Using tragic MH17 crash as ‘political football’ is shameful

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
A military policeman stands guard in the cockpit of the MH17 airplane after the presentation of the final report into the crash of July 2014 of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine, in Gilze Rijen, the Netherlands, October 13, 2015 © Michael Kooren
The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17 last year was an awful tragedy, and those who are attempting to exploit it for political and geopolitical reasons should hang their heads in shame.

There are only a few things in our world capable of uniting humanity regardless of national, political, religious, or ideological differences. One of them is a sense of grief over the downing of a passenger aircraft over a conflict zone and the loss of all 298 passengers and crew on board. The mere thought of the terror involved in such a scenario leaves every person with a beating heart stricken with sorrow, which, for the families and relatives of the victims is undoubtedly magnified many times over.

It is a disgrace, therefore, to see the way in which the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 has been turned into a geopolitical football by politicians in the West and certain voices within the Western media, asserting the right to put Russia in the dock on the prior assumption that one country of 144 million people is the fount of all evil in the world.

This is worse than derisory; it is beneath contempt.

The release of the findings of the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) into the cause of the tragedy assert that the aircraft was brought down by a Russian-made (be sure to remember the word 'made' after Russian in that hyphenation) BUK surface-to-air missile, without asserting from which side the missile came. The West and the Ukrainian government in Kiev had already claimed that anti Kiev rebel forces and Russia were responsible before the smoke from the wreckage had cleared, eager to apportion blame from the outset rather than await any investigation or attempt to get to the truth of the matter.

Sadly, this narrative continues, leaving no doubt that the respect, which is due to the families and loved ones of those who perished, comes second to using the tragedy as a club to bash Russia with.

The UK Guardian newspaper, for example, reports that the chairman of the Dutch Safety Board, Tjibbe Joustra, told Dutch journalists that the BUK missile concerned was fired from a “rebel-controlled area.”

Really? If so then in the interests of clarity it is incumbent upon Mr Joustra to confirm he said it and relay how he arrived at this conclusion, despite the official report drawn up by his team of investigators refusing to apportion any blame when it comes to who launched the missile.

In the same newspaper Mary Dejevsky, considered an expert on Russia, writes an opinion piece titled: 'Whoever shot down flight MH17, Russia reputation is in tatters'.

Just think about this headline for a moment, the contradiction that lies at its heart. Without even having to read the article, the headline says it all. No matter who was responsible for shooting down the aircraft, it screams at its readers, it is Russia's reputation that is damaged. Do these people have any awareness of the sheer absurdity of what they are claiming? It is not serious journalism, we are discussing now, it is crude anti-Russian propaganda masquerading as such.

The popular British tabloid newspaper, the Daily Mail, meanwhile, sent out a Tweet soon after the report was released, claiming: 'Russian missiles killed MH17 pilots 1st, passengers possibly conscious during plane's plunge.' The Tweet then links to an article on the newspaper's website with the same headline.

If the editors of this British newspaper cannot tell the difference between a 'Russian-made missile', as the report clearly states was involved, and the 'Russian missile', which the newspaper claims was involved, then it doesn't say much for journalistic standards in the UK. It would be nice to think this was an innocent mistake - nice but naive, however, given the welter of anti-Russian and anti-Putin stories this particular newspaper carries on a regular basis.

The New York Times, America's newspaper of record, lapses into lazy conclusions in its coverage of the report. It states:"While the findings stop short of assigning responsibility for the crash, a task that has been left to Dutch prosecutors, they appear consistent with a theory widely promoted by the authorities in the United States and Ukraine: that the plane, a Boeing 777, was shot down by Russian-backed separatists armed with an SA-11, or Buk, surface-to-air missile launcher."

"Appear consistent?" This is like claiming that from a certain distance a bluebird appears consistent with a blackbird, or a crocodile with an alligator. By any objective measure this is not credible and fails to meet the most basic standard of journalistic integrity.

The fact is that nowhere in the report produced by the Dutch investigators is Russia blamed, held responsible, or even alluded to as being responsible. Yet judging by the coverage in sections of the Western media Russia has already been charged, tried, and convicted, with the only thing left to be done is decide on a suitable punishment.

If Russia is to be tried and convicted of this without any evidence and only on the basis of blind assertions then we truly are living in a regressive age where propaganda rather than facts reign supreme.

The families and loved ones of those who perished on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 deserve better.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.