MH-17: Reconstruction of a Disaster

The following is an excerpt from the upcoming investigation into the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine. This reconstruction is based upon credible and verifiable news sources from around the planet…

Inside the cabin, the stewards and flight attendants were busy with meal service. The passengers were contented with in-flight entertainment. The flight so far has been routine, even mundane. There were still more than 8 hours remaining to Kuala Lumpur. The passengers were thinking of their final destination, making connections, seeing loved ones, business meetings and sleeping in their own beds again.

Far below, others are animated for war. Ten miles to the south of quiet little Hrabove a convoy of military vehicles rumbled through the town of Snizhne, one of them was recognized as a SA-11 surface to air BUK missile launcher. A June 29th post by the rebels bragged about being in possession of at least one captured BUK missile system after overrunning an airbase.

Local reports put the convoy in the town around lunchtime. Atop the tracked vehicle four missiles, each18 feet long, were unmistakable for a group of Associated Press journalists covering the war. A man in fatigues cautioned the journalists against filming before the convoy rumble west out of town. Dressed in desert camouflage, unlike the rebel soldiers green uniforms, he spoke with a distinctive Russian accent.

Movements of the missile launcher that day are confirmed in eyewitness statements, video and photographs. In November 2014 the Bellingcat Group of investigative journalists published a detailed inquiry of the vehicle and its movements. That report can be found at www.bellingcat.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Origin-of-the-Separatists-Buk-A-Bellingcat-Investigation1.pdf

The missile launcher and its crew, now near the town of Torez, as well as their command and control support were expectant of an enemy incursion. They were blinded by that perspective, which betrays a complete and criminal negligence at every level in the chain of command. If Russia, in fact, supplied the vehicle then the responsible authorities share substantial culpability for allowing trigger happy, irresponsible and ill-trained rebels such a dangerously sophisticated weapon.

Initially the crew filed a flight plan which would have taken them farther to the south at an altitude of 35,000 feet. Instead they were diverted north, ostensibly for thunder storms brewing to the south, and ordered to 33,000 feet for traffic. Slowing to 490 knots, MH-17 descended 2,000 feet.

In June, despite safety assurances, both British Airlines and Lufthansa decided against risking East Ukrainian airspace. Emirates suspended flights to Ukraine altogether, according to Reuters. As pointed out in a previous chapter the routine of war balanced against marketing and business concerns, it had become normal business practice for International airlines to fly over war zones simply to save money on fuel.

Ukraine was no different. Commercial airlines regularly flew over Iraq and Afghanistan during the wars there, comfortable that insurgent forces lacked the capability to threaten them. When the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull (pronounced: Ai-ya-fyatla-yoy-katl) erupted in 2010 disrupting air travel between North America and Europe and ground more than 100,000 flights, the cost to airlines and more than 6 million stranded passengers was in the tens of millions of Dollars. The costs to the bottom line are powerful drivers in the equation when left to airlines alone.

While indications are abundant and clear that the rebels assumed the incoming aircraft was a Ukrainian military transport there seems to have been a blatant disregard for protocols which would have allowed them to identify the plan as civilian. Visually it may have proved difficult, even with binoculars, to make a proper identification but the BUK system hardly relies on antiquated technology for identification. But while NATO member countries rely on the International Friend or Foe, IFF, the BUK radar has its own IFF system. According to HIS Jane’s Missiles and Rockets editor Doug Richardson:

“Although it has it own Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system, this is only able to establish whether the target being tracked is a friendly aircraft. It is the electronic equivalent of a sentry calling out “Who goes there?” If there is no reply, all you know is that it is not one of your own side’s combat aircraft. It would not give you a warning that you were tracking an airliner.”

The BUK’s acquisition radar, deployed some thirty miles to the southwest in the village of Styla, allowed the rebel fighters to identify, track and target the aircraft. Whether they believed they were once again targeting a Ukrainian transport, or simply took advantage of a ready target remains unclear. Protocols, IFF, known civilian over flights, flight path, altitude, command structure and time on target removes the specter of the accidental and indicates at the very least negligence if not intention.

Once launched the fate of MH-17 was sealed. The system is highly accurate. According to Army-Technology.com, in association with Defense and Security Systems International the BUK Air Defense Missile System maintains a high kill rate at target:

A single missile can destroy tactical aircraft and helicopters with a probability between 0.9 and 0.95, while the kill probability against tactical ballistic missiles ranges between 0.6 and 0.7. The missile can operate continuously for one day with refueling and has a tear-down time of five minutes. The missile can destroy tactical ballistic missile within the range of 20km and can kill cruise missiles at 100m altitude and within the range of 20km. It has maximum target g-load of 10g and can destroy aerodynamic targets with a maximum speed of 830m/s flying at an altitude between 0.015km and 25km, and within 3km to 45km range. The missile system can operate in temperatures up to ± 50°C and wind speeds up to 30m/s. Its maximum operating altitude above sea level is 3,000m.

“A bird is flying to you,” a spotter told a rebel commander for pro-Russian separatists in Horlivka 15 miles west of the crash sight. He is identified as Igor Bezlor, a mercurial man and a typical character to be found in any conflict who is all too ready to rationalize any moral and ethical transgression to war. In temperament and stature Bezlor reminds one of the late Serbian thug and warlord Zeljko “Arkan” Raznatovic. His features are pallid and severe, an obligatory cigarette ever present and a black cap that seems costume-like.

“Reconnaissance plane or a big one?” asks Bezlor, from his regional headquarters in nearby Gorlovka.

There is no indication from the rebels that they were firing at anything other than a single target. They are very clearly heard discussing the size of the aircraft. If, in fact, there was a shadowing aircraft below or near the 777 the Buk radar would have indicated, and the battery would have had the capability of hitting both. The rebel leaders in those recordings have never officially acknowledged nor denied their authenticity.

On the ground at around 1:20 that afternoon residents of Torez recalled hearing loud explosions. Rostislav Grishin, a 21-year-old prison guard remembered hearing “two powerful blasts in a row.” The time must be viewed as subjective, though with a forward velocity and possibly one working engine, at least for a time, the descent would have been rapid; certainly faster than a simple freefall.

