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Photo: flickr.com/James Prochnik

False Flags: The Truth Behind the Joke

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Any send-up of the conspiratorial mindset is incomplete without a reference to false flags. They are as indispensable as tinfoil hats and large stockpiles of canned goods in a musky fallout shelter. Properly defined, a false flag is any destructive action undertaken by an actor with the intent of making it appear the fault of another party. While it emerged from an old piracy practice of tricking target ships by flying national colours, today it refers almost exclusively to covert operations supposedly undertaken by governments in order to wilfully deceive a domestic audience. Their association with cliché conspiracy theories, popularised in particular by radio host Alex Jones, has led to an association between ‘false flags’ and ‘fake news’. Any claims that a false flag has occurred are dismissed by the majority as exercises in paranoid delusion. However, while it is true that too much is often made of false flags, their historical reality is unquestionable.

In 1931, the Japanese Army, which at the time was occupying the Korean peninsula, executed a false flag operation in the northern Chinese region of Manchuria. Detonating a bomb on one of their own rail lines, they placed blame for the ‘attack’ on the increasingly unified Chinese government of Chiang Kai-shek, and used this as justification for a sweeping invasion of the entire region, turning it into the short-lived puppet state of Manchukuo. This was known as the Mukden Incident, and most historians believe it was an independent act of the Kwantung Army who plotted the invasion without the knowledge of their superiors in Japan. This is important, as it illustrates the folly of attributing suspicions of such crimes to governments in general. In fact, a similar incident had occurred centuries before, in which King Gustav III of Sweden staged a Russian attack on a border outpost in order to induce his own parliament to grant him war powers.

Documents released in 2005 and 2006 attest that the logic of false flags has not escaped American authorities either. After decades of speculation, it is now certain that the Gulf of Tonkin Incident which sparked the Vietnam War was fabricated, that then secretary of defense Robert McNamara distorted, purposely selected, and outright forged signals intercepts to mislead the American congress into supporting the war.

A careful analysis of these incidents gives us good reasons to dismiss many of the more outlandish claims about false flags. For instance, there was a widespread rumour that the Boston Marathon bombing by Chechen terrorists in 2013 was a false flag, in no small part due to a mysterious photograph of a man on a roof overlooking the events. Of course, the bombing was in fact simply the result of the long-running connection between parts of Chechnya and Islamic terrorism, and the bungling of authorities who ignored Russian warnings about the perpetrators. Even without knowing this, a false flag was unlikely because there was no clear benefit to any faction with the capability to pull it off. In all of the above-mentioned incidents, the Kwantung Army, Gustav III, and Robert McNamara all had concrete objectives they knew would be secured by their actions. Vague goals of ‘stripping Americans of civil liberties’, with no clear indication as to how the bombing would have precipitated such a change in policy, probably aren’t motive enough for such bloody and risky operations.

Meanwhile, events which have unfolded in Syria contain a very different dynamic. The Netherlands quietly withdrew its financial support for the much-celebrated ‘white helmets’ this month, under credible intelligence that they had ties to Al Qaeda’s front groups who have competed with Islamic State for butchery of religious minorities and government supporters in the country’s civil war. Czech expert in Middle Eastern Affairs, Dr. Peter Markvart has exposed ‘ex-British intelligence officer’ James Le Mesurier as the true founder of the white helmets. Their purpose? To stage chemical attacks in the country using both actors and crowd manipulation, in order to convince Western governments to intervene on the side of the terrorist insurgency. When nobody was keen to topple the Assad government in the name of ‘nation-building’, the obvious remedy was to convince legislators that the equivalent of another holocaust was underway in Syria. This did not work. The British parliament, despite the best efforts of MI6 and Mr. Le Mesurier, rejected intervention, and now the war has been effectively won by the valiant soldiers of the Syrian Army and Russian aviators. Even so, the failed false flag operations of British assets in Syria provides yet another lesson in scepticism. When something fits the establishment narrative just a little too neatly, audiences should question what they are seeing and hearing.

It is important to be aware of what false flags are, and what they aren’t, especially in the information age where often their utility stretches to turning public opinion in one direction or the other. When an event occurs which stirs panic or fear, one should not jump to a conspiratorial conclusion, but look for concrete motives that any related factions might have. In some cases, the strongest motives exist for the easily identifiable culprits, but in others, the true assailants and assassins hide in the shadows, whether that’s the generals of the Kwantung Army in their war room, or James Le Mesurier with his ‘angelic’ friends cooking up powdered milk to look like chemical weapons. We can’t always have access to the evidence we need as information consumers, but with the proliferation of alternative media, it is harder than ever to make a scam like the white helmets work. It appears even the Dutch couldn’t stomach the lies anymore. You shouldn’t either.

As with every conspiracy theory, there is a grain of truth to what the madmen warn of, a dose of reality among the supplements and brain force nutrients. In the case of false flags, the grain is in fact very large, and it’s gotten a lot of people killed over the centuries, and even more hoodwinked.

Author: K. E. Benois