Iran initially claimed engine failure caused the deaths of 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three British citizens, and three Germans on Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752. Within days, the regime admitted the missile launch that downed the Boeing 737-800. How this could have been accidental, as the regime also claimed, remained unclear, but on the blame side prominent Democrats were locked in.
California Rep. Jackie Speier called it “collateral damage from the actions that have been taken in a provocative way by the president of the United States.” For Democrat presidential contender Tulsi Gabbard, it was a consequence of “this escalation and this state of war that we are in,” and “a responsibility of the present commander-in-chief.” This recalls a similar response to another airliner shootdown.
On September 1, 1983, Korean Air Lines Flight 007 departed New York for Seoul, Korea. After a stop in Anchorage, Alaska, the Boeing 747 strayed into Soviet airspace over Sakhalin Island. The Soviets shot it down, killing 269 people, and one of 61 American victims was Rep. Lawrence McDonald, an anti-Communist Georgia Democrat.
Soviet Communist Party boss Yuri Andropov, a KGB man and hardline Stalinist, accused the United States of a “sophisticated provocation masterminded by the U.S. special services with the use of a South Korean plane.” U.S. Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry essentially recycled that charge.
The Massachusetts Democrats claimed that an FAA controller failed to tell the 007 pilot he was off course, implying deliberate deception. U.S. officials “destroyed records” and “tampered” with evidence, the Democrats charged, and one of the U.S. radar tracks “must be false.” At the time, Sen. Kennedy was offering to lend Andropov a hand in dealing with President Reagan. In return, the Soviet boss would help the Democrat challenge Reagan in the 1984 presidential election.
President Ronald Reagan called the attack a “massacre” and “crime against humanity” with “absolutely no justification, legal or moral.” That infuriated the American left, still smoldering from Reagan’s March 8, 1983 speech that proclaimed the USSR an “evil empire.” For the American left, the United states was the evil empire and the USSR a peaceful bastion of social justice.
At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick played a 10-minute recording of four Soviet pilots, including Gennadi Osipovich, who downed KAL 007, proclaiming “the target is destroyed.” The transcript played on a screen in Russian and English. “Quite simply,” Kirkpatrick told the Security Council, “it establishes that the Soviet decided to shoot down this civilian airliner, shot it down, murdering the 269 persons aboard, and lied about it.”
As she noted, KAL-007 had been in sight for more than 20 minutes, and the interceptor pilot saw the navigation lights. Osipovich made no attempt to communicate with the airliner or signal it to land, and referred only to the “target.” The shootdown, Kirkpatrick said, showed a “shocking disregard for human life and international norms.”
Even so, in 1984 The Nation published an early version of David Pearson’s KAL 007: the Cover-up charging a carefully planned intrusion into Soviet territory with full knowledge of the US military and intelligence agencies. The 1989 movie, Tailspin: Behind the Korean Airliner Tragedy, was less concerned with the Soviet atrocity than what the president of the United States said about it.
At the time, American leftists were convinced that the peaceful Soviet Union felt threatened by the West. For the left, the Soviet crackdowns in Poland and the invasion of Afghanistan were essentially defensive moves, justified in the face of American hostility. As Daniel Greenfield notes, these patterns emerge in POTUS 44’s statements with Iran.
Iranian aggression originates from “America’s support for the Shah,” not Islamic militancy. The United States needs sensitivity to the “defensive Iran that feels vulnerable,” and developing nuclear weapons because of American aggression. So when the Iranian regime shot down the Ukrainian passenger jet, the regime was responding to President Trump’s oppression, and American oppression of Iran going back to the seventies.
For Jackie Speier, Tulsi Gabbard and other Democrats the Iranian regime didn’t do anything on its own initiative. The deaths of 176 people were so much “collateral damage” from an “escalation” by the president of the United States, Donald Trump. This comes in an election year, and it’s worth recalling what Jeane Kirkpatrick said about the Democrats at the Republican national convention in August of 1984.
“They said that saving Grenada from terror and totalitarianism was the wrong thing to do. They didn’t blame Cuba or the communists for threatening American students and murdering Grenadians – they blamed the United States instead. But then, somehow, they always blame America first.
“When our Marines, sent to Lebanon on a multinational peacekeeping mission with the consent of the United States Congress, were murdered in their sleep, the ‘blame America first crowd’ didn’t blame the terrorists who murdered the Marines, they blamed the United States. But then, they always blame America first.
“When the Soviet Union walked out of arms control negotiations, and refused even to discuss the issues, the San Francisco Democrats didn’t blame Soviet intransigence. They blamed the United States. But then, they always blame America first.”