“First there was one, but then after a minute, a minute and a half, there was another discharge. I raised my head and within a minute I could see a plane falling through the clouds.” The two powerful blasts Grishin heard were undoubtedly the nearby launch of the missile followed by the detonation as the missile found its intended target.

The launch would have been powerful and thundering, followed by the long tearing crrrraaacckkk as the missile streaked skyward. Smoke and dust from the launch would have consumed briefly the massive vehicle. The roar of the launch, as recalled by a number of witnesses, carried for several miles in the rolling hills around Torez and Snizhne.

The 9M317 missile required a radar lock to steer it to the target. It is an awesome weapon when launched, a solid fuel rocket with a total burn time of about 15 seconds that finds it target at speeds of up to Mach 3 four times faster than MH-17 was travelling. A rebel Operator steered the missile in flight until the missiles own onboard system locked onto the airliner. For the crew on MH-17 and the passengers there would have been no warning as the missile streaked skywards at better than 2000 feet per second.

“Malaysian one seven,” instructs the ATC controller, “due traffic proceed direct Romeo November Delta.”

“Romeo November Delta, Malaysian one seven,” Mh-17 replied. The UTC time was 13:16:56. It was the last transmission from the aircraft.

The missile is designed to detonate within 65 feet of its target. From video and photos of the wreckage it is likely that the missile did not strike the aircraft directly. A direct impact wouldn’t have been necessary. With a 154 pound high explosive fragmentation warhead an explosion anywhere near the aircraft would have been devastating. What is certain is that the explosion was instantly catastrophic to the 777.

The missile raced up at the aircraft, passing underneath MH-17’s flight path from right to left at three times the speed of sound. Just below and behind where Captain Wan Amran sat the missile exploded with a blinding flash, probably within 20 to 40 feet of the aircraft and likely above the farm fields between the villages of Tymofiivka and Orlovo-Ivanivka. At the controls, opposite Wan Amran, Eugene Choo Jin Leong would have had no warning and no opportunity to react.

One hour and fifty-six minutes after takeoff Malaysian Airlines flight 17 disappeared from radar screens. It was 9:20am in Washington D.C.

Listen Saturday’s from 11am-1pm to WC Turck, Brian Murray and guests on Chicago’s real alternative media, AM1680, Q4 radio, streaming at www.que4.org.

CAM00236WC Turck is an author, artist, playwright and talk radio host in Chicago. He has been called the most dangerous voice on the Left. He is currently working on a new book “Shoot Down: An unflinching look at the events leading up to the shooting down of Malaysia Air Flight 17.” His first novel, “Broken” was recommended by NAMI for its treatment of PTSD. In 2006 he published “Everything for Love,” a memoir of his experiences during the siege of Sarajevo. He wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He works with the homeless and foreclosure victims in Chicago. He partners in a weekly radio show dedicated to issues, society and politics with cohost, activist and artist Brian Murray For more information, past shows, videos and articles, visit www.revolutioandbeer.com


The Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) is a conservative think tank with offices in Chicago and Springfield, Illinois, and member of the State Policy Network. IPI is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as of 2011. IPI is also a member of ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force and Education Task Force. Senior Budget and Tax Policy Analyst, Amanda Griffin-Johnson, presented model legislation (the “State Employee Health Savings Account Act”) to the HHS task force at ALEC’s 2011 annual meeting.[4] Collin Hitt, Director of Education Policy, is a private sector member of the Education Task Force representing IPI. He sponsored the “Local Government Transparency Act” at the ALEC 2011 States and Nation Policy Summit. In its 2006 annual report the Cato Institute states that it made a grant of $50,000 to the Illinois Policy Institute. The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank founded by Charles G. Koch and funded by the Koch brothers.

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Dutch Safety Board Report on the Crash of Malaysian Flight 17: An incomplete record.

Ahead of Tuesdays DSB report on the MH-17 shoot down over Ukraine on July 17, 2014, WC Turck,’s upcoming book, “A Tragic Fate: Politics, Oil, the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the Looming Threats to Civil Aviation,” fills in the gap, here with the only complete re-creation of the tragic events that day. The following is an excerpt based on hundreds of sources, thousands of photographs, videos and more than 300 hours of investigation:

It is, in the first confusing and shocking hours and days, tainted by the hate and propaganda of war and the insipid ignorance of social media, that the fertile ground for conspiracy theories and innuendo are created. Innocuous, misinterpreted or ill-informed early reports become fertilizer for conspiracies. But it is reports like the one from Malaysia’s Airlines director of operations, Izham Ismail, responding to claims that weather led to the change in MH-17’s flight plan, replied that he had no reports from the pilot to suggest that was the case, which help feed speculation.

Inside the cabin, the stewards and flight attendants were busy with meal service. The passengers were contented with in-flight entertainment. The flight so far has been routine, even mundane. There were still more than 8 hours remaining to Kuala Lumpur. The passengers were thinking of their final destination, making connections, seeing loved ones, business meetings and sleeping in their own beds again.

Far below them others are animated for war. The missile launcher and its crew, now near the town of Torez, as well as their command and control support were expectant of enemy incursion. They were blinded by that perspective, which betrays a complete and criminal negligence at every level in the chain of command. If Russia in fact supplied the vehicle the responsible authorities share substantially in culpability for allowing trigger happy, irresponsible and ill-trained rebels such a dangerously sophisticated weapon.

While fewer flights than normal flew through Ukrainian airspace in the month leading up to July 17, according to Mikael Robertsson, co-founder of flight tracking website Flightradar24, two other aircraft were present within 10 minutes flight time of MH-17. The presence of civilian over flights could not have been unknown to the rebels.

At a press conference following the crash, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said that “MH17’s flight path was a busy major airway, like a highway in the sky. It followed a route which was set out by the international aviation authorities, approved by Eurocontrol, and used by hundreds of other aircraft… MH17 flew at an altitude that was set and deemed safe by local air traffic control, and it never strayed into restricted airspace. The flight and its operators followed the rules. But on the ground, the rules of war were broken.”

