Who better than libertarians to stick up for an authoritarian state run by a former communist agent?

When Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was blown from the sky in Ukraine last week, killing 298, the gawky elder statesman of libertarianism, Ron Paul, did exactly that, exposing one of the ideology's pitfalls in the process.

Paul's policy initiative, the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, is home to all manner of foreign policy crankery. Paul's latest column for the institute's website, titled “What the Media Won't Report About Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17,” demonstrates this just as well as an in-site search for the conspiratorial phrase “false flag” (39 results, in case you were wondering).

Paul's argument is made in the last paragraph, after a series of facts, pseudo-facts and suppositions that he says cast doubt on the consensus that pro-Russian separatists, armed with Russian Buk missiles, were involved in the attack.

“Of course it is entirely possible that the Obama administration and the U.S. media has [sic] it right this time, and Russia or the separatists in eastern Ukraine either purposely or inadvertently shot down this aircraft. The real point is, it's very difficult to get accurate information so everybody engages in propaganda. At this point it would be unwise to say the Russians did it, the Ukrainian government did it, or the rebels did it. Is it so hard to simply demand a real investigation?”

As with the 2013 chemical attacks in Syria (which the Ron Paul Institute asserts was a false flag carried out by rebel forces*), a real investigation into the MH17 attack will be carried out.** The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously for such an investigation Monday.

What the investigation will find is the same thing we know now: There is a mountain of evidence connecting the Russians to the separatists and an entire mountain range connecting the separatists to the attack.

This appraisal of the facts does not commit the United States to action of any sort, but it does lend credence to a narrative that Paul does not prefer: that Russia is a bully whose proxy war has now led to tragedy. This could lead to dangerous ideas about which side the United States should support in the Ukrainian conflict.

Could being the operative word, of course. Libertarians can accept the overwhelming likelihood of separatist culpability in MH17's demise and still argue that the cost of U.S. support to Ukraine outweighs the benefit. What they should not do is misrepresent the evidence, and in so doing provide grist for the propaganda mills of abusive, authoritarian regimes.

Rand Paul, beware.

*It wasn't.

**That is, if the pro-Russian separatists allow impartial observers onto the crash site before it's completely looted and important evidence disappears. And if the pro-Russian separatists didn't tamper with MH17's black boxes before they ever-so-reluctantly released them to the Malaysian government. Hmm.