The key conclusion of the Dutch-led criminal inquiry implicating Russia in the 2014 shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 relied heavily on cryptic telephone intercepts that were supplied by the Ukrainian intelligence service and were given incriminating meaning not clearly supported by the words.
The investigators also seemed to ignore other intercepts that conflicted with their conclusions, including one conversation that appeared to be referring to a Ukrainian convoy, not one commanded by ethnic Russian rebels, that was closing in on the Luhansk airport, placing Ukrainian troops deep inside rebel territory.
That conversation was among five that the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) released in seeking the public’s help in identifying persons of interest in the MH-17 shootdown. The callers seemed to discussing information from Moscow regarding the movement of a convoy, but they describe it as a “Ukrops” or Ukrainian troop convoy.
“B: I am saying about the confirmation of the convoy that is going in the direction of the airport… Moscow/Moskva has confirmed… they see it. Is it err… whatsit… Ukrops convoy?
“A: The convoy that is going in the direction of the airport? Yes.
“B: And how did it go through?
“A: Most likely through Sabovka,” which the JIT interprets to be the town of Sabivka, about five miles west of Luhansk and about 92 miles northeast of Donetsk, the two rebel capitals. The Luhansk airport is about 20 miles south of the city center.
In other words, if this intercept from JIT is correct, the Ukrainian military was operating near the highway routes that the alleged Russian Buk missile battery would have been using. The conversation then picks up, referring to a possible battle for the airport:
“B: So, the convoy was confirmed. Where the convoy can be from?
“C: I don’t know where it is going from. It’s from west, isn’t it?
“B: It’s somehow going from west. From west. Fucking one and a half kilometres from the airdrome.
“C: From the airdrome?
“C: It can’t be one and a half kilometres from the airdrome because there is a populated locality there, there are positions there. Probably… I don’t know. Will now try to do something. … I think we will be receiving information soon… our groups have left.
“C: Ok. Well, if they come in the airport, will fight at the airport. What else can we do?
“B: Ok. I got you.”
Although it’s difficult to know precisely what these callers are discussing, the conversation seems to refer to a potential battle for an airport, not the deployment of a Buk missile system.
Also, if Ukrainian forces had penetrated that deep into rebel territory, it is difficult to exclude that a Ukrainian Buk battery might have traveled along the southerly route H-21, which skirts Donetsk and then heads east toward the JIT’s claimed firing site in a field near the town of Pervomaiskyi. H-21 then bends north toward Luhansk airport and the city of Luhansk.
The Ukrainian Buks
The JIT video report on the MH-17 case, which was released on Wednesday, also didn’t address questions about the location of several Ukrainian Buk missile batteries that Dutch (i.e. NATO) intelligence placed in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, the day that MH-17 was shot down. A finding from the Dutch intelligence service, MIVD, released last October, said the only high-powered anti-aircraft missile systems in eastern Ukraine at that time, capable of bringing down MH-17 at 33,000 feet and killing all 298 people onboard, belonged to the Ukrainian military, not the rebels.
Although the location of the Ukrainian Buk systems would seem to be crucial to the investigation — at least in eliminating other suspects — JIT operates under an agreement with the Ukrainian government that lets it veto the release of information. Ukraine’s SBU intelligence service, which represented the Kiev government in the JIT, also has among its official responsibilities the protection of secret information that could be damaging to Ukraine.
Regarding JIT’s claim that the Buk missile system crossed over from Russian territory, the video report states: “All telecom data and intercepted telephone calls that have been examined by the investigation team demonstrates that the Buk/TELAR (the self-contained operating system) was brought into Ukraine from the Russian Federation.”
But as evidence the JIT cites one phone intercept, which – according to the JIT’s translation – does not use the word Buk though referencing a piece of equipment that can move on its own or be transported by truck. That could be a Buk system but could apply to many other weapons systems as well.
In the intercepted call, one speaker said, “it crossed, crossed the line.” The narrator of the JIT video report then adds, “The Buk/TELAR crossed the line, in other words, it passed the border.” But there are two assumptions here: that the unidentified weapon is a Buk and that the “line” means border. That could be the case but other interpretations are possible.
Another key point, the disputed location of the so-called “getaway” video of a Buk missile system missing one missile, is simply asserted as fact without an explanation as to how the JIT reached its conclusion placing the location near Luhansk.
While the Western mainstream media has given the JIT great credibility, the JIT itself has acknowledged a dependency on Ukraine’s SBU, which shaped the inquiry by supplying its selection of phone intercepts.
Yet, the SBU is far from a neutral party in the investigation, nor does it have clean hands regarding the Ukrainian civil war that followed a U.S.-backed putsch ousting elected President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22, 2014, and sparking an uprising among ethnic Russian Ukrainians who represented Yanukovych’s political base in the east and south.
Since then, the SBU has been on the front lines of crushing the rebellion by using controversial tactics. In late June 2016, the United Nation’s Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic accused the SBU of frustrating U.N. investigations into its alleged role in torture and other war crimes.
Simonovic criticized the SBU for “not always providing access to all places where detainees may be kept. … OHCHR (the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights) also continues to receive accounts about torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary and incommunicado detention by the SBU, especially in the conflict zone.
“Torture and threats to members of the families, including sexual threats, are never justifiable, and perpetrators will be held to account sooner or later. … War crimes, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of human rights cannot be the subject of an amnesty.”
Yet, the SBU strongly influenced the direction of the JIT, which included Ukraine along with the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Malaysia. The JIT agreement gave Ukraine veto power over what would be released – even though Ukrainian military units were among the logical suspects in the MH-17 case,
Relying on Ukrainian Intelligence
Earlier this year, an internal report describing the JIT operation revealed how dependent the investigators had become on information provided by the SBU. According to the report, the SBU helped shape the MH-17 investigation by supplying a selection of phone intercepts and other material that would presumably not include sensitive secrets that would implicate the SBU’s political overseers in Ukraine. But the JIT seemed oblivious to this conflict of interest, saying:
“Since the first week of September 2014, investigating officers from The Netherlands and Australia have worked here [in Kiev]. They work in close cooperation here with the Security and Investigation Service of the Ukraine (SBU). Immediately after the crash, the SBU provided access to large numbers of tapped telephone conversations and other data. …
“At first rather formal, cooperation with the SBU became more and more flexible. ‘In particular because of the data analysis, we were able to prove our added value’, says [Dutch police official Gert] Van Doorn. ‘Since then, we notice in all kinds of ways that they deal with us in an open way. They share their questions with us and think along as much as they can.’”
The internal JIT report continued: “With the tapped telephone conversations from SBU, there are millions of printed lines with metadata, for example, about the cell tower used, the duration of the call and the corresponding telephone numbers. The investigating officers sort out this data and connect it to validate the reliability of the material. …
“By now, the investigators are certain about the reliability of the material. ‘After intensive investigation, the material seems to be very sound’, says Van Doorn, ‘that also contributed to the mutual trust.’”
Another concern about how the SBU could manipulate the JIT investigation is that the long assignments of investigators in Kiev over a period of more than two years could create compromising situations. Kiev has a reputation as a European hotbed for prostitution and sex tourism, and there’s the possibility of other human relationships developing between Australian and Dutch investigators and Ukrainian intelligence officers.
According to the JIT report, four investigating officers from Australia are stationed in Kiev on three-month rotations while Dutch police rotate in two teams of about five people each for a period of a “fortnight,” or two weeks.
