Here’s an interesting sidelight of the developing crisis in Ukraine. Twice now I’ve heard in the main mainstream press – the Wall Street Journal and NPR – reference to Vladimir Putin’s false flag attacks in Russia in 1999. He used them to gin up the second Chechen war, just as we used false flag attacks to gin up wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Putin’s recent activities don’t quite count as false flag attacks in the strict sense – they haven’t occurred on his home territory – but the conventional aim still holds: stir up a war. Even better, get what you want without a war.
What’s remarkable, of course, is that when we readily talk about these fake attacks in Moscow and other Russian cities – we assume that, of course Putin would do that sort of thing. All the evidence, including Putin’s subsequent murders, points to that conclusion. Yet we cannot see or admit that the same kind of crimes occur in our own country. Western Europeans, who sit between Russia and the United States, and who know from their own history how great powers act, don’t have any difficulty at all believing that the attacks in New York City and Washington DC were not what the government said they were. European observers were among the first to point out the truth. In the face of so much evidence – and we of all people should be able to see it, as the crimes occurred here, right in front of us – we have asserted aggressively and defensively, “It can’t happen here.”
If you want evidence of American exceptionalism, you have it in our insistence that governments of other countries commit serious crimes, but our government does not. We recognize some degree of corruption, and we try to prevent it, but we do not recognize criminality. The usual scandals are mildly entertaining. They remind us that our rulers are no better than we are, and they remind our rulers how easily distractable their subjects are: sprinkle some illicit behavior into your politics, and you do not have to concern yourself that the truly bad things you do will come to light. Altogether, when we compare our government people with their government people, American vs. Russian, we say that at least our people aren’t criminals. Our government is better than those other regimes. We want to know, as we gaze on those ever-enlarging flag pins that politicians wear in their lapels: if all the plotting required for these crimes goes on in my own government, how can I love my country? How can I trust anyone anymore?
Actually, that’s another good outcome for the criminals. It helps them tremendously if no one trusts anyone anymore. In that sense, they want you to know what dastardly things they’ve been up to, and they don’t want you to know. The feds are happy if we are ignorant about the truth behind attacks on the homeland, but they surely don’t mind the fear and distrust these attacks create. Under these conditions, government officials increase their own power, and at their pleasure bring people together in fervors of fake, propaganda-fed patriotism. Think of the street celebrations when news of bin Laden’s death circulated. When the spasm of self-congratulation subsides, you have the same isolation and mistrust that existed before the latest occasion for unifying hate.
We want to love our country for the right reasons again. We want to love our country because it does good things, stands for good ideals. That won’t happen – soon or in our lifetimes – if we don’t see the truth about the way we have acted in the world. When Putin whips up Russian nationalism in Ukraine, the rest of the world holds the entire Russian nation responsible. When we invade other countries in an aggressive “war of choice”, as we did in Iraq, the rest of the world holds the entire American nation responsible. We may make a distinction between the criminals who prey on our country, and the unfortunate country they rule, but the rest of the world does not. We may want to start over, to reinstitute the rule of law and constitutional government once more, but we cannot do that while we continue to think of ourselves as incapable of the same crimes we see our counterparts commit. Think of all the times we lectured Putin and Russia about good behavior, even as we continued to wreak death and havoc in Iraq.
Don’t mess with this man.
To conclude, read what Holman Jenkins writes in the Wall Street Journal about the 1999 attacks in Russia. Note in particular the opening sentence, where Jenkins states that the Russians regard the 1999 apartment bombings as their 9/11. It’s remarkable to me how Jenkins, a mainstream journalist in a mainstream paper, assumes so casually that 9/11 is a false flag attack. If he were to state that outright, rather than imply it by means of comparison with attacks that occurred in Russia two years earlier, he could never have entered such a statement on the Journal‘s opinion page. He seems to have slipped it in, with nary an editor taking out a red pen.
Of all the unanswered questions, the greatest concern what Russians call their 9/11. A supposedly Chechen-inspired terrorist bombing campaign in September 1999 killed nearly 300 apartment dwellers in Moscow and other cities and led directly to Mr. Putin’s political rise. In the free-wheeling Russian press of the day, respected journalists from Russia’s Moskovskaya Pravda, Italy’s La Stampa and Sweden’s Svenska Dagbladet reported that such a terror wave was coming—and that it would be sponsored by the Russian state.
In the middle of the bombing campaign, Gennadiy Seleznyov, speaker of the Russian Duma, took to the rostrum on Sept. 13, 1999, to announce that an apartment building in Volgodonsk had been bombed the previous night—but the Volgodonsk bombing would not take place until three days later.
The campaign came to an abrupt halt after three perpetrators were caught planting explosives in an apartment block in Ryazan. The three turned out to be Russian security agents. After 36 hours of contradictory statements, the Kremlin cited a training exercise.
If you have any doubts about this comparison, note how Russian techniques parallel or resemble American techniques: reference to a training exercise, hints ahead of time that such an attack was on the way, the preparation of buildings for destruction in advance. You almost wonder if Cheney and friends took their inspiration from Putin’s success. He blew up some buildings, and blamed it on Chechen terrorists. Our masterminds in Washington think: “Now that’s a model we might want to follow! After all, we’ve been talking about a new Pearl Harbor. What could be better than that? Osama bin Laden would even thank us for it!”