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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 or country.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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 of China.
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 executed