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Russia Without BS (A Tale of Two Incidents)

I’m quite certain all my readers have already heard plenty about the Dutch Safety Board’s investigation into the downing of MH17. If you haven’t read it yet, here’s asummary, and if you want to slog through the whole thing, look here. As if on cue, as tends to be the case every time some new evidence from the investigation leaked out in the past, Russia turned the bullshit up to 11 and pre-empted the release of the DBS report with another press conference held by Buk Surface-to-Air missile manufacturer Almaz-Antey. Once again, previous Russian stories were contradicted, but the fun didn’t stop yesterday. Shortly before I began writing this, the head of Russia’s aviation service was throwing out all kinds of accusations and claims, including some that contradicted yesterday’s Almaz-Antey claims. This wasn’t the first time. In other words, this satirical story is pretty close to the truth.

Some Western journalists act perplexed at this incredibly guilty behavior, particularly in light of the fact that the DSB report didn’t even attribute blame for firing the Buk and it also said that Ukraine should have closed the air space in the region (Gee, guess what part of the report Team Russia will deem reliable!). Some of us aren’t surprised at all. Personally speaking, I liken this to the recent behavior of the conservative propaganda machine back in the US when they float rumors or mock scandals about illegal immigrants committing voter fraud or Obama not being a natural born citizen. Nobody who puts these theories out there actually plans to act on them. Sure, some politicians will promote voter ID laws, but this is just about disenfranchising poor people. The real reason for these conspiracy theories is that it reassures Republicans that when they lose elections, it’s only because the other side cheated, and therefore the winning party is illegitimate.

Same thing is going on here. Russia’s foreign ministry claims that the Dutch board didn’t consider facts from “Russian experts,” without naming the experts or talking about which facts they are referring to, no doubt because the folks at the MFA can’t be bothered to keep up on the latest alternative scenario. These public statements and the media coverage they get in Russia’s domestic press is enough to reassure Putin’s base that the whole thing was unfair, and the whole world is part of a massive conspiracy against Russia.

It’s a shame though, because what Russia is doing is spitting on the graves of the victims. Then again, this is a government that spits on the graves of 25 million Soviet citizens, many of them Russian, so I guess I shouldn’t expect more sympathy for foreigners flying out of “Gayropa.” But I digress, I wanted to compare the MH17 to another recent incident, one which will suddenly have all of Team Russia nodding their heads along with my text. I’m talking of course about the airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan.

Now as an aside, while I post links about this, I’d just like to remind you how “the mainstream media” like CNN would never report something like this.  Okay maybe they would, but they wouldn’t air allegations that it was a war crime. Okay, maybe CNN would do that, but I bet Fox news wouldn’t! Oh…wait…no. But I keep hearing from the pro-Kremlin side that state-run outlets like RT are no different from CNN and Fox. I guess this means that we should soon expect CNN and Fox to start personally attacking journalists and airing “experts” who will insist that the Taliban, Doctors Without Borders, or literally anybody but the US forces were responsible for the deadly airstrike. I mean it’s all the same, right?

Okay enough of that. The fact is that I am as disgusted by this Kunduz attack as I was about MH17. I could start pointing out how in the case of the former, the gunner on the AC-130 could at least see what he was shooting at, whereas a Buk operator is looking at blips on a screen. I’m not going to get into detail there, however, because I don’t want some Team Russia fanatic to get overexcited, whip his dick out, and start beating it right there in his office. Part of my anger is due to the fact that it’s 2015 and we’re still involved in Afghanistan, as though we’re going to somehow get some kind of victory out of this. Another part of me is angry at the lying that took place afterward. When this story broke, I have no doubt that there were people all across America who wanted to see justice be done, because this incident is a stain on the country’s flag (some Team Russia folks might need to change their pants now). In Russia, by contrast, 3% of people believe the version of MH17 that the Western world does.

With the myriad of alternative, contradictory stories that have circulated, sometimes within 24 hours of each other, it’s no wonder that these people can’t really tell you what they think actually happened. They only know it wasn’t the rebels, and it wasn’t Russia’s fault. In other words they know exactly what the Kremlin wants them to know. When the White House and Pentagon change their story or squirm in front of cameras, Americans sense bullshit and get angrier. Russians just throw up their hands and say: “Who knows what’s true? Everyone lies! We lie, they lie!” That’s the Russia Putin’s regime has built.

Before anyone balks about the comparison of MH17 to Kunduz let me point something out. Even in spite of the Pentagon’s failed attempts to spin the events, and in spite of the White House’s reluctance to support an international, independent tribunal, the administration has accepted the blame for these deaths on behalf of the United States. And of course, they admit the presence of US forces rather than pretend that only the Afghan national army is doing the fighting. They are not crying information war and claiming that the Taliban did it, or that the hospital patients and staff did it as a “provocation.” If there is an independent investigation, don’t expect its progress to be met with periodic White House press conferences featuring new experts that will “prove” alternative theories absolving the US military of blame.

Just another example of how when it comes to political regimes, the slightest difference can have a big impact on behavior. Whatever happens, however, I think it’s clear that the victims of Kunduz will get justice long before the families of the victims of MH17 ever will.

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