COMMENT Let me paint a provocative scenario for you - it was the Americans who shot down Flight MH17. This was a false-flag operation authorised by President Barack Obama. He did so through a clandestine order, and he kept all knowledge of it hidden from Congress.
In Washington itself, fewer than 10 people knew about this plan, and all these individuals were firmly ensconced inside Obama’s inner circle. There would be no whistleblowers; no leaks; no mistakes.
The timing for this false-flag op couldn’t be better. Obama had just visited Malaysia a couple of months back, and he had created a lot of positive buzz in the country. Who would ever suspect his true intentions? Certainly not the Malaysians who had lapped up his ‘hope and change’ rhetoric like eager beavers.
President Obama also had another good thing going - American legislation meant that the Central Intelligence Agency was answerable directly to him. This gave him the authority to bypass all the usual channels, and he could launch this op under the pretext of plausible deniability. Very good.
The paramilitary unit that Obama decided to turn to is known as the CIA’s Ground branch. They are a subsection of Special Activities Division. This is the very same outfit that tracked Osama bin Laden down in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Highly trained and highly motivated, they would do their president’s bidding without question. A handpicked team was dispatched to Ukraine without preamble.
Obama suffered sleepless nights in the lead-up to the op. What if it was discovered? What would his legacy be? Might he be labelled a war criminal?
Breezing into hostile territory
As it turned out, all that anxiety was premature. On that fateful Thursday, carrying out the actual op itself proved to be surprisingly easy. Ground Branch operators fluent in Russian commandeered a BUK missile launcher from the Ukrainians. They also dressed themselves in pro-Putin uniforms, complete with the requisite insignia.
Then they casually drove their way into Russian-controlled territory, smoothly talking their way through checkpoint after checkpoint. False paperwork with false signatures were provided.
More than once, the Americans encountered GRU operatives. These were elite Russian spooks that had been sent by Moscow to support the separatists in Eastern Ukraine. They were trained in the black arts of counterintelligence.
However, for some reason, the GRU operatives were off their game that day. Their operatives failed to see through the Americans’ conceit. Nor did they question why a BUK launcher was being driven into rebel-controlled territory from the loyalist side.
But no matter. The Americans praised God for this stroke of good luck and carried on with the operation. Soon enough, they took up position in an open field just as Flight MH17 was flying overhead. Through an encrypted wireless transmission, Obama got in touch with the leader of the Ground Branch team.
After a moment’s hesitation, the president personally gave the order to execute. A single missile was launched. Flight MH17 was blown clear out of the sky, and as bodies and fragments rained down across the landscape, the Americans quickly disengaged and drove off.
Somehow, amidst the chaos and confusion, the separatists and their GRU handlers failed to detect that a BUK launcher was now threading its way back into loyalist territory. Despite the presence of numerous checkpoints, once again, the GRU - so famed for their iron discipline and superhuman powers of perception - missed the opportunity to intercept the American perpetrators.
Yes, they were really, really off their game that day.
Later that day, with the BUK launcher firmly back on friendly territory, the Ground Branch began dismantling and destroying the hardware. They would be no proof. No blowback. All the world would know from this point on was that it was the Russians who had committed the atrocity. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Well, how likely is this scenario?
CIA omnipotence a myth
I asked a fellow author who had once served as a case officer with the CIA’s National Clandestine Service. His response was to throw his head back and laugh.
He had very few good things to say about his former employer. The Agency, he observed, was a bumbling and incompetent organisation that got lucky from time to time.
The tracking down and killing of Osama bin Laden was a prime example of this. For the most part, though, the Agency is hampered by human frailty and bureaucratic stupidity.
Like any office, Agency employees love to gossip about the most petty of things. Whisper that a colleague is a transsexual, and before long, the whole office knows about it. Give it a bit more time and even family and friends on the outside will come to hear about the rumour.
For that reason, it’s next to impossible to maintain a secret. A leak will happen, sooner or later,
Operationally, my friend also gave me a very public example of how the CIA has failed to live up to its image. In 2010, despite all the rumblings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, the eruption of the Arab Spring caught their case officers and analysts by total surprise.
They were genuinely blindsided by the event, and when American-backed dictators were toppled one after the other, the Agency was left scrambling to salvage the situation. Certainly not a good look for intelligence organisation that enjoys billions of dollars in funding.
The myth of CIA omnipotence and supremacy, it would seem, is just that - a myth. For many in the developing world, the CIA has become the convenient bogeyman for everything they hate about America.
The torture that was undertaken at CIA black sites under the Bush administration solidified this perception. And, now, the CIA drone-strike programme under the Obama administration has only served to perpetuate it.
America, just like any other superpower, is guilty of misusing its authority and shedding innocent blood. But, frankly, whether you believe MH17 was a false-flag operation or not depends largely on whether you also believe that 9/11 was an inside job.
JOHN LING is a Malaysian author based in New Zealand. You can find out more about him and his work at johnling.net.