Naval false flags and the twentieth ‘American Century’

In his most recent book The true flag, veteran American journalist Stephen Kinzer chronicled what he called “the mother of all debates” in the United States, which transpired in the last years of the nineteenth century. Unlike today, America’s most prominent intellectual leaders were gripped by a question that would not only decide the country’s future but determine the outlook of the next century for the entire world: how should the US act in the world? Should America intervene in faraway countries to “defend freedom” and hence establish a global empire, or should it turn inward and allow people abroad to choose their own destinies? There of course had already been several isolated instances of free trade imperialism in Asia, and with the 1823 Monroe doctrine, the US, albeit theoretically, gained its first foothold in Latin America. Only when the Western frontier was officially declared closed in 1890, three decades after the Civil War, however, did it became conceivable to contemplate exerting permanent power over lands beyond North America. This prompted many statesmen to dream about the glory of empire, but it horrified many other intellectuals, who reminded the former that the US itself had been a colony, and that unlike its European counterparts, it should not rule over, but with the consent of, the governed. The imperialist side was lead by a powerful trio; Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, publisher William Randolph Hearst and Theodore Roosevelt. They received strong opposition, however, from anti-interventionists of all stripes, many of whom were involved with the newly-founded Anti-Imperialist League. They included German immigrant and Senator Carl Schurz, industrialist and one of the country’s richest men Andrew Carnegie, social reformer Jane Addams, leading African American activist Booker T. Washington, and from 1899 onwards, Mark Twain.[1] During the twentieth “American Century,” these and many future intellectuals were often able to obstruct the US’s entry in foreign wars of expansion, convincing many Americans that global military intervention was not in the nation’s interests. Combined with a steady stream of propaganda, however, a number of naval mass casualty attacks blamed on the enemy of the day succeeded in temporarily changing public opinion in favour of war. As a result, at the expense of the lives of many more Americans and people from all over the world, the American empire was born.

The USS Maine and the Spanish-American War

The first opportunity for expansion following the consolidation of the the territory of the US as we know it today came in the late 1890s. In 1807, Thomas Jefferson had written that “nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that vehicle.”[2] Yet, William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, two of the nation’s most-read newspapers, were drumming up support for war with Spain over Cuba, where indigenous revolts threatened Spain’s grip over one of its last but most wealthy colonies. The Journal and the World made up countless stories of Spanish atrocities and misreported several incidents so as to agitate public opinion against Spain.[3] Their reporting was so sensational and deplorable that these two journals were coined as the originators of “yellow journalism,” coverage with eye-catching headlines and little or no legitimate well-researched background, perhaps equivalent to today’s “fake news.” Still, alleged Spanish atrocities were not enough of a reason to declare war, certainly because the yellow press’s influence outside New York was limited. In addition, Spain did everything in its power to avoid starting a war with the US. While the American navy increasingly possessed steel military vessels, the Spanish navy was still largely made up of wooden ships. The Spaniards knew war would mean colonial suicide, as the US was the wealthiest and militaristically most powerful nation of the Americas and geographically much closer to Cuba.[4] Indeed, Spanish Atlantic Commander Admiral Pascual Cervera had warned his government of “our lack of everything that is necessary for a naval war, such as supplies, ammunition, coal, provisions, etc. We have nothing at all.”[5]

Photo USS Maine (1)
The USS Maine exploded on 15 February, 1898. Public Domain

Soon, though, the US was embroiled in its first major foreign war of conquest, resulting in it wresting control not only over Cuba but also the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam and even non-Spanish Hawaii by the dawn of the new century. The trigger had been the sinking of the USS Maine, an American naval ship that exploded on 15 February 1898 in the Cuban harbour of Havana, leading to the death of 266 of the 355 crew members. On 24 January, while potential war was looming, the White House had decided to send the Maine to Cuba, ironically to ensure the safety of American citizens and interests. It did not properly notify the Spanish of this bold move, however, nor had it been made clear to Captain Charles Sigsbee that they were not expected when the vessel arrived in Cuba on 25 January.[6] According to Kinzer, those who wished for war with Spain clearly hoped for some sort of confrontation, even though the journey was officially dubbed a “friendly visit.” In an astonishing prediction, Senator Lodge wrote to a friend that “there may be an explosion any day in Cuba which would settle a great many things.”[7] Fortunately, the Spanish welcomed the Maine and permitted her to dock. On a quiet night three weeks later, two days before the ship had been scheduled to leave Havana for New Orleans,[8] however, the Maine was torn apart.

