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If Putin Really Did Kill Litvinenko -- So What?

Why has all hell broken loose over Putin's alleged culpability?

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

World media headlines are railing against Putin's role in the death of Alexander Litvinenko. The reputed ex-spy died in 2006 amid allegations that Putin was behind Litvinenko's radioactive polonium poisoning.

Now the UK has made public its beliefs on how Litvinenko succumbed. They're presented in an extensive report that wrapped up an official inquiry into the nearly 10-year-old death case. That report has now prompted a media outburst with headlines such as:

"Putin named in Litvinenko murder inquiry" --Times (London)
"Litvinenko probably poisoned on Putin's orders, says judge" --Guardian
"Cameron calls Litvinenko murder state-sponsored" --Reuters

The preponderance of reporting deplores the notion that a head of state (Putin) would order the murder of someone (Litvinenko) on the sovereign territory of another country (UK). News stories are treating publication of the official report as an "aha moment" in the media indictment of Putin as a ruthless dictator, one who will stop at nothing.

But the proof of Russian involvement is not as ironclad as some suggest. There is considerable controversy over the UK report's credibility. (See Discredited Litvinenko Judge Sends Parliament Untrustworthy Verdict and Cameron Nixes Justice in Litvinenko Case

For the sake of critical examination, however, let's suspend reasonable doubts for the moment, and just presume that the UK report has merit.

So, what if Putin really did have Litvinenko killed. Indeed, so what?

Why is that story garnering so much media attention? This wouldn't be the first time a head of state ordered the destruction of a person located in another country. What about President George W. Bush's moves that resulted in the death of Saddam Hussein? What about President Barack Obama's hit that took out Osama bin Laden? And what about wannabe-president Hillary Clinton's claimed key role in eliminating Muammar Gaddafi?"

In these examples the deaths of targets in other countries have been generally regarded as victories. Some even believe that those who ordered the hits are heroes in their own country, the US. Bush, Obama, and Clinton are not universally regarded as ruthless despots, are they? At least in America they are not. Perhaps elsewhere they are.

So what we can conclude here is that how killing a political target is characterized depends largely on one's point of view.

Does that mean from a Kremlin point of view that Litvinenko's death was a victory? The discredited UK report attempts to make that case. It recites possible motives that Putin had. It relies, however, on hearsay evidence from people of questionable veracity. Their own words about the case shows up these people as individuals with an ax to grind against Putin, rather than reliable and honest sources. There's no solid evidence that Putin ever considered Litvinenko to be much of a menace. Really, none at all.

There's yet another wrinkle to the "so what" question over Litvinenko, however. The cited victims of Bush, Obama, and Clinton consisted of two heads of state, Hussein and Gaddafi, and the third, bin Laden, was the self-admitted leader behind the 9/11 attacks on America. It's easy to understand the newsworthiness of their deaths.

But who was Litvinenko? Basically, he was internationally an inconsequential nobody. I looked at Google Trends in the period from 2004 to the time of Litvinenko's death in 2006. It shows that he was a zero. Nobody was perceptibly interested in him.

But when Litvinenko died he became big news all around the globe. Doesn't that seem at least somewhat suspicious? How did his demise become such a big story?

I examined that question in my 2011 book The Phony Litvinenko Murder. Here's an excerpt from my conclusion in the book:

"When journalists go out on an assignment, one of the first things they ask themselves is 'what's the story here'? In other words, what is the most newsworthy angle. Then they look for what is reliably true and report on it. 

"Indeed, what's the story here? Is it the unverified rantings of an unknown and disaffected person [Litvinenko] who some say held a big-time grudge? That's not the real story here.

And besides, who knows if any of that is even true!

"But what about the tale of how those rantings became a top story around the world?

"Now, that's something. That's the story here. The story is the story.

"But no one covered it."

And still today, mainstream media have not covered that story. Instead they focus on a demonstrably fabricated version of the happenings that no one, and not even the highly touted UK official report, has been able to substantiate with any concrete and reliable evidence.

What's the reason behind that? How on earth did the little-known Litvinenko ever become a big story? And how did this nothing-of-a-story ever become the hot object of war-threatening tensions in today's world? How indeed!

I think it's high time that some mainstream media organization investigate what's behind this. That UK inquiry report is just sheer nonsense. It perpetuates fabricated allegations concocted in 2006 by Boris Berezovsky, an arch-enemy of Putin's. Check it out. The report's content doesn't deserve headlines. It isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

This whole Putin-did-it story doesn't hold up to scrutiny. I don't know whether or not Putin is really culpable. But it is clear that those who have implicated him are resorting to fabrication and deception.

What's behind that, I wonder. Given the history of state prompted assassinations in the world, what difference on god's green earth does it really make whether Putin was or was not involved this one?

There's got to be something else afoot here.

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