Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 23, 2014

Stephen F. Cohen on the 2001 Ukrainian shoot-down of a civilian airliner

Filed under: Ukraine — louisproyect @ 1:44 pm


From time to time I tune into John Batchelor’s show late at night on WABC am, a rightwing talk radio station. Despite being the author of “Aren’t you glad you are a Republican”, Batchelor is a very intelligent fellow who reads a lot more than most people, including me. In any given week, he will interview 3 to 4 authors on their new books and it is obvious that he has read them. Unlike the typical rightwinger, he invites authors with leftwing views, including the Indian author of a book exposing Britain’s responsibility for the Bengal famine of 1943.

One of his most frequent guests is Stephen F. Cohen, who has been making RT.com points since the Euromaidan protests began. To give you an idea of where he fits in, he was sandwiched last night between six Zionists, including Aaron Klein, a WABC host and author of “The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists”. Batchelor was broadcasting from Jerusalem, where he has been pumping out anti-Hamas propaganda.

I only listened to Cohen, or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I monitored him. You can listen to what he had to say here, mostly about the downing of the Malaysian airliner MH-17: http://johnbatchelorshow.com/podcasts/2014/07/22/second-hour

If you don’t have the time (or the motivation) to listen to the podcast, let me summarize Cohen’s “high” points.

  1. “Some people” say that the men seen firing the missile were in Ukrainian uniforms. I wonder if these Ukrainian men were the same ones that Parry reported as being surrounded by empty beer bottles. Of course, the use of unnamed sources allows Cohen to play the same game as Robert Parry and Seymour Hersh—to raise suspicions without the need for evidence.
  2. He reminds listeners that in 2001 Ukraine accidentally shot down a Russian jet filled with Jews headed for Israel. So clearly the country has a record of incompetence when it comes to deadly firepower.
  3. He advises that when such incidents occur, the first thing to ask is cui bono; he uses the words “who had a motive?” but he means the same thing. If you Google “MH-17” and “cui bono”, you will get 59,500 results—the top of which is Michel Chossudovsky’s website. Now there’s a big surprise. Just as was the case with the sarin gas attack in Syria, the Putinite left takes the position that a “false flag” operation was required to deepen the war on Russia.
  4. The US has been in a new Cold War with Russia since the proxy war in Georgia of 2008, which the conflict in Ukraine continues.

You get the picture, right?

The 2001 shoot-down was news to me. This morning I did a little bit of checking. It turns out that it took weeks for Ukraine to fess up that it was at fault, even though it was obviously just an accident as is obviously the case with MH-17.

In 2001 the president of Ukraine was one Leonid Kuchma. Remember him? He was widely regarded for improving Russian-Ukrainian ties in the aftermath of Ukrainian independence. He won office in 1994, mostly on the basis of strong support from the Russian-speaking East of the country. His prime minister was Viktor Yanukovych. Like Yanukovych, Kuchma favored co-integration with the EU and the Russian trading bloc.

Kuchma, like Putin, was not the sort of ruler to put up with critical reporters, including Georgiy Gongadze who was kidnapped and then beheaded in 2000. Four cops were eventually arrested and found guilty.

It was this abuse of power and rampant corruption that led to the Orange Revolution of 2004. For Cohen the Orange Revolution had lots in common with Euromaidan, a movement that resulted in a “coup” that overturned the democratically elected Yanukovych government. In 2005 he referred to “very large and well-organized pro-Yushchenko crowds in the streets” who “intimidated the Supreme Court into ruling in his favor and the Parliament into changing the electoral laws while the electoral process was still under way.” I guess the CIA must have manipulated them into taking to the streets after an investigative reporter was kidnapped and beheaded, the filthy imperialist tools. Didn’t they understand that Kuchma was defending the nation against imperialist predators?

On October 13, 2001 the NY Times reported on how Kuchma had finally come around to admitting his military’s responsibility.

