Bryan Hemming

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Shaun Walker renews MH17 propaganda offensive

Shaunn Walker 2015This article also appears in Off-Guardian. An abridged version appears in Russia Insider.

With the shadow of nuclear war looming it becomes even more crucial to focus the spotlight on the way the corporate media reports armed conflicts throughout the world, especially those in Ukraine and the Middle East. That said, Shameless Shaun Walker is at it again, more shamelessly than ever.

The first anniversary of MH17 is just few days off. Yet the result of the investigation into its causes seems to inch further and further away. Instead of clamouring for the full facts of this outrageous attack on a civilian aircraft to be made public, mainstream journalists stand on the side-lines, digging up stories they filed last year to feed the mill one more time. Just what do they take us for? Real concern for the families of the victims appears to be the last thing on their mind.

On Sept 9th last year The Dutch Safety Board investigating MH17 stated:

“The Board aims to publish the report within one year of the date of the crash.”

That has been pushed forward to October. Meanwhile, not one journalist seems to think of pressing for the reason behind the delay. There must be one. It is interesting to note, a separate Dutch criminal inquiry into MH17 said the international team investigating had yet to identify any suspects for possible prosecution. On June 30th , Dutch chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke leading the team told Mark Corder of Associated Press the probe will likely take until at least the end of this year. Why wait till then? Shaun Walker is making our minds up for us. They aren’t the only things he’s making up.

In an opportunistic article published in last Thursday’s edition of the Guardian, Walker revisits the village of Petropavlivka, close to the site of the wreckage, to mark the anniversary. Beginning literally with a bang, the dramatic account of eyewitness Natalia Voloshina makes for harrowing reading. If we feel guilty at the thought of questioning Walker’s motives for picking at the bones of the tragic event, it is how he wants us to feel.

The mayor of Petropavlivka tells of wreckage and victims falling from the sky.

“We realised they were pieces of plane, but first we assumed it was a military plane. The rebels had been shooting down Ukrainian military planes in the area in the preceding days.”

Walker intends the words to imprint on our subconscious. He has an agenda. Within the first three sentences we are being told whodunit. We can easily guess where Shaun’s coming from, and where he’s going. Without waiting for the results of the official investigations, or even the mayor to say it, he prepares us for his verdict: “The terrible truth soon became clear …” he announces, “The remains were from Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which had apparently been shot out of the sky with a surface-to-air missile.” We are being led like sheep. Joining the dots, how can anybody not reach the conclusion rebels shooting at planes shot MH17 ‘out of the sky’? Or so Shaun’s theory goes.

Though separatists were known to have downed Ukrainian jets, they were planes on bombing raids. The previous month a military transport plane was shot down as it approached Luhansk airport, killing all 49 troops and crew aboard. However much a tragedy for the families of the victims, it has to be remembered the transport plane was on a mission: a war was going on, and Luhansk was right in the middle of a war zone. All the planes reportedly downed by separatists were military aircraft flying at low altitudes. There is no evidence of any aircraft flying at high altitude being shot down in the ‘preceding days’.

Shaun doesn’t deal in inconvenient truths; he wants theatre. He presents us with an open and shut case. But his evidence is circumstantial; the rebels had been shooting down planes, therefore it must’ve been them. We don’t get an eyewitness account from the other side, if only to give the appearance of neutrality. He does the same thing in all its variations time and time again.

“A year later, there has been no conclusive proof of who was responsible, though most evidence points to separatist forces shooting down the plane by accident with a Buk missile system, possibly brought across the border from Russia. Messages appeared on social media from an account linked to the rebels saying they had shot down a Ukrainian plane, but were swiftly deleted.”

Little doubt as to where the finger is being pointed. And we’re not even halfway through the article.

Walker’s attempts to introduce the illusion of balance into the picture are transparent. The Russians and the separatists are consistently presented as chaotic and disorganised, one saying one thing and another saying the other.

“Mostly the pro-Russia forces denied ever having used a Buk, though one leader, Alexander Khodakovsky, told Reuters he believed the separatists had taken control of such a system from Russia.”

They shower like a cannonade; gossip and rumour are treated as fact.

