Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saint Ronnie and airliner conspiracy theories

The Daily Show
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I hope that embedding this Jon Stewart video does not cause any technical problems. If it does, I'll have to delete it.

Stewart's bit is funny, but he doesn't go far enough. Today's conservatives pretend that Ronald Reagan could do no wrong -- but at the time, many on the right were infuriated by his response to the 1983 downing of KAL 007. I distinctly recall one conservative pundit (damn, who was that guy?) who hopped onto Ted Koppel's program and screamed that even Jimmy Carter was tougher on the Soviets.

To protest the invasion of Afghanistan, Carter had instituted the boycott of the 1980 Olympics in the USSR. In response to the Korean airliner shootdown, a number of conservatives wanted Reagan to cancel the 1984 Olympics in California. Reagan, a critic of the 1980 boycott, refused to do this. (Nevertheless, the Soviets decided to sit out the 1984 Olympics to protest America's wave of anti-Soviet hysteria.)

Now we have neo-neocons calling to move the World Cup from Russia. The people who like this idea also revere Ronald Reagan, although their hallucinated version of Ronald Reagan usually bears little resemblance to the actual man. There they go again!

Let's consider other parallels.

Why did KAL 007 deviate from its course? No one knows -- at least, not with absolute certainty -- hence, the many alternative theories of the incident. Remember, this event took place in 1983 -- before Alex Jones, before Bill Cooper, before David Icke, before "conspiracy culture" became so popular and so outlandish. In those days (believe it or not), many writers proffering non-mainstream scenarios felt obliged to produce actual evidence and a reasoned argument. They were also more likely to have noteworthy resumes and reputable publishers.

One such writer was Oxford professor R.W. Johnson, whose 1986 book Shootdown: The Verdict on KAL 007 intrigued me at the time. (Having lost my copy years ago, I'm not sure how I would feel about his work nowadays.) Paul Foote's contemporaneous review, originally published in the London Review of Books, is partially online. In essence, Johnson argued that the airliner deliberately "tickled" the Russian radars to light them up, making them easily locatable by spy agencies. This was (and, I presume, still is) a task normally performed by military aircraft. Johnson argued that special circumstances made it advisable to have a civilian craft do the job.

Some years later, French aviation expert Michel Brun came out with a book titled Incident at Sakhalin, which argues that the airliner was shot down an hour later than generally supposed.
The book does far more, by showing that as KAL 007 approached the Russian Island of Sakhalin, so too did a number of US military and reconnaissance aircraft in an ill-conceived 'black' provocation operation that turned into a two-hour battle in which 30 or more US Air Force and Navy personnel were killed and 10 or more US aircraft were shot down.
Further, the most plausible narrative for KAL 007 going off course—though it never crossed Soviet or Sakhalin airspace— that morning is it was cooperating in the black op, causing a reconnaissance plane to be mistaken for a civilian airliner in the mix of military aircraft, thus making the Soviets think twice about risking attacks on the jets that had invaded its airspace.
A long time ago, I went through Brun's book. As I recall, his evidence for a different location and time seemed genuinely interesting; alas, the rest of his work kind of fell apart.

Wikipedia has a page devoted to alternative theories of the KAL 007 incident. If you hit the link, you'll see that the scenarios have ranged from the more-or-less reasonable to the absurd. In fact, some are so absurd as to be infuriating -- for example, I think we can safely dismiss the notion that the passengers landed safely and were sent to prison camps, and I definitely am not inclined to accept the report that the bodies were all eaten by giant crabs. (Yes. Giant crabs.) Nevertheless, among the handful of people still paying attention to KAL 007, the "safe landing" and "giant crab" theories are probably better-known than is Johnson's hypothesis.

Well, that's how it always is with conspiracy theories, isn't it? Goofball ideas discredit legitimate investigations. During World War II, it was said that the truth was so precious it must be protected by a bodyguard of lies. Today, every inquiry into a politically-resonant conundrum must be surrounded by a bodyguard of silliness. In the year 2030, the few people still talking about MH17 will be debating whether the craft was destroyed by winged creatures from the Inner Earth.

Or maybe they'll be talking about this guy's scenario. He thinks that MH17 is (or was) MH370!
There are no winged creatures from the Inner Earth. True, in Sir Edward Bullwer-Lytton's class "Vril: The Power of the Coming Race" the beings seem to be winged, but those wings are actually mechanical contrivances and serve no aerodynamic purpose. I'm not aware of any other reports of Inner Earth denizens of a winged nature. Not enough room to flap, one imagines.

Now dragons, those are a different matter, and are sometimes referred to as having wings, but they live in barrows and abandoned churches rather than the Inner Earth. Actually, maybe I've heard accounts of feathered Nagas in the Lesser Shambhala, but feathered isn't necessarily winged.
My belief is that 007 was being shadowed by military planes to trigger response from Soviet radar etc.
While it's true Congressman Larry McDonald - head of the John Birch Society - was on the plane, another claim is that Richard Nixon got off the plane in Anchorage knowing the flight was at risk.
Stephen, you've obviously never watched the movie, "Rodan".
One hot summer afternoon in suburban Philadelphia a large shadow interrupted a pickup game of baseball on a green suburban lawn. The shadow broke the concentration of a group of young boys engaged their favorite pastime, and they looked up to up to see a giant white four-engined airliner with large, clear, red letters on the wings that read CCCP.

I was one of those boys, and later that evening I sat in front of a black and white television set as a deep baritone voice announced that a Soviet airliner on its maiden voyage to the Philadelphia Airport had diverged from the normal route to overfly a local Nike missile base and parts of the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

All of the major powers have used, and continue to use civilian aircraft as pawns in their spy games. They have since the dawn of aviation, and they will continue as long as their citizens continue to accept the plausible deniability built into these operations.
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