The relative isolation of the Australian investigators further adds to their dependence on their Ukrainian hosts. According to the report, “The Australian investigators find themselves a 26 hour flight away from their home country and have to deal with a large time difference. ‘For us Australians, it is more difficult to get into contact with our home base, which is why our operation is quite isolated in Kiev’, says [Andrew] Donoghoe,” a senior investigating officer from the Australian Federal Police.
The SBU’s assistance, however, did not lead to a rapid resolution of the MH-17 mystery, now more than two years old. The Dutch Safety Board report last October placed the spot of the suspected missile launch within a 320-square-kilometer area, including both government and rebel positions.
According to the Dutch intelligence service finding also released last October, the only anti-aircraft missiles in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, capable of hitting a plane flying at 33,000 feet belonged to the Ukrainian military.
There’s also the dog-not-barking mystery of the curious silence from the U.S. intelligence community. Although Secretary of State John Kerry claimed to know the firing location immediately after the shootdown, the U.S. government went silent after CIA analysts had time to evaluate U.S. satellite, electronic and other intelligence data.
A source who was briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts told me that they saw the attack as a rogue Ukrainian operation involving a hard-line oligarch with the possible motive of shooting down Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official plane returning from South America that day, with similar markings as MH-17. But I have been unable to determine if that assessment represented a dissident or consensus view inside the U.S. intelligence community.
For its part, the Russian government has denied supplying the eastern Ukrainian rebels with a Buk system although the rebels did possess shorter-range, shoulder-fired MANPADs.
The US holds Russia responsible for the violence in Aleppo and is threatening to break off all cooperation with Moscow in Syria, the State Department said. Russia is asking the US to live up to its obligation to separate US-backed opposition from terrorists.
In a phone conversation with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday morning, the US Secretary of State John Kerry “expressed grave concern” over the “attacks on hospitals, the water supply network, and other civilian infrastructure in Aleppo” by the Russian and Syrian forces, State Department spokesman John Kirby said.
“The Secretary made clear the United States and its partners hold Russia responsible for this situation, including the use of incendiary and bunker buster bombs in an urban environment, a drastic escalation that puts civilians at great risk,” Kirby added.
The Russian foreign minister pointed out that a number of anti-government groups described by Washington as “moderates” refused to follow the ceasefire arranged by Russia and the US on September 9, instead choosing to side with Jabhat Al-Nusra and attack the Syrian Army alongside this Al-Qaeda branch.
Washington is preparing to suspend the “bilateral engagement” on Syria with Moscow, including the establishment of the Joint Implementation Center, unless Russia immediately halts the attack on Aleppo and restores the ceasefire, Kerry told Lavrov.
The US promised long ago to separate the rebels from terrorists and it needs to live up to that obligation, Lavrov told Kerry, bringing up the recent interview of an Al-Nusra commander about how the group is receiving outside support – including American weapons – as well as the statement of a Syrian opposition leader Riyad Hijab that he did not consider Al-Nusra terrorists.
Kerry’s belief that Russia was responsible for the ceasefire’s collapse is “absolutely mistaken” author and journalist Abdel Bari Atwan told RT.
It was Washington that did not follow through on to the deal, failing to separate what it called moderate opposition from terrorist groups, he said.
“I’m really scared about this ultimatum, because it seems like the US administration is going to escalate the [situation] in Aleppo,” Atwan told RT. “Things are really moving into a really dangerous zone here.”
The crescendo of US-led condemnations against Syria and Russia over alleged humanitarian crimes in Syria grows louder by the day. The eerie sense is that this «outcry» is being orchestrated as a prelude to a NATO-style intervention in Syria.
Such a NATO maneuver would follow the template for former Yugoslavia and Libya, leading to greater civilian deaths, territorial disintegration, a surge in regional terrorism and more international lawlessness by Western states.
The concerted, emotive appeals over the past week – bordering on hysteria – indicate a propaganda campaign coordinated between Washington and its Western allies, the mass media and the US-led NATO military alliance.
It was US ambassador the United Nations Samantha Power who led the chorus of accusations against Russia and its Syrian ally, using the Security Council emergency meeting last weekend to condemn «barbarism» of renewed violence around the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. Britain and France piled in with more unsubstantiated condemnations of war crimes, as did shameless UN officials, Ban Ki-Moon, the secretary general, and Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s special envoy to Syria.
Few people would countenance war, but surely Syria has the sovereign right to defend its nation from a foreign-fueled war on its territory. In all the lachrymose lecturing from the likes of Samantha Power, the pertinent question of who started this war in the first place gets lost in rhetorical fog.
Days later, NATO civilian chief Jens Stoltenberg issued a statement denouncing Russia and Syria for «blatant violation of international laws» in Aleppo, adding that the military actions by both were «morally totally unacceptable».
All the while, Western news media outlets have run saturation coverage of what they depict as a humanitarian hell in Aleppo, the strategic Syrian city where the final throes of the country’s nearly six-year war seem to be playing out.
The New York Times published an article with the gut-wrenching headline: ‘The Children of Aleppo, Syria, Trapped in a Killing Zone’.
It goes on to say: «Among the roughly 250,000 people trapped in the insurgent redoubt of the divided northern Syrian city are 100,000 children, the most vulnerable victims of intensified bombings by Syrian forces and their Russian allies.»
In a separate article, euronews.com reports: ‘Nowhere to hide’ – volunteer describes conditions inside Aleppo’.
The implication in the Western mass media is that Syrian and Russian air forces are bombarding indiscriminately across civilian districts of the city. The same desperate tone and bias is ubiquitous in all Western media outlets.
However, if we ascertain the sources for this saturation information, it turns out to be a limited range of anonymous «activists», or the Western-funded group known as the White Helmets, which purports to be a humanitarian response network, but which in actual fact is integrated with illegally armed insurgents, including the al Qaeda terror organization Jabhat al Fatah al Sham (al Nusra Front), as writer Rick Sterling details.
Western TV news outlets are routinely using video footage from the White Helmets, supposedly taken in the aftermath of air strikes on Aleppo. This is an astounding abdication of any journalistic ethics of independence and impartiality.
These same media outlets rarely, if ever, carry reports from the western side of Aleppo where a six-fold greater population – 1.5 million – live in government-held districts, compared with the «rebel-held» eastern quarter.
As independent writer Vanessa Beeley recently reported, some 600,000 people fled to the western side of Aleppo from the al Nusra-dominant stronghold on the eastern side. According to medics quoted by Beeley, the majority of the population in the eastern quarter are being held hostage as human shields by the insurgents, or as the Western governments and media call them «moderate rebels» and «activists». There are also credible witness reports of terrorists shooting at people fleeing from the east through humanitarian corridors set up by the Syrian government.
In recent weeks, hundreds of civilians in the western districts of Aleppo have been killed from indiscriminate shelling and sniping by militants from the eastern side.
When do you ever hear or read the Western media reporting on those crimes? You don’t, because that would unravel the propaganda narrative aimed at demonizing, criminalizing and delegitimizing the Syrian government and its Russia ally.
And a key leitmotif of the official Western narrative is to create the perception that innocent civilians in Aleppo are being slaughtered by Syria and Russian forces. Both Damascus and Moscow reject claims that they are targeting civilian areas. Moscow has vehemently refuted Western claims that it is committing war crimes. Even the normally jingoistic US outlet Radio Free Europe quotes a legal expert from Amnesty International as saying that there is no evidence to indict Russia of such crimes.
And because the anti-government militants restrict access to their stronghold, including for UN aid agencies, it is hard to verify the claims and footage coming out of there. Which notwithstanding has not restrained Western media from broadcasting the information verbatim.
The Western mantra of «humanitarian crisis» and «war crimes» has the unmistakable connotation of contriving a public acceptance of certain policy objectives that Washington and its allies are striving for. At the very least, one of those objectives is to create a political atmosphere whereby Syria and Russia are obliged to comply with calls for no-fly zones, as recently demanded by US Secretary of State John Kerry. So far, Syria and Russia have rebuffed any such initiative, saying that it would give succor to the illegally armed groups who are now decisively in retreat.
Still, a more far-reaching objective could be Washington and its allies fostering a public mandate for military intervention by the NATO alliance. The outcry over «humanitarian suffering» in eastern Aleppo is a repeat of the «responsibility to protect» (R2P) ploy which NATO invoked to previously intervene and dismember former Yugoslavia in the late 1990s, and a decade later in Libya in 2011.
The US official inimitably qualified for such a political objective is Washington’s ambassador at the UN – Samantha Power. Her recent diatribes against Russia show a total disregard for diplomatic or legal protocol. Suffused with self-righteousness and selective «humanitarian» concern, Power is evidently leading a media campaign to mandate a NATO force being deployed to Syria’s Aleppo in order to «protect the children trapped in a killing zone» as the New York Times might put it.
Forty-six-year-old Power has made her entire professional career out of formulating the «R2P» doctrine that has in the past well-served Washington’s imperialist goals.
As a young reporter in the 1990s, Power wrote one-sided screeds about ethnic cleansing and genocide in the Balkans, which conveniently demonized Serbia, culminating in the NATO bombing of Belgrade in 1999 and the subsequent carve up of Kosovo to become a NATO base. For this service to imperial interests, she was subsequently rewarded with a professorship at Harvard University and a Pulitzer-prize-winning book about genocide, a book which eminent scholars like Edward Herman have debunked as a load of plagiarism and self-serving historical distortions.
The fiery, Irish-born Power was later promoted by President Barack Obama as an advisor on his National Security Council. It was in this position that she pushed the policy of NATO bombing Libya in 2011 with a reprise of her «R2P» doctrine.
These NATO military assaults facilitated by emotive appeals to «humanitarian values» have since been shown to be reckless violations of international law amounting to foreign aggression. Earlier this year, the late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic was officially exonerated over war crimes allegations, charges that NATO had leveled to justify its bombardment of his country. Also, earlier this month a British parliamentary committee denounced former prime minister David Cameron for his involvement in the NATO intervention in Libya as being unfounded on claims that then Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was preparing to slaughter residents in the city of Benghazi.
But it was s0-called «liberal hawks» like Samantha Power who were instrumental in providing political and moral cover for Washington and the NATO military to conduct these illegal foreign invasions and regime changes under the pretext of protecting human rights and civilian lives.
Obama assigned his useful apparatchik Samantha Power to the United Nations in August 2013, where she has proven to be completely out of her depth in terms of diplomatic finesse. She has infused her position on the Security Council with anti-Russian vitriol in the pursuit of Washington’s hegemonic interests, regardless of international law or objective historical analysis.
The «humanitarian» propaganda drumbeat over Aleppo belies the facts and circumstances of Washington’s covert war for regime change in Syria. A dirty war in which it and its NATO allies have colluded with a proxy army of terrorist gangs, as this recent German media report by Jurgen Todenhofer confirms.
Faced with a losing covert war in Syria, through the defeat of its terror proxy forces, it appears that Washington is striving for a more robust intervention in the guise of NATO military deployment, perhaps as «peacekeepers» overseeing a no-fly zone, as seen previously in Libya with disastrous results.
Emoting about humanitarian concerns is a well-worn prelude for NATO barbarism on behalf of Washington’s geopolitical interests. Crocodile tears followed by bombs. And no better person to carry out this subterfuge than UN ambassador Samantha Power.
US Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson refused to discuss Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s attribution of recent election cyberattacks in the United States to Russia in a brief conversation with Sputnik on Tuesday.
During the Monday presidential debate, Clinton asserted “there is no doubt” that Russia organized the July hack against the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and other election-cycle cyberattacks.
“I have no comment on that, sorry,” Johnson told Sputnik when asked about Clinton’s statement during the Monday night US presidential debate claiming that Russia was behind recent election-cycle hacks in the United States.
Clinton’s allegations do not match the official statements by the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Department of Homeland Security, which have not yet made any attribution for the DNC hack or recent cyber breaches of US state election systems.
Russia has also rejected the claims of interfering in the US election as absurd.
Some in the West have recently ratcheted up their rhetoric about Russia’s “nuclear saber-rattling” in Europe. Indeed, the USSR did deploy nuclear weapons in the then countries of the Warsaw Pact.
However, it was in response to the deployment of similar US arms in NATO countries, and later the Soviet nukes were completely withdrawn from Europe. Moreover, Russia has reduced its arsenal of non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNW) by three-quarters, transferred them back home and stored within its own territory.
And what was the US’ answer to such unprecedented operation? Not only have the US continued keeping its NSNW in Europe, but have also engaged actively in their modernization with an eye on expanding their offensive capabilities. American B61 nuclear bombs have obtained a completely new capacity as precision nuclear weapons capable of striking underground targets more effectively.
Under the pretext of limiting the “collateral damage” the capacity of modernized nuclear weapons will be somewhat reduced, which might indicate the intention to use these weapons in densely populated areas. It is also planned to update delivery vehicles in Europe by purchasing new American F-35 fighter jets that are “invisible” to radar systems and capable of striking targets in Russian territory. In general, the modernization would mean a qualitative change in the characteristics of the US nuclear arsenal in Europe that is fraught with a dangerous lowering of the “nuclear threshold.”
As to the so-called NATO’s “joint nuclear missions,” including joint nuclear planning and regular exercises on rehearsing the use of nuclear weapons. These drills involve non-nuclear states providing aircraft carriers, crews, airfields and other ground infrastructure. Such acts flagrantly violate key articles 1 and 2 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
The NATO Strategic Concept, adopted at the summit in Lisbon in November 2010, consolidates the nuclear backbone of the alliance’s military policy. At the summit in Chicago, in May 2012, NATO officially declared itself a “nuclear alliance”, which will remain so “as long as nuclear weapons exist.” There is no such thing in international law, which recognizes only nuclear states.
The Europeans are subjected to a propaganda campaign over a “Russian nuclear threat”, although the Russian military doctrine clearly states that nuclear weapons can hypothetically be used only in response to an attack with weapons of mass destruction or to a large-scale aggression that would threaten the very existence of our country. None of these scenarios implies any “aggression” on our part. So, who is actually rattling one’s saber in Eastern Europe?
We have been constantly championing for further limitations and reductions of nuclear weapon stockpiles, along with strengthening international arms control and non-proliferation regimes. Unfortunately, what we see now is a far cry from what the international community was striving for. Among other things that affects global stability and deterrence, and the trust between Russia and the West is being eroded. Some of the critical Russian concerns are left unaddressed. At the same time, further dialog on nuclear disarmament could only be successful if the core principle of international security is observed – i.e. that the security of one country should not be strengthened at the expense of others.
