By John Helmer, Moscow
Optimists believe that in time the truth always wins out. Skeptics believe men and women are liars by nature, so machines are necessary to catch them out. Pessimists believe that by the time that happens it will be too late to make a practical difference. Politics, the pessimists add, is about gain, not about truth. So is journalism.
Here are two stories about the difference between Australia and Canada in the way in which lying by ministers of state has been caught out recently on the subject of the civil war in Ukraine. Australia and Canada are former British colonies, whose head of state is still the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. They are also parliamentary democracies, and members of US treaty alliances which encourage them to fight in US wars in exchange for US protection if they are attacked. That’s the political practice, if not quite the truth.
The Australian story is of the way in which the government in Canberra conceals from voters the truth about an incident in Ukraine over which Australia’s prime minister planned to send troops to fight on the Russian border. The incident occurred on July 17, 2014. It was the destruction of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, and the deaths of all 298 people on board; 38 of them Australian. For details of the secret Australian plan to go to war, read this , first reported in July 2016.
Last week it was revealed in Canberra that the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister have acknowledged between themselves, and in an exchange of classified communications, that the MH17 incident was not (repeat not) the Russian crime, or the crime of President Vladimir Putin, which it is Australian policy to declare in public – in the United Nations, in the local courts, and most often in the Australian media. For details of the new story, click to read .
In other words, Attorney-General George Brandis (below, left) and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (lead image, left; below, right) are lying on a matter of life and death to their citizens, and of strategic security for their state.
The lie is being repeated by the Australian media. They include not only the state and commercial mainstream media, the latter dominated by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. All the alternative media, social media, and universities, think-tanks and non-government organizations which supply them with newsfeed are doing the same. The blackout of the truth is so total in Australia, not a word that the blackout is in force has been reported either.
The only mainstream media report of the Australian government’s reaction to the MH17 incident, when it happened, was published on September 19, 2014. This was a story, leaked by insiders, of how none of the intelligence, military and political bureaucrats could agree with each on who should decide what to do. That meant they couldn’t agree on whether, as then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott wanted and initially decided, a brigade of Australian troops should be sent to fight in Ukraine, alongside Dutch ground troops and NATO and US air support. “There was no bureaucratic system for co-ordinating the response to such an emergency. The PM, his staff and ministers had to make decisions with little or no bureaucratic guidance.”
This leak, two months after the MH17 incident, came a month after the troop  intervention plan had been kyboshed at NATO headquarters. The leak was a form of bureaucratic in-fighting after details of the secret war scheme had been discussed and stopped. The reporter, a well-known parliament lobby journalist named Laurie Oakes (right), hadn’t the faintest idea of the truth he was helping to conceal. Nor did Oakes prove curious in time.
The only report Brandis has made to parliament on the MH17 incident dates from October 2015.
Brandis had been attorney-general for just a month. He was asked what the Australian Government assessment was of the MH17 incident following the release of the report by the Dutch Safety Board. (DSB). Brandis’s answer was carefully worded. The DSB had carried out “a meticulous forensic investigation, and Australia has been closely involved in that investigation through the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. The final report sets out compelling evidence indicating the type of missile and the launch site of the missile which brought down MH17. Its findings are based on a forensic technical analysis of all of the available evidence. It does not attribute responsibility for the incident.”
Brandis also acknowledged he and the Dutch were still working on the evidence. “The separate criminal investigation—as opposed to the forensic investigation I have just spoken of—is facilitated through the joint investigation team by a joint arrangement signed by Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine… The investigation is being coordinated by the Dutch  prosecution service. The focus of the joint investigation team [JIT] is to ensure that the investigation is thorough and robust. On 20 August I met with the Dutch Prosecutor General, Mr [Herman] Bolhaar [right], when he and officials from the Dutch police and prosecution office came to Canberra to discuss investigations with the government and the Australian Federal Police, and I took the opportunity to assure them of the Australian government’s full cooperation in the investigation.”
Brandis added an innuendo. “We are deeply disappointed that Russia used its power as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to veto the draft resolution [on the establishment of an ad hoc international criminal tribunal to prosecute crimes connected with the shooting down of MH17]. Those responsible for crimes connected with the shooting down of MH17 will not, however, be able to hide behind the Russian veto.” Brandis meant this to sound to parliament as if the Russian government was hiding its culpability in the MH17 incident.
The truth, revealed last week in Brandis’s papers, is that Brandis and Prime Minister Turnbull have been hiding what they, not Russian government officials, know about the incident. A source in Canberra close to these papers emerged following the release of this report last week. The source identified himself as privy to the classified intelligence on MH17 in the days and weeks which followed the incident. The source was also privy to the discussion in the National Security Committee of Cabinet (NSC), the topmost decision-making body in Australia for Ukraine and Russia.
