The likely destruction on Flight MH17 by military surface to air missiles has several precedents including one in 1988, when a US navy cruiser accidentally shot down an Iranian airliner carrying 290 people, killing all of them. As western pressure goes on Russia to establish the extent of its liability for the recent tragedy the US in particular may wish to reflect on how it reacted in 1988. The captain and crew of the USS Vincennes were unbelievably decorated with combat action medals even though they were completely at fault and George Bush Sr, who was then Vice President, infamously said a month after the event;
I will never apologize for the United States — I don’t care what the facts are… I’m not an apologize-for-America kind of guy.
The US magazine Newsweek (now defunct) was hardly a bastion on anti-american journalism but in 1992 published a damning article of the cover up surrounding the incident, Sea of Lies
The destruction Iran Air Flight 655 was an appalling human tragedy. It damaged America’s world standing. It almost surely caused Iran to delay the release of the American hostages in Lebanon. It may have given the mullahs a motive for revenge and provoked Tehran into playing a role in the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103. For the navy, it was a professional disgrace. The navy’s most expensive surface warship, designed to track and shoot down as many as 200 incoming missiles at once, had blown apart an innocent civilian airliner in its first time in combat. What’s more, NEWSWEEK has learned , the Vincennes was inside Iranian territorial waters a the time of the shoot-down – in clear violation of international law. The top Pentagon brass understood from the beginning that if the whole truth about the Vincennes came out, it would means months of humiliating headlines. So the U.S. Navy did what all navies do after terrible blunders at sea: it told lies and handed out medals.
It may well turn out that Russia was involved in either the training and supply of the SA 11 missile system that appears to have bought down MH17 to pro Russian militia; or perhaps been directly involved with its own personnel. Russia has shot down civilian airliners before on purpose – KAL 007 in 1983 with the loss of 269 lives; and earlier KAL 902 in 1978. But if this proves to be the case treat any US indignation and hyperbole with the cynicism it deserves. In such tragic circumstances, with the Machiavellian geo politics involved, all major powers deserve contempt and skepticism.