In the modern age of democracy and volunteer armies, a pretense for war is required to rally the nation around the flag and motivate the public to fight. That is why every major conflict is now accompanied by its own particular bodyguard of lies. From false flag attacks to dehumanization of the “enemy,” here are all the examples you’ll need to help debunk a century of war lies.
If, as the old adage has it, the first casualty of war is the truth, then it follows that the first battle of any war is won by lies.
Lies have always been used to sell war to a public that would otherwise be leery about sending their sons off to fight and die on foreign soil. In times long past, this was easy enough to accomplish. A proclamation by a king or queen was enough to set the machinery of war in motion. But in the modern age of democracy and volunteer armies, a pretense for war is required to rally the nation around the flag and motivate the public to fight.
That is why every major conflict is now accompanied by its own particular bodyguard of lies. From false flag attacks to dehumanization of the “enemy,” here are all the examples you’ll need to help debunk a century of war lies.
In 1915, the RMS Lusitania, a British ocean liner en route from New York to Liverpool, was sunk by a German U-boat 11 miles off the coast of Ireland. The ship’s sinking, which resulted in the death of 128 of the 139 Americans aboard, became a symbol of German evil and helped psychologically prepare the US public for their country’s eventual entry into WWI. But every facet of the story of the Lusitania as it has been presented to the public was a deliberate lie or a lie by omission.
The boat was not a purely civilian vessel carrying 3,813 40-pound (unrefrigerated) containers of “cheese” and 696 containers of “butter,” as the official manifest held, but guncotton, in keeping with the shipment’s stated destination: the Royal Navy’s Weapons Testing Establishment.
It was not sunk by the German torpedo boat but by secondary explosions from the munitions the ship was (illegally) carrying.
It was not the victim of a cowardly German surprise attack (the German Embassy placed a warning notice about the Lusitania in 50 American newspapers right next to Cunard’s own listings).
And the American ambassador to England at the time, Walter Hines Page, wrote to his son five days before the ship was sunk, asking: “If a British liner full of American passengers be blown up, what will Uncle Sam do? That’s what’s going to happen.”
So what did the official cover-up of the incident conclude? That the dastardly Germans had waged a perfidious sneak attack on an innocent peace boat, of course. And the rest, as they say, is history.
A little over two decades later, America’s entry into WWII came when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, killing over 2,400 American servicemen and civilians. But far from an unprovoked sneak attack, as the official government-approved history would have you believe, Pearl Harbor is best understood as a conspiracy to motivate the American public for war by first provoking and then allowing a Japanese strike on American targets.
This is not even a controversial idea; it was commonly understood and discussed by many in the Roosevelt administration at the time. Henry Stimson, the US Secretary of War, noted in his diary that just the week before the attack President Roosevelt had told him “we were likely to be attacked perhaps (as soon as) next Monday” and then solicited Stimson’s advice on “how we should maneuver them [the Japanese] into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.” Around the same time, Roosevelt sent a message to all military commanders stating that “The United States desires that Japan commit the first overt act.”
So how did FDR and his administration provoke the Japanese into attacking?
In late 1940, Roosevelt ordered the United States Fleet to be relocated from San Pedro to Pearl Harbor. The order incensed Admiral James Richardson, Commander-in-Chief of the US Fleet, who complained bitterly to FDR about the nonsensical decision: It left the fleet open to attack from every direction, it created a 2,000-mile-long supply chain that was vulnerable to disruption, and it packed the ships in together at Pearl Harbor, where they would be sitting ducks in the event of a bombing or torpedo raid. FDR, unable to counter these objections, went ahead with the plan and relieved Richardson of his command.
Then in June 1941, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes wrote a memo advising FDR to embargo Japanese oil in order to goad them into war: “There might develop from the embargoing of oil to Japan such a situation as would make it, not only possible but easy, to get into this war in an effective way.” Roosevelt followed through weeks later with an order seizing Japanese assets in America and effectively preventing Japan from purchasing much-needed American oil, which at that time accounted for four-fifths of Japanese oil imports.
The provocations had their intended effect, and the Americans listened in on Japanese war preparations via radio. They received warnings of an imminent attack from diplomatic officials and military attachés. The attack was even predicted by the Honolulu Advertiser days before it happened. But all of these warnings were ignored. Even today, nearly 80 years after the events, new documents and memos continue to be found showing more warnings that Roosevelt and his administration deliberately ignored in the run-up to the attack.
FDR got his wish. The Japanese attack was successful: 2,400 Americans died, and the nation, outraged, responded by rallying around the flag and jumping enthusiastically into war.
