In the 21st century the US may be incapable of winning wars or even pursuing its own national interest but the media manipulation around the shoot-down of MH17 proves it is reaching new heights (or depths) in the art of perception management.
This article, by Ray McGovern originally appeared at Consortium News. The author is a retired CIA analyst of 27 years. He served as chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch, and prepared and personally conducted early morning briefings of the Presidents Daily Brief.
During a recent interview, I was asked to express my conclusions about the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine, prompting me to take another hard look at Official Washingtons dubious claims pointing the finger of blame at eastern Ukrainian rebels and Moscow based on shaky evidence regarding who was responsible for this terrible tragedy.
Unlike serious professional investigative reporters, intelligence analysts often are required by policymakers to reach rapid judgments without the twin luxuries of enough time and conclusive evidence. Having spent almost 30 years in the business of intelligence analysis, I have faced that uncomfortable challenge more times than I wish to remember.
So, I know what it feels like to confront issues of considerable consequence like the shoot-down of MH-17 and the killing of 298 passengers and crew amid intense pressure to choreograph the judgments to the propagandistic music favored by senior officials who want the U.S. enemy in this case, nuclear-armed Russia and its Western-demonized President Vladimir Putin to somehow be responsible. In such situations, the easiest and safest (career-wise) move is to twirl your analysis to the preferred tune or at least sit this jig out.
But the trust-us-it-was-Putin marathon dance has now run for 13 months and its getting tiresome to hear the P.R. people in the office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper still claiming that the U.S. intelligence community has not revised or updated its analysis of the incident since July 22, 2014, just five days after the crash.
Back then, Clappers office, trying to back up Secretary of State John Kerrys anti-Russian rush to judgment, cited very sketchy evidence in both senses of the word drawn heavily from social media accounts. Obviously, the high-priced and high-caliber U.S. intelligence community has learned much more about this very sensitive case since that time, but the administration wont tell the American people and the world. The DNIs office still refers inquiring reporters back to the outdated report from more than a year ago.
None of this behavior would make much sense if the later U.S. intelligence data supported the hasty finger-pointing toward Putin and the rebels. If more solid and persuasive intelligence corroborated those initial assumptions, youd think U.S. government officials would be falling over themselves to leak the evidence and declare we told you so. And the DNI offices claim that it doesnt want to prejudice the MH-17 investigation doesnt hold water either since the initial rush to judgment did exactly that.
So, despite the discomfort attached to making judgments with little reliable evidence and at the risk of sounding like former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld it seems high time to address what we know, what we dont know, and why it may be that we dont know what we dont know.
Those caveats notwithstanding I would say it is a safe bet that the hard technical intelligence evidence upon which professional intelligence analysts prefer to rely does not support Secretary of State Kerrys unseemly rush to judgment in blaming the Russian side just three days after the shoot-down.
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Americans are stupid, right? Well it is a generalization and generalisations are usually both right and wrong. Not all Americans are stupid of course, I know many who are very intelligent and highly articulate. But as in Britain, France, Austrilia, Russia, Germany, China etc. there are stupid people in America. What we mean however in saying Americans are stupid is that overall American citizens tend to be less well informed on current events and general knowledge that Europeans, Asians and South Americans…