Saturday, July 19, 2014

A flight over troubled air space

It didn't take John McCain very long to point the finger at Russia in the apparent rocket attack of Malaysian Airlines MH-17.  Those are pretty bold words considering 23 Americans were initially noted on board, thereby making the bombing an act of war.  Since then only one American has been officially named, a Dutch-American Quinn Lucas, who was traveling as a Dutch citizen.  You would think that Mackie, who was shot down himself over Vietnam and spent 6 years in a prison camp, would be a little more cautious in his statements, but he just let his words fly, venting all his rage on Putin before any investigation is carried out to determine who was responsible for this malicious attack.

Initial evidence does indeed point to the separatists in the Donetsk region.  It appears they are working with sympathetic factions inside Russia (not necessarily the Kremlin) and neighboring territories, who are supplying them with powerful munitions like the Buk rocket launcher, which was apparently used to bring this plane down.  If this source is to be trusted, there is voice confirmation of separatist leaders admitting to the attack.  They apparently thought it was a disguised Ukrainian army transit plane.  There were other reports posted on Youtube, but they were taken down soon afterward when it became known it was a civilian airline carrying nearly 300 passengers.

I guess no one figured the rockets could reach 10,000 meters, as the no-fly zone was set at 7000 meters, but they did and now the separatists are forced to explain themselves.  Already, Russia has provided cover with Foreign Affairs Minister Lavrov condemning the Ukrainian government's claim that it was a terrorist attack and calling for a non-biased investigation.  That would be fine if the site wasn't already compromised by rebel forces with at least one black box apparently sent off to Moscow, although Lavrov went onto say that Russia would turn over the flight recording boxes to relevant international authorities.

Ever since this crisis broke early in the year, Russia has been trying to create as much distance as it can from the separatists, but this insurgency wouldn't have happened had it not been for the annexation of Crimea, which has inspired many ethnic Russians living in Ukraine to sue for similar annexation.  A "vote" for secession was engineered in Donetsk in May, but Russia has not accepted that vote.  This leaves these separatists essentially stranded, an island onto themselves, and they apparently feel they have the right to control their air space under threat of attack.

In such a volatile situation it is not only best to avoid such troubled air space all together, but also to avoid hyperbolic comments that inflame the tensions.  The insurgents essentially hold Donetsk hostage, much the way ISIS is controlling regions of Iraq.  To go into the region with any major force would be to put many civilians into the line of fire.  Yet, persons like McCain fail to understand this and try to turn a horrible tragedy into an act of war.

One can only hope clearer heads will prevail.  The White House released its official statement in more precise terms than the fiery senator.  Now we will see if Russia and the United States can bring the separatist movement in Donetsk to heel, as the two countries should have done long before.

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