Ukrainian authorities had earlier prohibited aircraft from operating at 32,000 feet or below, just a thousand feet below the altitude that MH-17 was flying. That still placed it well within range of the BUK Missile battery now operating near Torez.

In June, despite assurances both British Airlines and Lufthansa decided against risking East Ukrainian airspace. Emirates suspended flights to Ukraine altogether, according to Reuters. As pointed out in a previous chapter the routine of war balanced against marketing and business concerns, it had become normal business practice for International airlines to fly over war zones simply to save money on fuel.

Ukraine was no different. Commercial airlines regularly flew over Iraq and Afghanistan during the wars there, comfortable that insurgent forces lacked the capability to threaten them. When the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull (pronounced: Ai-ya-fyatla-yoy-katl) erupted in 2010 disrupting air travel between North America and Europe and ground more than 100,000 flights, the cost to airlines and more than 6 million stranded passengers was in the tens of millions of Dollars. The costs to the bottom line are powerful drivers in the equation when left to airlines alone.

The dilemma begs a wider question, however, as to whether we are becoming far too cavalier with regards to war. In the wake of the Cold War and its international alignment, more or less, there was at least greater control over the proliferation of sophisticated weapons of war. It is a good thing that international market economics, to a degree, is less incumbent upon those old and obsolete structures. In the post-Cold war era, however, commerce and proliferation in weapons, such as the system that brought down MH-17, has become virtually unrestricted.

The collapse of nation states, regional instability and wars around the globe finds buyers for new and ever more terrible weaponry. Following the Malaysian Airlines disaster there has been little if any substantive discussion about limiting the proliferation of such weapons. The saddest aspect of all of this is that the avoidable and unnecessary deaths of 298 people might simply prove a demonstration of weapons capabilities, making it more attractive to despots, madmen and warlords.

Through banks of full gray and white clouds 33,000 feet below, embattled Ukraine appeared peaceful as a geometric patchwork of farms and towns elegantly carved with the telltale green of rivers and fertile tributaries. The distance and humidity near the surface deepened hues and softened lines until the land took on the character of a pastel rendering.
Somewhere just outside Snizhne, according to radio intercepts the Buk’s crew was alerted to an incoming aircraft. While indications are abundant and clear that the rebels assumed the incoming aircraft was a Ukrainian military transport there seems to have been a blatant disregard for protocols which would have allowed them to identify the plan as civilian.

Visually it may have proved difficult, even with binoculars, but the BUK system hardly relies on antiquated technology for identification. But while NATO member countries rely on the International Friend or Foe, IFF, the BUK radar has its own IFF system. According to HIS Jane’s Missiles and Rockets editor Doug Richardson:

“Although it has it own Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system, this is only able to establish whether the target being tracked is a friendly aircraft. It is the electronic equivalent of a sentry calling out “Who goes there?” If there is no reply, all you know is that it is not one of your own side’s combat aircraft. It would not give you a warning that you were tracking an airliner.”

The Buk’s acquisition radar, deployed some thirty miles to the southwest in the village of Styla, allowed the rebel fighters to identify, track and target the aircraft. Whether they believed they were once again targeting a Ukrainian transport, or simply took advantage of a ready target remains unclear. Protocols, IFF, known civilian over flights, flight path, altitude, command structure and time on target removes the specter of the accidental and indicates at the very least negligence if not intention.

Once launched the fate of MH-17 was sealed. The system is highly accurate. According to Army-Technology.com, in association with Defense and Security Systems International the BUK Air Defense Missile System maintains a high kill rate at target:

A single missile can destroy tactical aircraft and helicopters with a probability between 0.9 and 0.95, while the kill probability against tactical ballistic missiles ranges between 0.6 and 0.7. The missile can operate continuously for one day with refuelling and has a tear-down time of five minutes. The missile can destroy tactical ballistic missile within the range of 20km and can kill cruise missiles at 100m altitude and within the range of 20km. It has maximum target g-load of 10g and can destroy aerodynamic targets with a maximum speed of 830m/s flying at an altitude between 0.015km and 25km, and within 3km to 45km range. The missile system can operate in temperatures up to ± 50°C and wind speeds up to 30m/s. Its maximum operating altitude above sea level is 3,000m.

The BUK system wasn’t a truck with a couple of drunk rebels roaming the countryside in search of a target. Even paired down to a smaller unit, as it may have been on that warm July day, it would have consisted of several vehicles and several operators. It had proved itself more than capable against combat aircraft and requires only about 5 minutes to set up and deploy. It can be ready to move in another five minutes after firing a missile or missiles, making it a very versatile and competent weapon of war.

What isn’t in contention is that a missile was launched, and that it was fired by someone on the rebel side. The shot was intentional.

Credible witnesses place the large and unmistakable BUK vehicle entering the neighboring town of Torez only 4 miles due south of Hrabove and just six miles (10 kilometers) west of Snizhne. Three days earlier, on the 14th a BUK system was credited with the downing of a Ukrainian Antonov-26 flying at an altitude of 20,000 feet over the town of Izvaryne outside Donetsk. Two days later above the town of Amvrosiivka, 10 miles southwest of Snizhne a Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-25 fighter was shot down.

“A bird is flying to you,” a spotter told a rebel commander for pro-Russian separatists in Horlivka 15 miles west of the crash sight, identified as Igor Bezlor, a mercurial man and a typical character to be found in any conflict who is all too ready to rationalize any moral and ethical transgression to war. In temperament and stature Bezlor reminds one of the late Serbian thug and warlord Zeljko “Arkan” Raznatovic. His features are pallid and severe, an obligatory cigarette ever present and a black cap that seems costume-like.

“Reconnaissance plane or a big one?” asks Bezlor, from his regional headquarters in nearby Gorlovka.

Bezlor, who goes by the non de guerre of “Bes,” or “demon” in Russian, reportedly was a former undertaker sacked from his job for theft. He never once disputed the authenticity of the recordings. Many of those recordings have been verified and supported by other rebels. That is backed up by the initial communications and Bezlor’s own initial tweet that indicates quite clearly that the rebels believed they had downed a Ukrainian aircraft.