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
What really happened to TWA flight 800? This documentary displays that truth concerning the mysterious crash of TWA Flight 800 on July 17, 1996. As you will see, Flight 800 was actually destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Every allegation made in this film is backed up with facts-none more dramatic than those that come from the Federal government itself. You’ll learn what the 736 official eyewitnesses actually saw; why aviators reject the CIA “cartoon” explanation; how the Feds criminally suppressed reporting; the critical witness drawings; the rigged NTSB hearings; the damning radar data and documentation; the altered physical evidence; undeniable proof of explosive residue proving a missile strike; the stinging report from the machinist union; and much more!
Producer: pastor Don producer, host, tech., email@example.com 206-440-1938
… When naive individuals suggest that maintaining a large government conspiracy in America is simply impossible because “somebody would have talked” perhaps they should consider the implications of this incident, which occurred so close to the media capital of the world.
And if they ever decide to trust Wikipedia on any remotely controversial topic, they should consult the 10,000 word Wikipedia article on TWA Flight 800, comparing that exhaustive presentation with the simple facts provided in this article, or the wealth of additional information in the numerous books and documentaries upon which my treatment was based. … Read full article
In early September 2016, Donald Trump announced his plan for a vast expansion of the U.S. military, including 90,000 new soldiers for the Army, nearly 75 new ships for the Navy, and dozens of new fighter aircraft for the Air Force. Although the cost of this increase would be substantial–about $90 billion per year–it would be covered, the GOP presidential candidate said, by cutting wasteful government spending.
But where, exactly, is the waste? In fiscal 2015, the federal government engaged in $1.1 trillion of discretionary spending, but relatively small amounts went for things like education (6 percent), veterans’ benefits (6 percent), energy and the environment (4 percent), and transportation (2 percent). The biggest item, by far, in the U.S. budget was military spending: roughly $600 billion (54 percent). If military spending were increased to $690 billion and other areas were cut to fund this increase, the military would receive roughly 63 percent of the U.S. government’s discretionary spending.
Well, you might say, maybe it’s worth it. After all, the armed forces defend the United States from enemy attack. But, in fact, the U.S. government already has far more powerful military forces than any other country. China, the world’s #2 military power, spends only about a third of what the United States does on the military. Russia spends about a ninth. There are, of course, occasional terrorist attacks within American borders. But the vast and expensive U.S. military machine–in the form of missiles, fighter planes, battleships, and bombers–is simply not effective against this kind of danger.
Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Defense certainly leads the way in wasteful behavior. As William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project of the Center for International Policy, points out, “the military waste machine is running full speed ahead.” There are the helicopter gears worth $500 each purchased by the Army at $8,000 each, the $2.7 billion spent “on an air surveillance balloon that doesn’t work,” and “the accumulation of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons components that will never be used.” Private companies like Halliburton profited handsomely from Pentagon contracts for their projects in Afghanistan, such as “a multimillion-dollar `highway to nowhere,’” a $43 million gas station in nowhere, a $25 million `state of the art’ headquarters for the U.S. military in Helmand Province . . . that no one ever used, and the payment of actual salaries to countless thousands of no ones aptly labeled `ghost soldiers.’” Last year, Pro Publica created an interactive graphic revealing $17 billion in wasteful U.S. spending uncovered by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.
Not surprisingly, as Hartung reports, the Pentagon functions without an auditing system. Although, a quarter century ago, Congress mandated that the Pentagon audit itself, it has never managed to do so. Thus, the Defense Department doesn’t know how much equipment it has purchased, how much it has been overcharged, or how many contractors it employs. The Project on Government Oversight maintains that the Pentagon has spent about $6 billion thus far on “fixing” its audit problem. But it has done so, Hartung notes, “with no solution in sight.”
The story of the F-35 jet fighter shows how easily U.S. military spending gets out of hand. Back in 2001, when the cost of this aircraft-building program was considered astronomical, the initial estimate was $233 billion. Today, the price tag has more than quadrupled, with estimates ranging from $1.1 trillion to $1.4 trillion, making it the most expensive weapon in human history. The planes reportedly cost $135 million each, and even the pilots’ helmets run $400,000 apiece. Moreover, the planes remain unusable. Although the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Air Force recently declared their versions of the F-35 combat ready, the Pentagon’s top testing official blasted that assertion in a 16-page memo, deriding them as thoroughly unsuitable for combat. The planes, he reported, had “outstanding performance deficiencies.” His assessment was reinforced in mid-September 2016, when the Air Force grounded 10 of its first F-35 fighters due to problems with their cooling lines.
U.S. wars, of course, are particularly expensive, as they require the deployment of large military forces and hardware to far-flung places, chew up very costly military equipment, and necessitate veterans’ benefits for the survivors. Taking these and other factors into account, a recent study at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs put the cost to U.S. taxpayers of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at nearly $5 trillion thus far. According to the report’s author, Neta Crawford, this figure is “so large as to be almost incomprehensible.”
Even without war, another military expense is likely to create a U.S. budgetary crisis over the course of the next 30 years: $1 trillion for the rebuilding of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, plus the construction of new nuclear missiles, nuclear submarines, and nuclear-armed aircraft. Aside from the vast cost, an obvious problem with this expenditure is that these weapons will either never be used or, if they are used, will destroy the world.
Wasted money, wasted lives, or maybe both. That’s the promise of increased military spending.
India is reported as being “one of the largest donors of civilian aid to Afghanistan” and has recently undertaken to give the Kabul government another billion dollars, which is extremely generous of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, because, as CNN points out, there is in India “a stark picture of widespread rural poverty and deprivation.” According to the site Poverties “70 per cent of Indians don’t have access to decent toilets (which inspires a multitude of bacteria to host their own disease party); 35% of households don’t have a nearby water source and 85% of villages don’t have a secondary school.”
India’s space program costs 750 million dollars a year, and it spent 4 billion dollars hosting the Commonwealth Games. But although 300 million of its 1.2 billion citizens live in conditions that are wretched to the point of barely credible squalor it can still send a billion dollars to Afghanistan which is ranked as the third most corrupt country in the world.
That billion, indeed, might replace the billion stolen from the Kabul Bank, which, according to the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) last week, “operated as a massive pyramid scheme; hundreds of millions of dollars had been fraudulently lent to ﬁctitious companies, with no loan ever paid off . . . while ordinary Afghan citizens’ deposits were used to fund the fraudulent loans. Two of the principal beneﬁciaries of the fraudulent loans were Mahmoud Karzai and Haseen Faheem.” Mahmoud Karzai is brother to the then President, Hamid Karzai, and now lives in luxury outside Afghanistan. Haseen Faheem is a brother of former Vice-President Mohammad Faheem (who was a corrupt savage) and also lives in luxury outside Afghanistan.
India’s billion dollars were promised during a visit to Delhi by Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani who has been in power for two years and was reported by Reuters in October 2014 as “saying that he would re-open the inquiry into the theft of almost $1 billion from the bank, fulfilling a campaign promise to make fighting corruption a priority.”
As is clear from the SIGAR’s report, Ghani has done no such thing, and after fifteen years of US-NATO military operations and expenditure of colossal amounts of money Afghanistan is a catastrophe in which “the United States contributed to the growth of corruption by injecting tens of billions of dollars into the Afghan economy, using ﬂawed oversight and contracting practices, and partnering with malign powerbrokers.”
As the UK’s Guardian newspaper highlighted : “In one damning episode in 2010, Hamid Karzai, the president at the time, ordered the release of an aide who had been caught on wiretap demanding a bribe to thwart an investigation into a money transfer firm accused of stealing $2.78 billion. Meanwhile, the same aide was also receiving payments from the CIA, even as he was targeted by US law enforcement agencies.”
