Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday December 18, 2020
Hold Iran accountable for Flight PS752
As this terrible year of COVID-19 lurches to a close, Canadians should remember another, entirely separate tragedy that started it off.
One hundred and seventy-six innocent people — most of them either Canadians or travelling to Canada — were slaughtered by the Iranian military on Jan. 8 when it blasted the civilian plane in which they were travelling out of the skies.
There has been no justice for the dead in the 12 months that have passed since then. There has been no justice for the families and friends they left behind. As for the duplicitous, obstructive Iranian regime that was behind this atrocity, it has refused to admit it is responsible or can be held accountable.
At the very least, the report by former federal cabinet minister Ralph Goodale that was filed with the Canadian government this week should remind everyone in this country of the crime that was committed against so many Canadians and people with ties to Canada. Goodale’s findings should convince us, too, that Canada must push relentlessly for justice.
When Iranian missiles downed Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 in the second week of January, the entire region was on high alert. Just four hours earlier, Iran had fired missiles at American military positions in Iraq in retaliation for the Jan. 4 American air strike that had killed a senior Iranian general.
In the midst of this ongoing conflict, Flight PS752 should never have been cleared for takeoff from the airport in Iran’s capital city of Tehran. But it was, and three minutes later, it was destroyed by two Iranian missiles. Every one of the 176 people aboard that plane died, and of those victims, 55 were Canadian citizens, 30 were permanent residents of Canada and 53 were not Canadians but travelling to this country, many as students.
For three days after the downing of Flight PS752, Iran’s authoritarian leaders denied Iran’s involvement in the disaster, suggesting mechanical failure was to blame. Then, when emerging evidence exposed the falsehood of their denials, they admitted their missiles had destroyed the plane but attributed it to a “human error” committed by a single, Iranian mobile air defence operator. After that, it took the Iranians six months to turn over the downed jet’s flight recorders for outside examination.
If Goodale’s report does nothing else, it proves Iran’s leaders lied, withheld vital evidence and attempted a crass, cruel coverup. Instead of human error, Goodale uncovered “indications of incompetence, recklessness and wanton disregard for innocent human life” on the part of the Iranians.
Out of all the troubling questions that still demand answers, the Iranian government must explain why it left open its airspace for civilian flights, such as PS752, even after it had begun its missile barrage. That decision strongly suggests an attempt to conceal Iran’s aerial assault from the Americans — even if it meant using the passengers of PS752 as sacrificial lambs.
It won’t be easy to force Iran’s rulers to accept accountability for what they did. Canada must keep trying. To maintain its pressure, the federal government should, as Conservative MP Michael Chong is urging, impose sanctions on Iranian leaders and list the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.
In addition, aware that Iran’s own investigation of the disaster — and itself — is a sham, Canada should persuade the international community to require independent reviews of all future tragedies that involve military strikes on civilian aircraft.
As for the rest of us, the best we can do is remember the dead of PS752 and keep calling for justice. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)