As for the possibility of mistaken identity? There is no indication from the rebels that they were firing at anything other than a single target. They are very clearly heard discussing the size of the aircraft. If, in fact, there was a shadowing aircraft below or near the 777 the Buk radar would have indicated, and the battery would have had the capability of hitting both. The observation being that the rebel shooters were either eager to satisfy their commanders, and in that regard had no other perspective other than one of war. In their mind, most likely, they were tracking what they believed to be an enemy aircraft, just exactly as the released recordings reveal. The rebel leaders in those recordings have never officially acknowledged nor denied their authenticity.

The unfolding tragedy was becoming eerily similar to the downing of Iran Air Flight 655 on July 3, 1988, 26 years earlier. It seems that, like the USS Vincennes crew, which reported mistaking flight 655 for an incoming F-14 fighter, the rebels likely mistook MH-17 for an incoming Ukrainian warplane. There are other eerie similarities as well. There were 298 passengers and crew, with 50 children on board MH-17. Iran Air 655 held 290, with 66 children. Both were destroyed by surface to air missiles. In both incidents there were no survivors.

The order to fire was given, and the order was followed, apparently without question. The missile launched. There would have been no warning, no indication of the rebel missile already streaking skyward towards the aircraft at more than 2,000 feet per second. For the crew of MH-17 view from the flight deck is notoriously limited in the best of circumstances. The flight crew would have been just as surprised as anyone on board. There is a certain comfort in that realization.

On the ground at around 1:20 that afternoon residents of Torez recalled hearing loud explosions. Rostislav Grishin, a 21-year-old prison guard remembered hearing “two powerful blasts in a row. The time must be viewed as subjective. “First there was one, but then after a minute, a minute and a half, there was another discharge. I raised my head and within a minute I could see a plane falling through the clouds.” The two powerful blasts Grishin heard were undoubtedly the nearby launch of the missile followed by the detonation as the missile found its intended target.

The launch would have been powerful and thundering, followed by the long tearing crrrraaacckkk as the missile streaked skyward. Smoke and dust from the launch would have consumed briefly the massive vehicle. The roar of the launch, as recalled by a number of witnesses, carried for several miles in the rolling hills around Torez.

The 9M317 missile required a radar lock to steer it to the target. It is an awesome weapon when launched, a solid fuel rocket with a total burn time of about 15 seconds that finds it target at speeds of up to Mach 3 four times faster than MH-17 was travelling. A rebel Operator steered the missile in flight until the missiles own onboard system locked onto the airliner. For the crew on MH-17 and the passengers there would have been no warning as the missile streaked skywards at better than 2000 feet per second.

The missile is designed to detonate within 65 feet of its target. From the wreckage it is difficult to say with certainty that the missile struck the aircraft directly. A direct impact wouldn’t have been necessary. With a 154 pound high explosive fragmentation warhead an explosion anywhere near the aircraft would have been devastating. What is certain is that the explosion was catastrophic to the 777.One hour and fifty-six minutes after takeoff Malaysian Airlines flight 17 disappeared from radar screens. It was 9:11am in Washington D.C.

The missile raced up at the aircraft, passing underneath from right to left at three times the speed of sound. Just below and behind where Captain Wan Amran sat the missile exploded with a blinding flash, probably within 20 to 40 feet of the aircraft and almost directly above the town of Rozsypne. At the controls, opposite Wan Amran, Eugene Choo Jin Leong would have had no warning and no opportunity to react.

Evidence indicates that the flight deck, and first and business class cabins, bore the brunt of the explosion as thousands of pieces of Shrapnel shredded the nose and cockpit of the plane. A surviving section of the fuselage from the flight deck, with portions of the window frame, shows significant scorching and substantial shrapnel damage, including a massive hole more than a foot in diameter. The edges of that remaining piece of fuselage point to terrible damage done to the front and nose of the aircraft, which by itself would have been enough to doom the aircraft and passengers. It should be noted here that the apparent shrapnel wounds are entrance points and that no exit points have been found, which would indicate an external explosion, and that the integrity of the fuselage was breached by the decompression of the aircraft caused by the missile detonation and not a bomb as some have wrongly theorized.

The debris field is telling, and allows for a reconstruction of the moments after the explosion. The cockpit and much of the forward compartment would come to rest in and around Rozsypne. Much of the rest of the aircraft continued for another several kilometers. Indications are the aircraft began to break up immediately. Fully a third, or more than 100, of the passengers were ejected from the aircraft.

More deadly shards of steel sliced through the aircraft along its length, though the front of the craft bore the brunt. A piece of the overhead storage bins from the business class section found in a tree exhibit a number of possible shrapnel marks. A section of wing revealed what appeared to be shrapnel gouges as well. Still the damage, enough damage, had been done.

The nose tore away. The aircraft was hammered sideways, the port engine likely incapacitated or diminished, the starboard engine screaming as the plane began to turn over. Monstrous and incapacitating G-forces tore at the aircraft and the bodies within. The aircraft twisted, engines sputtering and began breaking up. The wings, engines and mid-section remained intact. A section of fuselage would fall within a thousand yards, the tail section nearby. All of them would come to rest more or less perpendicular to the line of flight.

Severe G-forces can lead to so-called gray outs caused by a lack of blood flow to the eyes, or blackouts and unconsciousness as the head is robbed of blood and oxygen. In centrifuge tests, absent fear and surprise, and far less violent g-forces than the passengers of MH-17 would have experienced, 50% of trained pilots loss sight and consciousness. In those tests pilots lost consciousness for between 5-15 seconds after G-forces were diminished, followed by another 5-15 seconds of severe disorientation. Tolerance for the effects of G-forces varies from individual to individual, depending upon height, weight, age, training and on health. The G’s the passengers would have experienced alone, not including the effects of severe oxygen deprivation, extreme cold, shock or blunt force trauma, and punishing winds in excess of an F5 tornado would have been debilitating and, in most instances, fatal for anyone on board.

