Monday, July 21, 2014

Downing of MH 17: a sober perspective

The shooting down of Malaysian airline MH 17 has drawn condemnation all around. Rightly so, for international civilian flights should not become part of hostilities raging anywhere in the world and particularly when neither the airline nor its passengers are in any way involved with the hostilities.

At the same time, one cannot help noting that the condemnation of the incident has quickly been sought to be turned into a condemnation of Russia and its role in the Ukraine conflict, with most of the western media duly obliging. This is uncalled for. In the first place, judgement must be reserved until an independent enquiry is completed and its findings become available. The west may have reason to believe that the shooting is the work of pro-Russian separatists but this has to be established.

Secondly, to say that it is Russia that is fomenting rebellion in Ukraine and that it is Russian weapons and support that must be held responsible for the shooting down ignores the full dimensions of what is going on in the region. Ukraine has been raining bombs on the pro-Russian people. In recent months, the separatists have sought to defend themselves by trying to bring down Ukrainian aircraft. Russia is helping the separatists who are predominantly Russian and have strong links to Russia.

Ukraine is being supported by the US and Europe. Western support to Ukraine, which has involved bringing Ukraine into a EU Free Trade pact and also attempts to bring it into Nato, is part of a larger design to pin Russia down to its neighbourhood with the help of nations that ring Russia. That would prevent Russia from projecting itself onto the international stage. This is the broader context in which the shooting down has occurred. It has been left to noted American scholar Stephen Cohen to present a sober and balanced picture of what's going on in the region:
Let me mention, because I think it’s relevant to what you’re covering here (the reference is to the news channel) your very, very powerful segments before I came on today about what’s going on in Gaza, the pounding of these cities, the defenselessness of ordinary people. The same thing has been happening in East Ukrainian cities—bombing, shelling, mortaring by the Kiev government—whatever we think of that government. But that government is backed 150 percent by the White House. 

Every day, the White House and the State Department approve of what Kiev’s been doing. We don’t know how many innocent civilians, women and children, have died. We know there’s probably several hundred thousand refugees that have run from these cities. The cities are Donetsk, Luhansk, Kramatorsk, Slovyansk—a whole series of cities whose names are not familiar to Americans. The fact is, Americans know nothing about this. We know something about what’s happening in Gaza, and there’s a division of opinion in the United States: The Israelis should do this, the Israelis should not do this. But we know there are victims: We see them. Sometimes the mainstream media yanks a reporter, as you just showed, who shows it too vividly, because it offends the perception of what’s right or wrong. But we are not shown anything about what’s happened in these Ukrainian cities, these eastern Ukrainian cities.

Why is that important? Because this airliner, this shootdown, took place in that context. The American media says it must have been the bad guys—that is, the rebels—because they’ve shot down other airplanes. This is true, but the airplanes they’ve been shooting down are Ukraine’s military warplanes that have come to bomb the women and children of these cities.

 There is another aspect to the tragedy that people have drawn attention to. The aircraft was using a route directly over the war zone that several other flights had steered clear of. Was the aircraft directed to that dangerous route? And by whom? See this story, for instance.

No comments: