March 9th, 2014

Malaysian air crash: terrorism or something else?

My best guess at this point is terrorism as the cause of the Malaysian air crash.

Terrorism would seem an odd choice for a Malaysian flight traveling between Malaysia and China. But China was the seat of a recent terrorist attack in a train station. Although it was a low-tech one in terms of weapons—knives—it killed a lot of people, and the suspected perpetrators were a separatist group in China who happen to be Muslims. Malaysia, of course, is a predominantly Muslim country, although certainly not one that’s usually a seat of terrorism (although see this).

Facts that argue for terrorism as the most likely or at least a strongly possible cause are: the catastrophic and sudden nature of the catastrophe, and the time and place (while cruising, and over the water—bombs are often timed to go off over water, if possible). The fact that two passengers were traveling on passports stolen in Thailand may be an entirely unrelated glitch but adds to the sense of suspicious doings, and recent reports are that the tickets were purchased together, and there may have been other suspect passengers as well. If this is related to a terrorist attack, it would represent something new in air terrorism; stolen passports are not the usual m.o.. But terrorism keeps morphing in an attempt to keep ahead of security.

There’s also a report that the plane tried to turn back, but it hasn’t been confirmed, and it’s not clear that that would be related to terrorism, anyway. Could indicate some sort of perceived trouble by the pilots, although the fact that they did not contact the ground argues against it. The type of plane involved has been an unusually safe one, the weather was excellent, and the pilot a trusted veteran. The disturbing possibility of purposeful pilot involvement cannot be ruled out, of course, but that’s not my leading theory at the moment.

I find forums such as this one (supposedly composed of professional pilots) to be a fount of speculation that contains interesting technical information on situations such as this one.

My guess is that the plane’s wreckage will be found, the suspect passengers will be identified (50/50 on whether they were involved), and some but not all of the mystery will be solved over a period that may take years. The answer, however, will probably be terrorism.

RIP, all souls on board.

[ADDENDUM: More here.]

27 Responses to “Malaysian air crash: terrorism or something else?”

  1. Alix Says:

    But if this was terrorism why is no group claiming responsibility? What is the point of terrorism if it is not acknowledged? That is always my question when people think that TWA 800 was terrorism.

  2. Brian Swisher Says:

    For me, with the information we currently have, I’d have to go with either pilot error or mechanical failure. The stolen EU passports are at the Ian Fleming “Coincidence” level of alert.

  3. neo-neocon Says:


    The point of terrorism is manifold. First of all, fear. The terrorists know that people will suspect terrorism, and that sows fear. In addition, the resources involved in investigating, especially over the ocean, are absolutely enormous. It ties up in the international security community and uses vast vast resources, including the search for the plane and all the painstaking piecing together. In recent years, it is not at all unusual for terrorists to not claim responsibility, but instead to watch the world scramble to solve the mystery, and to revel in the fear in the meantime.

  4. Alix Says:

    Neo -
    Thanks for the explanation — it makes sense to me now.

  5. Paul A'Barge Says:

    ruh roh:

    Why were 20 people who worked in Austin, Texas for the same company flying from Maylasia to China?

  6. RickZ Says:

    If this wasn’t muslim terrorism, why no mayday call from the cockpit?

  7. kit Says:

    I agree it is muslim terrorism. (that phrase is redundant.)

    Neo put it well. now they are reveling in watching the fearful world scramble to solve the mystery.

    And when they find out, will they broadcast the truth or protect Islam again.

  8. Cornhead Says:

    Probably the Religion of Peace at work again.

  9. Dale Light Says:

    Muslim terrorism is plausible. There has long been animosity between Malaysia’s Chinese minority and its Muslim majority. That being said, I would hesitate to jump to the conclusion that Muslim terrorists were involved. None of my Malaysian friends and relatives have advanced that position so far — only Americans. I will be spending several weeks in Malaysia this summer, and am not looking forward to the security checks.

  10. vanderleun Says:

    Indeed. Less information from the terrorist group leaves them free to strike again without undue heat on themselves or affiliated groups.

    It’s good to remember that China does not deal with terrorists with an orgy of due process and slow and steady confinement in a relatively nice prison.

    In China it’s one small bullet to your head and then they toss you in the organ harvesting van. Might do that before you are actually dead.

  11. Ymarsakar Says:

    A lot of the suicide terrorist cells operate independently, so when they all die, it’s not as if the central HQ knows what happened or why.

    These days, proclaiming a connection is enough for a foreign intelligence agency to go through the records and find out who knew what, then somebody ends up with a drone strike or JDAM on their heads.

