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​Russia should sue the United States for defamation of national character

Robert Bridge has worked as a journalist in Russia since 1998. Formerly the editor-in-chief of The Moscow News, Bridge is the author of the book, “Midnight in the American Empire.”

Published time: July 28, 2014 14:24
Courtesy of US State Department

Washington is leading a massive smear campaign in an effort to blame Russia for the downing of flight MH17 by firing off a tirade of unsubstantiated claims and outright lies. Moscow should seek legal recourse for slander in an international court of law.

The latest bombastic blast against Russia came on Sunday when US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, released via Twitter satellite images, dating between July 21 and July 25/26 allegedly “proving” that Russia fired rockets at Ukrainian troops across the border.

Many experts were immediately puzzled by the undiplomatic channels the US ambassador chose to divulge the information.

Paul Craig Roberts, head of the Institute for Political Economy told RT that he doubts the credibility of the photographs released by the State Department.

“I can state with complete confidence that information this important would not be released in this way,” Roberts said. “If this was released by the State Department, which I doubt, it is so unprofessional; it would mean that the State Department is trying to spread propaganda about Russia on social media.”

Such information would normally be released at a press conference, attended by a “high level of government officials addressing… the major news organizations,” while experts would be on hand to explain “the meaning of the photographs and their validity,” he added.

Courtesy of US State Department

The fact that such routine procedure was recklessly ignored points to desperation on the part of US officials, eager as they are to portray Russia as the villain in this made-for-Hollywood drama and ruin its international standing.

“The US government has been desperate to produce information to back up its claims. It would not release information in this way,” Roberts said, adding that anyone can spread information on social media.

Earlier, the Russian foreign ministry issued a strongly worded statement against the United States, in response to White House spokesman Josh Earnest's comments of "Russian complicity" in the downing of the flight.

Despite the profound gravity of the charges, however, Earnest said he could not provide the latest intelligence materials, nor speak for the US intelligence service. However, he claimed US authorities have proof that Russia fired “heavy weapons” at Kiev troops.

“According to some social media reports but also to some intelligence assessments that have been released by the intelligence community, reports that there has been firing of Russian heavy weapons from the Russian side of the border at Ukrainian military personnel,” the state department spokesperson said.

Moscow, responding as any government that has been accused of an act without a shred of incriminating evidence, called the allegations “blatant lies.”

"Judging by the relentless slander campaign against Russia organized by the American administration, they are being more and more guided by blatant lies when pursuing their foreign policy," the ministry said.

To further exacerbate the explosive atmosphere, the message out of Washington shows a strange disconnect between the intelligence agencies and the State Department, as if the two agencies are reading from different scripts.

Anonymous US officials have told the Associated Press that their intelligence suggests no direct link to Russia in the downing of the Malaysian aircraft, which has attracted emotional condemnation around the world.

Courtesy of US State Department

One official said that, regarding as to who precisely fired the missile, "we don't know a name, we don't know a rank and we're not even 100 percent sure of a nationality." The official added that "there is not going to be a Perry Mason moment here."

Is this yet another case of the US State Department ignoring credible intelligence that does not fit into its foreign policy agenda? If so, this would not be the first time the US has twisted the truth to achieve some destructive ends.

One need only recall the moment in early 2003, as the Bush White House was attempting to build a case for war against Iraq, when former Secretary of State Colin Powell shook a vial with white powder of imaginary anthrax during a UN meeting, suggesting the country was hoarding weapons of mass destruction.

The ploy had an effect on the international community, and several weeks later the US military was bombing Baghdad back to the Stone Age. Yet, as it turned out, not a single WMD was ever discovered. Meanwhile, the man who almost singlehandedly sold the war to the world on bad intelligence said his speech before the UN General Assembly has left a permanent “blot” on his record.

"I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world;" Powell told Barbara Walters of ABC News in a 2005 interview, adding that the presentation "will always be a part of my record."

US officials should keep Powell’s words in mind when they push a foreign policy agenda that is based on nothing more substantial than social media rumors and he-said, she-said evidence. Deploying a string of Twitter litter and Facebook folly cannot be considered professional diplomatic work. These are days that demand face-to-face statesmanship, not subversive work behind some social media front.

In the meantime, however, Moscow could set a new legal precedent by hauling the United States into the International Court of Justice for libel and slander against Russia, damaging its national character and potentially its economy over a string of unsubstantiated claims.

If it’s illegal to disparage the reputation of individual people, the same rules that work against libel and slander should apply to individual nations as well.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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