Oh, what a tangled web is weaved, when the CIA is self-deceived.
Four days after the SIGAR’s indictment of US conduct in Afghanistan, the New York Times carried an Editorial titled The Afghan War Quagmire, which is an accurate description of the situation in the country. But in all its 628 words of observation and comment the NYT didn’t once mention the SIGAR’s report. Certainly it regrets that “America’s longest war deteriorates into a slow, messy slog” — but it’s been a messy and catastrophic slog for years, and the NYT uses the word ‘corrupt’ once and ‘corruption’ not at all.
There is no criticism by the NYT of Washington’s crass incompetence over fifteen years of futile and poorly-directed military operations, or mention of the fact that 2,384 members of the US forces and 1,136 “Coalition” troops died in Afghanistan. In its single use of the word ‘corrupt’ it observes that “The Afghan government remains weak, corrupt and roiled by internal rivalries. The casualty rate for Afghan troops is unsustainable. The economy is in shambles. Resurgent Taliban forces are gaining ground in rural areas and are carrying out barbaric attacks in the heart of Kabul, the capital.” But that’s nothing new. We’ve known for many years that the US-NATO war in Afghanistan was a lost cause. (The NYT doesn’t mention NATO, either, which is extraordinary.)
The Editorial admits in its last sentence that “American taxpayers and Afghans, who have endured decades of war, need a plan better than the current policy, which offers good intentions, wishful thinking and ever-worsening results.” Certainly there should be a plan to get Afghanistan out of its quagmire, but the NYT does not point out that American taxpayers were duped into supporting the fatuous US-NATO war by rabid propaganda, led by such as the NYT, which, we should remember, was an enthusiastic supporter of the war on Iraq.
It ignored the SIGAR’s report which records that over the years, among other things: US money flowed to the insurgency via corruption; the Afghan government was so deeply enmeshed in corrupt and criminal networks that dismantling them would mean dismantling major pillars of support for the government itself; the United States collaborated with abusive and corrupt warlords, militias, and other powerbrokers who “gained positions of authority in the Afghan government, which further enabled them to dip their hands into the streams of cash pouring into a small and fragile economy;” and, damningly, “People turned to the Taliban as a way of expressing opposition to the government.”
What the New York Times calls the “Afghan War Quagmire” has been caused by the US government and its NATO allies. The US Pentagon has been criminal in its incompetence. The dead soldiers of US-NATO forces gave their lives for nothing. Yet, in addition to Washington pouring its taxpayers’ money down the Afghan drain, the US-NATO military alliance has pledged “to help fund Afghan security forces to the tune of around $1 billion annually over the next three years.” It is doubtful if many European citizens are aware of this generous commitment.
As the old saying has it : a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money. The 300 million Indians who live in bleak and dismal poverty have no idea that their government is throwing away a billion dollars, but India’s Prime Minister Modi and Afghanistan’s President Ghani declared that the money “would be used for building capacity in education, health, agriculture, energy, and infrastructure in Afghanistan.”
What is certain is that the countless Afghans who also live in bleak and dismal poverty will not reap the benefit of a single cent of that billion dollars.
As the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction put it so well : “Corruption is a corrosive acid — partly of our making — that eats away the base of every pillar of Afghan reconstruction, including security and political stability.” The country is in dire straits, and the only hope is to persuade the Taliban and other nationalist militants to come to the negotiating table. The only difference that billions of dollars will make is to the bank accounts of corrupt Afghans living in luxury.
Iran’s top banker says the United States has failed to do its share of lifting economic sanctions against Iran as per a deal that was signed over the country’s nuclear energy activities last summer.
Valiollah Seif, the governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), said the behavior of the US toward its commitments as per the deal – that was signed between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries – is not transparent.
Seif added that the US is even scaring banks from doing business with Iran whereas it should have done the opposite based on what it signed with Iran together with four other fellow Security Council members plus Germany.
He was commenting in reaction to remarks by US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz who earlier said that Washington had met its dies of the deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – that envisaged the removal of certain economic sanctions against Iran in return for measures by the country to restrict certain aspects of its nuclear energy activities.
“The truth is that this claim … is not correct,” Seif emphasized. “The commitments that the US accepted as per the JCPOA are yet to be implemented and the behavior of the American side to this effect is not transparent,” he told IRIB News during a visit to Vienna.
Iran’s CBI chief further said that the US claims that it is encouraging banks to do business with Iran but at the same time scares them away by threatening them with punitive measures if they approach the Iranian market.
“Before the sanctions, the representatives of the US Treasury visited countries and threatened banks with punitive measures if they cooperated with Iran,” Seif said.
“Now they expect to put everything back in place through a simple statement. They even don’t do that and instead raise threats against doing business with Iran.”
Contrary to the incessant grandstanding by US and British politicians that they are committed to promoting freedom, democracy and peace around the world, the evidence proves that the Anglo-American establishment is in the business of war, destabilization and conflict creation. On top of the numerous imperial wars in the Middle East and North Africa that the Anglo-American establishment has spearheaded, the true nature of these two powers is further confirmed by the fact that Britain is now officially the second biggest arms dealer on the planet, second only to the US.
On average over the last decade, Britain has sold more weapons than Russia, China and France, according to the UK Trade and Investment department. Two-thirds of the weapons have been sold to Middle Eastern countries since 2010, fuelling many of the deadly conflicts in the region. Recipients of British weapons include 22 of the 30 countries on the UK governments own human rights watch list, further illustrating the complete hypocrisy of British politicians.
Britain has supplied an array of deplorable powers with military hardware, many of which are involved in committing atrocities with those weapons: including illegally supplying Saudi Arabia with Eurofighter Typhoon jets and missiles that have been used in the abhorrent war on Yemen; supplying Israel with arms that have been used in the IDF’s frequent massacres of Palestinians; in addition to selling shotguns, stun grenades and teargas, to the regime in Bahrain – which have been used to suppress protests in the country.
When the US and Britain are not busy killing Syrian soldiers who are fighting against ISIS, they are flooding the most war-torn region on earth (thanks to Western wars) with weapons. The likes of Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing and BAE Systems, have been making a killing off the perennial wars we have seen in the 21st century. The new Western-manufactured Cold War 2.0 has also proved to be beneficial for the war giants, as this is used to justify exorbitant defense/war budgets.
The power and influence of war contractors is nothing new in the West however. In his farewell address to the nation in 1961, the 34th President of the US, Dwight D. Eisenhower, warned the American people of the dangers of this insidious “military-industrial complex:”
“This conjunction, of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry, is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the federal government. We recognise the imperative need for this development, yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications… In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”
It is clear that Eisenhower’s warning fell on deaf ears, as the nefarious influence of the military-industrial complex has only grown since he made his historic speech. The amount of money the US spends on defence is staggering comparative to the rest of the world, with the 2015 US defense budget more than three times the size of China’s, and more than nine times the size of Russia’s. The American taxpayer has been filling the pockets of the CEOs of the war giants for too long now, with the decade-and-a-half since 9/11 proving to be an immensely profitable period for these immoral contractors.
Russia Now Earns More from Agriculture than Arms
Whilst the US and Britain are leading the world in arms sales, Russia is now earning more from agricultural exports than arms sales. Last year, Russia replaced the US as the largest producer and exporter of wheat, with grain production increasing in Russia over the past six years. Russia has also established herself as one of the main leaders of the organic revolution that we have seen sweep the world in recent years, as the toxicity of GMO becomes blatantly evident for all to see.