In strained language that acknowledged only a ”tragic coincidence,” Ukraine’s president, Leonid Kuchma, stated today that he accepted investigators’ preliminary finding that his military accidentally destroyed a Russian airliner over the Black Sea last week with an errant missile.

Kuchma’s written statement, released tonight, did not explicitly state that the military was at fault. ”Obviously, final results of the commission’s inquiry will be known after experts complete their in-depth investigation and make appropriate assessments public,” he said. ”But even today it can be said that a big tragedy took place.”

But of paramount interest is this:

Both Ukrainian and Russian officials insisted for days after the crash that a Ukrainian missile could not possibly have been involved. Ukrainian military experts said a re-examination of data from the launchings for that day showed that all missiles had been accounted for and that none had flown more than 25 miles off the Crimean coast before plummeting into the sea.

Kuchma called an accidental aircraft strike impossible. Mr. Tkachyov said all Ukrainian data showed that a missile could not have struck the plane. Relying on these assurances, Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, dismissed speculation about a missile strike as a ”so-called” theory.

Cohen was right to bring up the 2001 incident but obviously not in the way he intended. I think the facts will bear out that not much has changed when it comes to the Kremlin and its stooge’s tendency to dig in their heels when involved with such gross displays of incompetence.

It was the same sort of negligence that led to Chernobyl, after all. I don’t think that the downing of MH-17 was intentional. Who in their right mind would? But the bullshit that has come from the Kremlin’s paid and unpaid apologists is truly shocking, from Robert Parry and his beer bottle reportage to Stephen F. Cohen mischievously referring to the 2001 shoot-down as evidence of Kyiv’s duplicity.

People like Cohen, Parry and Hersh were once paragons of journalistic and scholarly integrity but when you decide to become a propagandist all bets are off.




  1. The Ukrainian government eventually paid compensation to surviving family members although never admitted legal liability. Not all relatives accepted and some filed suit. Links can be found at my article here:

    I took the event as showing that if the rebels shot down the airliner they could have been aiming at another plane and missed. Of course what is more likely is that they thought the airliner was a military plane as did the US when they shot down an Iranian airliner.
    Cheers, ken

    Comment by ken — July 24, 2014 @ 3:34 am

  2. By the way an independent American study concluded that a Ukrainian rocket was involved. An investigation by Russian aviation authorities came to the same conclusion later. The event happened less than a month after 9/11 so the Russians thought at first it was a terrorist attack probably by Chechens. That was not an unreasonable hypothesis.

    Comment by ken — July 24, 2014 @ 3:40 am

  3. So which are the paragons of journalistic and scholarly integrity I should be listening on this issue?

    Comment by Martin — July 25, 2014 @ 10:23 pm

  4. cui bono? who could possibly have had the motive to shoot down that plane? lets see…

    version one: the rebels have just shot down two ukrainian planes. they are at war with the central government, which happens to use fighter planes. they bragged about shooting down a fighter jet on social media before it became clear that they had shot down a civilian aircraft. they dragged their feet on letting international observers in, til Putin told them to do otherwise.

    version two: the ukrainian goverment did it to make Russia look bad. we know because some drunks TOLD us. also, the rebels CLAIM to have lacked the required equipment. Finally, US intelligence will not offer conclusive proof that the rebels did it. Therefore, the CIA is hiding something. Therefore they are covering up a Ukranian/American false flag operation.

    I currently live in Moscow. Here “Version Two” is considered blindingly obvious, “Version One” invariably gives people a case of the googly eyes (i.e. profound confusion, followed by rage). Propaganda about Ukrainian “fascism”, replete with made-up atrocities, fills the mass media. Here, the notion Crimeria rightfully belongs to Russia is beyond debate.

    I never liked the motives behind Euromian, still less its outcome. But this shit coming from Russia is shit of a completely different caliber. But this is the way imperialism always reacts to a foreign “nuisance.” But these adventures are not always successful. Now it seems that sections of the Russian elite are beginning to regret having started this whole business, like a smaller dog who wishes he had just stuck to barking instead of biting.

    Comment by max — July 28, 2014 @ 9:34 pm

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