All Parties Involved to Blame for Malaysian Aircraft Disaster in Ukraine

All Parties Involved to Blame for Malaysian Aircraft Disaster in Ukraine

Larry Wilkerson: Why weren't commercial flights banned over an area where aircraft had already been shot down? -   July 18, 2014
Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here


Share to Facebook Share to Twitter

An awesome daily supply of genuine, un-spun world news - Chris Attwell
Log in and tell us why you support TRNN


Lawrence Wilkerson is a retired United States Army soldier and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson is an adjunct professor at the College of William & Mary where he teaches courses on US national security. He also instructs a senior seminar in the Honors Department at the George Washington University entitled "National Security Decision Making."


All Parties Involved to Blame for Malaysian Aircraft Disaster in UkrainePAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay. And welcome to The Wilkinson Report with Larry Wilkerson, who now joins us.

Larry is the former chief of staff of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. He's currently an adjunct professor of government at the College of William & Mary. And he's a regular contributor to The Real News.

Thanks for joining us again, Larry.


JAY: So, just before we get into this downing of the Malaysian aircraft over the Ukraine, President Obama on Friday morning made a statement. Here's a little clip from it.


BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: More broadly, I think it's important for us to recognize that this outrageous event underscores that it is time for peace and security to be restored in Ukraine. For months, we've supported a pathway to peace, and the Ukrainian government has reached out to all Ukrainians, put forward a peace plan, and lived up to a ceasefire, despite repeated violations by the separatists--violations that took the lives of Ukrainian soldiers and personnel.

Moreover, time and again, Russia has refused to take the concrete steps necessary to deescalate the situation.


JAY: Here's a quote from John McCain responding to the events in Ukraine. And if people remember, in his bid to be president 2008, perhaps his most important foreign policy plank of John McCain was Russia and was going to be the main focus of U.S. foreign policy, contention with Russia, containment of Russia. Here's what McCain said. So he outlined a number of steps the United States should take. "First," he said, "give the Ukrainians weapons to defend themselves and regain their territory." He said all this on Fox News. He continued, "Second of all, move some of our troops into areas that are being threatened by Vladimir Putin, other countries like the Baltics and others. Move missile defense into the places where we got out of, like the Czech Republic and Poland and other places. And impose the harshest possible sanctions on Vladimir Putin and Russia. That's just for openers", said McCain.

So, Larry, what do you make of the American response to all of this?

WILKERSON: I don't know what the response is going to be ultimately. The response so far, I think, has been fairly cool, calm, and calculated.

JAY: You're talking about the official response from Obama.

WILKERSON: Yes, yes. I don't count John McCain as anything other than a raving maniac anymore. Listening to him makes me understand viscerally and deeply and profoundly what's wrong with the U.S. Congress.

JAY: The response of Obama, though, essentially is saying this is Russia's fault. Russia, Putin replied or responded by saying this is the Ukrainian government's fault. Essentially I don't think from what I saw of Putin--he's not denying that it might be Russian separatists that fired the missile, but he's saying they're in that situation of firing missiles because Ukraine, the Ukrainian government, stepped up their campaign against the separatists. What do you make of this back-and-fourth?

WILKERSON: I think it's typical of what happens when great powers contend with one another over a middling power or lesser power's territory. I think it's everybody's fault. It's particularly an egregious case of lack of responsibility of the ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization, who should have put out notice to airmen and other precautionary notices about flying in this area. It's not like this is the first plane that's been shot down at some altitude. A transport was shot down, I think, at something like 6,000 meters. That's pretty high. That means an SA-11 or even better. So I think the first blame here goes to the organization that's supposed to keep civilian airliners out of conflict zones like this. And then the rest of the blame, the ultimate blame, the fundamental blame goes to all parties--the United States, Ukraine, the Russians--for not coming to some kind of negotiated political solution to what is a cancerous problem right there in the heart of what we used to call in the old days the continental landmass that's so important to the rest of the world.

JAY: Now, the response from a lot of leaders around the world and a lot of the press around the world, it's not all that far from McCain's outrage. They're not, perhaps, calling for such aggressive measures against Russia as McCain is, but clearly if this is what they're describing as pro-Russian separatists--I'm not even sure that's the right label for them, but at any rate, if it turns out it is them, I don't think anyone would suggest they would deliberately target a passenger aircraft. The American Navy, I believe it was, shot down an Iranian aircraft in 1988 that killed almost exactly the same member number of people--298 people were killed. And that was not described in the West as an act of terrorism, while this one is.

WILKERSON: Yes, we're probably, possibly, the biggest hypocrites on the face of the earth. In 1988, after we'd taken Iraq's side almost wholesalely in the Persian Gulf in a very brutal and bloody war between Iraq and Iran--a war, I might add, Iraq started, then sends an Aegis cruiser on patrol in the Gulf, and having come under some fire, as I recall, immediately prior to the shoot-down, had a few seconds to react [at the] combat center and reacted and shot down an Iranian Airbus and killed--my recollection was 290 people. And that act caused Ayatollah Khomeini to, as he said himself later, throw in the towel and agree to a ceasefire and end that brutal war, which had, I think, gone on for about eight years at that point. So the United States wastes no opportunity to be hypocritical.

JAY: Now, the critique of the Russians in this specifically about this event is why are they giving such missiles to the separatists and why are they getting so involved in militarily supporting them. What do you make of that critique?

