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1 November 2003
This article is part of the series The creation of war motives.
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The creation of war motives
Provocations as a standard procedure
It is not the first time that reasons for starting a war appear later on to be fabrication. Plannings and provocations are rather an elementary component of (world) power politics.

By Daan de Wit. Published first in The Humanist.
This article has been translated into English by Idde Lijnse.
The reasons that Bush and Blair put forward to justify a second war against Iraq only appear to have been excuses so far. Three ministers resigned earlier from the Blair government for that reason. One of them, Robin Cook of Foreign Affairs, 
exposed recently that Blair already knew two weeks before the war that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. A couple of weeks prior to this president Bush had already said that there was no connection between Saddam and September 11. But at the time the war was already part of history. It is not the first time that war motives later appear to have been fabricated.

Operation Cyanide
Early this year former Sunday Times chief investigative journalist Peter Hounam exposed the motives behind a macabre military action code named Operation Cyanide in his BBC-documentary and book, both entitled Dead in the Water. It dealt with the USS Liberty, a war vessel stuffed with NSA eavesdropping equipment, the CIA's larger brother. While Egypt gathered forces in the Sinai in May 1967, the Liberty was on its way to the area where a war was expected to start in the near future. And indeed, as the ship was still steaming up, a six-day war started on June 5, in which Israel destroyed the greater part of the Egyptian airforce in approximately eighty minutes, helped by American observation airplanes that had been repainted with Stars of David, as is said in the documentary. Every other American ship was ordered by the American commanders to stay away. Nevertheless, the Liberty crew did not feel unsafe outside the territorial waters near the Gazastrip, which was Egyptian territory. They were sunbathing and waved at the Israeli combat planes that sometimes flew overhead, writes the Washington Post. Until one of these Mirages attacked on June 8.

Captain William McGonagle saw the formation of Israeli Mirages coming, but this time it was different. They flew in an attacking formation and were unmarked. Before he could warn his crew, the ship was fired at from the front to the back end with rockets and machine guns. Several people died or got wounded and almost all 45 communication antennae were destroyed. Dead in the Water tells how at that moment an American bomber was already on its way to Egypt, to repay the attack by means of a nuclear bomb. The bomber turned around by order of defense minister McNamara and president Johnson when it appeared that the Liberty still existed and sent out a signal for help. Had the decision of a nuclear counterattack been made in those short moments in which the attack on the Liberty took place? Had the withdrawal of the bomber to do with the fact that the Liberty was not lost with all hands?

In the midst of the chaos and the shootings some of the men managed to activate one of the antennae at the risk of their lives so that an SOS-signal could be sent to the Sixth Fleet, 800 kilometres away. At the same time the help signal and the communication of the Israeli pilots were picked up by a U.S. C-130 airplane which made sure to drop it onto President Johnson's desk as quickly as possible. In accordance with the Critic protocol, this took place within 10 minutes. Stephen Forslund, a member of the air force secret service who at the time also read these messages, writes after 36 years of silence: 'We lost our virginity that day'. It was the day the United States wanted to torpedo its 'Liberty' in the name of.., in the name of what actually?

The Washington Post wrote early this year: 'The attack on the Liberty was not simply a case of a single bomb going astray. According to those who survived, it continued for nearly two hours.' The attack consisted of several offensives during which napalm and rockets were fired at the ship by Israeli fighters. Also, three Israeli naval vessels executed a torpedo offensive and even shot the rescue boats to pieces that were set out by the crew of the Liberty.' 172 men got injured by the attacks and 34 lost their lives. Some of them were washed away from the holes in the ship created by the torpedos during the flee to a safe harbour. "They have tried to kill all witnesses", president of the Liberty Veterans Association, Phil Tourney, recently said. "They wanted to keep no one alive". This has been confirmed by Stephen Forslund, as earlier mentioned. He read conversation reports between the Israeli pilots and their commanders on the ground who encouraged them to destroy the target completely.

Just as remarkable was the fact that the jet-fighters which had been sent by the Sixth Fleet as a reaction to the Liberty alarm were called back by the White House, even before they could have come into action. The emergency help which was nearby at only 15 minutes flying time eventually arrived after 18 hours. Another mystery is the fact that submarine USS Amberjack was nearby, yet offered no assistance. The ship was present as part of a secret operation called Frontlet 615, which was approved by the secret 303 Committee, a group of highranking people that authorised special secret orders.

