Tragedy of Flight MH17 Brings Back Memories of KAL007

I woke up this morning to news that another Malaysian Airlines flight failed to reach it’s destination.

Flight MH17 blew up into pieces in mid-air while flying over a conflict zone in Eastern Ukraine near the major city of Donetsk. All passengers and crew, numbering to 298 people, had perished.

The bulk of the passengers were Dutch citizens with Malaysians making up the second largest nationality. There were 23 Americans on board, although not yet confirmed by the U.S. State Department.

The news itself is tragic enough, not only for the families of the passengers who will never see them again but also for Malaysian Airlines which has another scandal to deal with in their hands.

Obviously as the incident is still relatively fresh, details are limited. But the New York Times has confirmed that the plane was flying at 33,000 feet when it lost contact. The manner the debris were spread over the fields of Donetsk strongly indicate a sabotage rather than engine problems.

Suspicions grew stronger when pro-Russian separatists, one of the warring factions in the area of Donetsk, posted a malicious message on a social media site and deleted it swiftly.

The VK social networking page of Igor Strelkov — “defense minister” of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic — first announced: “We just downed an An-26 near (the town of) Torez.”

“And here is a video confirming that a ‘bird fell’,” said the post.

Strelkov’s post then provides a link to a clip identical to that published by Ukrainian media in reports about the doomed Malaysian Airlines plane.

The strongly anti-Russia news site, Ukrainska Pravda later posted an audio recording of what it claimed were the intercepted field communications between rebels and a Russian agent discussing the downing.

“We just downed a plane,” a rebel the recording identifies as Bes (Demon) tells an alleged Russian military intelligence officer.

Another recording shows one alleged fighter reporting from the site of the plane’s remains that it was “100 percent certain this is a civilian aircraft.” He swears in Russian when asked whether there were a lot of passengers on board.

These facts spell murder for the pro-Russian separatists, who call themselves the  “Donetsk People’s Republic.” Yet the blame game has started in Ukraine, with both the Kiev government and the separatists pointing the finger at each other and denying their involvements.

The DPR made a case that they did not have the capability to strike a plane at 33,000 feet. No ordinary rocket could have shot down a target at that height, only a sophisticated missile would.

However, taking note that the leader of the DPR is a former KGB agent it is strongly suspected that they are in possession of ex-Soviet weaponry. One hardware in focus is the Buk missile launcher, which is more than capable of shooting down a jet at that altitude.

In fact, journalists from the Associated Press covering the turmoil in Ukraine have reported seeing a Buk launcher in the area where Flight MH17 was shot down.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, no unbiased and legitimate news agency has been able to confirm what really brought down the airplane and who is to be held responsible. But initial facts all point to a Russian involvement, particularly a Russian missile strike.

Assuming that the assumption holds, this incident brings back memories of a similar flight that met it’s doom courtesy of the Soviet Union – Korean Airlines Flight 007 (KAL 007) in 1983 was shot down by a Soviet jet interceptor for crossing their border without permission.

The United States lost 62 of it’s citizens in this incident. Then-president Ronald Reagan immediately condemned the attack on live television, and later announced sanctions on the U.S.S.R.

That KAL Flight is similar to the current MH17 situation in that several Americans perished in an act of terror orchestrated by Russian forces.

We should not be surprised to hear of a United States response during the next few days. Earlier today, perennial neo-con Senator John McCain (R-AZ) stated on Anderson Cooper’s show on CNN that he believes there should be ‘repercussions’ if Russia was indeed involved.

His sentiments were echoed by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak who demanded ‘swift justice’ for the victims.

No one is ever for another war, but it is indeed important to hold suspects accountable for their actions.

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