On Nov. 17 a Dutch Court sentenced two Russians and one Ukrainian (all three in absentia) to life in prison. They were accused of playing supporting roles in the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, killing all 298 aboard.
MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was downed over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. It was five months after the U.S.-sponsored coup d’etat in Kyiv and the ensuing offensive against “pro-Russian separatists” in eastern Ukraine who were unwilling to bow to the coup leaders in Kyiv.
Those pro-Russian separatists were quickly and widely blamed for the catastrophe, but the evidence has been – how to say this – elusive, and its reliability suspect from the start. On the morning-after, the NY Times pointed its finger at the separatists and, by extension, Russia, unabashedly using “intelligence” provided by Ukraine’s Intelligence Agency (S.B.U.). My assessment the same day withheld judgment, but compared the shoot-down with the shoot-down of KAL007 in 1983, when the U.S. played very loose with the evidence on whether the Russians knew KAL007 was a passenger aircraft when it was downed well into Russian airspace (they didn’t).
‘A Lot of Conjecture’
The Times article said U.S. intelligence was focused on a theory blaming pro-Russian separatists – not the Ukrainian air defense network that had Russian-made SA-series missiles in its inventory. “Everything we have, and it is not much, says separatists,” a senior Pentagon official said. “That said, there’s still a lot of conjecture.” The Times added:
“American intelligence and military officials said the plane had been destroyed by a Russian SA-series missile, based on surveillance satellite data that showed the final trajectory and impact of the missile but not its point of origin. [Emphasis added.]
Just two days later, then Secretary of State John Kerry told NBC’s David Gregory:
“We picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar.” [Emphasis added.]
So, where is the “imagery” or other evidence showing where the missile “came from”.
As Robert Parry pointed out almost seven years ago, “one of the mysteries of the MH-17 case has become why the United States after asserting that it possessed information implicating ethnic Russian rebels and the Russian government has failed to make the data public or apparently even share it with Dutch investigators who are leading the inquiry into how the plane was shot down and who was responsible.”
Skepticism and doubt regarding Kerry’s claims grew when he was not able to twist enough arms to obtain an Intelligence Assessment (the de rigueur genre for reporting on such key events, back in the day). He had to settle for an entirely new creation – something called a “Government Assessment” – to support his claims.
Additionally, it is easy to declassify satellite imagery and make it available – a little trickier to manufacture it. Does Washington know exactly how MH17 was brought down on July 17, 2014. With highly sophisticated collection capabilities for earth as well as space focused on that particular area at the time, it is, in my view, virtually certain that the U.S. knows chapter and verse. Does the real intelligence support Kerry’s claims? I doubt it seriously. If honest intelligence did support Kerry and his blaming the Russians, I can conceive of no reason why it would not be made releasable – and released – at least to the Netherlands, a NATO ally running the investigation.
Yet, where the missile launch occurred has remained a mystery to investigators. The Dutch Safety Board’s final report could only place the launch site within a 320-square-kilometer area in eastern Ukraine, covering territory then controlled by both Ukrainian and rebel forces. (The safety board did not seek to identify which side fired the fateful missile).
Who Done It?
The Dutch court and investigators pleaded ignorance on the key question of who ordered the shooting, although Russia was made the likely culprit. Small wonder: the evidence adduced was a hodge-podge of unverified “intelligence” from Kyiv, from the infamous “independent investigator” Bellingcat with close ties to British intelligence, and “social media” (a known favorite of John Kerry for helpful “intelligence”).
Russian Intelligence reports were dismissed as having no merit. And, even though Dutch intelligence noted that the full picture would require the U.S. to substantiate Kerry’s claims, the Dutch court could not summon the courage to require it.
Dutch investigative journalist Eric van de Beek who, literally “wrote the book” (in Dutch) (MH17: Getting to the Bottom of Things) on the MH17 shoot-down, and is at work on another, attended all 68 court hearings. He told me the prosecution provided "no convincing evidence, let alone conclusive evidence” that the men were guilty as charged. More important, as mentioned above, van de Beek bemoaned the fact that the Dutch court received “no satellite, no radar data from the U.S.”
The Dutch trial was a travesty of justice; the servile Dutch pitching in to help Washington blacken Russia. Sound familiar?