Within the cabin a foggy daylight would have appeared suddenly from the front of the plane and in places where the red-hot shards of rocket casing pierced the fuselage, spreading quickly as the highly pressurized tube began tearing itself apart. It would have been the last thing, without any cognoscente understanding, the passengers would have physically perceived. Many likely succumbed to what has been deemed the ultimate whiplash, capable of separating the spine from the skull and causing instant death. A number of victims appeared to exhibit deep red collar line bruising. Death at 33,000 feet is shocking and violent, but mercifully quick.

The flight data recorder marked the moment disaster struck MH-17: Explosive decompression! Debris appears to show evidence that the starboard side of the aircraft buckled and ripped from the force of that sudden and violent decompression on the port side.

Unconscious or already deceased, passengers were flung from the aircraft into the abyss, many still strapped in their seats. The violence of that moment evident in the numbers of bodies found stripped completely of clothing. Dozens remained within what remained of the aircraft as it plummeted towards Hrabove. Several of the bodies, at least from photographic evidence, were so badly mutilated that they may have been victims of the initial blast, or were partly ingested into the failing engines. One of those bodies was recovered still wearing part of a flight attendant’s green uniform. The wounds are far different from dozens of those who fell or were scattered across the countryside, indicating different fates.

Just 45 miles and 10 minutes flight time behind MH-17, was SQ351, a Singapore Airlines flight out of Copenhagen. An Air India 787 flight 113, with 126 passengers, departing Delhi for Birmingham approaching from the opposite direction was just 25kms, or 4 minutes away. It is worth noting here why these aircraft were also not targeted, flying roughly the same route and at the same altitude, if in fact the rebel radar command and control mistook MH-17 for an enemy aircraft, why did they not make the same assumption at other aircraft following relatively closely? The BUK system was more than capable of managing multiple targets.

There was little fire, save for that initial explosion. The lack of oxygen, air temperature and speed either prevented or curtailed immediate fire. In the video of the initial explosion notable is the lack of smoke trailing from the sky. The video seems to show a light shadowy trail, but nothing more significant.

From any vantage point from Hrabove south to Pelahivka and west to Rozsypne the scene would have taken on a nightmarish cast. Witnesses were caught by surprise. “It was falling over my garden,” described one villager, “and it turned drastically and started falling in that direction.”

Oleg Georgievich, 40, a miner from Hrabove and a rebel fighter, feared the town was under attack.

“Aircraft have been flying over daily,” he told the New York Times.

Georgievich said that he heard a whistling sound, then saw part of the aircraft’s fuselage and bodies falling from the sky. Another witness described seeing the plane falling to pieces from the cloud bank with pieces flying “in all directions.”

Katya, 64, told News.au she was napping when she was awakened by “an enormous bang like an earthquake”. Katya’s son-in-law Alexander told her Flaming aircraft parts had fallen from the sky, scorching the fence around his farm and burning his grapevines.

Parts of the aircraft, cargo, luggage and bodies tumbled earthward. For the worst of it, the sickening and heart wrenching sounds as they landed, falling among woods and fields, upon roads and roof tops, many victims still strapped in their seats, would have only lasted a few moments. Those sounds partly lost to the earth shaking roar, described by katya, as the largest section of plane, including the engines and wings, exploded at the outskirts of Hrabove. Sadder still, like a ghostly repose to the dead, as thick black smoke rose and drifted with the wind, clothing, some torn from falling bodies fluttered earthward for some time.

CAM00236WC Turck is an author, artist, playwright and talk radio host in Chicago. He has been called the most dangerous voice on the Left. He is currently working on a new book “Shoot Down: An unflinching look at the events leading up to the shooting down of Malaysia Air Flight 17.” His first novel, “Broken” was recommended by NAMI for its treatment of PTSD. In 2006 he published “Everything for Love,” a memoir of his experiences during the siege of Sarajevo. He wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He works with the homeless and foreclosure victims in Chicago. He partners in a weekly radio show dedicated to issues, society and politics with cohost, activist and artist Brian Murray For more information, past shows, videos and articles, visit www.revolutioandbeer.com

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Obama’s misteps as tension mounts between NATO and Moscow. An excerpt from the upcoming book, “A TRAGIC FATE: Politics, Oil, the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17and the Looming Threats to Civil Aviation” by Revolution and Beer’s WC Turck

One could not concoct a better scenario for conspiracy and intrigue. The scope and spectrum of the international impact bespeaks the integration of world markets with politics and the micro dynamics of men killing men on an obscure battlefield. The sheer timing of events that Thursday, July 17th 2014 is the stuff of conspiracy, and could not have come together more precisely. Immediately it called to mind the curious and still unexplained activity in the stock market immediately prior to September 11, 2001, when massive bets were made that United Airlines and American Airlines stocks would drop. Stocks sank precipitously for both airlines, which had each lost 2 aircraft in the September attacks.

The problem with history is most often the failure of proper perspective. The trouble with conspiracy or at least the appearance of conspiracy, sometimes is a consequence of a lack of true context, or that it is simply an intentional tool for partisanship. Which isn’t to negate the fact that true conspiracies do occur, and in the aggregate that may well prove true for the tragedy surrounding the shooting down of MH-17. Setting that aside for the moment, what is critical is a consolidation, as best as can be amassed of the context, the events and the human scope of a terrible tragedy and perhaps a criminal act of war.

At the very least, the tragedy indicts all of the parties involved in the conflict. It indicts the Russians and their Ukrainian separatist proxies in eastern Ukraine. While the West may be blamed for missing or even exploiting Russia’s territorial anxieties, Russia cannot simply pander to those anxieties if they expect to interact equitably on the international stage.

Russia is as complex and filled with contradictions as any nation or individual, but basic assumptions can be drawn. These descriptors are illustrative in gaining some understanding of the Russian heart and mind. It is in that understanding that the gaps to building strategies, finding solutions and overcoming issues like the current crisis in Ukraine may be bridged.