WILKERSON: I think it's a sound critique as far as it goes. I suspect that with John McCain ranting and raving, and others like him who are not quite as outspoken as he, that we're probably doing similar things and are planning on doing more, just as we've done in other places around the world.

So what we need to do, Putin, the European Union, and United States, and Ukrainians of any type, separatist or in the East, West, Crimea, Odessa, or wherever, is stop this business of killing one another and seek a political solution to the problem. I've said before, we need to have a neutral Ukraine, neither aligned with Russian nor the United States nor the European Union, a Ukraine that nonetheless is helped by all three to become more stable, politically and economically, and a Ukraine that is not coveted by anyone.

Now, the proximity of Ukraine to Russia certainly means that its relationship with Russia is going to be a lot closer and more intimate than it is, possibly, with others, particularly that portion in Ukraine that is Russian. And a lot of Russian military industry is in Ukraine. You can't tell Putin that he can't have that industry. It would take years to relocate that industry into Russia proper. So there are all sorts of complexities here that need to be taken care of. But they can be taken care of if people will quit fighting.

JAY: Now, you describe McCain as a madman, but to what extent does he represent a significant opinion in the professional foreign-policy or, perhaps more so, the military-industrial complex? He seemed to have a fair amount of support. As I say, when he ran in 2008, he was gung ho about this contention with Russia. A lot of people want this new Cold War.

WILKERSON: I don't think a lot of people do. I think a certain number of people do. And you named some of them--Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Grumman, and others who sell weapons and want to sell more. McCain is--while I might call him a madman--and lately, lately John McCain looks just like that--he's--nonetheless comes from the warp and woof of this country. He comes from the very fabric of this country. Go back and look at the Mexican War, which Lincoln decried from the House of Representatives and the president and others were screaming for because they wanted to extend slavery and Texas promised to be a slave territory. Go back and look at the Spanish-American war, when the Hearst press, the yellow press, so-called, was screaming and yelling about Spain and about the need for the United States to do what it needed to do in Cuba and the Philippines. Go back and look at those times and you'll find lots of John McCains around those times. That's not to excuse them or to say they're right; that's to condemn them, in my mind, and say they're wrong. But they're there, and they're very American in that sense.

JAY: So, Larry, how dangerous a moment is this?

WILKERSON: It's a dangerous moment, Paul. I won't equivocate on that, especially if we let the John McCains rule our minds. Then we begin to think that we have to, say, arm the other side, as it were, equal to what Putin's doing with the separatists.

But I think cooler heads will prevail here--I hope they will. And I hope we'll investigate this, we'll find out who did it. Blame will be assigned accordingly. And it's an accident. I hope then the ICAO will put out the necessary /ˈnoʊtəmz/. This is a very--I understand, very heavily traveled route. We'll get the civilian airliners away until we've got a political solution on the ground, and we won't have any more shot-down and innocently killed people.

It is a dangerous moment, but it's not one that can't be handled it cooler heads prevail. And I think I've seen of late with regard to these kind of things that the White House has a pretty cool head. I hope that is sustainable.

JAY: Alright. Thanks for joining us, Larry.

WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at


Latest Stories

Wilkerson: The Hypocrisy of U.S. Syria Policy (2/2)
Richard Nixon, Ted Cruz and the Abuse of Power
A Sea of Blood - John Kiriakou on Reality Asserts Itself (6/10)
Behind the Music with TRNN's Stephen Janis
The Blind Spots in Alberta's Climate Change Plan
Vulture Capitalists Are the Real Winners of Argentina's Elections
Why Didn't Bush/Cheney Prevent 9/11? - John Kiriakou on Reality Asserts Itself (5/10)
Eddie Conway Talks Indigenous People's Day and Political Prisoners
Indigenous Peoples' History is More Complicated Than a Holiday Myth
The Iraqi Pissing Match - John Kiriakou on RAI (4/10)
Turkey's Intentions Behind the Downing of a Russian Jet
Policing on Trial as Freddie Gray Case Set to Begin
Is America Powerless to Stop Pfizer Merger?
The Unbreakable Spirit of Gilmor Homes
My Reports on 1995 Human Rights Abuses in Bahrain Ignored by State Department - John Kiriakou on Reality Asserts Itself (3/10)
Wilkerson: The Hypocrisy of U.S. Syria Policy (1/2)
"Being a Founding White Father Ain't What It Used To Be:" Student Protests on College Campuses
Days of Revolt: Militarizing Education
Historic Win for the Right in Argentina's National Election
How I Joined the CIA - John Kiriakou on Reality Asserts Itself (2/10)
Sanders Defines his Social Democracy
MD Among Lowest Number of Hate Crimes in the Nation
Report: The Population of Women in Prison Has Tripled Since the '90s
Native American Genocide & Survival with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
History Will Judge America on Syrian Refugee Crisis As "Shameful"
I Believed America Could Do No Wrong - John Kiriakou, Former CIA Official, on Reality Asserts Itself (1/10)
N Don't Stop - Brook Park + TBB on Rooftop Live
The Black Panthers: A Revolution In Review
What's Fueling Boko Haram Attacks in Nigeria?
Is Obama Walking Into COP21 With An Empty Hand?, Real News Network, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of IWT.TV inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and Real News Network.

All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network. Click here for more

Problems with this site? Please let us know

Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting