Disgraceful but unsurprising double standards

There has been a huge outpouring of outrage aimed at the Belarusian government for forcing down a Ryanair plane that was flying over its airspace in order to arrest a dissident journalist Roman Protasevich.

The 26-year-old dissident was traveling on Ryanair flight 4978 from Athens, Greece to Vilnius, Lithuania on Sunday when shortly before touchdown the plane was diverted by Belarusian air traffic control to the capital Minsk over a supposed security alert.

Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary accused Belarus of “state-sponsored piracy,” telling Ireland’s Newstalk radio Monday that he believed Belarusian KGB agents were also on the flight that was carrying 26-year-old Protasevich, who is wanted in Belarus on a variety of charges.

The European Union has issued strong statements and is calling for all manner of sanctions to be imposed on Belarus which has been ruled for 26 years by an autocrat Alexander Lukashenko. The Biden administration has also weighed in, condemning the action.

The White House on Monday condemned Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko after a flight heading to Lithuania was diverted to Belarus, where an opposition activist was arrested. 

“We condemn the Lukashenko regime’s ongoing harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists simply for doing their job,” press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement read during a White House briefing.

“This was a shocking act, diverting a flight between two EU member states for the apparent purpose of arresting a journalist,” she continued. “It constitutes a brazen affront to international freedom and peace and security by the regime. We demand an immediate, international, transparent and credible investigation of this incident.”

Psaki said the Biden administration has been in touch with partners in the region, as well as groups like NATO, the European Union and the United Nations about potential next steps.

The forcing down of a plane in order to capture someone is undoubtedly a terrible act that deserves the label of piracy and merits punishment.

But didn’t we see something even worse before back in 2013? That was when the Austrian government forced down a plane carrying the president of Bolivia Evo Morales because they thought that Edward Snowden might be on it.

Bolivia reacted with fury after a plane carrying the country’s president home from Russia was diverted to Vienna amid suspicions that it was carrying the surveillance whistleblower, Edward Snowden.

France and Portugal were accused of withdrawing permission for the plane, carrying the president, Evo Morales, from energy talks in Moscow, to pass through their airspace.

In a midnight press conference, Bolivian vice-president Alvaro Garcia said Italy and Spain had also denied the plane permission to fly through their airspace. He described Morales as being “kidnapped by imperialism” in Europe.

“The ambassador for Spain in Austria has just informed us that there is no authorisation to fly over Spanish territory and that at 9am Wednesday they would be in contact with us again,” defence minister Ruben Saavedra said. The Spanish government had made “revision of the presidential plane” a condition of granting it passage, he said.

Saavedra, who was on the flight, said: “This is a hostile act by the United States state department which has used various European governments.”

Morales finally left Vienna at around 11.30am local time on Wednesday, after spending 12 hours at the airport.

As John Pilger writes:

The forcing down of Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane – denied airspace by France, Spain and Portugal, followed by his 14-hour confinement while Austrian officials demanded to “inspect” his aircraft for the “fugitive” Edward Snowden – was an act of air piracy and state terrorism. It was a metaphor for the gangsterism that now rules the world and the cowardice and hypocrisy of bystanders who dare not speak its name.

That act of piracy was by countries friendly to, and at the behest of, the US, when Barack Obama was president and Biden was vice-president, so for Biden to now wax indignant at Belarus is yet another example of the blatant hypocrisy and double standards that western governments apply and their media indulge by not raising the issue. When the US commits such crimes, it and its accomplices are never accused of piracy. So naturally, that disgraceful episode has been sent down the memory hole and is not even mentioned by many of the people now indignantly denouncing Belarus for this act of piracy.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    Pilger’s right, but after reading anything by him, I feel I have to check elsewhere. This is someone who has called Putin a champion of antifascism, said that Brexit was “an act of raw democracy”, among many other stupid things. Loathing of many Western (read US, EU) policies is certainly justified, but Pilger goes the extra mile to excuse, or simply deny, equally loathsome behaviour if it comes from enemies of the West.

  2. Tired South American says

    Honestly, I don’t think it matters if it’s a double standard or a hypocrisy. If it’s true that the action is bad, it’s true regardless of who says so.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    At least Lukashenko didn’t go full US Navy and shoot down the whole airliner full of passengers.

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    Pierce R. Butler @3:

    At least Lukashenko didn’t go full US Navy…

    Or full Iranian Revolutionary Guard, or full pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    Rob Grigjanis @ # 4 -- Lukashenko’s a real wimp-piker, indeed. So why are all those fussy Belarussians making so much noise?

  6. mnb0 says

    “yet another example of the blatant hypocrisy and double standards that western governments apply”
    Indeed, because about all European countries are equally hypocrite.
    I’m surprised that you think “the president of Bolivia” needs to be italized. Apparently you think that makes the Austrian case worse (what else would), ie you think (some) authorities deserve special treatment and privilege as if they are morally superior.

