Take Off Your Blinders
Like horses pulling wagons down the street, I can’t help but imagine the contributors of the New York Times Editorial Board collaborating on this article wearing blinders. A horse wears “blinders to prevent them from becoming distracted or panicked by what they see behind the wagon.” The writers attempt to make the case that Russia is becoming an “outlaw state”, using examples that bear a striking resemblance to occasions in which their own state was the outlaw. These, of course, go unnoticed as those blinders seem to be performing their function.
First was the not-so-stunning revelation that it was a Russian surface to air missile system with which Ukrainian rebels shot down a civilian airliner in July 2014, killing 298 people. A horrific act of barbarism, no doubt, and surely behavior we would consider intolerable among the international community. At this point, apparently, there was not one member of the Times staff who remembered a similar incident in which a superpower was involved in the downing of a civilian airliner. If someone did, I would love to have heard the conversation about why that didn’t warrant inclusion in the story.
During the summer of 1988 the USS Vincennes shot down Iranian Air Flight 665, killing all 290 souls that were on board. As opposed to Ukraine, here there was no covert effort by US forces to hide the identity of their weapons systems—they simply shot down the airliner in broad daylight. The incident occurred as Flight 665 was gaining altitude over the Strait of Hormuz on it's journey from Tehran to Dubai. Floating far below and well inside Iranian territorial waters was the Vincennes, which had earned the unfortunate nickname “Robocruiser” among American sailors for her notoriously aggressive behavior. Captain David Carlson, aboard the nearby USS Sides, reported later that he “wondered aloud in disbelief” as “Robocruiser” announced their intentions to shoot down the approaching airbus, hypothesizing that the crew “felt a need to prove the viability of the Aegis in the Gulf and…hankered for an opportunity to show their stuff.” The event "marked the horrifying climax to Captain [William] Rodger's aggressiveness..."
Following such a grave compromise of “common human decency,” President George H.W. Bush had this to say: “I’ll never apologize for the United States of America ever. I don’t care what the facts are. I’m not an apologize for America kind of guy.” Captain Rodgers received the Legion of Merit for “exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service as commanding officer.” We can only stand and admire such wonderful examples of “a constructive partner in search for peace.” It’s not hard to imagine the type of devastating retaliatory action which American policy architects might have cooked up if the situation was flipped. Thankfully cooler heads prevailed in Iran as they began their “quest for accountability” by suing the United States in the International Court of Justice. Eventually the US settled the case, paying Iran $300,000 per wage earning victim and $150,000 per non-wage earning victim of the incident, while taking care not to actually admit guilt.
As for Syria, the article (not surprisingly) pays strict attention to Russian atrocities while totally ignoring those of the United States. Russia has certainly shown a habitual disregard from civilian life and general observation of human rights, but the US doesn’t have much to be proud of either.
Since July, there has been a steady trickle of horrifying stories in which coalition airstrikes, usually led by the US, slaughter and injure civilians. Particularly gruesome was the attack on Manjib which killed 28 people and wounded as many as 40. More recently there was a friendly fire incident against Syrian troops besieged by Islamic State fighters on September 17, killing as many as 83 and wounding as many as 120. The botched strike, which shattered a fragile ceasefire agreement brokered by the US and Russia, allowed ISIS soldiers to briefly overrun the position and obviously enraged Russian planners.
The Times editorial board, critical of Russia for striking targets forbidden by international law, didn’t even bother to look in their own records for similar incidents involving the US. If they had, they would have found this article describing American Special Forces seizing Fallujah General Hospital during the initial invasion of the city. International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Conventions prohibits "an attack against a zone established to shelter the wounded, the sick and civilians from the effects of hostilities..." Entering the hospital to “bewildered looks from patients and employees,” American and Iraqi troops “eagerly kicked the doors in, some not waiting for the locks to break. Patients and hospital employees were rushed out of rooms by armed soldiers and ordered to sit on the floor while troops tied their hands behind their backs.” The hospital was such a key target due its presumed role as a “propaganda center”, which really means they were broadcasting civilian casualty numbers.
The real propaganda center here is the New York Times. The writers slam Russian behavior but seem to be completely ignorant of US culpability in similar crimes. These crimes exist outside the narrow scope of the article, impossible to see without the writers taking off their horse blinders. Frankly it’s embarrassing that this is what passes for top notch journalism in a free society. How can any media outlet in the United States call for Russia to exercise “common human decency” and observe “rules intended to promote peace and conflict” with a straight face?
And finally, the DNC itself surely poses more of a threat to democracy than any Russian hacker.