The official story by the Israelis reads that they made a mistake because the frigate resembled a certain Egyptian ship for horse transportation. However, this story is not confirmed by various US sources that were closely involved. President Johnson's press secretary said: "Nobody in the White House believed that the attack was a mistake". Former CIA-director Richard Helms: "It was no accident". That same opinion is held by both admiral Clark Clifford, who was minister of defense under Johnson, and former head of the NSA (1977-1981) Bobby Inman. As well as many others. The recent BBC documentary goes more deeply and exposes the plot between Israel and the US and thus answers the questions that came up after the US took no action against Israel and even ordered the survivors never to speak about why they had received the Purple Heart. One of them states in the documentary that the captain of the ship is probably the only one who had not received the Congressional Medal of Honor from the president in the White House, but from the Navy Secretary on a small marine basis outside Washington instead. The footage of the ceremony has a very sad appearance. The Washington Post writes: 'Strange, but true: Congress has never conducted an investigation into this case.

Operation Northwoods
Some years before the attack on the Liberty, Johnson's predecessor Kennedy had launched a plan from his Joint Chiefs of Staff. In the early sixties they presented Operation Northwoods. The proposed operation consisted of killing American civilians by committing terrorist attacks. Cuba would then be accused which made an invasion possible.

Part of the plan was to fly airplanes resembling the Soviets' MIG jet-fighters into the airspace of the Dominican Republic at the exact moment that weapons were found, put into place by the US as if part of a revolutionary Cuban action. Another plan was to replace a commercial airliner halfway into its flight with an airplane resembling a passenger aircraft. When flying over Cuba it would sent an international emergency signal after which it would be destroyed. The news would be made public in the U.S. by organisations that had picked up the signal and the event would thus 'sell' itself. As a result, there would be enough reason to attack Cuba. Other parts of the plan described terrorist attacks in Miami and Washington. The military command had no lack of ideas: "We could sink a shipload of Cubans on its way to Florida (real or simulated). We could blow up an American ship in Guantanamo Bay and accuse Cuba; casualty lists in American newspapers would help spread indignation throughout the country". One also thought of blowing up plastic bombs on 'carefully chosen places' or blaming Cuba in case John Glenn's rocket in which he would be put into orbit around the moon might explode. This plan was worked on under the name of Operation Dirty Trick, like Northwoods part of Operation Mongoose.

The Joint Chiefs were lead by general Lemnitzer who had originally been appointed by Eisenhower. According to James Bamford, an expert on secret services, Lemnitzer's inspiration for the plans did not come from a stranger, but from Eisenhower himself. The latter needed an excuse for attacking Cuba in January 1961 - weeks before the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. And when Castro would not come up with it, the US could 'think of constructing something that would be generally accepted', Eisenhower said. Bamford: "What he suggested was a pretext -an attempt, an attack, a sabotage- carried out secretly by the US against the US". Lemnitzer later presented the plans to Kennedy also.

A more light-hearted plan was to spread manipulated photos in which Castro would be surrounded by excessive amounts of food and beautiful women. Operation Good Times was not a very authentic plan, since the CIA had used it before in Indonesia. Time magazine describes how a porn actor wearing a Sukarno mask was filmed and photographed while having sex. However, people within the area it was distributed shrugged this off - the influential circles surrounding the head of state. Eventually, the CIA managed to get Sukarno out, but only with old style bloodshedding.

The Ferret program
Over twenty years ago, on September 1, 1983, a long series of American provocations came to a spectacular and bloody end. Leading up to it was a secret service operation by the American air force which was entitled Ferret. The pin-pricks doled out to the military structure of the Soviet Union over the course of decades led to a total of 900 (!) firings of anti-aircraft rockets by the Soviets. Not without danger in the heat of the cold war. James Badford writes that the goal was to 'tickle' the defense systems of the Soviets; presumably a combination of teasing and gathering information about reaction speeds among other things. According to Bamford more than 120 Americans have died en 25 airplanes have been attacked or destroyed in that period.

One of these incidents relates to an airliner of Korean Airlines (KAL 007) which had several espionage devices on board. It may sound strange, but some people working for the secret American army service state in the Boston Globe that KAL was in fact a military organisation which in the past used its airliners for espionage efforts.
The reason for all this activity was the testing of the PL-5 rocket by the Soviets on the Kamchatka peninsula bordering the Bering Sea near Japan. Flight KAL 007 deviated from its planned route and ended up over Kamchatka in Soviet airspace. What followed was an unclear series of events during which the US observed everything closely without doing anything. The Soviets eventually shot down the plane and the American president Reagan called it a barbarian act by a society that systematically violates human rights, that wants to expand all the time and dominate other countries. Reagan killed two birds with one stone by saying this. The Soviets were put in a corner, international affairs between good and bad were sharpened again and Reagan's popularity rose to a high level. It could well have triggered a global war.
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