Something unprecedented is happening in Ukraine.
For decades the US and its proxies have committed war crimes with total impunity. They’ve trampled on just about every humanitarian convention there’s ever been, and the most they’ve had to fear is a Wikileaks-type exposé in a safely distant future.
|Still from Wikileaks' 'Collateral Murder' video|
Not in Ukraine. For the first time ever the world is seeing these crimes first hand and immediately – sometimes while they’re still happening. Poor villagers of Afghanistan and Iraq were unlikely to possess either mobile phone or camera, but Ukraine is a modern country with the advantages of Android and iPhones, video cameras and livestreaming. The US and Kiev can lie all they like, but it’s never going to work if there’s already a video online to show the truth.
Video is the liars’ worst enemy, and they fear it beyond anything else. That’s why they’re kidnapping, torturing, deporting and even murdering journalists. It’s why they’re kidnapping and intimidating citizens who dare to upload amateur footage of their crimes. It’s why the first thing they did in occupied Krasny Liman was confiscate laptops and mobile phones. They’ll stop at nothing to hide the truth.
Sometimes they fail. Sometimes a video makes it through to youtube, which is when the second line of defence springs hurriedly into action. We’re all familiar with the excuses employed for ‘yanking’ a video (especially the ‘disgusting content’ used to pull evidence of atrocities) but if something’s really dangerous we’re likely to win the jackpot with this little number:
'Newsmedia', of course, does not exist, but those of us who’ve been tracking US atrocities since Wikileaks will be very familiar with this Orwellian-sounding organization and have our own ideas who it really represents.
There’s a higher level still, which produces the weirdest and most surreal result of all.
I can’t verify this personally, but have been told by someone ‘in the business’ that this means the video removal was so urgent that youtube’s own procedure was bypassed in favour of deleting the offending item from the server itself. Probably paranoia, but look at the kind of material that receives this treatment, and see what you think for yourself.
But the system isn’t infallible, and material still slips through for long enough to impinge on public consciousness. When this happens Kiev has to fall back on Plan C, which is simply to discredit the material in any way it knows how.
And it certainly knows how. Their first and best weapon is similar to the one they use with pictures which is a fraudulent attempt to label genuine videos as ‘fake’. We saw this first with the utterly damning video from Kramatorsk in May, which showed Ukraine using helicopters with UN markings in order to pursue punitive assaults on so-called ‘pro-Russian’ rebels. This was shot by LifeNews reporters Oleg Sidyakin and Marat Saichenko, but RT also picked it up, adding the information that Ukraine had acquired UN markings on its helicopters during its tour of duty in the Congo in 2012.
Solid, you’d think – but not for the Disinformation Experts of US Kiev, who immediately used this comparison to ‘prove’ Russia was trying to pass off Congo footage as video from Ukraine.
It’s utterly ridiculous. There’s not a scrap of evidence to support the allegation, not a second of genuine Congo footage offered for comparison, nothing but the word of Kiev’s Minister of Defence. The best attempt to discredit the original was this hopeful tweet from the supposedly neutral Maxim Tucker of Amnesty International:
I’m no ornithologist, but this sounds like a perfectly normal European Dawn Chorus to me – complete with the unmissable call of the cuckoo (at 0.45 in the original). I’d also humbly suggest that climate, terrain, vegetation and architecture all look rather more like Ukraine than the Congo, but there’s another difference more important than any of these.
There’s plenty of footage out there of the UN mission to the Congo, and in every case the peacekeeping forces wear the regulation blue helmets, or at least the standard blue caps. In the Kramatorsk video the armed men wear only the camouflage uniform of the Ukrainian army – which is hardly surprising, since that’s exactly what they are.
A lie, and a stupid one – but dangerous all the same. The UN initially agreed that Ukraine would be guilty of a serious breach of regulations if the complaint were to be verified, but the ‘Congo lie’ changed everything. When Inner City Press next pushed for an answer the UN told them point-blank that the footage was not from Ukraine.