“Russia has furiously denied accusations that pro-Moscow rebels were responsible …”

The ‘buts’ can be read between the lines. Denials are the gutter press way of making libellous accusations where there is no actual proof. A good example is: “Hollywood star denies sex romp.” Even if you never imagined the star being involved in a sex romp before, the seed has been sown. Walker’s natural environment is the gutter press. The Russian media “even produced witnesses” he tells us, as though they were pulled out of a hat. Walker doesn’t produce witnesses he finds them ‘sitting at the same desk’ and ‘recalling’ events.

Though there is plenty of insinuation, Walker produces no hard evidence the separatists possessed the necessary Buk missile at the time of MH17. Instead, he deliberately weaves a web of confusion when building his case, where one thing contradicts another and all we are left is ambiguity.

“There was all the fuss about the Buks which were maybe there or maybe weren’t there, but honestly I can’t say anything with clarity because I didn’t see anything and didn’t hear anything. Recently, in order to stop any insinuations, I have tried not to talk about that theme.”

“At that time it was chaotic here. One division didn’t know what the others were doing. We were sitting here and were responsible for our tasks; those who were elsewhere had other tasks,”

After a continuous barrage of this stuff, to the point most of us are reeling, Walker slips in the blade, drawing an outrageous conclusion. He asserts: “Exactly who was controlling the Buk remains a mystery, although there is some evidence it came from across the border and may have been manned by a Russian crew.”

Despite all the mainstream speculation, ‘the Buk’ still remains a theory. The Dutch preliminary report only mentions “a number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside”. Talk about conspiracy theorists, Walker and his cohorts should get their orders in for tin-foil hats while stocks last.

If there is no hard evidence the separatists possessed Buk missiles, or the capability to launch one, there exists plenty of hard evidence the Ukrainian forces possessed them. Again, preferring to live in what might’ve been; Walker considers that avenue not worth exploring. Instead of drawing the conclusion that the most likely source of a Buk missile would probably be from the side proven to have lots, Walker tries to find one where probably none existed. And there was I thinking the smoking gun theory would apply.

But he is far from alone in this. It seems the entire corporate media has completely ruled out the most obvious possibility, without so much as testing it as an alternative hypothesis. The idea it might’ve been the Ukrainians has become virtually tabu. That seems somewhat at odds with the Guardian’s claim of “fearless investigative journalism”. These days, the thing the Guardian seems most fearless about is endless bragging.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, anonymous ‘enemy’ sources made busy denying everything thrown at them. “At that time it was chaotic here…” and “… amid public denials of involvement, diplomats scrambled to establish what had happened.” Walker behaves like a courtroom lawyer in a US crime series. How does he know diplomats scrambled? The word has WW2 connotations when Spitfire pilots scrambled to their planes to repel Luftwaffe attacks. Walker is full of it. In another example of ‘balance’ he dons magisterial pretension:

“The Dutch-led investigation into the crash has proceeded slowly, with a full report not expected until October. The investigators are believed to have concluded that the plane was indeed shot down by a Buk missile. Perhaps in an attempt to pre-empt this, the version of a Ukrainian fighter jet has been ditched by Russian media and a press conference was recently held in Moscow by the manufacturers of Buk systems, Almaz-Antey, in which they claimed investigations showed the plane had been hit by a Buk missile system that only Ukraine possesses.”

Without a scrap of evidence he is pointing a finger at the dock. Appearing to praise the diligence and care of the Dutch investigation team, instead of chiding them for their tardiness, he predicts their verdict. He could be reading the lines straight from a script. Without telling us why, he dismisses evidence from the manufacturers of Buk systems as a mere claim made for propaganda purposes. With a straight face we are told: “Other investigations, such as by the citizen blogging team Bellingcat, have suggested the Buk came from Russia, and was operated by a Russian military crew.”

Other investigations? Pray, give us a clue. The only example of other investigations Walker gives is Bellingcat, which he doesn’t treat as a claim, even though not one piece of evidence is actually produced to back it up. Isn’t that the very essence of what constitutes a claim? Last time I checked the Bellingcat citizen blogging team was one citizen called Eliot Higgins operating from his bedroom in Leicester. And if Shaun Walker can’t be bothered to check if that’s not still the case, neither can I. Does he read his own stuff? I can hardly get through it.

