Friend or Foe?

The almost unknown subject of False Flag events is  slowly creeping into people’s conscious awareness; and about time too.

The term comes from a tactic that was commonly employed many centuries ago by all the navies of fledgling empires. Although these navies very occasionally engaged in heroic battles with each other in order to protect the citizens of their countries from invading hoards, as our history books suggest, the far more common use of mighty battleships was for theft. Sinking an enemy ship was never the intention of these engagements, and would have been seen as something of a failure. The purpose was to capture the ship, preferably undamaged, and steal anything and everything from the personal possessions of the crew to the very ship itself, which would then be recycled by the victors. After all, what could possibly be the point of sinking an expensive ship, laden to the gunnels with the riches of plundered foreign colonies, when its capture would serve exactly the same political purpose, as well as providing vast wealth?

The Royal Navy, for example, routinely operated a “prize” system right up until quite recent times; and although acts of piracy don’t form quite the same staple diet in the senior service as they used to do, prize legislation remains on British statute books to this day. Right up until the nineteenth century “prize courts” would routinely assess and divvy-up the wealth of ships that had been attacked and seized by the jolly Jack Tars. Some of the plunder was apportioned to the ship’s crew. Of course, it wasn’t an equal distribution of wealth, where the loblolly boy, say, received as much of a cut as the captain; nor was the cut in any way equal to the share gifted to the high and mighty Lords of the Admiralty, who weren’t required to do anything more dangerous for their cut than over-indulge themselves in London society. However, some small portion of the “prize” would find its way to even the lowliest cabin boy – the original “trickle-down” effect perhaps. In short, the routine day-job of the glorious Royal Navy was plunder. In fact, the only way the great sailors of Nelson’s day differed from common pirates was that the piracy of Nelson’s navy was simply deemed to be legal. It’s a similar principle to the one that’s alive and well to this day, and helping to keep investment bankers out of jail.

But even hardened cynics such as myself find it difficult not to admire the considerable skill that was often required for some of the encounters that took place between the mighty warships of Nelson’s day. In the days before modern communications these great behemoths, seventy metres long with a thousand souls on board, could only use the power of the wind to move around, so finding and engaging and defeating an enemy in thousands of square miles of empty ocean was no easy matter, and the seamanship required for these encounters was often truly amazing. Apart from some acts of genuine courage, with perhaps just a hint of insanity, these sailors also relied on a host of devious tricks and raw cunning to capture a “prize”. Apart from plenty of luck, you also needed a good brain to be an effective captain in Nelson’s day; and it’s hardly surprising, given hundreds of years of regular practice in the dark arts of subterfuge and deceit, that the roots of the British intelligence service were established in the Royal Navy.

One of the many tricks used in the days of sail was to make your ship appear friendly to the watchful telescopes of the prospective prize; and the easiest way to do this was to ensure the flags your ship were flying were not those of your own country but were either exactly the same as those of the prize, or the same as those of whichever country was friendly to the prize. This simple ruse would, of course, eventually be discovered as a trick; and, of course, every ship’s crew knew about the trick. However, it would invariably buy some invaluable time, making all the difference between success and failure, enabling the hunter to get close enough to his prey to capture him before the darkness of night might come to the hapless victim’s rescue.

This tactic is still very much alive and well, and survives in modern language usage as the “false flag” attack, to mean an attack by someone who isn’t quite who they seem to be. Variations of it include attacks perpetrated by people pretending to be enemies of the state. These attacks may be carried out by the state’s own armed forces, or by paid mercenaries, or by allies of the state. History is rich with evidence.

Take, for example, the infamous sinking of the Maine. In 1898, when the US was beginning to flex its expansionist muscles abroad, the battleship USS Maine was blown up in Havana harbour. Although there was no evidence to support it, the incident was blamed on Spain, who controlled Cuba at the time; and it had the desired effect of triggering the Spanish American war which eventually led to Spain’s eviction from the island and the installation of a US puppet regime – a model that would be successfully repeated time and again for many decades to come. Fifty-five years later something very similar happened again – this time without going to the extra expense of actually sinking any ships.

On August 4, 1964 the world was informed that another US warship, the USS Maddox, had come under sustained attack by North Vietnam. It was the event which directly led to ten years of total hell for tens of millions of people in South East Asia, and whose effects are still being felt to this day. Fifty years after the false flag event of the Maddox, declassified documents revealed that the US government was fully aware at the time that no such attack had taken place. But by then, of course, the false flag had long served its purpose.

Although the term “false flag” originated from these naval deceptions, false flag incidents have never been solely confined to the high seas. Armies have always used any number of devices to deceive their victims, and anyone who’s ever watched a Hollywood war movie is probably aware of it; for how many of these movies have included a scene where either the good guys or the bad guys dress up in the uniforms of their enemy in order to carry out some raid or another? Is that not a completely routine story-line? Although many of these movies are obviously fictitious, these deceptions, which might also be called “false flag” adventures, are based on normal military tactics which have been used by almost every army, probably since the beginning of civilisation.