There is an exuberant pride tempered by melancholy and stoicism and deepened by the fatalistic resignation to hardship, rooted by a strong and linear traditional heritage. Russia is, by and large, a patriarchal society, with hardly more than a generation, at the time of the MH-17 incident, since the end of the Cold War and opening of the Berlin Wall.

The population of Russia itself, plagued by emigration, poverty, low birth rates and alcoholism has been in decline since that period. Life expectancy for men has remained relatively stagnate since 1959. An April 2012 article in Forbes noted that while Moscow has more billionaires than London and New York, that nearly 20 million Russians lived below the poverty line. Percentage wise in comparison to the United States, the basic number same about the same, however, the standards in either country are much different.
There is a rejection by Russians of the notion of a once great nation broken by the West, and yet that notion nonetheless haunts that rejection. For many Russians the question of who actually won and lost the Cold War is a deeply arguable point. _h0_w628_m6_otrue_lfalse

What all of this argues is that the West has consistently misread and misunderstood Russia and the Russian mind, to the detriment of true progress between nations. In Ukraine, despite the lofty slogans and machinations of democratic principles and sovereignty, Russia feels more than compelled to maintain its interests and security.

The Russians have also acted every bit as bullishly as the West in pursuit of interests outside its own borders, especially with countries it shares a border with. With Ukraine, and the lusty appeal of oil and gas riches in Crimea, the stakes for Russia could not be higher. Add to that an ethnic Russian constituency in strategically import regions of Ukraine and Crimea and the mix becomes volatile. When Russian forces moved into Ukraine on August 29th, 2014 in support of rebel forces fighting Ukrainian forces in key coastal towns on the Sea of Azov, the ultimate strategy was nakedly transparent. The move would consolidate Russia’s direct control over the Sea of Azov, and provide unfettered access to Ukraine along a key road.

From the start of the crisis in Ukraine the West acted out of a mixture of short-sighted greed and fundamental ambivalence to the Russian perspective. Russia acted like a dog chasing a not-too-distant bone. Caught in the middle, on the ground and in the skies are civilians.

In August 1999, former President Clinton met then Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s handpicked successor for the first time. Yeltsin, the son of a mining engineer. Like his predecessor, Yeltsin understood that rebuilding the fracturing Soviet economy was a lost cause without fundamental political and social reforms. Yeltsin was a true reformer, and championed the cause of battling government corruption. His decision to pick a young and politically astute former KGB agent named Vladimir Putin was hardly a rash or ill-informed action for the ailing reformer, Yeltsin. Putin’s record as he rose through the ranks of Russia’s volatile politics reflected at once one of reform, strength and vision.

Clinton noted in his memoir, My Life, that “Putin presented a stark contrast to Yeltsin. Yeltsin was large and stocky; Putin was compact and extremely fit from years of martial arts practice. Yeltsin was voluble; the former KGB agent was measured and precise. I came away from the meeting believing that Yeltsin had picked a successor who had the skills and capacity for hard work necessary to manage Russia’s turbulent political and economical life better than Yeltsin could, given his health problems; Putin had the toughness to defend Russia’s interests and defend Yeltsin’s legacy.”

The final point is debatable, but Putin had a tough uphill battle to defend or reform a system and society far different from the West. In the vacuum created by the collapse of the Soviet system, corporatism and a rise of an exceedingly wealthy and powerful oligarchy wrested control of the economy and with it the reigns of true power. By 2008, according to Forbes, there were 87 billionaire’s in Russia, with a net worth of half a trillion Dollars. Despite Putin’s efforts at reforms, poverty remains an issue, while the quality of life of the average Russian has stagnated or declined. Former defense secretary Robert gates summed up in a January 2014 interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt his perception of Putin’s shortcomings:

“I think Putin is bad for Russia. And I think right now, it’s the Russians that are paying the greatest cost for him being in power, and he potentially could be president of Russia until 2024. And his refusal to open the country up politically, his refusal to encourage, and provide predictability for foreign investment, his regard of all the natural resources as a kind of a natural patrimony, so not any encouraging foreign investment there, and frankly, stealing from Western companies by expropriating what they’ve invested. Russia just has a number of problems. I think that former President Medvedev, who is now again the prime minister, had a pretty good idea what was wrong with Russia and what needed to be done to fix it. But Putin pushed him out of the way. And my own view is, as I say in the book, is Putin’s a man of the past. He’s all about lost glory, lost empire, lost power. And he’s, while he will cooperate with us in certain areas, and one example is he did let the sanctions on Iran go through the U.N. He did agree not to provide the S-300, very advanced air defense system, to the Iranians. And he did let our military equipment go across the Trans-Siberian Railroad to Afghanistan. Even with all that, he’s not going to miss an opportunity to embarrass us or create problems for us.”

But the fact that Medvedev could be brushed aside by Putin is evidence that is was not the right leader to reign in the oligarchs, battle rampant crime and corruption and satisfy flagging Russian national pride as their patriarchal icon. That speaks to Gate’s over simplification that Putin is a man of the past; about lost glory, lost empire, lost power. In national security, national pride and ego are equally important components. Likewise they are critical to forging a national focus, whether political, social or economic, and that is the key to Putin’s power and perspective.

But the blame is hardly all on the West’s side. Putin also has shown a fundamental ignorance of the Western perspective. From the short-term gains of defense spending and arms sales to exports of gas and oil, while Putin has used these as rudimentary peasant-like marketplace tools to maintain or wield power. He seems not to understand or care that the West, and particularly the Obama administration, convolutes vague notions of freedom with unfettered or predatory market economics. Russian banks are bludgeon tools to the state run defense and oil concerns, spinning their wheels in a bid with China and other nations to create a new monetary alternative, or simply keep the Ruble afloat with the burden of 21st Century oil and gas realities around its neck.

