Friday, September 30, 2016

The Rain from Spain falls Mainly in Ukraine

It's getting wet again in Ukraine, the wet season that used to precede the mud season, and if the wreckage and remains of MH17, still ungathered in the fields around Hrabove,  are getting another washing, the fate of the jet has received another, unsurprising, laundering too.

The JIP announced its long awaited (since last year) finger-pointing report on not only the latest clarification of 'what happened', but the indication of  'who dunnit'.

What happened?  Nothing new there: "pro-Russian", not anti-Kyiv,  forces got a Buk system from Russia - drove it all around Donetsk and Lugansk regions for a day and, for want of something better to do with it, parked it in an obscure corner of east central Donetsk, and used one of the four missiles they had,  to down a Malaysian Airliner. Then they drove it back, to the flat bed truck they had used to drive it into the regions, packed it up without any attempts to hide the cargo and drove it around the two regions again, through a 'highly fluid battle zone' ( a government armored thrust the day after the crash, cut across the Buk's withdrawal route twice),  perilously close to Government "fortifications of dignity" at Debaltsevo and east to Lugansk, where, apparently it went 'poof' or unobserved,  back into Russia.

One Russian response:

'Who dunnit'?  Aside from Putin, the 'Seps on the radio and telephone', and members of a Russian rocket regiment - 100 souls in all, who had something to do with the BUk, the truck, the escorts, command structure or all of the preceding,

And how do we know all this?  Well although there really isn't much proof by way of actual witnesses, or physical evidence of anything but the crashed plane, great minds - or at last 6 of them -  have  mined the repositories of knowledge - Facebook and YouTube.  They found and connected a plethora of 'dots'.  Not the JIT - they've done little but interview experts and have free lunches - but the 'experts' they have interviewed have made all things clear. Or clear enough to make a cartoon movie to help us all 'get it'.

So who were the experts?  Well no Russians were needed. The info came from  the Ukrainians, who if they weren't possibly suspected, would have been the prime investigators. The Dutch were the lead, on-the-ground investigators, retrieving remains and  wreckage,  dealing with the dead and reconstructing the downed aircraft.  The EU waded-in and, as usual, so did the Americans.  The Brits deciphered the flight recorders.  Most of the 'saga' was unearthed through the army of a half-dozen "independent investigative journalists" associated with a website called Bellingcat and its whiz-bang, unemployed, blogger-proprietor. The Malaysians, who actually got to the site first - more than a week before anybody official appeared - got the bums' rush.  But at least now they're being assured that given some more time - 3 short years - and a little help from concerned citizens in Russia, they may be able to sue Putin at the Hague, if the gallant EUkrainians don't do it first, maybe.

Within an hour of the jet hitting the ground Ukrainian sources were accusing their 'russian'  separatists of downing the aircraft, claiming to have phone intercepts of at least two rebel leaders discussing the crash and celebrating having downed 'another' Ukrainian aircraft. Surprising, insofar as either the Ukrainians were only starting to tap into the dissident area's 'national' cell phone grid, or that the separatists hadn't tweaked to the fact that their using a cell phone was probably going to be overheard in the State Security Office, too.   This is a unique eclat compared to the rest of Ukraine's ATO.  Even more so because the Seps weren't talking about the other military matters, (or stopped), and  that resulted in nasty military 'surprises' all over the east (Saur Moglia within three weeks,  and Ilovaisk, within a month of MH17). On those things the Seps were maintaining telephone silence?

Maybe MH 17 cost Kyiv it's 'victory'. After it the Seps dummied-up and the Ukrainian army of liberation was mauled in a series of 'sneak attacks'?

That notion of the Seps doing it and Russia being responsible became the 'lingua fanca' of anybody sensible - for it was as understandable an act for Russia,  as was annexing Crimea and invading the Donbass.  Putin was just being the 'total ass' that President Obama was telling the world he was. He was on the 'outs' with goodness and civilization and downing a planeload of tourists would prove that to everybody. 

Question was 'how sick is Putin?' The answer comes back, "He's not."  For it wasn't a falling out of over Ukraine that iced Putin, it was a veto at the UN - of another of Obama's increasing number of 'humanitarian' interventions, this time about Syria.  Ukraine 'just happened' and Putin wasn't cheering the US on to another victory.  In the absence of evidence forcing a change, the chorus just do better repeating the refrain: "Putin did it."

In so many words - although the JIT was careful to say they weren't accusing Russia of actually ordering the shoot down or nodding approval at the target acquisition radar, saying they gave the Seps a missile and the Seps used that missile  to do it,  is much like the same thing. Add to that, that at least 80 of the dirty rotten suspects are members of the Russian Armed Forces and you have a slam-dunk  closed case, chapter and verse.   Hell,  you could make an animated short subject film about it all. And they did.

But the greatest part of the saga, and the detail of the cinematographic reconstruction is straight from the on-line archives of Bellingcat.

Bellingcat is a web site registered in great Britain started by a 30-something blogger  called Elliot Higgins. In 2012,  Higgins - unemployed and playing stay at home Daddy to his daughter  - started blogging about the developing War in Syria.  He developed an 'expertise' identifying weapons depicted in YouTube postings, providing what he called 'proof' of Syrian government's use of 'barrel bomb's, cluster munitions and poison gas. Using a synthesis of Google Earth/Google Maps to fact-check posts made on Facebook and other social media, some of his 'revelations' involved locating the sites of ISIS' beheading western and other hostages and identifying the situations around other outrages.  When the Ukrainian incident began Higgins became interested in that as well - looking for evidence of Russian involvement in the Donbass. After MH 17, he formed Bellingcat with 6 assistants to investigate the downing of that aircraft. He is credited with 'debunking' satellite imagery presented by the Russians, claiming it had been 'photoshopped'. His 'work' has been largely accepted by investigators because they have very little of their own.

Bellingcat's singular failing - subjectivity

While Bellingcat's work comes off as  "professional and decisive", it remains open to a number of challenges. First is the notion that anything can be taken from internet sources without being adapted in some way, or that things posted on the internet are pristine or uncorrupted. It is increasingly evident, that, aside,  from the obvious sensitive information, some can be 'staged' including manipulation of attached, metadata identification. One  of these, for instance, involves video footage of the Buk missile system being transported through eastern Donbass on the day of the aircraft downing. The videographer who filmed that claims he made the video 12 days before the incident. Something that doesn't jibe at all with the Bellingcat narrative presented by the JIT.   Bellingcat's reaction to this is that he's wrong and they're right - the video was shot according to their 'investigations'.

One of the other gaps in Bellingcat's narrative is in relation to the transport truck, which originated in Donetsk   but was apparently driven to Russia to fetch the Buk, and then driven all around both Donetsk and Lugansk regions, including those two cities, after being 'stolen' by separatist forces. After it reaches Lugansk, on the way back to Russia, it disappears completely from the story and Bellingcat's ambit, as does the  Buk unit itself.

The most notable aspect of the report? The extension of the 'investigation' for another three years.

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