    So even if they knew, they would not publicize it until they can reliably use another open source as evidence. Even if they suspected it was their cell, they would not broadcast it until other people come up with the connection themselves.

  12. Don Carlos Says:

    “It’s good to remember that China does not deal with terrorists with an orgy of due process and slow and steady confinement in a relatively nice prison.
    In China it’s one small bullet to your head and then they toss you in the organ harvesting van. Might do that before you are actually dead.”

    Oh gosh, we can’t do that, not even close. We would become just as mean and uncaring as the Chicomms are to NORK refugees. Eric Holder and the other firm Constitutionalists in the Administration will prevent our descent to such arbitrary metings out of justice, Allah willing.

  13. Charles Says:

    As a sad commentary on these “tough” times we live in; who wouldn’t be relieved if it turn out to NOT be a terrorist act, but simply mechanical or pilot error? (assuming, of course, that authorities are honest and not trying to cover up terrorism to avoid “panic”)

    That being said, I’d still place my bets on this being a terrorist attack. Malaysia or some other country’s airline, it doesn’t really matter, everyone is a soft target now.

    It is kind of like the anti-theft device on a car, just cause you have extra protection doesn’t mean the thieves won’t still a car, it just means that they will less likely to steal your car. They will go for the easier car to steal.

    So, too, terrorists will try to hit the easier targets.

  14. Conrad Says:

    IIRC, the Lockerbie bomb as SUPPOSED to go off over the ocean, so as to hamper the subsequent investigation. That the Malysia plane disappeared over water suggests the possibility that whoever was responsibility didn’t want to be found out — which would also explain the lack of a claim of credit. So if it was in fact a bomb, I would lean in favor of state involvement.

  15. Harry the "Extremist" Says:

    Yes, could be terrorism. Could be mechanical. A cargo door came off a 747 climbing out of Taiwan one time. The rapid decompression that followed was almost instantly catastrophic. No “May Day” was called out on that incident either.

  16. IGotBupkis, "Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses." Says:

    and the suspected perpetrators were a separatist group in China who happen to be Muslims.

    WOW. I am simply aghast that anyone of the Religion of Peace would consider EVER engaging in any sort of mass violence.

    Simply Astounding…

  17. rickl Says:

    I would say that the stolen passports are extremely suspicious. But the lack of a distress call doesn’t mean anything. There have been many cases of planes crashing when nobody on board suspected that anything was wrong. I’m thinking of that Air France plane that crashed in the Atlantic a few years ago. It was a mystery until the black boxes were found, and there was a lot of speculation about terrorism before then. It turned out to be a horrendous example of pilot error, exacerbated by the layout of the cockpit controls.

    Then there was the string of DeHavilland Comet crashes in the 1950s. The problem of metal fatigue wasn’t well-understood at the time. Those planes literally disintegrated in midair without warning.

    I read that this particular plane previously damaged a wingtip in a taxiing accident. A number of plane crashes have been traced back to faulty repair jobs.

    The Edmund Fitzgerald didn’t issue a distress call, either. Even a huge ship can suddenly go “poof” when something breaks.

  18. waitforit Says:

    Russia is involved, just like the Polish loss. Russia, always behind everything, the criminal state that needs permanent resistance and suppression. Romney well stated Russia’s permanent position of criminality. They have planted multiple Manchuria’s.

  19. waitforit Says:

    The waves come in, they roll ‘n brake.
    Each wave, if they make a statement.
    The power of the wave is shouted
    From lungs of people who have doubted.

    Tis has been and always will be; so
    Who feels the knee is on their lung?
    The power of reason the first to go.
    When mob knows feelings, wounded slung.

    Stand you Royals, stand you tall!
    Equipped you with the Understanding are
    Journal, Piper and almost every House
    That takes from others to feed its mouth.

  20. lacune Says:

    If the terrorists and/or their cell were based out of China, that may account for why we haven’t heard anyone take responsibility. Unlike the US and Europe, China doesn’t pussyfoot around when tracking down terror cells. They don’t have liberal-controlled governments that want to coddle and free any potential leads.

    My guess is that if the group responsible is in China, they want to make as sure as possible their position is secure and untraceable before making any claims.

  21. blert Says:

    Lest we all forget, the ORIGINAL plot to blow up airliners over the Pacific began its big co-ordination meeting in Malaysia.

    It’s been ground zero for airliner-bombs from the get-go.

    Of course, ground security would be performed by local Muslims. They own the blue collar end of the labor market there.

    IIRC, the Uighur’s of Xinjiang province that killed the Han Chinese at the train station were attempting to GO SOUTH TO MALAYSIA to hook up with their buddies.

