Politics

What Is A False Flag?


On Jan. 14, a U.S. official claimed that the U.S. had information that Russia was planning a false flag operation to justify an invasion of Ukraine. But what exactly is a false flag?

A false flag operation is done with the intention of disguising the actual source of responsibility and blaming another party.

While the phrase “false flag” originated in the 16th century to mean a deliberate misrepresentation of someone’s motives, it was later used to describe a tactic in naval warfare during which a military vessel hid its true identity by flying the flag of an enemy or neutral country. 

Today, it can happen when a country organizes an attack on itself and then falsely claims it was attacked by an enemy nation or terrorists.

U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer mentioned the tactic during a Feb. 3 interview with MSNBC and suggested that Russia might have plans for a potential false flag operation so it could have an excuse to take over Ukraine.

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“We know that this is an option under consideration that would involve actors – playing mourners for people who are killed in an event they would have created for themselves – that would involve the deployment of corpses of bodies purportedly killed in an incident like this,” Finer said. He added, however, that the U.S. does not yet know if this is the route the Russians will take. 

But this is a message U.S. officials continue to put out. Other U.S. officials have alleged that Russia has been preparing to “fabricate a pretext for an invasion” of Ukraine by creating “a very graphic propaganda video” that would depict a fake attack by Ukraine against Russia, CNN reported.

“At today’s WH and State Dept press briefings, reporters pressed for evidence to back up U.S. gov’t statements about recent events in Syria and Russia, respectively. In response, officials suggested those reporters might be more inclined to believe ISIS/the Kremlin. Yikes,” Washington Post political reporter Felicia Sonmez (@feliciasonmez) tweeted.

There is a long history of false flags being used to start conflicts across the globe. 

In 2003, U.K. newspaper The Guardian discovered documents about “false flag” operations in Syria in 1957. U.K. Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower approved a plan to organize fake border incidents as justification for an invasion of Syria by its pro-Western allies. 

And in South Africa, for example, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1989 granted amnesty to a former member of the South African Police bomb disposal unit for his role in a series of “false flag” operations in the late 1980s. 

Photo: In this image from video released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Jan. 26, 2022, the Russian navy’s frigate Admiral Essen prepares to sail off for an exercise in the Black Sea. A buildup of an estimated 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine has fueled Western fears of an invasion, but Moscow has denied having plans to launch an attack while demanding security guarantees from the the U.S. and its allies. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)



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