Western aggression is, and will continue to be, the most destructive force on earth. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, have brought nothing but misery and devastation to these countries. The West’s proxy war in Syria brought further destabilization and chaos to the region, as well causing the refugee and migrant crisis that has gripped Europe. The 2013-14 colour revolution in Ukraine and the subsequent war in the country serves as yet another example of the pernicious fruits of Western imperialism. If we add on top of all this carnage, the US-led drone wars and the Anglo-American dominated arms industry, there is no question that the Anglo-American war machine is the greatest impediment to global stability today.
Bibi wants more and Congress might deliver
As an American it is difficult to imagine a more unseemly bit of political theater playing out than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s appearance before his cabinet to claim that he had gotten every last dollar of military assistance out of the Obama Administration. Netanyahu argued that he had obtained all that was on the table, adding that his bad blood with President Barack Obama had not proven to be detrimental in the bilateral negotiations that had been ongoing for more than a year. The Prime Minister was on the defensive because some of his critics claimed that he might have gotten $100 million more per annum, admittedly chump change on top of the $38 billion over ten years that the Memorandum of Understand will provide Netanyahu from the U.S. Treasury.
The critics also argued that the “real money” obtained from Washington was less than it seemed because of inflation, but the gift of $38 billion to Israel was nevertheless a considerable increase over the roughly $3.3 billion per year that Israel is currently receiving. The protracted negotiations over the exact sum to be handed over were reportedly due to Netanyahu’s demanding much more money, possibly as much as $5 billion per year. The deal did come with a minor problem for the Israeli defense industries, which had become accustomed to skimming 26% off the top of the annual U.S. grant to build and market their own weapons. Someone in Washington finally figured out that the U.S. taxpayer was directly funding foreign competition for its own defense industries, costing thousands of American jobs. But not to worry, the Israeli companies are now setting up U.S. subsidiaries, so the gravy train will almost certainly continue to deliver.
Israel’s argument for more money, such as it was, was based on claims that Obama had weakened its security by coming to an agreement with Iran over that nation’s nuclear program. Israel objected that sharply limiting Tehran’s ability to develop a weapon was not in its own interest, an odd assertion but explicable in terms of Netanyahu’s real objective in dealing with the Mullah’s, which was to have the U.S. take the lead in bombing them into the stone age.
Missing in the discussions was any benefit obtained for the United States by giving Israel all that moolah. America’s largely invisible National Security Adviser Susan Rice spoke of an “unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security” and commented that the agreement was good for the United States because “our security is linked” though she characteristically did not explain exactly why that was so. She called the deal a “win-win,” creating jobs in America and making our “ally and partner” Israel more secure.
In reality, as Rice knows perfectly well, Israel is a strategic liability. Apart from the annual Danegeld paid to it, it also requires the expenditure of considerable American political capital to protect it in the U.N. It also cannot be used as a forward base for the U.S. military. During Desert Storm in 1991, it had to be bribed by Washington to stay out of the conflict against Saddam Hussein to keep America’s Arab allies on board. As Colin Powell’s former aide Colonel Larry Wilkerson has observed there is indeed an unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Middle East that the U.S. relies on to extend the reach of its armed forces. It is called Kuwait, not Israel, while Bahrain hosts the American Sixth Fleet and the U.S. Air Force operates out of Qatar. They are all Arab countries.
Rice also did not mention another important issue. As money is fungible subsidizing Israel’s military frees up cash in the budget to build new settlements on the West Bank, which U.S. policy nominally opposes. Some critics have also noted that medical care and higher education in Israel are free, a benefit that Americans do not enjoy and which derives in part from the U.S. largesse.
And Israel’s reckless foreign policy has to be considered. There is a tendency for Israeli policy makers to actually use new weapons if only to try them out on live targets. The reality is that providing Israel with a ton of money to buy upgraded weapons will also give Netanyahu a lot of shiny new toys to use on his neighbors while also fueling an arms race in the region as other countries try to keep up to enable their own militaries to deter Israel. Iran has, for example, responded to the often repeated Israeli threats by improving its own air defenses with sophisticated Russian made integrated systems that can easily shoot down U.S. warplanes, while other missiles in its arsenal can defeat the defenses of American aircraft carrier groups.
Focusing on Israel’s $38 billion haul has also obscured how the country benefits in other ways. It has long been a development partner with the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security to produce defense technologies that are important to Israel but relatively useless for Washington. This has most recently included Washington’s direct funding of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which Tel Aviv is actively marketing, and anti-tunneling technologies.
Israel also receives billions of dollars every year in the form of charitable contributions from American Jews and Christian Zionists. The money often goes to support foundations that in turn fund settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, developments that are illegal both under international and U.S. law. And then there are direct fund-raisers for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). A 2014 star studded Hollywood gala event raised $33 million tax exempt dollars for an organization known as the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF). FIDF’s slogan is “Their job is to look after Israel. Ours is to look after them.” Similar fundraisers are held all over the United States and there is an annual parade in Manhattan.
As most observers of the odd United States relationship with the Middle East will no doubt agree, when it comes to Israel and the U.S. Treasury “too much” is not part of the vocabulary. Obama’s agreement with Israel stipulated that in return for the guaranteed money every year Israel would not go to Congress seeking more unless there is a war. As “war” was not defined and Israel is both frequently in conflict with its neighbors and also quite capable of cranking up an incident on demand, Netanyahu may have been smiling as he agreed to that stipulation. And knowing that Obama is a lame duck means that the door to the cash vault is closed but will be reopening in January. Given all of that, Netanyahu was apparently willing to back off even though he wanted more money, possibly expecting that the deal will be subject to renegotiation when Hillary invites him to the White House.
And it now appears that many Congressmen also agree that Israel’s leader and America’s best friend did not get what he deserves. Senator Lindsey Graham opined while the negotiations were still in progress that any agreement with Israel would be a base-line, meaning that congress could and should vote additional special appropriations. Currently a bill co-sponsored by Graham and Senators Kelly Ayotte, John McCain, Ted Cruz, Mark Kirk, Marco Rubio and Roy Blunt is moving through the Senate that will do just that. It will allow Congress to give Israel more cash and will lift the restrictions on how it is spent, permitting Netanyahu to continue to directly subsidize his own defense industry with U.S. taxpayer money. If Democratic Israel-firsters like Senators Chuck Schumer and Bob Menendez rally behind the bill it is quite likely to be passed.
The reality is that U.S. military assistance to Israel is actually all about the effectiveness of an extremely powerful domestic lobby. The tie that binds the two countries has nothing whatsoever to do with either nation’s security or interests but it has a great deal to do with tying Washington to Israel no matter what Israel does. Israel is a wealthy country with a per capita gross domestic product of $35,000 that is greater than that of Japan, South Korea or Italy. It could easily survive without that extra cash from Uncle Sam. It is the greatest military power in its region by every possible metric and it is also the only country possessing nuclear weapons to include both ballistic missiles and submarines to deliver the weapons on target. It is in no way threatened.
Massive amounts of aid to Israel constitute a particularly important element of the push to maintain a “special relationship” that seeks to make Israel appear to be an essential American ally, even though it is anything but. American politicians who call Israel the U.S.’s greatest friend and ally know they are lying as Israel is neither. Instead, Israel and its own parochial interests have been key elements in involving Washington in the spiral of violence that has gripped the Middle East since 2001, including the ill-fated invasion of Iraq.