But the Japanese themselves were no innocents when it came to lying their way into war. Ten years before Pearl Harbor, in 1931, Japan was looking for a pretext to invade Manchuria. On September 18th of that year, a lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Army detonated a small amount of TNT along a Japanese-owned railway in the Manchurian city of Mukden. The act was blamed on Chinese dissidents and used to justify the invasion and occupation of Manchuria. When the lie was later exposed, Japan was diplomatically shunned and forced to withdraw from the League of Nations.
The Korean War
The League of Nations fell apart precisely for its inability to prevent World War II. Its successor organization, the United Nations, engaged in its own war lies shortly after its creation to ensure that it would not meet the same fate.
The Korean War, waged under the UN flag and sold to the public as a virtuous mission to save the South from the North’s communist aggression, was on its face a war that should never have happened. The division of Korea into North and South was not the organic decision of the Korean people, but a plan that originated in an article in 1944 in Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, which suggested dividing the country up and putting its administration in the hands of the Allies, including the Soviets. When the newly-founded UN put that plan into action in 1945, Korea was arbitrarily divided along the 38th parallel, with the US administering the South and the Soviet Union administering the North.
Neither was the war itself the organic result of decisions taken by the Korean people. In 1949, Owen Lattimore, a member of the Carnegie and Rockefeller-funded Institute for Pacific Relations and an advisor to the State Department on East Asian issues, wrote: “The thing to do is let South Korea fall, but not to let it look as if we pushed it.” In a speech at the National Press Club the following year, Secretary of State Dean Acheson placed Korea outside of the US’ “defensive perimeter of the Pacific,” stating that any attack that took place outside of that perimeter would have to be dealt with “under the Charter of the United Nations.” Taking this as a green light, the North Koreans, heavily fortified and equipped with Soviet military aid, invaded the South.
The war began on June 27, 1950, when the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for members to provide military assistance “to restore international peace and security in the area.” The Soviet Union, being a veto-wielding member of the Council, could have vetoed the resolution and prevented the UN from engaging in the war, but they abstained from the vote altogether.
When General MacArthur, leading the UN forces, managed to repel the North right to the Chinese border, he was prevented from completing the mission by Truman, who would not authorize any operations north of the Soviet-held 38th parallel unless there was no chance of confrontation with either Chinese or Soviet forces. MacArthur, shocked by this development, wrote in a letter years later: “Such a limitation upon the utilization of available military force to repel an enemy attack has no precedent either in our own history or, so far as I know, in the history of the world. [. . .] To me it clearly foreshadowed the tragic situation which has since developed and left me with a sense of shock I had never before experienced in a long life crammed with explosive reactions and momentous hazards.”
In the end, the bloody Korean conflict ended not with a peace deal but a ceasefire. Not with the reunification of the Korean peninsula but with the establishment of a demilitarized zone to keep them separated. Nearly three million civilians died during the fighting, and the country was torn to pieces, all in the name of a military action under the UN flag that should never have escalated into war in the first place.
The Vietnam War
In August of 1964, President Johnson was preoccupied in finding an excuse to justify a formal escalation of American military involvement in Vietnam. That excuse came on August 2nd when the USS Maddox, a destroyer supposedly on a peaceful mission in international waters, reported a surprise attack from North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. Just two days later it reported another attack. Johnson responded by launching retaliatory strikes and signing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, thus formally launching the Vietnam War.
Years later, it was revealed that the story of the Maddox, too, had been a tissue of lies. The Maddox was not peacefully drifting near Vietnamese waters, minding its own business; it was part of a covert electronic warfare campaign assisting the South Vietnamese in launching attacks on the North. It had not been attacked out of the blue on August 2nd, as originally reported, but in fact had fired first. And, as even the NSA’s own internal publication, made available to the public for the first time 40 years after the incident, concluded, the second attack on August 4th had never taken place at all.
But these were mere details, and, just like the facts about the Lusitania and Pearl Harbor, these details were suppressed long enough for the event to have its intended effect: rallying the public for war.
The Six-Day War
The Six-Day War in 1967 between Israel and Egypt, Syria and Jordan is yet another example of a war which was justified for reasons that were later exposed as lies.
When Israel launched an attack on Egypt’s airfields on the morning of June 5th, they initially claimed that it was a defensive strike and that Egypt had struck first. But this was an easily proven lie, and the claim was quickly dropped.
Next they claimed that the attack was “preemptive self defense” and that Egypt and its Arab allies had been preparing to strike Israel. But multiple Israeli officials, including Yitzhak Rabin, later admitted that Egypt had not been preparing a war, or even interested in one.