According to the new disclosures, the Australian Government believed in 2014 — and Brandis and Turnbull believe still — that in the daylight hours before MH17 was shot down, Ukrainian Government military forces were using the overflight of civilian airlines in eastern Ukraine as shadow and shield for attacks against ground targets in the belief the separatist forces would not return fire for fear of hitting the civilian airliners.
Army Colonel-General Victor Muzhenko (left) has been Chief of the Ukrainian General Staff since July 3, 2014. Two weeks later he was in command when MH17 was shot down. The Ukrainian Air Force commander that day was Lieutenant-General Serhiy Drozdov (right), a career pilot of fighter-bombers. Drozdov was removed from his post after the incident, then reinstated six months later. No explanation for Drozdov’s removal has been published. He was formally appointed Air Force commander in July 2015.
The source has also revealed it was the Australian Government’s conclusion that the Kiev regime did not close the airspace in the Donbass region to civilian air traffic above the war zone because of the operational advantage Malaysian Airlines transit gave to Ukrainian Air Force operations. The Australian officials recognize this calculation to be a violation of the Geneva Conventions on war crimes. The source is sure the intelligence leading to this finding was American, so the implication is that the US Government also shares the Australian finding – in secret.
The Australian officials concluded — the source has reported — that what had happened to MH17 was an unintentional accident on the part of those who fired the BUK missile. Without intention, there was no crime on the part of those on the ground, whoever they were — if they were the Novorussian separatists, or a regular Ukrainian Army missile battery, or a unit of the irregular forces paid by Igor Kolomoisky and others.
On the other hand, the provable crime in the Australian intelligence papers was that of the Ukrainian government officials responsible for using MH17 as a human shield. On July 17, 2014, the chain of Ukrainian command and legal responsibility started with Drozdov and Muzhenko; and above them, Defense Minister Colonel-General Valeriy Heletey (below, left). Heletey was removed from office on October 14, three months after the MH17 incident, and sent to the State Security Service, a bodyguard unit. Above Heletey, there was President Petro Poroshenko (right).
The two parts to the Australian government truth – the accidental destruction of MH17, the intentional use of MH17 as a military shield — can be verified in Australian government papers. For more on human shielding in civil law, counter-targeting in military parlance, read this . Not a word, however, nor a suspicion has appeared in the Australian media so far.
Look carefully at the most recent report of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in which Brandis and the Dutch Attorney-General and Chief Prosecutor, Herman Bolhaar, command their national representatives; for details of the September 28, 2016, release and press conference, read this . Re-reading with hindsight, it can be seen that the Dutch are also concealing the human shield evidence.
At the end of last September this is how the JIT summed up  its findings. “The scenario that flight MH17 was shot down by a military aircraft was explored and discounted on the basis of radar data, witness testimonies and forensic research. The JIT has obtained sufficient radar data, both from Russia and Ukraine, which – when viewed in conjunction – provide a full picture of the airspace over eastern Ukraine. This shows that at the time of the crash, no other airplanes were in the vicinity that could have shot down flight MH17. The Russian Federation mentioned last week that they have found ‘new’ primary radar images. Based on those images the Russian Federation concludes also that there was no second airplane that could have shot down MH17.”
Re-read the phrases: “no other airplanes in the vicinity that could have shot down MH17”; “no second airplane that could have shot down MH17”. This is a finding by the governments of Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Malaysia and the Ukraine. But it is ambiguous, blank, on the crucial point – were there Ukrainian Air Force planes in the air at the time armed with ground-attack weapons? Was an air-defence missile battery unit on the ground likely to suspect a bomb attack from the air during the last crucial minutes of MH17’s transit?
The more detail the JIT findings  spell out, the more obviously the JIT report avoids answering these questions. Instead, in its most exhaustive assessment of the evidence, the JIT avoids what the Australian Government already has concluded: “In the investigation so far, we have come to the conclusion that we can also rule out the air-to-air scenario. What follows is the explanation about how we reached that conclusion. If flight MH17 would have been shot down by another airplane, this plane would have been shown on the radar images. There has been quite some discussion about the radar data. The JIT has acquired sufficient and crucial radar images. These images were made available to the JIT by both Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Recently, through intensive investigation, the JIT found another video file containing relevant primary radar data of the area which had been recorded by a mobile radar in Ukraine. At the time, this radar was used to test new software. Although it had a limited range, it still detected flight MH17 and this completes the image further.”
