Mahathir may have basis for his scepticism on MH17
Published on: Sunday, August 11, 2019
By: David CC Lim

I AM writing this on the fifth anniversary of the downing of MH17. In the news, our Transport Ministry issued a statement to say that the Malaysian Government will not rest until those who are responsible for shooting down the airliner are brought to justice.

Two weeks ago, the Dutchled Joint Investigation Team(JIT) named three Russians and a Ukrainian as being responsible for “bringing a Russian-made missile into eastern Ukraine with the aim to shoot down an aeroplane”. Our local papers reported that “Malaysia appreciates the report and remains committed to the JIT process and “are equally committed to ensuring that the process is transparent credible and effective…so that the truth will be discovered.” 

Our Prime Minister has however a different view. He casts doubt on the objectivity of the investigation, and said that even before the investigation started “they already said Russia. And now they say they have proof. It is difficult for us to accept …we want proof of guilt, so far there is no proof. Only hearsay.”

That, is the voice of the new Malaysia. The Malaysia that whimpered on the news of MH370, and cowered over news of the shooting down of MH17 has thankfully departed from the scene. The question many Malaysians have is, does our PM know more than what he is prepared to say at the moment, or are we simply witnessing a spark that signals the return of statesmanship in Malaysia to the world’s stage, or both.

 A Book that can perhaps provide an insight to what was on the PM’s mind is: ‘Flight MH17, Ukraine and the New Cold War, Prism of disaster’ by Kees Van Der Pijl,( Manchester University Press, 2018). Van der Pijl, is a leading scholar of international relations and international political economy and has published widely. 

He is perhaps better known for his claim that the Twin Towers were brought down by Israelis with help from Zionists in the US government, a view that brought charges of anti-semitism and demands for a public apology, which he refused to tender, and chose instead to resign from his tenure as emeritus professor of Sussex University. 

This book, his latest, promises to be no less controversial. A reviewer of the book has this to say; “Kees Van der Pijl blasts his way through decades of western myth-making to expose the brutal reality; that America’s drive for global domination continues…its goal is neoliberal global governance backed by full spectrum military dominance..”

The book has only five chapters, but each is packed with thoroughly researched points backed by copious notes, and taken together, they give the reader the essential background of, and backdrop to the tragedy of MH17. The summary of each of the chapters is given in the introduction written by the author himself, so from the start the reader is given a bird’s eye view of the reach and latitude of the book, and the option of going directly to the part that interests him most. 

However, the author warns at the outset, “ There is no way that the disaster can be understood as an isolated incident, a matter of identifying the immediate causes of the crash, or who gave the order to shoot it down if it was not an accident.” 

Neither, in his opinion, can the investigation be confined to the “forensics or rely on phone taps provided by the intelligence service of a regime in Kiev which, by any standard, should be considered a potential perpetrator.”

The glaring irregularity of the JIT exercise is thus exposed at the outset. The downing of the jet was what is called a “systems event”, involving different parties, policy decisions, regulatory authorities, and governments, and finally the “trigger event”. 

It is therefore not hard to see why the JIT in naming three persons responsible for downing the jet, thus dismissing the possibility of accident, has failed to give us the answer as to why and by whom the decision was made, to shoot down the jet. No wonder then that our PM is unimpressed with the findings.

In this book the author takes the reader step by step to the beginning of the conflict in the Ukraine, lays bare, so to speak, the tussle by the parties, involved, for both power, and wealth, and in the process draws in the global powers who see their interests in the region threatened, one way or the other. 

To the author the power play is obvious, ‘It is hard to avoid the conclusion that we are in the midst of a struggle of world historical proportions between two confliction social orders; the neoliberal capitalism of the West, locked in a crisis caused by speculative finance, yet still hostage to it, versus state-directed capitalism.’

Put simply, Ukraine on the break-up of the Soviet Union fell into the hands of the Oligarchs, hitherto corrupt state administrators and opportunists, who have enriched themselves from grabbing the assets of the state, and with the assistance of the capitalists in the West, carved out the country among themselves. 

This book gives details of the personalities and the companies that controlled vast amount of such illicit wealth, and who were involved in the power play between Russia and the West, i.e. the US and the EU, resulting in a civil war that is still raging at this moment.

This power play that involves the movement of military hardware and “speculative capital” by the players backed by the power of the state, is what Kees calls the New, or the Third Cold War. The new cold war is no longer a contest between capitalism and communism, each protecting its own sphere of influence with weapons of mass destruction. 

It is now a war fought with financial weapons, made up of speculative capital or capital derived from corruption or black markets and other illegal financial operations with the aim of transforming recalcitrant states into client or satellite states. Under the guise of promoting democracy and an “open society”, states, and non- state agents like George Soros help to foment dissent in target countries by financing fringe groups and malcontents to spark civil unrest, and ultimately, to stage a “colour” revolution. 

