"There's a story today confirming that, but we have not within the Administration made a determination. But it's pretty clear when -- there's a build-up of extraordinary circumstantial evidence. I'm a former prosecutor. I've tried cases on circumstantial evidence; it's powerful here.
"But even more importantly, we picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing, and it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar. We also know from voice identification that the separatists were bragging about shooting it down afterwards."
"So there's a stacking-up of evidence here which Russia needs to help account for. We are not drawing the final conclusion here, but there is a lot that points at the need for Russia to be responsible. And what President Obama believes and we, the international community, join in believing, all, everybody is convinced we must have unfettered access. And the lack of access -- the lack of access, David, makes its own statement about culpability and responsibility."
Yet, like the case with Syria, Kerry presented no verifiable proof from the U.S. government, no images of the 150-vehicle convoy, no support for the claims about the rebels possessing the SA-11 Buk system (beyond allusions to "social media"), no countervailing information about the Buk systems possessed by the Ukrainian military, no effort to allow for contrary explanations for comments made during the confusion that followed the crash within a disorganized rebel organization that has poor command and control, no demands for cooperation from the Kiev regime.
Also, there was no explanation for why Kerry's statements were at variance with public remarks by senior U.S. military personnel. For instance, the Washington Post's Craig Whitlock reported on Saturday that Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, U.S. commander of NATO forces in Europe, said last month that "We have not seen any of the [Russian] air-defense vehicles across the border yet."
Whitlock also reported that "Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said defense officials could not point to specific evidence that an SA-11 surface-to-air missile system had been transported from Russia into eastern Ukraine."
Of course, the only skepticism expressed by NBC's Gregory was over why the Obama administration hadn't jumped to the conclusion of Russian guilt even faster. Instead of citing the contradictory information in Whitlock's article, Gregory cited a belligerent Post editorial.
Gregory: "The Washington Post has editorialized this weekend what was missing from the President's comments when he spoke out on Friday was a clear moral conclusion about the regime of Vladimir Putin or an articulation of how the United States will respond. What about it? " Call Vladimir Putin what he is. What is the threat that he and Russia present to the United States and to the West?"
When Kerry's response wasn't bellicose enough, Gregory egged him on:
"But I detect in your words, Mr. Secretary, some reluctance to make this a one-on-one battle. You want to give Russia a little bit more room here. But the question is still about consequences."
There also was nothing in the interview about the shared responsibility for the nasty civil war gripping Ukraine; nothing about the reckless U.S. support for the neo-Nazi spearheaded overthrow of elected President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22, just a day after he had signed an agreement with three European nations to reduce his powers and hold early elections. Instead of supporting that deal, Kerry's State Department immediately embraced the coup regime as "legitimate."
Though the Ukraine reality is complex and murky -- with blame on both sides -- Official Washington's narrative has been black-and-white: the western Ukrainians, including a significant number of neo-Nazis who trace their ideology back to Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, are the good guys and the ethnic Russians from eastern Ukrainian are the bad guys, with Vladimir Putin the baddest of the bad guys.
A less biased journalist than David Gregory might have asked Kerry if he thought that Ukraine's new President Petro Poroshenko was wise in terminating a partial cease-fire in late June and launching a brutal offensive against the towns and cities of rebellious eastern Ukraine. That fighting was the context for the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines plane.
But the immediate pressing issue should be to determine who fired the missile that brought down the plane. If indeed Russia recklessly provided the rebels this high-powered anti-aircraft weapon, whoever approved that transfer should be held accountable along with the rebels who fired it, even if the Boeing 777 was mistakenly identified as a military aircraft.
Similarly, if elements of the Ukrainian military fired the missile -- possibly thinking the plane was a Russian reconnaissance flight on its way back to Russia -- then a thorough investigation should determine who in that chain of command was responsible.