Is it just business as usual in Washington, though admittedly with an extraordinarily large price tag? Perhaps. But an opinion poll reveals that 81% of Americans oppose giving Israel more money. Unfortunately our bifurcated democratic system means that no one will be able to effectively vote on the issue in November as both major parties are lined up squarely behind Israel even if many Democrats are beginning to wobble.
Groveling to Israel is in the American political DNA. Even progressive groups that claim to be supportive of Palestinian rights and opposed to growing fascism in Israel exhibit the usual ambivalence when it comes to issues that might actually have an impact. They go silent and become curiously absent from the debate. Go to the website of Jewish Voice for Peace and you will find no mention of the $38 billion. Code Pink and End the Occupation claim to oppose weapons sales to Israel but seem to have lost sight of the latest outrage. Strange that. Or perhaps not so strange. J Street, which claims to be pro-Israel and pro-peace, “warmly welcomes the conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel that will ensure Israel’s security and its qualitative military advantage over any potential enemy for the next 10 years.”
The point is that giving Israel $38 billion over ten years is robbery pure and simple having nothing whatsoever to do with anyone’s security. It is stealing from the American taxpayer because certain politicians aided and abetted by the media and acting in deference to a powerful lobby would have it so. Israel is no ally, has never been an ally, and is being rewarded for doing nothing. The only Americans who benefit from the deal are defense contractors. If it were Goldman Sachs or General Motors doing the stealing there would at least be some outcry. But as it is, because it is Israel, the media and chattering class are silent.
Reconstruction of TWA Flight 800. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Some years ago as I became increasingly aware of the severe dishonesty of our mainstream media on all sorts of controversial topics, I began telling a joke to a few of my friends.
Suppose, I would say, that I happened to be out walking one pleasant afternoon in Palo Alto, and suddenly heard a gigantic explosion in the general direction of Mountain View, soon followed by a huge pillar of smoke rising towards the sky. Being busy with my own work, I might have no time to bother investigating, and merely wondered what surprising story the front pages of my morning newspapers would reveal as the cause behind those dramatic events. But when I eagerly opened those papers the following day, mention of the explosion was nowhere to be found, either on Page One or anywhere else, even in my own local San Jose Mercury News. So unless I somehow persuaded myself that I had simply imagined the whole thing, I would henceforth stop believing anything I read—or failed to read—in my once-trusted news outlets.
I thought my allegorical fable rather amusing, and repeated it on a number of occasions. But quite recently I came across a rough counterpart in real life, a remarkable tale that had almost completely escaped my attention for over twenty years.
When I used to recall the leading events of 1996, what came to mind was Bill Clinton’s triumphant reelection campaign in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing and political overreach by Newt Gingrich’s Congressional Republicans. Perhaps there had also been some sort of plane crash on the East Coast, though none of the details were sharp or memorable in my mind. But in fact, the sudden mid-air explosion of TWA Flight 800 on a New York to Paris route was actually voted the top national news story of that year, ranking above the presidential campaign, while the 230 fatalities made it by far New York’s worst disaster of the twentieth century, and the second worst airline tragedy in American history to that date. Indeed, some journalists at the time suggested that the resulting media coverage had eclipsed that of any other transportation calamity since the sinking of the Titanic almost a century earlier.
I had almost forgotten the story of that doomed airliner when I opened my morning edition of the New York Times in mid-July 2013 and read a short review in the Arts Section, favorably discussing a new television documentary presenting the “conspiracy theory” that the plane had been destroyed by a missile rather than by an accidental fuel tank explosion as the government investigation had firmly concluded at the time, a verdict strongly affirmed by both the news and editorial pages of the Times. I had recently published “Our American Pravda” and an eminent mainstream academic who appreciated my piece soon dropped me a note pointing to a website discussion of the details of the plane crash, about which I knew nothing. Being preoccupied with other matters, I could only glance at the material, which shocked me, but now that I’ve gone back and spent some time on the topic, the story turns out to be a truly remarkable one.
The outline of facts is hardly complicated. Soon after taking off from New York’s JFK Airport on July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800 suddenly exploded in the air just off Long Island. So enormous a loss of life naturally produced an immediate scrambling of numerous federal agencies to investigate the cause, and with widespread fears of terrorism, the FBI launched the largest, most complex investigation in its entire history, deploying some 500 field agents to the area. The investigators soon gathered a copious quantity of seemingly consistent evidence.
Large numbers of local witnesses were immediately interviewed by the swarm of federal agents, with 278 of them reporting that they saw a streak of light, much like a missile, shoot up into the sky in the direction of the aircraft just before the huge explosion. Employees at the local FAA radar installation immediately reported to the government that they had seen what appeared to be a missile closing with the airliner just before it exploded, and other installations produced similar radar records. When tests were eventually performed on the plane wreckage, traces of explosive chemicals were found, exactly the sort used in the warhead of a missile, as well as some reddish-orange chemical residue that a laboratory later identified as likely missile exhaust propellant. An enormous effort was made to locate every possible piece of the wreckage, and for many of these, the contours of the damage indicated an initial explosion external to the plane. Almost immediately after the disaster, a bidding-war allegedly broke out between the national television networks for an amateur home-video showing a missile striking and destroying TWA 800, with the tape eventually being sold for more than $50,000 and briefly broadcast on the MSNBC cable news channel before reportedly being seized as evidence by FBI agents. In addition, a local resident provided a still photo taken at the time showing what seemed to be a missile rising toward the aircraft.
Based on all this initial evidence, many of the early news stories reported that the plane had probably been destroyed by a missile, with widespread speculation about whether the calamity was due to terrorist action or instead accidental “friendly fire” from one of the U.S. naval warships operating in the vicinity. Given the extreme sensitivity of the topic, government officials urged the media to keep an open mind until the full investigation was completed. However, the public debate sometimes turned rancorous, with some individuals soon alleging that a government cover-up was in the works. Eventually, the CIA was brought into the investigation, given its tremendous expertise in certain matters.
After more than a year of detailed research, the government investigation finally concluded that no missile could possibly have been involved, with all the eyewitnesses having been misled by what amounted to an optical illusion caused by the explosion of the aircraft. That explosion itself had been entirely spontaneous, probably caused by a random spark igniting one of the gas tanks. Given the controversy in the case, the CIA helpfully produced a computer animation showing the official reconstruction of the events, which was endlessly broadcast by our news media to explain the disaster to the public. The simulation showed the jetliner spontaneously exploding in mid-air, with no external cause, and just to further clarify matters, the CIA animators also inserted an explanatory message in large text: “There Was No Missile.” The New York Times, and nearly all our other mainstream media repeatedly echoed this same simple conclusion in all their stories and headlines.
The vast majority of our sheep-like population absorbed the simple media message “No Missile” and went back to watching their football games and celebrity music videos, being greatly relieved to know that well-maintained 747 jumbo jets flown by leading national airlines can occasionally explode in mid-air without any external cause.
However, various disgruntled “conspiracy theorists” refused to accept these conclusions, and returned to their “crazy missile conspiracy theories,” thereby earning the hearty ridicule of the entire mainstream media, led by the New York Times. These conspiratorial suspicions even extended to the U.S. navy, which had apparently been staging military exercises in the near vicinity of the calamity, exercises that some claimed including the test-firing of anti-aircraft missiles. Indeed, a local resident later provided a home video clearly showing a missile being fired in that exact same area a few days earlier during previous naval exercises.
