THE BLOG
07/28/2014 04:03 pm ET Updated Sep 26, 2014

Barbarians at the Site

Once the bodies of Malaysian Flight 17 arrived at Kharkiv into the hands of the Ukrainian government, they began to be treated with the respect and solemnity due them -- whether by Ukrainian troops at the starting point before they were ferried by Dutch and Australian planes to the destination point in The Netherlands, or by Dutch uniformed personnel, and the king and queen and government personalities before they were driven away in hearses.

The contrast with the treatment of the victims by the rebels at the crash site was palpable: restricting the access, firing guns into the air to prove a point, and looting bodies in some cases, the followers of the so-called Donetsk Peoples Republic in southeastern Ukraine did nothing but heap shame on themselves and indirectly, on their Russian sponsors.

The Russians, far from coming clean about the incident and the fact that it was likely their-supplied SA-11 missile that brought down the Malaysian passenger jet, instead resorted to the Big Lie reminiscent of Soviet times. According to The Wall Street Journal of July 22, the Russian Air Force Chief Igor Makushev stated that a Ukrainian fighter jet was near the Malaysian plane at the time to the incident and could have shot it down (despite the fact that evidence at the crash site showed that the plane had been hit by a surface-to-air missile.)

The Malaysian air tragedy recalls a similar accidental incident: the shootdown of Iran Air 655 by a missile from the USS Vincennes, in which all 290 persons aboard were killed. The U.S. did not formally apologize to Iran but came to terms with Iran before the International Court of Justice eight years later, in 1996, with the following statement: "the U.S. recognized the aerial incident of 3 July 1988 as a terrible human tragedy and expressed deep regret over the loss of lives caused by the incident". While not admitting legal liability, the U.S. agreed to pay 61.8 million dollars, which amounted to $213,105.45 per passenger.