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If you haven’t heard the term ‘false flag operation’ before, it refers to an attack by a foreign power or hostile group that is staged, exaggerated, or even completely made up in order to justify going to war. False flag operations are an old technique, but there is nothing distinguished about them. They are thoroughly reprehensible. Sometimes, they involve a government actually killing some of its own citizens. That’s the worst kind of betrayal there is: the murder of people who rely on you for protection in order to satisfy your own greedy ends. War makes money for industrialists, brings glory to military leaders, and gives power to dictators and tyrants. It also destroys everything it touches. It is humanity’s worst trait.

The events of the past few weeks have convinced me such elements are alive and well in the Trump administration. Trump and his cronies are spoiling for a new or expanded war against ‘terrorists’, by which he really means brown foreign Muslims. No mention is ever made of the white Christian terrorists in our own back yard, who have killed far more Americans here at home than ISIL or Al-Qaeda have overseas in the past several years, and who are plotting yet more death and destruction by gearing up for an attack against ‘leftists’. We already own the oil here, after all. And if there was any doubt lingering over why America wants war in the Middle East, just look at Trump’s recent comments about how we spent six trillion dollars and didn’t even get one ‘tiny oil well’, or his desire to seize Iraq’s oil (‘It’s not stealing, we’re reimbursing ourselves’. Or how about that time he said, in an address at CIA headquarters, that “we should have kept the oil,” and “maybe we’ll get another chance”?

Knowledge is power. Stay vigilant by staying informed. Here is a brief history of false flag operations by the U.S. government over the last 120 years, followed by a description of what I believe are the Trump admin’s first bumbling attempts to signal they are willing to do the same thing.

The U.S.S. Maine (1898)

The U.S.S. Maine. Library of Congress photo.

The sinking of the battleship U.S.S. Maine in Havana, Cuba in 1898 was the starting point for the Spanish-American war. A mysterious explosion on 15 February killed most of the crew. The “yellow press”, a term given to newspapers who openly printed lies in order to sway popular opinion, blamed the explosion on Spain. In fact, it’s far more likely the explosion was accidental. While the struggle for independence against Spain represented progress for the people of Cuba, the Philippines, and other former Spanish holdings, the fact remains the press, in collusion with the government, inflamed popular opinion through lies and deception in order to justify conflict. The Spanish-American war was small, as our wars go, but it still resulted in hundreds of American deaths (plus thousands more due to bad food and disease). This is not to mention the vast amount of money that could have been better spent on building up our infrastructure at home, but instead flowed into the pockets of military contractors and profiteers. The war resulted in America taking possession of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam, and marks the beginning of America as a global superpower.

Operation Northwoods (1962)

JFK as a senator, Boston, 1957. CREDIT: Douglas Jones, LOOK Magazine. COLLECTION, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.


Operation Northwoods was a series of plans drawn up by the U.S. government that would have been used as a pretext to go to war with Cuba at the height of tensions between our two nations, which also would necessarily have involved the Soviet Union. They included staging fake terrorist attacks in U.S. cities, hijacking planes, and blowing up ships. It sounds incredible, but it’s true. Any one of the actions proposed in this plan would have resulted in massive casualties of innocent U.S. civilians. These would have been blamed on Cuba, which in turn would have been the pretext for an invasion. The plan was actually authorized by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but was shot down by President John F. Kennedy, which may have been the most unsung heroic deed of his entire presidency.

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident (1964)

The U.S.S. Maddox, the ship at the heart of the Gulf of Tonkin false flag incident. PHOTO: Library of Congress.


I can’t say it any better than Lt.-Commander Pat Paterson, of the U.S. Navy, did in this piece called “The Truth about Tonkin”:

‘Questions about the Gulf of Tonkin incidents have persisted for more than 40 years. But once-classified documents and tapes released in the past several years, combined with previously uncovered facts, make clear high-level government officials distorted facts and deceived the American public about events that led to full U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War’.

The Vietnam War was a hideous chapter in American history. Over 50,000 young servicemen died, and hundreds of thousands more were grievously injured. Over a million Vietnamese people lost their lives. Stateside, the war led to massive protests. It reshaped our country in ways that will be felt for a very long time, including giving rise to the anti-war movement that rebelled openly against the government, beginning an era of mistrust of political leaders that persists to this day. Worst of all, we lost the fight to keep the Communists from taking over Vietnam, rendering the whole thing largely pointless (although some would argue our involvement in Vietnam helped keep the Soviet Union at bay by showing them we were willing to fight Communist expansion in Asia).

George W. Bush and Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (2002)

George W. Bush took office in 2000, after an election that was contentious, very close, and ultimately decided by judicial fiat (but still looks civilized by today’s electoral standards). Within days of him taking office, though, and well before 9/11, an invasion of Iraq was already in the works. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 provided all the justification needed to invade Afghanistan in 2001, but Afghanistan doesn’t have any oil. Iraq had lots, and one of the big regrets of American neo-cons after Gulf 1 was that we hadn’t seized it. The Bush clan thrives on oil, and so do their billionaire cronies, so no one should have been surprised when they went after it on false pretexts. George W. and his spin-masters convinced enough gullible, uninformed Americans Iraq was somehow behind 9/11, even though most of the hijackers were actually Saudi Arabian citizens and were in the U.S. legally. For those who weren’t dumb enough to fall for that, W.’s people came up with another one: Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was about to use them. America to the rescue! It was all a lie, of course. The result: a conflict that is still ongoing, fourteen years later.

Trump, Conway, and Spicer (2017)

So… all this is a long prelude to explain why recent comments by Kellyanne Conway, currently serving as counselor to the President, and Sean Spicer, who is the president’s spokesman, should be of grave concern. Both of these people have fabricated terrorist attacks in comments to the press, not just once, but three times each.

In Conway’s case, she spoke of the ‘Bowling Green massacre’, an incident that never happened, but which she would have liked us to believe was a terrorist attack carried out on American soil by Muslim fundamentalists. Her claim that she simply misspoke doesn’t hold water. Conway was shown to have made the same comments at least three times in separate interviews. This, combined with her recent exhortation to the American people to buy Ivanka Trump’s products at Nordstrom’s, has damaged her credibility beyond repair.

Sean Spicer, notoriously lampooned by Melissa McCarthy in a Saturday Night Live sketch that deserves to live as long as the works of Aristophanes, has also referred three times to an attack that never occurred, this one in Atlanta, Georgia. When called out on it, Spicer snapped that the press should have known he was referring to Orlando, not Atlanta. So what happened in Orlando? A man named Omar Mateen went into a gay nightclub and murdered 49 people. Although it was claimed he had sworn allegiance to ISIL/Daesh, the CIA says no such links have ever been confirmed.

Prior to the existence of the internet, it’s entirely possible lies such as these by Conway and Spicer would have already led us into another war. People are better informed and more vigilant now than in previous generations, so it’s going to be harder for the government–especially this government, which has already shown itself to be utterly incompetent–to put one over on us. But we need to be vigilant, and we need to be prepared. Every single statement uttered by these buffoons needs to be treated with extreme skepticism. It’s no secret Trump would love a new war in the Middle East, and his chief adviser, Steve Bannon, is a white supremacist neo-Nazi Christian fascist who has openly stated his belief that the Apocalypse is nigh and we will be at war with China within a few years.

Let’s not grant their wish. In the 21st century, we should be working to evolve beyond war. This means promoting racial and gender equity, ensuring wealth isn’t concentrated in the hands of a few, practicing tolerance toward other religions, and working to develop solar energy in order to break our oil addiction.

Should we fight back against Daesh and other terrorist groups? Absolutely. Do we need to make up lies in order to expand the fighting? No, we don’t. By practicing right actions and right thinking as a matter of policy, the need for conflict will gradually decrease. The military-industrial complex won’t like it, nor will Trump or Bannon. They are a problem that needs to be dealt with. But let’s do it through our democratic institutions, rather than through old-fashioned blood-in-the-streets-style revolution. We can vote these people out. We can bring about change peacefully. That, and nothing else, should be our goal.


For more reading on this subject, check out Hamid Dabashi’s excellent editorial in Al Jazeera, entitled “Trump’s desperate search for a Reichstag fire.”

Also see this piece, entitled “Poll: Majority of travel ban supporters say fake ‘Bowling Green massacre’ justifies executive order”

Here’s another piece very much worth reading, called “A warning about what we all know is coming”, that is, a major attack that Trump will use to solidify his own power.

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