And then, in the most outrageous incident of all, Israel attempted to get America involved in the war by attacking the USS Liberty, a US technical research ship collecting electronic intelligence just outside Egypt’s territorial waters at the time of the war. The attack, carried out by Israeli fighter jets and torpedo boats, was relentless. The Liberty was strafed and torpedoed repeatedly, with the crew sending distress messages and even hoisting a large American flag so there could be no doubt as to their identity.
The Israeli attack was finally called off an hour and a half into the assault. Israel, caught in a blatant attempt to sink an American ship, offered an “apology” for “mistaking” the identity of the vessel. But it was no mistake. In 2007 the NSA declassified intercepts confirming that the Israelis knew they were attacking an American ship, not an Egyptian ship as their cover story has maintained.
Even mainstream historians now characterize Israel’s attack on the Liberty as “a daring ploy by Israel to fake an Egyptian attack on the American spy ship, and thereby provide America with a reason to officially enter the war against Egypt.” But the incident was soon memory-holed, and to this day the Six-Day War is portrayed as an act of “preemptive self defense” by the valiant Israelis against the dastardly Arab aggressors.
Gulf War 1
By the 1990s, the post-Vietnam public was growing increasingly wary of calls for war in far-flung corners of the world in countries many had never heard of. And so it was that in 1990, when the politicians and their deep state controllers required the American public to be motivated to wage war against Iraq for its invasion of Kuwait, they hired a literal PR firm to sell an even more brazen set of lies to Joe Sixpack and Jane Soccermom.
The most famous of these lies revolved around Nayirah, a “young Kuwaiti girl” who sparked international headlines for her shocking testimony before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in October 1990. In a tear-stained speech she told a harrowing story of the horrors she witnessed being committed by Iraqi soldiers at a Kuwaiti hospital where she was volunteering.
NAYIRAH: I volunteered at the Aladein hospital with 12 other women who wanted to help as well. I was the youngest volunteer. The other women were from 20 to 30 years old. While I was there, I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns. They took the babies out of the incubators . . . took the incubators and left the children to die on the cold floor!
It is difficult today to understand just how important this testimony was in setting the tone of the debate about whether America should commit military forces to defend Kuwait. It was reported breathlessly on the evening news, and it was repeated by President Bush on not one or two occasions, but six separate times in the lead up to war.
GEORGE H. W. BUSH: . . . babies pulled from incubators and scattered like firewood across the floor…
SOURCE: Nayirah Episode of 60 Minutes
GEORGE H. W. BUSH: . . . and they had kids in incubators, and they were thrown out of the incubators so that Kuwait could be systematically dismantled.
Then, when the Gulf War Resolution was making its way through the House, the incubator story was raised in Congress:
REP. HENRY HYDE: Now is the time to check the aggression of this ruthless dictator whose troops have bayoneted pregnant women and have ripped babies from their incubators in Kuwait.
And then again in the Senate. The vote passed and combat operations formally began in January 1991.
The only problem? “Nayirah” was not some anonymous Kuwaiti girl, but, as a subsequent CBC investigation discovered, she was Nayirah Al-Sabah, daughter of Saud Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the United States. Her testimony had been written for her by Hill & Knowlton, a PR agency hired by the Kuwaiti government-supported astroturf organization, the “Citizens For A Free Kuwait,” to help sell the Gulf War. And the “Congressional Human Rights Caucus” that held the hearing where Nayirah gave her testimony? It was later found to be a Hill & Knowlton front itself.
Gulf War II
As everyone knows by now, the second Gulf War, in 2003, was also built on lies. We all remember the lies about Saddam’s WMDs and the way that story was sold to the public by Colin Powell at the UN. But this time the media took the driver seat in the campaign to sell the war to the public.
The New York Times led the way with Judith Miller‘s now-infamous reporting on the Iraqi WMD story, now known to have been based on false information from untrustworthy sources, but the rest of the media quickly fell into line, with the NBC Nightly News asking “what precise threat Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction pose to America” and Time debating whether Hussein was “making a good-faith effort to disarm Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.” Reports about chemical weapons stashes were reported on before they were confirmed, although headlines boldly asserted their existence as indisputable fact. And any media personality that showed skepticism about the claims being made—even wildly popular ones like Phil Donahue, host of MSNBC’s then highest-rated program—were summarily removed from the air.
PHIL DONOHUE: Scott Ritter is here and so is Ambassador . . .
BILL MOYERS: You had Scott Ritter, former weapons inspector, who was saying that if we invade, it will be a historic blunder.