Walker excels himself with this gem: “In mid-August, the Guardian witnessed a convoy of armoured vehicles crossing the border under cover of night …” As British TV detectives used to say: “He’s got form.” In order to appear neutral Walker omits to mention that in this case “the Guardian” is just our Shaun and Roland Olliphant of the Telegraph. This we can discover through linking to the article.

I happen to be very familiar with this very piece because I posted an article on my blog about it on August 17th. It seemed odd to me that neither journalist took a photo of the incursion. Odd when you think how much it would’ve been worth to the rest of the world’s media. And there was I thinking a pair of war correspondents must have at least one mobile phone between them.

Lo and behold, at some point between August 15th and February this year, a photo suddenly appeared with the same article. It doesn’t quite fit Walker’s narrative, as it’s obviously taken from a vehicle that was part of the convoy. That photo had previously appeared in another Guardian articlefrom where it conveniently disappeared.

The caption to the newly-placed photo reads: Armoured personnel carriers with Russian military plates move towards the Ukraine border. And why shouldn’t a Russian armoured personnel carrier be on Russian territory with Russian plates?  It makes no sense unless Shaun Walker is saying the armoured personnel carrier is part of the convoy he claims Ollie and he spotted crossing the frontier. If that is what he is saying, then we have to question why he appears to have been part of the invading force? On spotting the photo I copied it and posted a second article on my blog: Shaun Walker is caught invading Ukraine by his own camera!

But it isn’t the only time the Guardian has been caught red-handed altering articles on Ukraine.

Earlier this year Stacy Herbert of the Kaiser Report tweeted the Guardian regarding an article by Elena S avchuk the newspaper published on March 5th. One photo accompanying the glowing piece shows a woman soldier, dressed in military fatigues and armed, nicknamed Anaconda. Stacy Herbert explains the original caption to the photo read: Anaconda says she is well treated by the men in her battalion, but is hoping that the war will end soon. She has a screenshot to prove it. Though the Guardian didn’t mention it until forced by Herbert, the van behind Anaconda clearly displays Nazi insignia. But we were told the “baby-faced 19-year-old says that her mother is very worried about her …” The new caption reads: Anaconda alongside a van displaying the neo-Nazi symbol 1488. The volunteer brigade is known for its far-right links. The number1488 is well understood by the far right. 14 represents the 14 words of white supremacism: We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children. The two 8s in 88 represent the eighth letter of the alphabet ‘H’. They stand for “Heil Hitler”. The “baby-faced 19-year-old” is a Nazi extremist.

Much worse, the Guardian continues to ignore the existence of the other symbol, on the door of the van. That might give its readers a starkly different view of little Anaconda, and the entire article. That symbol belonged to the 36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS. Under the command of Oskar Dirlewanger the division became known for rape, pillage and the mass murder of civilians. Russian women and children were burned alive; starved packs of dogs were allowed feed on them; Jews were injected with strychnine.

The Guardian doesn’t mention the Twitter campaign by Stacy Herbert that it took to for them to change the photo caption. They behave as though it wasn’t ever there. Can’t blame them; when you’re up to your neck in shit the slightest breath can have disastrous consequences. What amazes me is that the article is still there.

Episode 729 Kaiser Report RT (the section on the Guardian begins at 08.00 mins)

What used to be known as the Manchester Guardian had a reputation for good and honest journalism from a left-leaning standpoint until relatively recently. Its high standards were respected by journalists and politicians from all sides. Sadly, this is no longer the case. The Guardian’s reputation for reporting war impartially has been damaged irreparably by its misleading, and downright dishonest, coverage of ongoing conflicts in the Ukraine and Syria. With new lows being reached, readers in search of the truth are deserting in droves. Alternative news sources are being sought out for their honesty and neutrality.  It has become doubtful the Guardian will ever be able regain back the trust of its readers on many issues. If you lose trust in one area, you can expect people to begin to question every word you write.

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