A “false-flag” attack is a covert operation that is carried out with the aim of being perceived as the work of another group, organisation
Leaders from France, the UK and the US seem certain it was Assad’s forces that carried out the strike. But just how far-fetched is the Syrian
regime’s “false flag” claim? Could a group harm its own supporters just so its enemy gets the blame? History tells us that these operations,
while seemingly not all that credible, have been used often enough for Syrian authorities’ current claims to be taken seriously
Personally I don't really like the term "false flag", but this is a very interesting article nonetheless which shows the various machinations that
governments have undertaken to start conflicts.
The Blame Game: A history of
"false flags" to start conflicts
In 2003 UK newspaper The Guardian published an article that presented recently unearthed documents that revealed candid discussions about
“false flag” operations in Syria. In 1957 UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and US President Dwight Eisenhower approved a plan to organise fake
border incidents as justification for an invasion of Syria by its pro-Western neighbours. Concern had been growing about the increasingly pro-Soviet
and anti Western attitudes in the country since the Ba’ath and Communist parties had overthrown the military regime.
There is also the 1898 sinking of the USS Maine
which was the precursor to the
Spanish-American War of the same year.
The Maine's destruction did not result in an immediate declaration of war with Spain. However, the event created an atmosphere that virtually
precluded a peaceful solution. The Spanish–American War began in April 1898, two months after the sinking. Advocates of the war used the
rallying cry, "Remember the Maine! To Hell with Spain!" The episode focused national attention on the crisis in Cuba, but was
not cited by the William McKinley administration as a casus belli, though it was cited by some hawks already inclined to go to war with Spain over
perceived atrocities and loss of control in Cuba
Newspapers of the time helped create an atmosphere of hysteria and in some cases accused Spain of treachery and actually being responsible.
The New York Journal and New York World, owned respectively by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, gave the Maine intense press coverage,
but employed tactics that would later be labeled "yellow journalism." Both papers exaggerated and distorted any information they could attain,
sometimes even fabricating "news" when none that fitted their agenda was available. For a week following the sinking, the Journal devoted a daily
average of eight and a half pages of news, editorials and pictures to the tragedy.
Various investigations then and since have determined that the sinking of the ship was caused by an explosion in the forward magazine, although how
this actually occurred is open to debate.
Prior to that there was the confused beginnings of the
of 1846 which started with the
controversial Thornton Affair
in which Americans and Mexican forces clashed over disputed
territory. This was used as the primary justification for war.
Fellow Whig Abraham Lincoln contested the causes for the war and demanded to know exactly where Thornton had been attacked and American blood
shed. “Show me the spot,” he demanded. Whig leader Robert Toombs of Georgia declared:
This war is nondescript.... We charge the President with usurping the war-making power ... with seizing a country ... which had been for centuries,
and was then in the possession of the Mexicans.... Let us put a check upon this lust of dominion. We had territory enough, Heaven knew.
Although not really a "false falg" it shows how disputed incidents can be seized on to justify the headlong rush for war.
Another fascinating event which could in some ways almost be called a "false flag" from the other side was the
USS Panay incident
, a Japanese attack on a U.S. ship in China in 1937. The Japanese
strenuously denied the attack was deliberate and paid indemnities, however:
A Japanese attack before Pearl Harbor
Modern historians have gone back and analyzed the attack. Many now believe that the attack may have been intentional. According to John Prados,
Navy cryptographers had intercepted and decrypted traffic relating to the attacking planes which clearly indicated that they were under orders during
the attack, and that it had not been a mistake of any kind. Writer Nick Sparks believes that the chaos in Nanking created an opportunity for renegade
factions within the Japanese army who wanted to force the U.S. into an active conflict so that the Japanese could once and for all drive the U.S. out
A more sinister "false flag" was the Assassination of Segey Kirov
in 1934. Kirov was a close friend of Stalin's and his death has been called the Soviet Union's Reichstag Fire or JFK assassination moment.
Some historians place the blame for his assassination at the hands of Stalin and believe the NKVD organised its execution, but any evidence for
this claim remains elusive. Kirov's death served as one of the pretexts for Stalin's escalation of repression against dissident elements of the
Party, culminating in the Great Purge of the late 1930s in which many of the Old Bolsheviks were arrested, expelled from the Party, and
As mentioned above historians debate whether Stalin was truly responsible. He was certainly paranoid and cunning enough to carry out such an incident
but it is said much of the evidence is circumstantial.
Repression and Terror: Kirov Murder and Purges
Seventeen Moments in Soviet History
Some have also argued that the sinking of the Lusitania
and the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor
were conspiratorial attempts to bring the United States into the First and Second World Wars respectively. However personally I am somewhat on the
fence about these two incidents.