L. Neil Smith's

Number 11, August 1996

Bringing the War Back Home?

By Vin Suprynowicz

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

         Writing on the Internet for the Conservative Consensus ("Each month our journal covers more than 100 news events ... that have been spiked, suppressed or ignored by the government-sourced mainline media"), retired science writer Charles Harnett asked on July 23: "Was TWA 800 hit by a Stinger?"
         The Tucson-manufactured Hughes Missile shoulder-launched heat-seeker was provided in large numbers in the 1980s to guerrillas in Afghanistan, of course, where they accounted for the unscheduled termination of the flights of some 270 Soviet helicopters and fixed-wing craft. Nor have CIA attempts to buy back the surplus met with much success.
         Five feet long and weighing only 23 pounds, some of the surplus may have been sold to China, Mr. Harnett reports, which has since been producing cheap but highly effective "knock-offs" for the international terrorist trade.
         Is there any evidence that the jumbo Boeing 747 lost shortly after takeoff from New York's JFK on July 17 was shot down by a tiny Stinger-type missile, Mr. Harnett asks. "Only two days after the crash, and before any appreciable amount of wreckage has been found, the answer is a definite YES."
         Reuters quoted a pilot flying minutes later over the spot where the TWA flight exploded, noting "Smoke from the explosion was below him at his altitude of 7,500 feet." That would put the ill-fated craft well within the Stinger's (four-kilometer) range.
         What about eyewitnesses?
         Here, Harnett's scenario finds some unexpected support.
         "One, a lady on Long Island, was standing outdoors when she heard a loud explosion, then looked up to see a ball of fire coming down. A former National Transportation Safety Board official was quick to dismiss her account (and that of most eyewitnesses, whom he dismissed as generally unreliable) by saying that it would have taken several seconds _after_ the appearance of the fireball for the explosion to be heard, citing the flash of lightning always being followed, not preceded by a clap of thunder. However, if the explosion she heard was actually the sonic boom of a Stinger approaching the jetliner (the Stinger is supersonic, traveling up to Mach 2) then her account would be right on the mark."
         A second witness, a male fisherman, specifically said he heard a "sonic boom" just before looking up to see the fireball descending with a corkscrew motion.
         ABC News on Friday evening, July 19, quoted "government sources" for a report the explosion may have been sabotage or the result of a hit by a "small missile." Again quoting unnamed sources, ABC reported "infrared imagery from an orbiting satellite may have detected a missile fired at the aircraft," Harnett reports.
         I can confirm from personal observation Mr. Harnett's further report that "A brief (and unrepeated) report on CNN spoke of a radar operator who was tracking the 747 seeing what appeared to be another but much smaller blip, circling the airliner just prior to the explosion. This could be precisely what a radar operator would see on his scope when a Stinger missile homes in on an airplane. CNN dutifully stated that the report was dismissed by authorities as an 'anomaly'."
         I remember the disclaimer being even fiercer, with the FBI (brought in immediately for the first time in history, to do a job the various civilian aviation agencies are far better qualified for) announcing that a SAM missile had been "definitely ruled out."
         But how could anything be definitely ruled out, before even 1 percent of the wreckage had been recovered?
         Why would terrorists choose a Paris-bound civilian passenger plane for their first Stinger assault?
         Who says it's the first? If the Stinger scenario were acknowledged, wouldn't that reopen inquiries into the recent Valujet crash in Florida, ... Ron Brown's crash in Bosnia, ... even a long-ago crash near Gander, Newfoundland of a plane carrying a highly-secret U.S. military special operations unit?
         In fact, the editors of the Conservative Consensus -- after responsibly acknowledging that Mr. Harnett had no access to any of the physical evidence - "caution subscribers ... that even if authorities were to conclude that a surface-to-air missile destroyed TWA Flight 800, they would be unlikely to release such a conclusion to the American public. The implications for air travel in the U.S. and the Dow Jones Transportation Index are among the more obvious considerations. ... The implications for U.S. foreign policy are immense."
         Yes, foreign policy. The first president, in a farewell address which American schoolchildren used to learn by heart, warned of the dangers of "entangling foreign alliances."
         Our federal masters would insist our foreign policy "must not be held for ransom," and will doubtless stress instead the need for every air passenger to submit to subcutaneous microchip ID insertion and random full body cavity searches.
         But in fact (with the disclaimer that I don't endorse blowing up airplanes full of non-combatants, which I believe we still call "murder,") what are we doing, propping up a privileged medieval monarchy in Saudi Arabia, making the same smug mistake we made with the Shah of Iran, still buying the promise of any tin-pot dictator with a big hat and a torture chamber that he can guarantee us "stability" ... when in fact tyranny is nothing but history's best guarantee of instability?
         Trust me, the Arabs will continue to pump and sell their oil to the highest bidder, no matter what gang of religious nuts they choose to govern them. Keep using American arms to impose unpopular, tyrannical government on such folks, and if Flight 800 didn't fall to a Stinger ... it's only a matter of time.
         To subscribe electronically to the Conservative Consensus, with which I have no affiliation, contact ccnrs@eskimo.com, or jinks@u.washington.edu. The electronic magazine's web site is at http://www.eskimo.com/~ccnrs/news.html.

Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.

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