They seem quite sure. They even repeated it as flat fact in a statement from their own UN Human Rights Organization. Far be it from me to suggest an august body like the United Nations would act in slavish obedience to a directive from Washington, but they certainly seem to be placing an awful lot of faith in the unsupported word of Ukraine’s Minister of Defence.
Especially when the said Minister is lying through his teeth. Here’s Ukraine’s debunking video, and from 0.58 you’ll hear his statement in full.
He claims all ‘symbols of the United Nations were removed immediately after the helicopters returned from their tour of duty in Africa’. Really. Definitely. Back in 2012.
All right then – so what’s this?
Sorry, but this is NOT the Congo. This is Khersun on March 14th while the Crimean crisis was at its height, and those look very, very like the markings of a UN helicopter.
Ukraine (of course) would say this was a Russian helicopter. 14th March, if you remember, was the day Kiev claimed Russia invaded Ukraine over the Crimean border and seized a gas plant at Khersun - before being repelled by the gallant Ukrainian army.
Well. I wouldn't want to suggest the Kiev government are lying every time they open their mouths, but I rather think that if Russia had indeed invaded Ukraine back in March then we'd know about it by now and I would probably be typing this from a nuclear bunker. I'd also humbly point out that it isn't best practice for an invading force to park its helicopter in a field for local inhabitants to gawp at while the crew stroll away for a look at the scenery.
Not to mention the little fact that is is actually a Ukrainian helicopter. It’s a Mil Mi-24 Hind, to be precise, and exactly the model Ukraine used in the Congo.
In fairness to him, Turchynov has since admitted that many of these early invasion scares were exaggerations and even outright lies, and I'd guess that's what happened at Khersun in March. Kiev was told Russia was invading, scrambled their helicopters in a hurry, realized nothing was happening, then sheepishly flew home.
None of which excuses the story told by the Defence Minister in May. The UN markings were not removed, Kiev did go on using them, the Kramatorsk video is genuine, and once again the ‘government’ of Ukraine is caught in a direct lie.
And I think the UN know it. When composing this blog I was surprised by the number of 404 Error Messages I received from old links to Kiev's debunking (you'll find one if you click 'read more' in the Kyiv Post story above, for instance) and it really does seem as if someone somewhere has put the brakes on. More than that, an inforesist report from 27th May actually quotes RIA Novosti's claim that Ukraine has already admitted to the Kramatorsk offence on the grounds that it didn't have time to change the markings before having to deploy:
Maybe it's another 'Russian lie' - but you'll notice Kiev does not deny it. There's been some dealing behind the scenes and we may never know the truth, but I would guess that the possible repeat offence at Donetsk airport may have compelled the UN to demand an explanation and a promise not to do it again.
Maybe that's all there is to it, and mere case of incompetence really doesn't seem too important. But what it does show is just how far Kiev are prepared to go to cover their tracks - and the extent to which they can rely on the protection of powerful friends.
And the next time it was important. On the night of 11th June Slavyansk residents were woken by a new horror raining down in their midst – incendiary bombs that looked very like illegal white phosphorus.
Several locals took photographs, but it’s the pattern of fall that’s most characteristic, and it was the videos that were most damaging.
There were two of them. This was the first, and as it was taken from a distance the evidence seemed far from conclusive.
Minutes later this was uploaded, but if you follow the link I’m afraid you’ll only find something we’ve had cause to mention before. Still it didn’t matter, because LifeNews had already incorporated it into a full report, and NEF Acura had restored a copy of the original to Youtube.
Damning. You can see exactly how damning if you look at Twitter over this time period, where the usual Ukraine shills stop even attempting to debunk the evidence but fall back instead on the defensive line of ‘So what?’
Kiev weren’t so sanguine. Possibly they even had a lawyer sufficiently familiar with Article III of the CCWC to inform them that the use of incendiaries can never be justified against civilians in residential areas. Possibly they even realized that Ukraine is a ratified signatory to the treaty, and that a breach of this kind could cost them the international support of those countries in the EU who still have at least an outward pretence to morality.
Something had to be done, and the Fake Picture Scam had already laid the ground. Within minutes a commentator on LiveLeak’s release of the original footage was claiming it was from the 2004 US attack on Fallujah.
