'Tis the season for media list-mania, and (true confession) I always am mildly surprised upon viewing Top-10 story lists to find that I've forgotten some humdingers. Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011?
OK, I didn't really forget the Associated Press' top story of the year, but somehow it receded rapidly into the past, possibly because bin Laden's death barely dents our future. A world without Osama bin Laden is a better place; the jihad, however, continues.
In fact, given a tally of my own columns, jihad is the top story of 2011, just as it has been since at least 2001. Not that the media see it that way, of course; they see the spread of Islam's law and call it "diversity" in the West or "Arab Spring" in the Middle East. They are blind to its implications, they apologize for its depredations, and, in general, they commit professional malfeasance by misrepresenting the facts. Then again, at least they cover it.
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The same isn't true for the following story, which I submit is the great unsolved mystery of 2011. What really happened in the forest at Smolensk, Russia, when a Polish aircraft carrying Poland's national leadership crashed in April 2010, killing all 96 people on board, including Poland's president and first lady?
The answers Russia presented in its 2011 crash report are wholly unsatisfactory. Indeed, the Moscow-controlled crash investigation seems to have been designed to suppress or tamper with evidence to exonerate Russia of all responsibility for an accident, or any guilt for a crime. Like a tired rerun of an old horror movie, the Russian pattern of investigation into the 2010 Smolensk crash is the Russian pattern of investigation into the 1940 Katyn Forest massacre.
It's hard to overstate the significance of that fateful flight by those Polish leaders, now deceased. They lost their lives trying to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Katyn, the mass murder of 22,000 Polish officers and intelligentsia killed by Stalin in 1940 to make way for a pro-Soviet, communist Poland. After Nazi German troops discovered their graves in 1943, Stalin denied responsibility for this crime against humanity. Roosevelt and Churchill let him, thus joining in a Big Lie; Stalin's successors lied about it until Boris Yeltsin came along in 1995. The 2010 anniversary was to be a public, ceremonial Russian admission of guilt. That those who cared so much about Katyn were killed – and quite possibly assassinated – nearby is one of history's darkest ironies.
The Russians assert that Polish pilot error, supposedly induced by pressure to land from the Polish president himself, caused the crash. Poles, particularly those associated with the late president's conservative Law and Justice Party, see something far more sinister. In this worst-case scenario, Russian air controllers incorrectly informed Polish pilots they were on the proper glide path when that wasn't true. On purpose? If so, the world has witnessed mass assassination of a government. And done nothing.
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I don't claim to judge the evidence. But it's clear an impartial investigation is warranted, due to a Moscow-run investigative process marked by irregularities. These include the red flag that Russia has refused to return the black boxes of the Polish plane to Poland. Other irregularities, as summarized in a November 2011 Polish document known as the Smolensk Status Report, include the fact that crash evidence was crudely destroyed (including by bulldozers), tampered with and lied about. (Russian investigators claimed no radar video recording existed, for example, but then cited it in the crash report.) The document notes that some Russian pathological reports on victims included descriptions of organs that had been surgically removed before the crash.
A glaring discrepancy concerns the cockpit voice recording (CVR). To prove the pilots were under third-party pressure to land, the Russians reported that a Polish crew member twice says "he will go crazy" if the plane doesn't land. Both the Polish Investigation Committee and the Polish Prosecutor's Office publicly contended that no such statement was made and that the Russians altered the CVR to create the statement.
In 1952, Congress investigated the Katyn Forest massacre and proved Soviet guilt; in 2010 and 2011, there were calls in Congress for an independent investigation into the Smolensk crash. Such an investigation is urgently required in 2012, and not only to solve the mystery of a vexing crash. We must find out whether the West has once again been party to a Big Lie out of Moscow.