However, Hollywood movies seldom reveal the true evil and cynicism of war. Therefore not many of the 99%, who obtain much of their understanding of the world in general and history in particular from the silver screen, know anything at all about the truly dark side of all armies in general, and their leaders in particular. For how many Hollywood movies tell the stories of how armies routinely slaughter defenceless people? Although they will sometimes depict the enemy of the day carrying out these atrocities, they never show the so-called “good guys” doing it – which creates in the mind of the viewer the impression that our armies never behave in such a beastly fashion. But they most certainly do.

Consider the vast number of movies that came out of Hollywood telling how the west was won – how handfuls of brave adventurers defeated marauding hoards of screaming bloodthirsty savages, which was, in fact, a complete inversion of the truth. And how many war movies told the truth about the bombing of Dresden, or of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? These completely needless events took place in the closing days of World War Two, when Germany and Japan were already crushed nations. They were events which deliberately targeted hundreds of thousands of defenceless civilians, and served absolutely no military purpose whatsoever. They were war crimes, already outlawed by the Geneva Convention. Not many Hollywood movies tell us that.

It’s important to grasp this principle of war that not even Hollywood can glamorise: that our trusted leaders can and do routinely issue orders to slaughter innocent defenceless civilians, and that brainwashed young people then carry out those orders, and that society is then brainwashed into considering these young people to be heroes. Not even Hollywood can glamorise the deep cynicism of that fact.

Although the mass slaughter of defenceless civilians is a different aspect of the cynicism of war, and cannot be considered a false flag adventure, it’s important to cite it as evidence of the psychotic ruthlessness of our own trusted leaders and the brainwashed youngsters who are routinely conditioned to obey an order, any order.

My own personal first-hand experience of false flag adventures was obtained in the late seventies, in Rhodesia, where I was batting out my national service as an intelligence officer. Our army had a small unit of people called the Selous Scouts. They were considered the elite of the elite, and were supposedly originally created by a couple of junior officers serving in the Rhodesian SAS who thought the SAS wasn’t quite hard enough. I did some of my training with the Scouts. They were definitely different.

Later on, when I was operational, I was based in a small rural outpost called Rusape. For me it was a very comfortable posting and, I’m very glad to say, I managed to see out my time there without being injured and, I’m even more glad to say, without causing injury to anyone else.

Each morning, after a leisurely breakfast, I would saunter over to the operations room to see what was going on. Like almost every military operations room in the world, one wall of it was given over to a huge map of our area of responsibility. Most of the time it was just a map of rural Rhodesia, with little coloured stickers on it depicting some sort of recent “terrorist” incident – such as a landmine going off, or an attack on some isolated school or clinic. My job would be to go out to investigate these incidents and report on them. Sometimes it was very harrowing, but mostly it was a fairly pleasant way to sit out the war.

But every now and then I would turn up to the ops room in the morning and would be met with the sight of a sizeable chunk of the map covered over in hatched lines. Everyone understood that that area had been “frozen”. This meant that no army personnel or police were to go into that area. The Scouts had moved into it. For a few weeks after that life went on pretty much as normal everywhere else on the patch; but no information at all emerged from the area with the mysterious hatching; and then one morning I’d turn up for work and the hatching would have been removed from the map as mysteriously as it had first appeared.

Within a day or two of that happening the reports would start rolling in from where the Scouts had been, about “terrorist” murders at some isolated village or another, of a “terrorist” rocket attack on a small business centre perhaps, or a “terrorist” landmine blowing up a rural bus. These would all have been carried out by the Scouts, dressed up as “terrorists” and using “terrorist” weaponry.

The purpose of these attacks was a variation of that old favourite: the hard cop/soft cop routine. The Scouts’ role was to try to out-terrorise the forces working for the likes of Robert Mugabe, to try to alienate the local population from Mugabe’s men by pretending to be Mugabe’s men and committing such atrocities that the locals would be repulsed by them. Then when the soft cops turned up in the shape of government forces, the locals would feel like offering their help and support. It’s called winning hearts and minds, and was a tactic that had already been used by US special forces in Vietnam before that, and by British special forces all over the place before that: Malaya, Congo, Kenya, Aden…

Some would dismiss false flag adventures as conspiracy theory, which is, of course, a very convenient way to persuade the 99% that our trusted leaders couldn’t possibly stoop so low. But history is rich with proof that they most certainly do stoop so low, with amazing frequency. So the really important lesson to learn in all of this is that whenever a so-called “terrorist” outrage occurs, especially those outrages where the perpetrators haven’t been caught in action (and rounding up “suspects” after the event cannot be trusted either – as the “Guildford Four” and “Birmingham Six”, for example, could confirm)… always, always recall the very real world of false flag adventures.

John Andrews is a writer whose latest book is The People's Constitution. He can be contacted through his website. Read other articles by John.