DONOHUE: Yes. You didn’t have him alone. He had to be there with someone else who supported the war. In other words, you couldn’t have Scott Ritter alone. You could have Richard Perle alone.
MOYERS: You could have the conservative.
DONOHUE: You could have the supporters of the President alone. And they would say why this war is important. You couldn’t have a dissenter alone. Our producers were instructed to feature two conservatives for every liberal.
MOYERS: You’re kidding.
DONOHUE: No this is absolutely true.
MOYERS: Instructed from above?
We now know that in fact the stockpiles did not exist and the administration premeditatedly lied the country into yet another war, but the most intense opposition the Bush administration ever received over this documented war crime was some polite correction on the Sunday political talk show circuit.
DONALD RUMSFELD: You and a few other critics are the only people I’ve heard use the phrase “immediate threat.” I didn’t. The president didn’t. And it’s become kind of folklore that that’s what’s happened. The president went—
BOB SCHIEFFER: You’re saying that nobody in the administration said that—
RUMSFELD: I can’t speak for nobody— . . . and everybody in the Administration and say nobody said that.
SCHIEFFER: The Vice-President didn’t say that?
RUMSFELD: If you have any citations I’d like to see them.
THOMAS FRIEDMAN: “Some have argued that the nu—” this is you speaking “some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent, that Saddam is at least five to seven years away from having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain.”
FRIEDMAN: That’s close to “imminent.”
RUMSFELD: Well, I’ve tried to be precise and I’ve tried to be accurate. Sometimes—
FRIEDMAN: “No terror state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iran.”
The Libya Intervention
The WMD story blew up in the neocons’ face shortly after the war, but by that time they had already succeeded in their plan to reshape the Middle East. But for the would-be controllers of public opinion, a valuable lesson was learned: “Human rights” and “protecting the innocent” is a more effective lie to sell to the public to motivate them for war. So when it came time to sell the war on Libya to the public, the UN-backed, NATO-led aggressors once again donned the cloak of “human rights” by turning to none other than the UN’s Human Rights Council.
The process that launched the intervention was begun by a coalition of 70 non-governmental organizations, which issued a joint letter urging the UN to suspend Libya from the Human Rights Council and for the Security Council to invoke the so-called “responsibility to protect” principle in protecting the Libyan people from alleged atrocities being committed by the Libyan government.
In a special session on the issue on February 25th, 2011, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution affirming the NGOs’ recommendations. The resolution was adopted without a vote.
The Security Council immediately passed resolutions 1970 and 1973, authorizing the establishment of a “no-fly zone on Libyan military aviation” for the “protection of civilians” and the “delivery of humanitarian assistance.” Three days later, using the resolution as its justification, the US, UK and France began bombing the population of Libya.
Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, began working on the legal basis for the invasion. He drafted the request for the Court’s judges to issue an arrest warrant for Gaddafi for crimes against humanity. Although NATO forces were already engaged in an invasion of the country on the basis of undocumented allegations by a group of NGOs, Moreno-Ocampo’s request was not issued until May 16th.
On June 28th, the day after the judges agreed to issue the warrant, Moreno-Ocampo participated in a press conference in which one reporter asked about the evidence that Gaddafi had ever engaged in the atrocities he was accused of.
LUIS MORENO-OCAMPO: I advise you to read the application of the prosecutor’s office. Many pages. I think it was 77 pages. We describe in detail the facts. Most of it is public and the judges also decided on the evidence. So of course we are prosecutors and judges, so we rely on facts, so we prove the crimes. That’s what we did.
Although the document that Moreno-Ocampo urges the public to read to understand the evidence of Gaddafi’s crimes is indeed public, and is 77 pages long, the version made available to the public has been heavily redacted. In fact, of the 77 pages, 54 of them have been redacted, comprising the entire section of the document dealing with the evidence for the charges themselves.
The most sickening part of this war lie is just how obvious it was. No one involved in this charade cared about the well-being of the Libyan people. Not the press, not the politicians, not the ICC prosecutors. And as a result, today, seven years after the destruction of Libya at the hands of the United Nations-sanctioned NATO “saviours,” open-air slave markets are running in the country that the human rights crusaders once pretended to care about.
False flags. Provocateur conflicts. Fake news and fake human rights crusades. Throughout the last century, a host of methods have been employed to keep the public playing the military-industrial complex’s game. And over that century, the blood of untold millions has flowed as a direct result of these war lies.
Truth is the first casualty of war, as they say. But if we desire peace, then we must confront the liars with our knowledge of these war lies. And armed with this truth, the public finally stands a chance of stopping the next war before the warmongers can conjure it into existence.