On 21 March, a naval board of inquiry concluded that the blast was caused solely by a mine situated under the bottom of the ship.[9] Although the board maintained that it was unable to determine responsibility, the finding that an external explosion would have destroyed the vessel gave enough leeway to the pro-war press to pin the blame on the Spanish, which they were already doing directly after the incident anyway. During the week following the tragedy, the Journal on average devoted eight and a half pages to the explosion of the Maine and pinning the blame on Spain. As the war cries intensified, a suitable slogan emerged: “Remember the Maine and to hell with Spain!” Meanwhile, Pulitzer’s World expounded the mine theory as well, even though he himself privately admitted that “nobody outside of a lunatic asylum” believed Spain had sanctioned this “act of treachery.”[10] As Hearst and Pulitzer were beating the drums of war in their yellow press, Lodge and Roosevelt pressured Congress and a more reluctant President William McKinley for a declaration of war. John Davis Long, Secretary to the Navy and personal friend of the president, wrote in his diary that “Roosevelt, in his precipitate way, has come very near to causing more of an explosion than happened to the Maine. […] The very devil seemed to posses him.”[11] On 19 April, Congress passed a joint resolution, including an amendment disclaiming any intention of annexing Cuba, that demanded complete Spanish withdrawal and authorised the president to use as much military force as necessary to help Cuba gain independence. By 25 April, war had been declared.

From the very onset, a few cautious observers doubted the official story. Navy Secretary Long wrote in his diary that the explosion was probably “the result of an accident.”[12] The navy’s chief engineer, George W. Melville, suspected that the blast was caused by a magazine explosion inside the vessel rather than by an external mine; and Philip R. Alger, the navy’s leading weapons and ammunition expert, told the Washington Evening Star a couple of days following the incident that the damage appeared to have come from a magazine explosion. Yet, somehow, the opinions of these government experts and officials went unheard by the board of inquiry, even though it was entirely possible that the coal bunkers overheated and caused the magazines that stored ammunition, gun shells and gunpowder, which were situated next door, to explode. Indeed, a couple of weeks before the sinking of the Maine a different investigatory board had warned the Secretary of the Navy of exactly that – that spontaneous coal fires, which occurred frequently in that era, could detonate nearby magazines on American military ships. Still, a new official inquiry from 1911 reaffirmed the conclusion of an exterior mine.[13]

Decades later, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover asked naval historians to take another look at whether the cause of the explosion was internal or external. Contrary to the 1898 official inquiry, this private investigation attracted a range of scholars and technical experts, who concluded that the explosion was, “without a doubt,” internal. A 1998 National Geographic Society computer model study, on the other hand, determined that both a coal bunker overheating and an external mine could have caused the magazine to explode, but it concluded that the latter was more plausible.[14] Finally, in a 2002 History Channel documentary scientists reconstructed the inward-bending hull of the damaged ship, previously thought to be evidence of an external mine explosion, concluding that the shape of the damaged hull was a result of the inrushing water rather than of an explosion external to the vessel.[15] Whether the primary blast was internal or external, I doubt that it was just an accident. Precisely because of the possibility of spontaneous combustions in coal bunkers aboard US naval ships, the Maine was equipped with a thermostatically controlled fire alarm system. Moreover, Commander Wainwright, executive officer of the Maine, had a reputation for caution and thorough safety procedures.[16] Coupled with the fact that none of the ships that had previously experienced spontaneous coal combustions were lost as a result of fires, it seems extremely unlikely that the Maine was the first vessel to accidentally explode, just at that junction in history when its faith would set the US on its path to empire. The question, then, remains: who benefited? The Spanish? Or the Cuban revolutionaries and/or the pro-war axis in Washington?