The Russian market reforms of the 1990s saw the privatization of certain sectors of the economy. The exceptions were in defense and oil, which remained solidly, strategically and predictably in the state’s hands. It belies several differences, socially, economically and politically from the West and the United States. The first is that Russia and its economy are ties to the production, refining and sale of oil and gas far more than the US. An estimated 40% of Europe’s gas needs are pipelined from Russia through Ukraine, and some 70% of the country’s exports are oil and gas. A correlation can be made between the rise of oil prices since the mid 1990s and the precipitous rise of Russia’s gross domestic product, GDP. When, following US led sanctions in the wake of the downing of MH-17, Putin remarked that they did not even consider the vast oil and gas reserves in the Crimea region, even the average observer would have believed it a work of fiction.

That, for a nation so animated historically over the vehement, often blind defense of its borders, as in the cases of KAL 902 and 007, the near monopolistic dependence on oil and gas exports is a supreme and potentially disastrous liability. It is that weakness which the Obama administration sought to exploit with sanctions beginning in the winter 2014 over Crimea, and mounting that summer over MH-17, Russian military incursions and rebel support in eastern Ukraine.

At a fundraiser for her eventual 2016 presidential bid, Hillary Clinton was quoted in the Long Beach Press Telegram that Putin’s actions in Crimea sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the ’30s, All the Germans that were … the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying, They’re not being treated right. I must go and protect my people,’ and that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.”

Nor is Putin, as the hawkish Arizona Senator John McCain described on FOX News in August, a thug with aspirations of reawakening the Russian bear.

Both were ridiculous statements. What Vladimir Putin is not is Hitler and he is not a thug. Crimea is not Czechoslovakia or the Sudetenland. But Putin also cannot be absolved of violations of international law. The recognition of sovereign national borders is a tenant of 21st Century international stability. There can be no dispute that Russia and Putin have failed to adequately respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine in a grab for oil, gas and strategic resources, but then neither has the West. In the case of Ukraine, both Russia and the West are guilty of violating international law with respect to Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence. Putin’s willingness to use the cover of so-called ethnic and national sympathizes is cynical and antithetical to the interests of Russia and its people. Sadly, he is left with few options.

Still, the lessons of history cannot be ignored. The sanctions and pressure from the US and the West may have enlivened many of those old Russian anxieties. Vladimir Putin, who entered the KGB in the dangerous years of the mid-1980s would not have been immune from pervasive, even obsessive fears of a US-led first strike against the Soviet Union. There are indications some of those old Russian fears about outside threats began to surface with Putin. Germany’s Bild Newspaper reported on a telephone conversation between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Obama in which she reportedly wondered whether Putin was “still in touch with reality.”

By July Merkel seemed to have amended those views, which may revealed a moment of frustration for the German leader. Meeting before the World Cup soccer finals in Brazil on July 13th, days before the shoot down, there seemed some small movement towards progress. Spokesman for Putin, Dmitry Peskov told Reuters that both leaders had “stressed the necessity to urgently resume the work of a contact group on Ukraine, possibly in the format of a video conference. It is their common opinion that, in order for the contact group to resume its work, a ceasefire needs to be declared as soon as possible.”

Additional blame in the Ukraine crisis must be leveled directly at the Press. It was natural that the Russian press would side with Putin. In the United States the growing crisis became something far less predictable. A partisan, decidedly anti-Obama American press helped to stir a substantial component of egotism which became a part of the impasse and competition between Obama and Putin, and by extension; the US and Russia. The effect was to convolute the facts of what was happening in Ukraine and to undermine the public’s opportunity to understand the stakes involved in the crisis.

Throughout the winter and spring of 2014 that so-called anti-Obama Press resounded with base and insulting comparisons and contrasts about the two leaders. Charles Krauthammer called Putin and Obama mismatched in favor of President Putin. The level of commentary from sources such as FOX News and others descended quickly from there. Broadcasters gleefully talked about Putin’s manliness in contrast to Obama in the most obtuse and latently homo-erotic manner. Talk host Sean Hannity, with KT McFarland described Vladimir Putin’s “rock-hard abs.” One site put it this way:

On one hand you have the former KGB agent, Putin, who is seen as an uber masculine machine and a picture of physical strength and stamina. Photos have surfaced on the internet with him (shirtless) riding on the back of a horse and a photo shopped grizzly bear in the wild; an image that would suggest he’s a real manly man. He is a proud Russian with a large ego and is precise about what he says and means and does what he says he will do. On the other hand, you have Obama, the former community organizer who is seen as a mom-jeans-wearing “Steve Urkel” type. Instead of horses and bears, he prefers a Daisy 3 speed bike and a safety helmet as his means of transportation…http://clashdaily.com/2014/03/putinobama-phenomenon-james-bond-vs-steve-urkel/

Former Presidential candidate Allen West even went so far as to demean the first lady Michelle Obama’s appearance in comparison to Putin’s wife: “Putin married this soft-spoken beauty…Obama…..well….”

But it may all have been a ruse, or at least a broader effort to delude or confuse the public about what was really at play over Ukraine. At the very least criticism of the Obama administration seemed designed to make broader arguments in support of the Keystone XL pipeline debate in the United States and to shift European dependence on Russian gas with dependence on American gas, or at the very least Ukrainian gas which was more and more under nominal, if not direct US control. In early March Fox contributor and big-energy advocate KT McFarland offered Obama advice on dealing with Putin and the Russians.

“We can do what we did in the 1980s,” she said, “push down the price of oil, in this case by fracking and use our abundance of natural gas resources that we’ve had just in the last few years and start selling them to Europe. What would that do for Putin? If he can’t have high oil prices and high gas prices to Europe, he can’t meet payroll. If the cost per barrel goes below a hundred dollars per barrel Putin is in trouble…”

McFarland was referring to manipulations in the market and a collapse of quotas under OPEC in 1985 that had a devastating impact on the Russian economy, which was emerging as the world’s biggest oil and gas producer at the time. For McFarland, who regularly blusters about the so-called “free market” unburdened by government interference and regulations, the statements seemed a glaring contradiction.

It was already obvious, as the world reacted to Russia’s annexation efforts of Crimea, in early 2014 that the Russian Ruble was Putin’s Achilles heel. It was too closely dependent on oil, of which the total Russian economy was dependent. That would have been obvious to the Obama administration as well. Just three days after McFarland’s remarks Businessweek published an article connecting Ukraine and the viability of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Soon after Senator Mary Landrieu, democrat and chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, began making the case that the pipeline would offer a solution to Europe’s gas worries.

