By Dave Lindorff
The New York Times, which has been misreporting on, and misleading its readers about the downing of Malaysian Flight 17 since the plane was downed last July 17, continues its sorry track record of flogging anti-Russian sentiment in the US and of supporting the post-putsch Ukrainian government in Kiev.
This time America's leading "newspaper of record" is distorting the preliminary report of the Dutch Safety Board which has been leading an investigation into the cause of the Flight 17 crash that killed all 283 passengers and 15 crew members of a Boeing 777 aircraft flying from Amsterdam to Malaysia.
In an article published Wednesday, headlined "Report Finds Missile Strike Likely in Crash of Flight 17" and datelined Brussles, Times reporters Andrew Higgens and Nicola Clark write in their lead paragraph that "investigators, in their first account of the calamity, released evidence on Tuesday consistent with an attack by a surface-to-air missile but shed no clear light on who was responsible."
They go on to write, however, on the basis of no evidence at all, that the preliminary report "...gave some indirect support to assertions by the United States and Ukraine that pro-Russian rebels shot down the aircraft with an SA-11, or Buk, surface-to-air missile."
Both paragraphs are completely at odds with the report, and that supposed "indirect support" is never mentioned. And no wonder: it doesn't exist in the report.
In fact, the 34-page preliminary report, made public in full, makes absolutely no mention at all of an SA-11 missile being the cause of the downing. In fact, it states quite clearly:
"Noting that the investigation team has not yet had the opportunity to recover (the components of the cockpit and front of the plane) for forensic examination, photographs from the wreckage indicated that material around the holes was deformed in a manner consistent with being punctured by high-energy objects. The characteristics of the material deformation appear to indicate that the objects originated from outside the fuselage."
The investigators also write:
"The pattern of damage observed in the forward fuselage and cockpit section of the aircraft was consistent with the damage that would be expected from a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside."
That's it. There's no mention of a specific missile, or even of a missile at all. This is important, because there are witnesses -- eyewitnesses on the ground, and Russian radar records -- that suggest that there were one or two Ukrainian fighter jets flying near the Malaysian jet just before it went down. And while the Obama White House, the Pentagon and the State Department (but, significantly, not analysts at the CIA) have been insisting that the plane was downed by a Russian high-altitude Buk anti-aircraft missile, and that it was operated by separatist rebel forces, there are also those who suggest that the plane was downed by Ukrainian jets firing 30mm rapid-fire machine guns and possibly also air-to-air missiles. Both options would result in "a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside," but the Times only presents one option -- an SA-11 -- in what is presented as being an objective news report about the release of the Dutch preliminary investigation.
Nowhere does the actual report suggest responsibility for the downing of Flight 17. Nowhere does it offer speculation or analysis that would eliminate one option or another as to what brought down the plane, or of who was responsible.
Later in the article, the reporters note that Tjibbe Joustra, chairman of the Dutch Safety Board, "said in a telephone interview from the Hague that a final report would be issued sometime in the middle of next year and investigators hoped to clarify 'the type of object that penetrated the plane.'"