Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Fallacy of Blaming the Russians

After Malaysia Flight 17 was shot down, the world swung its finger of blame around and pointed it squarely at Russia and Vladmir Putin.  Led by the US, the blame game started with the notion that Flight 17 had been shotdown by a Russian SA-11.  Given the altitude and speed of the Boeing 777 at the time, the SA-11 made the most sense and is in the possession of the rebels in Ukraine.  The SA-11 is made in Russia and due the complexity of the guidance system, the rebels must've been trained by the Russians.  Ipso facto, it was Russia's fault.

But wait, has anyone actually seen pictures or videos of a SA-11 firing a missile?  Has a person, much less a location, been identified as the person responsible for launching the missile?  The Associated Press today released a story about the lack of evidence, so far, presented by the US in their case against Russia.

In countries like the US and UK, surveillance cameras are a constant part of our lives.  Therefore, we tend to think of the whole world as being constantly under surveillance.  Perceptions though can be misleading as was demonstrated yesterday when a US flag flying on the Brooklyn Bridge was taken down and replaced with a white flag by unknown person or persons.  Yes, in New York City on a major bridge and landmark an operation requiring specialized skill was executed without any a single image being captured.  The Brooklyn Bridge is under constant surveillance but apparently the unknown person or persons had already defeated the lens on the camera.  As I said, this required great skill and coordination.

My point in bringing up the white flag on the Brooklyn Bridge was to illustrate just how faulty our perception of constant surveillance can be.  The human minds looks to fit bits of divergent information into some type of coherent story.  Hence stage magicians are able to trick our eyes into believing they have somehow sawed a girl in half or made a skyscraper disappear.  Our minds have only certain pieces of information and as it races to make a conclusion, the trick works.

Perhaps as our pro-Western, anti-Russian mindset swings into action we are looking to blame Russia and are not looking for answers that contradict that mindset.  The SA-11 remains the most likely suspect, however we are basing that assumption without having actually seen the wreckage.  Another possibility is that instead of a SA-11 a fighter jet could have shot down Flight 17.  It seems unlikely that air defense radars would not have seen a fighter firing on a civilian airliner but that assumes they were looking.  We have already seen limitations in radar coverage with the still missing Malaysian Flight 370.

One nagging question remains unanswered, why shoot down a civilian airliner at all?  If the SA-11 was involved, it has a radar that is quite capable of identifying the flight path, altitude and transponder code (key components in aircraft identification by air defense units).  Flight 17 was flying at 33,000 feet which is well within the parameters of the SA-11 radars.  It is unlikely that Malaysian Flight 17 was mistaken for a military aircraft that had veered off course.

A fighter interceptor has the same ability to identify aircraft as an air defense unit with one noted addition.  Fighters can visually identify aircraft by flying close to the aircraft for a positive ID.  It is thus unlikely that Malaysian Flight 17 was shot down accident or even randomly.

If whoever shot down the airliner intended to hit that specific aircraft, the nagging question is why?  At any given time, there are dozens of airliners and smaller aircraft flying overhead.  If someone wanted to escalate war between Russian and the US or Europe, why fire on a Malaysian airliner?

An answer may lie in a bizarre story that keeps popping up.  The pro-Russian rebel commander was quoted by the press as saying "not all of the bodies were fresh".  He added that many of the bodies were drained of blood and reeked of decomposition.  Far-fetched and sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie but sometimes the most bizarre things cause people to do the unthinkable.  If the story is true, perhaps Malaysian Flight 17 was thought to be carrying some type of bio-weapon?  The Ukraine conflict serves as plausible deniability for the real group behind the shoot down.  Blame the Russians and get the US in a lather and no one looks for answers elsewhere.

Hilary Clinton (the as yet unannounced Presidential candidate for 2016) has jumped on the blame Russia bandwagon and encouraged the European Union to find alternatives to the dollar-dumping Russian natural gas firm Gazprom.  Her plea is supposedly based on the downing of Malaysian Flight 17 but the timing seems much more in line with the announcement by the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) of the creation of their own development bank based on the Chinese Yen.  The one-two punch of the creation of the BRICS development bank and the Russian-Chinese energy deal has pretty much nullified the effects of Western economic sanctions.

Winston Churchill once said, "I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest."  His quote may not just apply to Russia anymore.

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