On March 27th,, in the wake of Washington’s first round of sanctions on individuals, many connected directly to Russia’s energy concerns, Landrieu released a statement following passage of a bill authorizing $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine:

“Today’s vote to provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to help stabilize Ukraine’s economy is a good first step toward helping the millions of Ukrainians and Eastern Europeans affected by the tyrannical ambitions of Vladimir Putin. I am committed to bolstering this effort. As Chair of the Senate Energy Committee, I will continue my work to increase domestic energy production and make the US a global leader in energy exports. America can and should be an energy superpower that helps our allies across the globe. One of Putin’s greatest weapons is the gas that Russia produces and sells to countries like the Ukraine and Lithuania. By entering the market and giving these nations someplace else to buy gas, we will break the stranglehold of despots like Putin, who use their energy stockpiles to crush the freedoms of neighboring nations. The last thing President Putin and his cronies wants is competition from the United States of America in the energy race, and I look forward to playing a leading role to bring energy security and independence to America and its democratic allies around the world to advance the cause of freedom. ”

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 98-2. A strong case can be made that the Ukrainian people were not the primary reason for the vote.

That spring, on nervousness regarding Russian troop concentrations on the Ukraine border, Crimea and disruptions in oil helped drive the price of oil to around an average of$105 per barrel. The price dropped, unseasonably, and with additional concerns over Islamic State successes in Iraq and Syria to under $95 a barrel; odd given the inherent emotional uncertainty in investors who generally reacted on far less than the market was facing during the summer of 2014. The weakness in the oil market was great news for the US public and helped to spur consumer spending. It also benefitted Halliburton, actively engaged in Ukraine, making its stocks more attractive and accessible to investors.

The price per barrel of oil is a key factor here, for both Russia and the US. Russia budget’s its economy based on an average per barrel cost for oil of around $114. Below that, given their near monopolistic reliance on oil, the effects of lower oil costs begin strangling the economy very quickly. The effect is opposite that of Europe and, in particular, the United States, in which a drop in oil prices can have a benefit to the economy, particularly on the consumer side. Russia’s best card to play in that dangerous game was to maintain heightened tensions and the threat of direct military intervention in Ukraine, which is exactly what happened at the end of August. In part on rising tensions, reports of Russian regulars fighting in Ukraine and Kiev’s fears of a full scale conflict, the price of crude oil had climbed above $103 per barrel.

The downing of MH-17 changed everything. And there is reason to believe that the Russian leadership was just as shocked by the tragedy as the rest of the world. That eve3ning, meeting with economic advisors he released a statement, which was translated by the Associated Press:

You know that a terrible event occurred today in the sky over Ukraine, an awful tragedy — a civilian plane was killed, 285 people, according to preliminary information, were killed.
On behalf of the Russian leadership and the Russian government, we express condolences to the bereaved families, the governments of those countries whose nationals were on that plane. I ask you to honor their memory.
In this regard, I want to note that this tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine. And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy.
I have already given instructions to the military departments to provide all necessary assistance in the investigation of this crime. And I also ask the government of the Russian Federation through the available civilian agencies that have the capability to do everything for a thorough investigation of this event. We will do everything — everything that depends on us, anyway — in order that the objective picture of what happened is part of the public domain here, in Ukraine and in the rest of the world. This is an absolutely unacceptable thing, and no one has the right to let this pass without the appropriate conclusions and without all of us having objective information about the incident.

But what other consequence could the use of violence and force by both the US-backed Kiev government and the Russian-backed rebels have? MH-17 was a tragedy waiting to happen.

Regardless of who fired the missile the US and Russian leadership had created the environment which allowed the tragedy to take place. All the parties to the conflict had been distracted in the rush for resources and in the folly of what amounted to a national pissing contest that no one was concerned for the safety of international civilian air travel. The airlines placed their trust in authorities whose facilities and priorities lay elsewhere. What appeared at first appeared to be an open window for peace, from those casual discussions between Chancellor Merkel and Putin in Brazil, and which might have prevented the destruction of MH-17, had been extinguished in the blink of an eye.

By late August those strains were showing once more. As Ukrainian forces pressed their assaults in the east and against Luhansk and Donetsk. While government forces appeared to advance in the north east, Russian-backed rebels had suddenly opened up a new front along the northern coast on the Sea of Azov. Putin’s statements on the 29th appeared defiant, but betrayed a growing pressure for the Russian leader as he compared Ukrainian military actions against Luhansk and Donetsk to the Nazi siege of Leningrad during the Second World War.

“Small villages and large cities surrounded by the Ukrainian army which is directly hitting residential areas with the aim of destroying the infrastructure,” Putin said. “It sadly reminds me the events of the Second World War, when German fascist … occupiers surrounded our cities.”

The statement was imprudent; theatre for ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, and for the folks at home. It also illustrates that pillar of Russian national identity and its inherent insecurity forever mired in a past defined through centuries of invasion. It may be an oversimplification in the Russian mind, but what becomes culture and heritage for any nation is of a history and choosing all its own.

As the current figurehead of that culture and history, there are differing views of Vladimir Putin. They are all subjective. What is not in dispute is that he is Russian, and his prime motivation will be towards the security and prosperity of his homeland, and to that task he seems singularly focused.

CAM00236WC Turck is an author, artist, playwright and talk radio host in Chicago. He has been called the most dangerous voice on the Left. He is currently working on a new book “Shoot Down: An unflinching look at the events leading up to the shooting down of Malaysia Air Flight 17.” His first novel, “Broken” was recommended by NAMI for its treatment of PTSD. In 2006 he published “Everything for Love,” a memoir of his experiences during the siege of Sarajevo. He wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He works with the homeless and foreclosure victims in Chicago. He partners in a weekly radio show dedicated to issues, society and politics with cohost, activist and artist Brian Murray For more information, past shows, videos and articles, visit www.revolutioandbeer.com

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