“As far as we are concerned, the discussion about the radar images can be concluded. Today we wish to emphasize that the material that we now have is more than sufficient to draw conclusions in the criminal investigation. For building up a solid criminal file, it will not be necessary to gather more evidentiary material. In addition to the radar images that we have, witnesses have been heard, such as the air traffic controllers who were working at that time; the JIT has an audio file of the conversations between the Ukrainian air traffic controllers and the airplanes that passed through the Ukrainian airspace on 17 July 2014, including flight MH17.”
“All these data together provide a sufficiently complete picture of the air traffic in the direct vicinity of flight MH17 and based on this picture the JIT concludes that there was no other aircraft flying in the vicinity of flight MH17 that could have shot it down. This conclusion in itself can already rule out that scenario. The Russian Federation mentioned last week that they have found ‘new’ primary radar images. Based on those images even the Russian Federation concludes that there was no second airplane that could have shot down MH17.”
Repetition of the same phrases doesn’t make a lie; it does contrive to camouflage the truth. That’s the truth the Australian government is holding in secret, and no public medium or press organ in the country will report.
The Canadian story of the lie of state about the Ukraine war is different in two ways. The first difference is that the liar, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, arranged with a reporter and the management of the Toronto Globe and Mail to plant the lie in a press conference. The second difference is that half the Canadian press, including a fraction of the mainstream media and most of the alt-media, not only didn’t believe Freeland’s lie. They have started investigating and publishing the truth.
For the story of Freeland’s campaign to defend her Ukraine policy, and for links to the mainstream media reporters defending her, click to open here .
The campaign started at a press conference called by Freeland on March 6, in the lobby of the House of Commons in Ottawa. The purpose of the presser was to explain the official extension for another two years of Canada’s Operation UNIFIER. That’s the code name for what the Defence Ministry in Ottawa calls  “military training and capacity-building assistance to Ukrainian Forces personnel in support of Ukraine’s efforts to maintain sovereignty, security, and stability.”
At the question-and-answer exchanges on March 6, Freeland did all the talking. The Globe and Mail report of what was said, written by Robert Fife, the newspaper’s Ottawa bureau chief, ignored the defence minister entirely.
Above is a picture of the two ministers, as Freeland addresses a question from a reporter to her right, who is invisible to the camera. Sajjan (circle-1) is on Freeland’s left, his mouth shut. At the rear of the picture, in the centre of the row of reporters, the only male among them is Fife (circle-2). In front of Freeland, on the podium but screened from the reporters present, Freeland’s briefing book is visible (circle-3). The camera has picked up several script lines which Freeland and her staff had decided in advance that she would answer when asked.
Below is the moment after Fife had asked Freeland his question, according to the newspaper version. He is tilting his head leftwards, parallel with Freeland’s tilt, and he has extended his arm with his recorder towards her as she answers. As she does so, Freeland looks directly at Fife. The state radio tape of what Freeland said can be listened to here  in the first 34 seconds.
Another version  from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reveals exactly what Fife asked Freeland: “The Russians don’t like you. They’ve banned you from the country. Recently, there has been a series of articles about you and your maternal grandparents making accusations that he was a Nazi collaborator in pro-Russian websites. I’d like to get your view on do you see this as a disinformation campaign by the Russians to try to smear you and discredit you? Which they have to have a tendency to have done.”
This transcript, along with the Huffington Post Canada version , reveal more than the state radio excerpt aired later. “Let me start, Rob,” Freeland began with a personal note, “by saying that I don’t think all Russians dislike me. I have many close and good Russian friends and I very much enjoyed living and working in Moscow as a foreign correspondent.”
At Fife’s prompting, Freeland was avoiding the question. Instead, she started her claim that reports of her lying about her family and her policy in Ukraine are part of Russian efforts “to destabilize” the US and Canadian political systems. “I am confident”, Freeland declared, “in our country’s democracy, and I am confident that we can stand up to and see through those efforts.”
Freeland’s claim has triggered a great deal of standing up to and seeing through, though this was not quite the democracy she was confident Fife and the Globe and Mail would reflect. Instead, a succession of stories in the Canadian press has intensified investigation of what Freeland’s family did during World War II; what Freeland has known about the war record; and what she, her family and their Ukrainian associates all stand for now, as the Canadians renew Operation UNIFIER and the Ukrainian civil war enters its third year.
The Canadian media investigations also reveal that it was Freeland herself who arranged for Fife to ask the question, for which her answer was already typed out in front of her. Is it true that Fife and his newspaper agreed to play Freeland’s patsy? Fife was asked by email:
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Fife and the Globe’s editor-in-chief David Walmsley aren’t able to black out reporting of what has happened. They are Canadian, not Australian. But they refuse to answer questions about their role.