    They couldn’t make it because of internal controls. Subsequently they decided to attack the Kunming train station.

    They had been in Internet contact, apparently.

    So, it’s not a wild guess to assume that this is a Muslim retaliation against China. The Ummah are taking a dim view of anti-Jihadi police enforcement.

  22. Director Mitch Says:

    > Why were 20 people who worked in Austin,
    > Texas for the same company flying from
    > Maylasia to China?

    The employees weren’t from Austin – they worked for a company based in Austin (formerly the semiconductor division of Motorola).

    More than likely they were factory workers from China doing training at an established Singapore plant (or they were connecting from the Philippines or somewhere else in SEA that has a factory). When a company sets up a new line they typically train the workers at an established plant to give them training and seasoning, especially those who are going to be supervisors. This isn’t unusual at all – I have seen it being done for over 20 years.

    So this has nothing to do with the downed plane, but just a back-story of some of the victims – most of whom probably thought the overseas training was something of an adventure and a sign their careers were getting a boost. Very sad.

  23. Oldflyer Says:

    Brian Swisher Says:
    March 9th, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    “For me, with the information we currently have, I’d have to go with either pilot error or mechanical failure. The stolen EU passports are at the Ian Fleming “Coincidence” level of alert.”

    Harry the “Extremist” Says:
    March 9th, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    “Yes, could be terrorism. Could be mechanical. A cargo door came off a 747 climbing out of Taiwan one time. The rapid decompression that followed was almost instantly catastrophic. No “May Day” was called out on that incident either.”

    First, Brian Swisher what possible evidence do you have that suggests pilot error? Or mechanical failure for that matter? Not many airplanes just fall from the sky from 37,000 ft. I trust you are not basing this on the much cited Air France accident, as there is no similarity to the weather conditions that existed at the onset of the event; nor are there any real similarities between the types of aircraft involved. There were unique characteristics associated with the other type.

    Second, Harry Extremist. I can find no reference to the accident you cite. I assume that you are not talking about United 811 out of Honolulu because that airplane landed safely–thanks to superb airmanship on the part of the Captain–even though several lives were lost when passengers were sucked from the cabin.

    Unfortunately, speculation becomes a national past time whenever these events occur. Also unfortunately, from my point of view, initial blame is usually aimed at the pilot(s); especially if they are dead. At the moment, there is not enough evidence in the public domain to cite any probable cause. My guts speculates criminal activity for a couple of reasons–none of them definitive.

  24. Richard Aubrey Says:

    There doesn’t seem to be any evidence ruling out terrorism, which would be handy. No calls from the pilot saying the engines all quit, nothing like that.
    Remember the Egyptair liner whose copilot put the nose straight down? I don’t know if that was considered terrorism. What if a pilot got the word that if he crashed a plane, no harm would come to his family?
    Twenty-plus years ago, a bunch of guys from the 101st Airborne were on a charter, returning from zookeeping duty in the Sinai. They were coming out of Gander, iirc, maybe Goose Bay. Crashed shortly after takeoff. I don’t recall the official report of the cause, but the result was that the plane simply ran into the ground, for whatever reason.
    Families fought the DoD for some time and got, among other things, heavily redacted medical reports showing smoke in the lungs of the dead guys, which doesn’t happen if the plane runs smack into the ground for some reason.
    If you didn’t mind reporting a fire on board for some unknown reason, these medical results wouldn’t have been a problem for the government.
    The paranoid–are you paranoid enough?–think the feds are covering up terrorism, for some reason.
    As it happens, the 101st being a band of brothers, like most military units, the unmarried guys on schedule for leave over Christmas deferred in favor of their married buddies.

    Going back a number of wars, there was a rumor about that LBJ knew how awful the VC/NVA were to the civilians they controlled but he pressured the media to downplay it so he could control the public pressure about the war more effectively.

    Are you paranoid enough?

  25. Matt_SE Says:

    I understand the tragedy associated with this event in terms of the individuals affected.

    But honestly, in terms of the global events now taking place, I find it hard to focus on this story. My general prediction:

    If the truth is ever known, it will show a pattern of bureaucratic ineptitude bordering on malfeasance. Nobody of any importance will pay a price.

    Hundreds of lives have been lost, but in comparison to the fates of nations, this is only a pinprick. The nations will move on as before.

  26. Ymarsakar Says:

    Nations are full of injustice. It is evil that moves them and evil requires sacrifices. These lives are merely the tip of the iceberg in the amount of blood power evil needs to run the injustice machine.

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