The “Wolfowitz Doctrine” subscribed to by the neo-conservatives in the US seeks to have the US maintain its position as the world’s sole predominant superpower in terms of arms, finance and technology. The old cold warrior of the Carter era, Zbigniew Brzezinski, had envisaged a reformed Ukraine to be integrated into Europe, thereby stretching the border, and hence the reach, of the arms of Nato into the heart of Russia itself. 

Today, Latvia and Estonia have both become states in the EU, and it is most unlikely that Russia would allow Ukraine to join the EU without opposition. Further, eastern Ukraine is populated largely by Russian speaking Ukrainians, who are closer to Russia than their counterparts in the western half of the country, thus it is natural and logical that Russia would support them in the civil war. 

The reader who is impatient to know what happened to MH17 and the timeline of the disaster from an independent source may skip the first three chapters of the book.

 However, if the reader does that he/she would miss the real reason behind the three way struggle, the US, the EU and Russia over the route of the gas pipelines from Russia across the Ukraine to the West, and a proposed “south” stream line across Turkey to the Balkans. 

The reader would also not know why the then US Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, shouted the now famous words, “F***k the EU”, down the phone. 

The first three chapters trace the intricacies and the shifting alliances between the oligarchs and the big powers, each with its own priorities to look after, and all acting in their own interests and at the expense of the ordinary people of the Ukraine. 

Readers who are familiar with the theories expounded in the blog, “Bellingcat” will be interested to know who is actually behind this internet “handle” and why he is set in making out a case against the Russians. 

Since the civil war is still raging in the Donbass region, understanding the conflict would enable the reader to discern the real news from the propaganda in the mainstream media.

Chapter four then sets the scene for the disaster. The pro-Russia president of the Ukraine had been deposed, prompted by civil unrest in the Maidan, which was instigated by fascists groups supported by the West. Kiev is now controlled by pro-West ultra nationalist government, and its increasingly nationalistic policies including the adoption of the Ukrainian language, have alienated the eastern Russian - speaking provinces, which in turn declared themselves as a separate ‘People’s Republic’.

 The Ukrainian armed forces are reluctant to act against their compatriots in the east, and restrict their action to shelling the rebel held areas, leaving the fighting on the ground to the ultra nationalists militia groups supported by the US. 

The rebels are aided by the Russians, but they only have hand –held missile launchers to protect themselves against the Ukrainian air force The air space over the country including the disputed region is controlled by Kiev. Despite several downings of Ukrainian aircraft by the rebels over the rebel held region Kiev had not seen fit to close the airspace to civilian airliners, only restricting them to altitude above eight thousand meters. 

We are given the events leading to, immediately before, and after the disaster, for instance, the fact that the day before the US had just imposed fresh economic sanctions on Russia; and Putin was on the way back from Brazil after a Brics meeting, and had a meeting with Merkel at the World Cup. On the day of the downing of MH17, his plane was a mere thirty minutes behind MH17, albeit on a northerly route after flying over Poland. 

Both the narrative favoured by the West, that the aircraft was taken down by a BUK missile fired from the rebel held area, and narrative suggested by the Russians, that it was not a BUK that caused the apparent damage to the aircraft but rather cannon fire from other unknown aircraft in the vicinity, are meticulously considered by the author. Both Russia and the US have electronic and satellite surveillance over the war torn area, but neither it appears is will to show the extent of the intelligence it has on the matter. 

We have to draw our own conclusions from these and other events on the day of the shooting, as the author makes clear; “ This book takes the downing of Flight MH17 as a prism through which a range of different strands-geopolitical, geo-economic, military strategic- are refracted….The West led by an effectively bankrupt United States, increasingly relies on force to sabotage the formation of any alternative, something its own social formation can no longer bring forth.”

One can thus understand the PM when he expresses his skepticism over the findings of the JIT, the biggest question left unanswered, the dinosaur in the park so to speak, is why MH17 and why Malaysia. As the author says,’ With two planes lost, it was inevitable that the question of the carrier’s nationality would come up. 

Malaysia belongs to the category of states resisting neoliberal capitalism and the Anglo-American claim to global governance, perhaps more so under the former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad than today.’ 

This book gives the reasons why all Malaysians must demand that justice be done to all the victims of MH17. Until then Malaysia should continue to demand that the investigations be made public, be transparent, and adhere to the highest standards of forensic investigations so that the real perpetrators of this most horrendous act of the century can be identified and rightly vilified. And in this increasingly multi-polar world of ours it must also be wary of whose company it keeps.


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