Thursday, April 12, 2018

False Flag Operations: How Common Are They?

Something made me think that it could be appropriate to repropose here a post that I published on Cassandra's Legacy in 2015 on the "false flag" operation that the Mussolini government mounted in 1940 in order to justify the Italian attack on Greece. It is one of the few documented cases of a false flag operation carried out by a national government.

The study of false flag operations is fascinating but, at the same time, difficult and even dangerous. One consequence is the extreme paucity of serious historical studies on the subject. A recent study that I may suggest to the interested reader is the one published by Maddox in 2016. Rich in data and examples,
by reading it you will be able to note by yourselves how difficult it is to avoid a hefty dose of political correctness in this kind of studies, but so is life. At least, Maddox's study shows that false flag operations do exist, take a variety of shapes, and are relatively common in modern history.

I was planning to write a little history of false flag operations but, as I worked on the subject, it became larger and larger and, at the same time, less and less defined, lost in a sea of misinformation, disinformation, conspirationism, and psyops. So, for the time being, I'll just summarize what I learned so far. The basic point, I believe, is that the modern kind of false flag operations is a recent phenomenon if we define it in terms of self-inflicted damage in order to justify retaliation. 

In my opinion, the first example of this kind of strategy is the "Gleiwitz Incident" carried out by the Germans in 1939 in order to justify their attack on Poland. There is a lot of misinformation associated with this story, but the basic historical facts seem to be well established. The mechanism of the operation is also clear: trasform aggression into self-defense by inflicting damage on one's own forces, or on the forces of an ally. The German Nazis were innovators in many fields, not just with tanks and missiles, but especially with propaganda. With the Gleiwitz incident, they created an example that was soon to be followed by Mussolini in Italy, as you'll read below. And it was later followed by many other governments, even though, as you move closer to the present times, the fog of war becomes thicker - as it has to be. 

As a final comment, I'd say that this kind of operations is an emergent property of modern democracy, a good example of all that's wrong with democracy as we intend it nowadays: the aggressive demonization of opponents, the brazen disregard of facts, hidden manipulation of the debate, strict enforcement of political correctness, and more. False flag operations are part of the larger phenomenon of "fake news" which, in turn, is part of the complex science which we call "perception management," once known as "propaganda". It is a "soft" technology but when coupled with "hard" ones such as nuclear weapons, it may well be the most dangerous technology ever invented. And, as usual, we tend to employ new technologies much before we understand their ultimate consequences. 

See also "The Empire of Lies"

When conspiracy is not a theory: an example of a false flag operation in the Italian invasion of Greece in 1940 

by Ugo Bardi - Oct 29, 2015
(shortened and slightly modified with respect to the original version)

The Italian attack against Greece, that started in October of 1940, was preceded by a textbook example of a "false flag" operation.

False flag attacks are a popular item, nowadays: secret operations carried out by governments to place the blame on their political or military enemies. However, if you try to examine the question in any depth, you immediately find yourself facing a wall of claims and counter-claims. On one side, there are those who simply laugh at the conspiracy theorists and at their funny antics, and, on the other, those who list case after case of presumed false flag attacks, including everything from the sinking of the Titanic to the blowing up of a tire of uncle Joe's truck. So, do strategic false flag attacks exist? And, if so, how common they are?

Given the paucity of documented historical examples, I think it is worth discussing here a case of a false flag operationg that can be verified in some detail and which is not well known in English. It is the false flag operation that preceded the Italian attack against Greece, during the Second World War, carried out in 1940 under orders by the Mussolini government.

The story of the Italo-Greek war is described in detail by Mario Cervi in his 1969 book "Storia Della Guerra di Grecia" (translated into English as "The Hollow Legions"). I won't go into the details in the story of how the Italian government decided to engage in this totally insensate campaign, focusing just on the "false flag" episode.

We have ample documentation about this war from the Italian side. The minutes of the reunions of the high command of the Italian government were approved by Mussolini himself and then filed. These documents were kept and, today, they tell us many details about the origins of the decision to start the campaign and about the false flag operation that preceded the attack.

The story starts with the occupation of Albania by Italy in 1939, which was a relatively easy military operation. From there, the Italian government started considering an attack on neighboring Greece as part of an effort to control the whole Balkan region. That involved a certain propaganda effort and, in 1940, the Italian press started reporting that the Albanian inhabitants of the region of Chamuria, part of the Greek territory, wanted secession from Greece in order to be reunited with Albania. But, of course, it was reported that they were facing a harsh repression carried out by the Greek government. The Italian viceroy of Albania, Francesco Jacomoni, provided reports - mostly purely invented - that fueled this propaganda operation.

Cervi reports how, on August 17, 1940, Jacomoni himself proposed to the Duce to create a pretext for attacking Greece by means of a false flag attack to be performed by "by personnel loyal to us against one of our border posts." The idea didn't have an immediate approval by Mussolini, but, in October, when the attack to Greece had been decided, Mussolini himself asked for "An incident at the border that could give to our action the aspect of provocation to justify our action." The answer was given on the spot by Galeazzo Ciano, foreign minister and son in law of the Duce, "the action will take place on Oct 24."

The "action" was delayed to Oct 26, but it took place as planned. According to Cervi, the Italian press reported that "A Greek band had attacked with automatic weapons and hand grenades an Albanian border post near Corizia and that the attack had been repulsed; that six of the attacking Greeks had been captured, and that the Albanian troops had suffered two casualties and three wounded."

Cervi comments on this point that these Albanian victims had been "immolated, if they ever existed, on the altar of the ruthless needs of the state." Indeed, we cannot exclude that the attack was exaggerated, or even a pure invention. However, it is likely that some kind of attack did take place. The Greek authorities set up an investigating committee and claimed that they were not responsible for it, but never claimed that there had not been an attack. Below, an example of how the incident was presented in the Italian press ("La Stampa") on Oct 28, 1940. The title says "Murky Greek plan to provoke Albania."

Cervi also reports that Mussolini commented on the false flag attacks by saying that "No one will believe in this fatality, but for a reason of metaphysical character it will be possible to say that it was necessary to come to a conclusion," which, incidentally, shows how nearly 20 years of unopposed government had turned Mussolini from a sharp politician into a bumbling fool.

Whether it caused victims or not, the false flag attack served its purpose. In Albania, it was followed by manifestations against the "Greek aggression," and in Italy by a press campaign of insults and protests against Greece. There followed the Italian ultimatum against Greece and then the ill-fated attack.

From these documents, we can learn that "false flag" operations were an accepted and obvious component of strategic actions at that time. Note how nobody challenged Mussolini about the need of carrying out such an operation. It all seemed obvious to everyone involved and that tells us that during the second world war, secret false flags were part of the strategic arsenal of at least some governments and were commonly used.

Note also how Mussolini doesn't think too much about signing and archiving documents that say that he had ordered and approved an action that can only be described as a war crime. Again, it seems that it was seen as wholly normal - not something that could have led anyone to be shot as a war criminal. Later on, that was exactly what happened to Mussolini, but to none of the other people who approved and carried out the false flag operation, including the Viceroy of Albania, Francesco Jacomoni.

Of course, this old false flag operation doesn't tell us anything specific about the many claimed false flags of modern times. It does, however, add a verified case to the number of known ones. Government conspiracies did exist in the past and it would surely be excessive optimism to think they don't exist anymore. In the future, we may know more about the events that have shaped so much of the perception of the conflicts of our times.


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)