The idea that the majority of domestic (or foreign) acts of terror are carried out by singular individuals or crazy loners may be misguided.

Just before the opening of the London games, a former Olympic Committee executive declared in a New York Times interview that he had confidence in how this year’s spectacle would unfold:

“I think in the end London will more than hold its own against any previous Games. The only black cloud for me is the security agenda and whether there is some crazy, as they say, lone wolf out there.”

As they say…some lone wolf.

If that gives you chills, you aren’t alone. We’ve had enough experience to know that these statements shouldn’t be taken lightly. Nor should the underlying principle go unchallenged: that only deranged individuals provoke mayhem by design.

Media reports and government statements pretty much reduce terror sponsors to two types:  the “lone wolf,” and countries and entities in current ill repute. To be sure, for many, the archetype of Olympic terror is the organized attack: Palestinian Black September members taking the Israeli team hostage at the 1972 Munich games, and the bloody climax. Since then, we’ve also had our share of lone (or allegedly lone) gunmen and bombers, and of (allegedly) sponsored terror by identified enemies.

Certainly, Western countries are quick to accuse disfavored regimes, with uneven levels of accuracy, of atrocities that those regimes quickly deny. Recently,  Iran has been accused of fomenting numerous acts of terror, including bombing a bus full of Israelis on vacation in Bulgaria, and unverified allegations of planned massacres and mass rapes have been effective tools in building public support for war in Libya and Syria.

History has shown us, however, that acts of violence, with or without declared sponsorship, are not the exclusive province of crazy loners or renegade regimes. In fact, we know from experience that, as horrendous as it sounds, those in power have sometimes terrorized their own populace while blaming the violence on others. The reasons for this vary widely, but include justifying retributive acts abroad or domestic repression.

One classic technique of creating disorder to justify subsequent repression or military action is the “false flag” attack, so named to describe a ship’s flying an enemy flag while attacking one of its own country’s vessels. The cases in which such attacks were intended to become the basis for a severe reaction could fill a book. Here are a few:

—The Reichstag fire, Berlin, 1933: blamed on Communists but most likely instigated by the Nazis to justify their power grab and subsequent suspension of basic liberties

—Operation Northwoods, Washington, 1962: a plan proposed by high government officials, involving American forces masquerading as Cubans attacking American targets. Deaths and injuries of U.S. citizens anticipated. Rejected by President Kennedy.

—Deaths of civilians during Buddhist protests in Hue, Vietnam, during June, 1963, caused by plastic explosives. Allegations that only the CIA possessed such explosives, and that they were thrown by a Captain James Scott. The bombing campaign, blamed on the government of South Vietnam, increased unrest in the country, destabilized the Diem regime, led to a coup, and contributed to the escalation of American involvement in that country.

—Gladio: The CIA-sponsored. clandestine “stay-behind” NATO network in post-World War II Europe, believed to be tied to right-wing terror attacks that were blamed on the Left. (see the book Puppetmasters on political terrorism in Italy.)

—The Apartment House Bombings: A wave of bombings in Russia, 1999, that justified Moscow’s intervention in Chechnya, and paved the way for Vladimir Putin’s presidency. (see Chapter 2, Darkness at Dawn)  

—Contacts between the 9/11 hijackers and the Saudi elite, described in an exclusive WhoWhatWhy report, which you can read here.

As should be clear from this list, the use of deadly “false flag” operations to gain strategic political advantage is not exclusive to regimes of any particular ideology. The lone wolves, meanwhile, are certainly out there, but they’re not all as solitary as they might appear.

This article first appeared on WhoWhatWhy on July 31, 2012.

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6 years ago

(Comment by Martin Bassani) Most decent people have hard time believing that anything like false flag operations are even possible but they historical facts. This reluctance has much to do with our inability to effectively deal with logical and cascading consequences of such truth. Yes, criminals and sociopaths are indeed in control.
Real changes can only begin after a critical mass of us rejects lies and sees reality as it is. Surely humanity is capable of fashioning a better world.

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6 years ago

(Comment by reader Rhio Hirsch) Glenn Greenwald wrote a great article in the Intercept (Google it), in which he argues that the US considers the world to be a “battlefield”, and anyone and everyone who the US considers to be connected with terrorism in any shape or form is “fair game” for any violence the US wants to engage in and inflict on others. However, Greenwald points out that “terrorism” according to the US definition involves civilians, not the military. He suggests that what occurred in Tennessee, although it is unjustified, it is horrific and terrible, it cannot properly be considered “terrorism”. The characterization that the media and US government officials are promoting basically affirms that whatever the US does in the “war on terror” is OK and legal, and whatever anyone else does against the US is terrorism. This narrative helps to legitimate violence the US engages in on a daily basis, and it makes violence against the US illegitimate. There’s more to this and I encourage anyone interested in the subject to Google “the Intercept, Glenn Greenwald” and read it for yourself.

snoopy squeaks
snoopy squeaks
6 years ago

I don’t think 9/11 could have happened without cooperation with many of the power brokers within our own government and business sector.

Disapointed William
6 years ago

We live in a world that is full of lies and deceit. And 99% of it comes from ‘your government’. I’d say “what a joke” if it wasn’t so horrific!

6 years ago

IF history was taught in stead of propaganda and BLIND obedience…..people would be able to see through it .

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