It isn’t. It clearly visually isn’t, but the lie is out there and in less than an hour the Twitter shills are changing tack.
Fallujah. It’s all about Fallujah, and if the Ukraine video is different then it’s easy enough to plant a Fallujah version which will fool people looking for the genuine footage. The two earliest 'plants' I had for this have both curiously vanished into the maw of youtube’s ‘This video is unavailable’, but by early on the morning of the 12th the job was done and a Fallujah video had been published by a recognized ‘pro-Russian’ source on Ukraine.
In come the scambusters. It didn’t matter that RT showed footage from both sources for the purposes of comparison, and was careful enough to keep the captions running all the way through the Iraq footage – the myth of the ‘Russian lie’ is so firmly implanted that people will take ‘Ukrainian lies’ all the way to the bank.
If you’re inclined to believe that lie yourself, I’d just ask this. If you wanted to fake video of an atrocity, would you do it just two hours after you were finally given genuine video of the real thing? Would you? Would anyone?
Kiev would, and for obvious reasons. By the afternoon of the 12th StopFake had picked up the story and the damage was done. No-one believed there was real footage of a war crime in Ukraine, and no-one even clicked on the links. Seen that, know that. Fake.
Nearly two months have passed since then, and the delay has blunted the impact for ever. We’re used to Grads now, don’t even blink at flechettes, cluster bombs or ballistic missiles, and the fact of incendiaries has simply seeped into public consciousness as something we vaguely remember hearing about. Russia's Ministry of Defence has just officially confirmed their use today, but even to those who didn't believe it the first time it feels like 'old news'.
It would have been very different in June. There was no MH17 to act as a smokescreen, Europe still pretended to some kind of morality and fairness, and if phosphorus use had been publicly exposed the UN would have been forced to condemn it. There would have been talks, maybe resolutions, and who knows how many lives might have been saved.
Which is why we need to keep fighting to get video material out there. Here are some of the most obvious things we can do, and I’d be very grateful to hear if anyone knows of any more:
- Upload material when most of North America is in bed – ie between 09.00 and 15.00 GMT. There are still caretakers, of course, but they’re fewer and slower and can let things slide for hours.
- Consider uploading also to Ru-tube and/or LiveLeak.
- When you’re uploaded, tweet the link immediately to RT and LiveNews. They’ll download quickly and the material is then largely untouchable.
- When we find a video of obvious importance, then download it immediately – BEFORE posting the link to Twitter or anywhere else Kiev will see it. Also be sure to take screenshots of key material, including the title and time of uploading.
- When we’re editing, be sure to smack huge captions over every frame of ‘comparison material’ so that no-one can mistake it for fakery. Forget subtlety – go for clarity every time.
- Don’t fall victim to fakes ourselves. Check the channel owner and the videos they’ve uploaded in the past. Search ‘Videos’ for whatever the subject is, eg ‘cluster bombs’, ‘UN helicopters’. A search for ‘white phosphorus’ would have brought up Fallujah at the top.
If it seems like too much trouble, we should remind ourselves what people have been through to bring us the material in the first place. Much of this footage could only have been taken at enormous risk to the cameraman, and many have already paid the price for it. We can only pray for the safety of local amateurs like ‘Streamer Vlad’, but we already know Oleg Sidyakin and Marat Saichenko were tortured for their role in the UN helicopter revelation, while Evgeny Davydov and Nikita Konashenkov of Zvedzda were tortured into ‘confessing’ they’d faked the coverage of white phosphorus.
Sometimes we’ll wonder if it’s all worth it. The UN doesn’t want to know, Amnesty doesn’t care, and no-one’s listening to the OSCE, so what on earth’s the point?
There are two. The first is that we’ll never know which could be the breakthrough image that will smash through the silence with the power of revelation. Official bodies may not care, but if we reach enough ordinary people with consciences then we can change the world.
And if we don’t? Then we keep on hoarding this stuff anyway. We save every picture, every scrap of footage, and keep it safely hidden until the day some kind of justice returns to the world, and we can put these people in the dock where they belong.