Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
We are promised a report of the MH17 crash by October. Or is it alreadycompleted but you and I can’t see it? Anyway, something that we can all see is supposed to appear in a couple of months – which would be about 15 months after it happened.
Personally, I don’t expect much: the "Putin killed my son” meme has been implanted by thousands of MSM expectorations and nailed down by politicians like Australia’s Julie Bishop demanding that Moscow "accept responsibility for the death of 298 people”. I do not expect a report produced by Ukraine (a beneficiary of that meme), two NATO members, Bishop’s Australia and Malaysia (especially as it was added to the group as an afterthought four months later) to dissent. And I expect even less form the report now that we know that "All parties to the criminal investigation have signed a non-disclosure agreement, which requires consensus among the parties before information regarding the investigation will be released”.
Furthermore we all know perfectly well that if there were radar tracks or satellite photos or air traffic controller conversations or electronic intercepts or "black box” data supporting Bishop’s assertions we would have heard about them. More than once. The fact that we have not is eloquent: "a dog that did not bark in the night”.
But one can hope.
I enumerate here some issues that a real report would discuss and that a coverup would ignore. In my opinion the list can be used to assess the seriousness of the report. If few or none are addressed, then it’s just not a real investigation. If all we have is "must haves…” or "might haves…” or "large number of high-energy objects” or twitter, orBellingcat, then it’s a coverup. After more than a year, with all the access claimed by the Joint Investigation Team, there should be real evidence and real conclusions based on that evidence.
There’s lots of stuff I don’t think we need to worry about. I don’t believe that it was really MH370; there’s no need to take anything Bellingcat says seriously; this is obviously not a Boeing 777 crashing; this so-called missile launch video is fake; this photo of a fighter and MH17 that appeared in one Russian media outlet probably is too; this alleged recording from a Russian newspaper doesn’t convince me. I know there’s a whole industry of fakery out there and a lot of incentives. On the other hand, the Western news media told plenty of lies about "looting the site” and so on. While it’s not in the remit of the JIT to apologise, it might be honourable if it were to acknowledge that as good and respectful a job as possible was done.
The report must address the questions listed below. Maybe the answers can’t be known, but there must at least be indication that the investigators took them into account and either accepted or dismissed them for logical or evidential reasons. For example, pretending that the people who say they saw MH17 shot down by fighter planes do not exist is not acceptable. Drawings like this, or "social media” are not good enough: we have to be shown some boulders from the famous "mountain of evidence”.
Real evidence, real discussion, real consideration, real answers. A real investigation.
I have noted below in italics what, in my opinion, are the truly unavoidable issues. But here’s the summary, if you don’t want to read it all.
Earlier routes of this daily Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight travelled well south of the fighting area, over the Sea of Azov. This day the plane was sent over the fighting area. Who did it? Then the Flight Aware tracks were changed. Who did that? (Note: this question is very important. First the re-direction and then the falsification. Prima facie evidence of a purposeful conspiracy and one that could not possibly be attributed to Moscow or to the rebels. At the time I looked the routes up on FlightAware and saw the earlier ones well south of the fighting. Then, a few days later, I saw that all the earlier tracks had been moved north. But I didn’t have the wit to make screen captures of the earlier tracks. Others did, however, and here they are.)
Does Carlos the Spanish traffic controller exist? If so, what he says is extremely important evidence. Effort should be made to track down the story.
Where are the recordings of flight traffic controllers’ communications with MH17 in the zones it passed through?
The Russians have provided radar plots showing the route of MH 17. Where are those from Ukrainian or Polish air traffic controllers? Were there fighter planes near it? (Especially important is the Russian-alleged presence of fighter planes near MH17. That cannot be sloughed over: true or false?)
We know US/NATO exercises were being carried out within radar or satellite observation. Where is this information?
Numerous people claim to have seen MH17 shot down by fighter planes. Conversations of the first people on the scene reiterate this. "Carlos the flight controller” says it. These testimonies must be investigated and verified or rejected; if the latter, with reasons. (Another of the key points: all this would have been visible on radar. Is it, or isn’t it?)
It is claimed that a Ukrainian air force ground staff member, now in Russia, says he saw Ukrainian fighter planes take off that day, one returning without missiles. Perhaps he’s lying, but the investigation cannot ignore his testimony: he must be interviewed and his statement assessed.
A Buk missile leaves a very prominent trail. Where are the witnesses?
Here’s a report that sources in the Ukrainian security structure say Ukrainian forces shot it down by accident. Why should this particular story, of the innumerable assertions of this and that, be considered, you ask? Because it wouldn’t be the first time Ukrainian air defence units shot down a civilian aircraft by accident and then lied about it. That fact alone makes it worthy of at least a paragraph in a real report.
If the cause was an internal explosion, the wreckage should show unmistakeable evidence. This possibility must be ruled out. (Of course an internal explosion – which no one expects to have been the case – would change everything.)
What do the autopsies on the pilots tell us? Is this story about a coverup true? Are those bullet holes in the pilot’s chair? Are those bullet holes in the pilots’ section of the nose? These questions should be fairly easily answered one way or the other. (A serious report must account for the apparently circular holes shown in many photographs).
The wreckage probably contains missile warhead fragments and/or bullets. These are carefully designed – they are not random bits of langrage. A Buk warhead has thousands of distinctive fragments; depending on their shape, the type of Buk warhead can be determined. Likewise a piece of linked rod warhead would be apodictic evidence of an air to air missile (is this one? source). A cannon round would be apodictic evidence of gunfire. The shape, composition and weight of lethal fragments are diagnostic in identifying the weapon that brought it down. (If bullets or non-Buk warhead fragments are found, the conventional Western accusation is decisively contradicted.)
There should be enough evidence from the destruction pattern of the wreckage to show where the warhead was when it detonated. That combined with the location and direction of travel of MH17 at the moment of detonation will tell us from where the missile was fired. The omission of this information would be another fatal flaw. (Another key piece of evidence: for example Almaz-Antey’s analysis concludes it was a Buk, of a model no longer possessed by Russian air defence forces, and that it could only have been fired from Kiev-held territory).
Why does Ukraine have a veto on publication?
Why was Malaysia – the owner of the aircraft, after all – only added to the JIT in November 2014?
Why are Belgium and Australia on the investigation team at all? Especially after theForeign Minister of the latter already decided Russia was culpable?
We had remarkably full information on the Germanwings crash in the Alps within weeks, with many details from the "black boxes” including sound in the cockpit. Why has this investigation taken so long?
We are told (recently) that the investigators believe they may have recovered fragments of a Buk missile from the crash site. Does this make sense to you? It doesn’t to me. MH17 was heading south-east at an altitude of 10,000 metres. The US scenario has the missile fired from north-west (head on), the Almaz-Antey reconstruction has the missile coming from the south-west (starboard side). The fragments of the aircraft would continue with their momentum, the fragments of the missile body and engine with their momentum; in neither case would one expect to see wreckage from the two very close to each other.
Absence of evidence is evidence of absence (especially when you know that any real evidence would have been plastered on every front page, news program and op-ed piece).