    @2 TSA: I think Snowden will disagree with “I don’t think it matters if it’s a double standard or a hypocrisy.”

  7. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    “That was when the Austrian government forced down a plane…”
    IIRC, the plane needed to be refueled before crossing the Atlantic. It landed in neutral Austria because the NATO countries refused passage.

    There have been rumours that the fake tip about Snowden being onboard was a practical joke, arranged by Julian Assange.

  8. says

    At least they didn’t stalk him for years like they did Assange. Oh, that wasn’t third world dictators, it was the US lapdogs formerly known as the British Empire? Its cool that they do that then. Or they didn’t have another country’s SWAT team arrest an internet scammer (Kim Dotcom) at the behest of Hollywood lawyers. And there was Snowden.

    It makes me wish that some nation would force down AF1 to put the president on trial for war crimes. Except a lot of people would die pointlessly. You know, like all the victims of US presidents died -- pointlessly.

  9. says

    Or full Iranian Revolutionary Guard, or full pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine.

    The captain of the Vincennes was awarded a medal for that service. USA! USA!

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    Marcus @9: The arse-covering by the navy doesn’t surprise me. It’s no consolation to the families of the dead, but at least there were multiple exposes of Rogers’ lethal fuckup, including a possibly unprecedented condemnation by the captain of another US ship that was at the scene.

  11. says

    Assange was an actual criminal, tho…

    Oh really? What was his crime and in what court was it adjudicated? Did I miss an important trial?

  12. Pierce R. Butler says

    Marcus Ranum @ # 12: What was his crime …

    Doing everything within his power to get Trump™ elected in 2016.

    Ain’t no statute of limitations for that.

  13. bmiller says

    Well…there was a…convenient…charge of sex crimes? Now…I know we can’t dismiss accusations, and I know the statistics. But there were hinky aspects to the case and Marcus is right, he was never convicted of anything or even, I understand tried.

    Pierce does have a point. But I doubt the Trump electorate was really persuaded by Julian Assange except in a few marginal cases. I find left wing Trumpalos like the commentariate at Naked Capitalism more disturbing. (Despite the excellent work often done there, I have kinda given up on the site. There is also a good dose of ant-vaxxer nonsense that is disturbing as well).

  14. Pierce R. Butler says

    bmiller @ # 14: … I doubt the Trump electorate was really persuaded by Julian Assange except in a few marginal cases.

    Quite so -- but just how could we measure the effect of large, timely, continuing additions to the mountain of anti-Clinton smears?

  15. bmiller says

    15. We can’t. You are right, of course. But one cannot deny that Hillary Clinton had serious problems. Her strong support for the Peace Prize President’s “Amazing Libyan Adventure” (she was the main advocate, I understand) alone seems to call into question her fitness for the job. Hence…Left wing Trumpalos a la Naked Capitalism.

  16. Rob Grigjanis says

    bmiller @16: I don’t know how people get the idea that Clinton was the driving force behind Libyan intervention. The French, the Arab League, NATO, the Brits, all played arguably bigger roles. And it was a response to an imminent threat to many Libyans from Gaddafi’s forces. Should they have just let Gaddafi carry on?

  17. bmiller says

    The imminent threat was somewhat cooked up. And the attack ignored the Hippocratic Oath “First Do No Harm”. I am almost universally skeptical that colonialist invasions lead to better results.

    Remember the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

    But yes, our glorious allies led the way into creating the hell zone that is modern Libya.

    States engage in all kinds of horrors against their own citizens. Your “Cruise Missile Liberal” prescription seems to mandate never-ending interventions from countries that know better. American police kill hundreds of unarmed citizens each year. Should we ask the European Union to occupy Minneapolis or Vallejo?

  18. Rob Grigjanis says

    bmiller @18:

    The imminent threat was somewhat cooked up.

    So Chris McGreal was making shit up? Citations please.

    I’m not a “Cruise Missile Liberal”. If I were, I’d be just as dogmatic a dolt as any “Never Intervene Liberal”. I sometimes think they must have taken this idea from Star Trek TNG’s sociopathic Prime Directive. Sometimes intervention is called for, especially when large numbers of citizens are pleading for it.

    Should we ask the European Union to occupy Minneapolis or Vallejo?

    The US is a lost cause.

  19. Pierce R. Butler says

    bmiller @ # 16: … one cannot deny that Hillary Clinton had serious problems.

    I howled or muttered, according to venue, about Clinton & Libya all through 2011-2016 -- but in November I inked in the bubble by her name anyway.

    Please don’t pretend that Assange had any motivations of any Higher Good® (beyond boosting his own grandiosity as a Major Player, and whatever other incentives Putin’s people may have dangled) by piling on on behalf of the greater evil. He may not have influenced a lot of Trump™ voters, but he did a lot to discourage Democratic turnout -- exactly in line with Republican-Russian strategy.

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