Friday, July 17, 2015


I've been dreading this day for a year now: the first anniversary of when flight MH17 was shot down by thugs in eastern Ukraine with a Buk on loan from the Russian military. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

A year and a day ago–on July 16th–I flew home from Europe via Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. On my first morning back in Texas, I was lying on the sofa catching up with my Twitter feed. I had come to rely on Twitter as the most useful news source months before when the Russian military began to invade and occupy Ukraine.

Most of the typical news sources were still referring to a fantastical place called "the Ukraine," so I instead found trusted journalists on Twitter who were in the region who actually knew what was going on or what had been going on since "the Ukraine" existed (1991). In fact, such frustration and utter exasperation with the press had prompted me to register for a course in journalism held in Prague that summer so that I would be in an even better position to get accurate information about Central and Eastern Europe, so that I could contribute to the dissemination of accurate information about the region. I was returning, via Schiphol, from a month of intensive training in journalism in Berlin and Prague.

On the sofa in the early morning haze of my first day of jet lag reading Twitter when one of the journalists in eastern Ukraine writes, Oh god… He quotes some thug bragging about shooting down a plane. Then minutes later: a missing passenger plane that was flying over eastern Ukraine. The events unfolded in real time in my timeline. There was–and still is–no doubt about who shot down that plane.

From several trips to Europe, I know Schiphol quite well. I know, for example, that if my layover is tediously long, I can get to the city center in less than 30 minutes by train. Or that I can buy a day pass at the hotel gym in order to use their exercise equipment and showers. I've done both multiple times. I know where to buy good coffee, a decent vegetarian meal, duty-free chocolates as gifts. I had spent a few hours there just the day before. A year-and-a-day ago now. Less than twenty-four hours before 298 passengers and crew boarded MH17 flying in the opposite direction. We ate at the same cafés, ordered from the same surly clerks, pissed in the same urinals.

But this isn't about my empathy, my sympathy, the sheer horror I still feel about their senseless deaths. It is about the lack of values, ethics, and human decency, the lack of political and diplomatic will to punish the assholes who did this. The long line of assholes that stretch all the way to Putin himself.

Let's be clear: the deaths of these 298 people lie squarely on Putin's shoulders. Any other explanation or conspiracy theory is propaganda, a provocation, a distraction. A lie.

For years, the Putin Doctrine has been to disrupt the region by infringing on the sovereignty of several nearby countries, most notably Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. And now for the past several months Russia has ramped up its own belligerence toward NATO and Western and Central Europe: kidnapping an Estonian policeman, sending its submarines to enter Swedish waters, countless military flyovers in European, Canadian, and even American (Alaskan) airspace, cyberattacks, etc. As far as Putin is concerned, in his decrepit, morally-bankrupt mind we are already fighting Cold War II. Except this war is unusually one-sided.

Writing this, I know, sets me up for various online attacks by assholes, both paid and voluntary. Russia's army of trolls is well documented, and I've had my run-ins with them before. That doesn't matter. What matters is that all tyrants will die and all terrorists–even state terrorists such as Putin–will perish.

To my Ukrainian friends and readers: You have my undying support as you work to make a viable democracy despite having your country hacked away by the thugs of a tyrant. Путін - хуйло! Крим наш!

Remember the people whose lives were snuffed out by state-sponsored terrorism a year ago. May the living live to see their murderers brought to justice. May their families know peace.

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