None of what happened with this Morales incident has any bearing on the justifiability of what Belarus did on Sunday. That the U.S. and its E.U. allies committed a dangerous international crime in 2013 does not mitigate the criminal nature of similar actions by Belarus or any other country eight years later. The dangers of forcing down airplanes in order to arrest someone who is suspected to be on that plane are manifest. The danger increases, not decreases, as more countries do it.
But no journalist, especially Western ones, should be publishing articles or broadcasting stories falsely depicting Sunday’s incident as an unprecedented assault that could be perpetrated only by a Russian-allied autocrat. The tactic was pioneered by the very countries who today are most vocally condemning what happened. Any reporting of this story that excludes this vital history and context in favor of a false narrative of this being “unprecedented” — as is true of the vast majority of Western media reports about what Belarus did — does a grave disservice to both journalism and the truth. If it is outrageously dangerous and criminal to force the downing of a plane to arrest the passenger Roman Protasevich, then it must be equally dangerous and criminal to do the same in an attempt to arrest suspected passenger Edward Snowden.
Indeed, the only two differences between these situations that one can locate are factors against the Western nations responsible for the downing of Morales’ plane. Unlike what Belarus did, the U.S. and its European allies obviously had no confirmation of Snowden’s presence on the plane. They forced it to land based on a guess, on rumor, on speculation, which turned out to be utterly false. The second difference is that there are obviously additional international and diplomatic implications from forcing the plane of a democratically elected president to land as opposed to a standard passenger jet: that is, at the very least, a profound attack on the sovereignty of that country. Again, there are no valid justifications for what Belarus did, but to the extent one wants to distinguish its actions from what US/EU nations did in 2013, those are the only identifiable differences.
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