The entire remarkable history of this incident is persuasively set forth in a excellent twentieth-anniversary book published earlier this year by investigative journalist Jack Cashill, who has been following the case since the late 1990s, having co-authored a previous book in 2003 and also produced an earlier 2001 television documentary Silenced, now available in its entirely on YouTube.
In addition, the 2013 television documentary by a former CBS producer, whose favorable review by the New York Times marked my first introduction to the topic, was discussed at length and substantially excerpted by NPR‘s Amy Goodman at Democracy Now!
Cashill is strongly affiliated with conservative publications, while someone like Goodman clearly leans toward the left, but the question of whether an American jetliner was destroyed by a missile, and the facts then covered up by the government is a non-ideological matter, so their perspectives seem almost identical.
For anyone having less than absolute faith in the official pronouncements of our government and our media, the likely reality of what happened is hardly difficult to guess, and for those who currently maintain such naivete, I suspect it will quickly dissipate if they choose to watch the documentaries or read the books. But the loss of TWA Flight 800 is surely of no great importance to our country. Accidents do happen. A large and energetic military, eager to test its latest missile weapons, perhaps carelessly and fatally crossed paths with hundreds of unlucky travelers on their way to Paris. Some 30,000 Americans die each year in fatal car crashes, and risks are inevitable in our modern industrial society.
However, from a broader perspective, I believe that the truly horrifying aspect of the incident is the tremendous ease with which our government and its lapdog media managed to so utterly suppress the reality of what had happened—an American jumbo jet shot down by a missile—and did so although this occurred not in some obscure, faraway foreign land, but within the very sight of Steven Spielberg’s home in the exclusive Hamptons, on a flight that had just departed New York City, and despite such overwhelming physical evidence and hundreds of direct eye-witnesses. The successful cover-up is the important story constitutes a central subtext in all of the books and documentaries on the disaster
Given the eyewitness testimony and other factors, it is hardly surprising that many of the initial media stories either directly referred to a missile strike or at least mentioned it as one of the main possibilities, and indeed there is some evidence that top government leaders initially assumed a terrorist attack. But President Bill Clinton was locked in the middle of his reelection campaign, and while the slaughter of Americans by terrorists might unify a nation, disasters brought about by careless military action would surely have had the opposite political impact. So it seems likely that once terrorism was ruled out and the American military believed responsible, a direct order quickly came down from the highest levels to make the missile and all evidence supporting it disappear, with all our supposedly independent federal agencies, especially the FBI, bowing to that primary directive.
As part of the standard investigation, all the debris were gathered and stored at a hangar for examination, but FBI agents were discovered spiriting away some of the most tell-tale pieces, or even caught in the wee hours of the morning hammering them into a shape that would suggest an internal rather than an external explosion. The amateur video showing the missile strike was only briefly broadcast by a cable news channel before being seized by government agents. When an investigative journalist acquired debris containing apparent missile residue and passed it along to a producer at CBS News, the evidence was quickly confiscated, with the journalist and his wife even being arrested, prosecuted, and convicted for violating an obscure law enacted to prohibit bystanders from removing souvenirs from the scene of a disaster; the veteran CBS producer who accepted the material was vilified as a “conspiracy theorist” and soon forced out of her job, her career destroyed. The written FBI reports of 278 eyewitness statements describing the missile attack were completely ignored, and in a number of cases, later statements were actually fabricated, falsely suggesting that crucial witnesses had revised or recanted their earlier testimony.
These particular examples only scratch the surface of the massive amount of coordinated government fraud and deception that was marshalled to make a missile strike seen by hundreds of witnesses officially disappear from the historical record, and transform the destruction of TWA Flight 800 into a rather mysterious and spontaneous mid-air explosion. The New York Times in particular became the primary mouthpiece of the official “See No Missile” party-line, repeatedly denigrating and ridiculing all those who resisted this total rewriting of the facts and history.
This gatekeeper role of the Times in the cover-up became particularly crucial once the high-profile figure of Pierre Salinger entered the controversy. Salinger ranked as a full-fledged member of the political-media establishment elite, having served as President Kennedy’s press secretary and one of the most visible public figures in Camelot, then briefly as an appointed U.S. Senator from California before becoming a prize-winning journalist and the Paris Bureau Chief for ABC News. Himself half-French by birth, he had many connections to the leadership of that country, which was galvanized by the large number of French victims on the flight. French intelligence became involved, quickly acquiring some of the same voluminous missile-related evidence suppressed by its US counterpart, and passed him the information. Cashill notes that Salinger was a loyal Democrat, and perhaps as a consequence he sat on the story until after Clinton was safely reelected in November, then attempted to break it, publishing a long expose in Paris Match, one of France’s highest-circulation popular magazines.
If Salinger had hoped his prestigious standing and long journalistic record would insulate him from attacks, he was sorely mistaken, and instead the threat his stature and credibility posed to the cover-up unleashed an unprecedented barrage of insult, ridicule, and invective, with the New York Times running 18 consecutive articles attacking him, and America’s leading news magazines, Time and Newsweek adding their own denunciations. Such remarkable vilification may have partly been aimed at dissuading any other prominent figures from similarly breaking ranks and following Salinger’s lead in exposing the true facts, and if so, the effort succeeded and the cover-up held.
Prior to Salinger’s regime disloyalty, he had regularly appeared on leading American television news broadcasts and his opinions were treated with the great deference accorded to a highly-respected elder statesman; afterward he was purged and blacklisted, shunned by our elite media as a “conspiracy nut.” Indeed, upon his death a few years later, the disloyalty he had shown to his establishment colleagues seriously tainted his NYT obituary, which closed by describing the “strange turn” he had taken in advocating theories based upon “discredited” evidence.
I don’t doubt that numerous other prominent figures quietly took the lesson of Salinger’s defenestration to heart, much as high-ranking Soviet leaders noted the dire implications of questioning Stalin’s pronouncements. Indeed, I personally know of at least a couple of individuals prominently situated in our current elite establishment whose private views on various controversial topics would surely rank as “utterly conspiratorial” but who remain extremely reluctant to have those views become generally known.
Or take another example, even closer to me. My old friend Bill Odom, the three-star general who had run the NSA for Ronald Reagan, clearly ranked in the upper reaches of the DC national security establishment in the early 2000s, serving as Director of National Security Policies at the Hudson Institute and an adjunct professor at Yale. Yet his strongly discordant views on the Bush response to 9/11 and the preparations for the Iraq War caused him to be totally blacklisted from major media access, reduced to publishing his dissenting opinions on an obscure website or in the pages of small, socialistic quarterlies.
When naive individuals suggest that maintaining a large government conspiracy in America is simply impossible because “somebody would have talked” perhaps they should consider the implications of this incident, which occurred so close to the media capital of the world. And if they ever decide to trust Wikipedia on any remotely controversial topic, they should consult the 10,000 word Wikipedia article on TWA Flight 800, comparing that exhaustive presentation with the simple facts provided in this article, or the wealth of additional information in the numerous books and documentaries upon which my treatment was based.
The old Soviet Union was notoriously reluctant to ever acknowledge serious government errors, but its propaganda machinery was of mediocre quality, routinely ridiculed both in the West and among its own citizens. Surely, their Politburo members and Pravda editors would have been green with envy at how easily our own American Regime and its media minions suppressed the true story of TWA Flight 800, shot down by a missile just twelve minutes after it departed JFK Airport in New York City.