the authenticity of the supposed “evidence.” In fact, it is quite likely that the recordings were constructed from actual conversations by anti-Kiev rebels discussing the downing of a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet days before the MH17 incident. Of course, the findings should not be seen as definitive, but as yet, they constitute the only sound analysis done of the recordings. It seems more than convenient that neither the US nor any of its partners have carried such an analysis, and have instead chosen to proclaim the recordings’ authenticity based purely on faith that Kiev is telling the truth. Naturally, this is a dangerous assumption considering the established pattern of lying by Kiev to further its war against the citizens of the East. 

Indeed, the regime in Kiev has lied its way throughout the last week with almost every statement and piece of “evidence” it has provided. Yet another example can be found in the video the government released which purportedly showed a Russian Buk missile battery with at least one missile missing moving in the direction of Russia from rebel-held territory. Unfortunately for Kiev, the videos have been examined by many familiar with the region and exposed as distortions insofar as they actually show the Buk systems in Kiev-controlled territory, not rebel areas as Poroshenko & Co. have alleged. And so, with this information, it raises the question not only of Kiev’s lies regarding Russian involvement, but also the far more sinister likelihood that it was, in fact, Kiev’s military forces, whether under orders or simply through irresponsibility and negligence, that actually downed MH17. 

Additionally, one must examine the claims made and repeated ad nauseam by Kiev that it had no military aircraft in the skies when MH17 was shot down. From July 17 (the day of the incident) until July 21 (the day Russia’s Ministry of Defense presented its intelligence), the Kiev regime continually denied allegations that its military aircraft were in the vicinity of MH17. However, once Russia’s MoD provided the international press with evidence refuting that claim and showing that not only were Ukrainian jets in the vicinity, but they were within firing range, magically that talking point ceased to be repeated. In other words, every aspect of the Kiev regime’s narrative has been thoroughly discredited. 

And so, by July 23rd, the media headlines which had, until that point, simply been reiterating the claims made by Kiev and using “US assessments” (whatever that’s worth), began to finally admit that there is absolutely no evidence directly tying Russia to the incident. So, the US State Department, along with nearly all major media, were exposed as part of a comprehensive propaganda matrix designed to further US foreign policy aims, rather than report information accurately and objectively. More to the point, just two days earlier, the US State Department made the claim that it had the intelligence to “prove” Russian involvement but, when pressed by Associated Press journalist Matt Lee, refused to provide any hard evidence, be it intelligence or reconnaissance imagery, to support their claims. 

So once again Secretary of State John Kerry, and the entire State Department, have been made to look foolish in their rush to accuse Russia of wrongdoing, as was the case with the Secretary of State regurgitating the discredited claim of anti-semitic leaflets being handed out by anti-Kiev rebel forces.
The US media, like the State Department, obviously have egg on their face, as can be demonstrated quite clearly by the NY Post headlines of July 22nd and July 23rd. On July 22nd, the Post printed on its cover the headline “Dear Vlad – ‘Thank you…for murdering my loved and only child’”, followed less than twenty four hours later with the headline “US: No direct link to Russia found in MH17 attack.” This sort of shameful propaganda, designed to inflame anti-Russian sentiments, rather than report facts, is standard fare for US media and the corporate interests it serves. 

Washington’s Political Agenda 

The attempts by the US and its allies and proxies to blame Russia for the downing of MH17 expose a transparently cynical foreign policy in Ukraine, and Eastern Europe more broadly, that seeks to dominate and intimidate Russia politically, economically, and militarily. Naturally, this strategy is doomed to fail as the Russia of 2014 is certainly not the Russia of 1994. The MH17 episode is a case in point, showing just how the Washington and Kiev have tried to capitalize on every opportunity to achieve strategic goals by demonizing Russia. 
A close look at some of the statements from the State Department in recent days illustrates clearly the way in which the Obama administration tried to leverage the disaster in order to buttress the failing war against the anti-Kiev rebels in eastern Ukraine. US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf indicated in a briefing with reporters that the US asked Russia to demand that the anti-Kiev rebels “leave the region” in which the crash occurred so that an investigation could take place. In other words, Washington seeks to use the MH17 investigation as a backdoor option for Kiev to regain territory that it has been unable to conquer militarily; an undoubtedly, and quite despicably, cynical ploy by the US. 

But of course, the US is now trying to use the fact that Russia was not involved in the attack “directly” as a way for Washington to drive a wedge between Moscow and the anti-Kiev rebels. By stating that Russia is not “directly” responsible, Washington is attempting to put Putin in a corner by giving him the opportunity to exonerate himself and Russia by abandoning the anti-Kiev forces, letting them hang to save his skin. Once again, it seems that the Obama administration is grossly underestimating Putin’s resolve on the issue of Ukraine. It is quite clear that the Kremlin is never going to allow a hostile regime that is publicly on the record as seeking NATO participation/observer status and is outwardly hostile to Russia and ethnic Russians to dominate the whole country and create problems in the future. 

Indeed, this issue of Putin’s resolve is central to understanding why Russia has been so assertive in Ukraine since the crisis began. As Putin explained on July 22nd: 

We shall provide an adequate and well-measured response to NATO’s expansion towards Russia’s borders, and we shall take note of [the West] setting up a global missile defense architecture and building up its arsenals of precision-guided weapons…No matter what our Western counterparts tell us, we can see what’s going on. As it stands, NATO is blatantly building up its forces in Eastern Europe, including the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea areas. Its operational and combat training activities are gaining in scale…The so-called competitive struggle at the international arena will imply the use of tools in both economic and political fields. This will include the potential of security services, modern information and communication technologies, and connections of dependent, puppet NGOs – the so-called soft power…apparently, some countries regard it as democracy.
Such frank tough talk from Putin is a good indication of why the US regards him and Russia as the primary obstacle to its goal of maintaining and extending US hegemony. Despite the US missile plans for Eastern Europe, the continued imposition of punitive sanctions on key individuals and entities in Russia, the expansion of NATO and its attempt to absorb former Soviet republics into its sphere of influence, and a host of other issues, Russia stands firm and undeterred. Whatever one may think about Putin and his government, it’s quite clear that they are not going to succumb to the usual arm-twisting, threats, blackmail, subversion or destabilization that the US employs to get its way. Perhaps this, at least in part, explains why Putin is more popular in his country than any other leader in the world. 

The downing of MH17 is a shocking tragedy. The dead should be mourned alongside the innocent eastern Ukrainians who have also paid with their lives for the regime change operation that the US sponsored in Ukraine. However, beyond the sorrow and despair engendered by MH17, the world should focus its attention on the political maneuvers that the US has employed to capitalize on the tragedy and, in so doing, moving forward with its agenda of destabilization and aggression against Russia. Washington’s belligerent policy is nothing new. However, the stakes have never been higher than they are today. 

Eric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City, he is the founder of and OP-ed columnist for RT, exclusively for the online magazine“New Eastern Outlook”, where this first appeared.

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