Somebody Has to Pay for This Massacre in the Sky

by Jim Geraghty

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Somebody Has to Pay For This.

By the time you read this, it’s possible the world will know more about what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. But some of the pieces are starting to come together.

1. Pro-Russian separatists have been shooting down Ukranian planes with increasing frequency in recent months — up until now, military transports and cargo planes.

2. Thursday the Russian separatists bragged about shooting down a non-passenger plane shortly before the Malaysian flight disappeared: “In the vicinity of Torez, we just downed a plane, an AN-26. It is lying somewhere in the Progress Mine. We have issued warnings not to fly in our airspace.”

3. The Russian separatists have the kind of advanced surface-to-air missiles and launching system needed to hit an airliner traveling at this high altitude.

4. The Ukrainian government’s security agency released audio of an intercepted phone call, allegedly showing Russian separatists and Russian intelligence officers discussing the shoot-down:

Igor Bezler: We have just shot down a plane. Group Minera. It fell down beyond Yenakievo (Donetsk Oblast).

Vasili Geranin: Pilots. Where are the pilots? . . . 

“Greek”: Is there anything left of the weapon?

“Major”: Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.

“Greek”: Are there documents?

“Major”: Yes, of one Indonesian student. From a university in Thompson.

Militant: Regarding the plane shot down in the area of Snizhne-Torez. It’s a civilian one. Fell down near Grabove. There are lots of corpses of women and children. The Cossacks are out there looking at all this.

They say on TV it’s AN-26 transport plane, but they say it’s written Malaysia Airlines on the plane. What was it doing on Ukraine’s territory?

Nikolay Kozitsin: That means they were carrying spies. They shouldn’t be f…cking flying. There is a war going on.

Could this audio be doctored or falsified in some way? Yes, although it would represent an enormous risk on the part of the Ukrainian government.

Barring some other piece of evidence, Occam’s Razor suggests that Russian separatists thought they were firing their missiles at another Ukrainian plane that wasn’t a passenger airliner . . . and promptly killed 298 people. Reports continue to suggest 23 of the passengers were Americans.*

This is not something random and terrible happening to strangers, citizens of other countries, living lives far from here. This was murder of 23 Americans, guilty of nothing worse than booking a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, who had nothing to do with the dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

Every one of the passengers’ deaths is an outrage; the deaths may also have far-reaching consequences:

About 100 of the 298 people killed in the Malaysia Airlines crash were heading to Melbourne for a major AIDS conference, conference attendees have been told.

Delegates at a pre-conference in Sydney were told on Friday morning that around 100 medical researchers, health workers and activists were on the plane that went down near the Russia-Ukraine border, including former International AIDS Society president Joep Lange.

Russian president Vladimir Putin didn’t order the separatists to shoot down the airliner. But his intelligence agencies and military have provided all kinds of support to these separatists. To borrow P. J. O’Rourke’s metaphor, Putin gave whiskey and car keys — and powerful explosives — to teenage boys. The disastrous consequences were not hard to foresee. You can see it in the absurd, nonsensical, instant justification by one of the speakers that if the plane is labeled “Malaysia Airlines,” it must be a disguise for a spy plane. Putin didn’t commit murder; just reckless endangerment.

There will be a lot of debates and discussions about what the United States can or should do in response to this reckless, deadly decision. But let’s begin by asking, if we had the opportunity to reach out and strike 23 Russian separatists involved in the decision to launch this missile, would we do it? I’d like to think so. Fighting a war is not inherently evil, nor is stupidity, but the combination of the two is a fertile ground for evil. These guys need to be taught a lesson, and it’s not clear who can teach them.

Commercial airliners fly — usually quite high — over dangerous or not-so-friendly parts of the world all the time. Right now commercial jets are avoiding Eastern Ukraine. Should they avoid Syria, too? Iran? Iraq? Afghanistan? If so, you’ve just cut off India and a big chunk of Asia from Europe.

These guys need to pay — and Putin needs to see consequences of his reckless support of these dumb, brutal goons.

Moe Lane:

I never thought that I’d see the day that the US government would just shrug off a no-fooling war crime committed against our citizens.

* UPDATE: As of Friday afternoon, the report is that “at least one”, not 23 Americans were killed in the attack on the plane. The magazine of Stephen Glass and Zach Scott Thomas Beauchamp seems to think citing a report from Reuters constitutes dishonesty.