The RMS Lusitania and World War I

After the short but successful war against Spain, famously dubbed “a splendid little war” by Ambassador to the UK John Hay, the “American Century” was born. The scars from the Civil War were finally healed, the economy boomed, and from then on, America would leave its footprints in all corners of the world. The consequences for the anti-interventionist movement were disastrous. Charles Eliot Norton, who had given a speech in 1898 that had set the anti-imperialist movement in motion, admitted that “we are defeated for the time [being].”[17] Indeed, in the beginning of the twentieth century the Anti-Imperialist League was only a shadow of its former strength. It even did not object the US’s entry into World War I, and it eventually disbanded in 1920. Roosevelt, who himself had fought in the Spanish-American War, on the other hand, was welcomed as a hero. He was elected Governor of New York in 1898, became McKinley’s vice president in 1900 and assumed the country’s highest command after the president was murdered in 1901. He was then reelected president in 1904, and in 1908, his close friend William Howard Taft succeeded him. Surprisingly though, once in the Oval Office, a saturated Roosevelt toned down his expansionism, focused most of his time on national matters and only intervened in Panama to secure land for the construction of the interoceanic canal. The Philippine-American War, which dragged on until 1902 and was considerably less “splendid” and “little,” had scaled down the imperialist fever a bit. It turned out that the anti-imperialist movement, whose leaders had correctly warned that any attempt to annex the Philippines would set off rebellions, was not dead after all.

The Taft presidency, however, came to be known for its “dollar diplomacy,” the usage of economic power in foreign policy through handing out loans to target countries as a way of expanding American influence. This angered Roosevelt, who decided to declare another candidacy in 1912 after Taft had intervened in Nicaragua and Honduras on behalf of American business interests. After being denied the Republican nomination, he ran as an independent. This split the Republican vote and allowed a supposedly ardent promoter of peace, Woodrow Wilson, to win the presidency. By the time World War I broke out, a powerful anti-interventionist wave again swept across the nation. Many believed that this was not “the war to end all wars” but rather just another European conflict perpetuated by the old colonial powers’ lust for territorial expansion and profit.[18] The loss of American lives seemed the only way to reverse the tide.

And low and behold, that is exactly what happened on 7 May 1915. With the naval war in full swing, a German U-boat torpedoed a British ocean liner called the RMS Lusitania en route from New York to Liverpool, killing nearly 1.200 people including 128 Americans. The event was instrumental in turning public opinion in many countries against Germany and became an iconic symbol for military recruitment. Although it did not directly lead to the US’s entry into the war, it definitely laid the necessary groundwork and played an essential role in the Allied propaganda leading up to the US declaring war in 1917 after the Zimmerman Telegraph revealed Germany’s bid at a possible alliance with Mexico. In Britain, it was decided upon to hold a formal inquiry to determine responsibility, but as James Perloff has shown, Captain William Turner was already picked as the scapegoat prior to the investigation.[19] Over the last hundred years, however, many pieces of evidence have come to light that reveal Allied foreknowledge and a scheme to make certain that the Lusitania would meet its tragic faith, thereby engineering public outrage against the enemy. Patrick Beesley, a British intelligence officer during World War II considered to be one of the leading authorities on the history of British naval intelligence, studied the incident and came to a surprising conclusion:

“Unless and until fresh information comes to light, I am reluctantly driven to the conclusion that there was a conspiracy deliberately to put the Lusitania at risk in the hope that even an abortive attack on her would bring the United States into the war. Such a conspiracy could not have been put into effect without Winston Churchill’s express permission and approval.”[20] (emphasis added)

From the onset of the war, the Allied Powers had set up a naval blockade in an attempt to restrict the maritime supplies to the Central Powers. This was considered a key element in the eventual Allied victory, as both Germany and Britain heavily depended on imports to feed their populations and to supply their war industries. The consequences were disastrous, as hundreds of thousands of Germans died as a result of the blockade. Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty in 1914, was right when he claimed that the aim was to “starve the whole population – men, women, and children, old and young, wounded and sound – into submission.”[21] The Germans reacted with a counter-blockade, but the British navy was superior. That gave way to Germany’s U-boat campaign, in which it during the course of the war sank thousands of enemy ships by submarine warfare. Churchill openly hoped that German U-boats would, accidently or not, target ships carrying American citizens and clearly encouraged President of the Board of Trade Walter Runciman to put innocent people in harm’s way when he wrote to him that it was “most important to attract neutral shipping to our shores, in the hopes especially of embroiling the United States with Germany.”[22] The Germans were careful to avoid attacking American ships, however, and so the downing of a British boat with American passengers on board had to do the job. Four revelations expose the plot that Beesley called a “conspiracy.”

First, multiple quotes by Allied officials reveal signs of foreknowledge. On 2 May, American Ambassador to the UK Walter Hines Page wrote to his son that “the blowing up of a liner with American passengers may be the prelude [to the US’s entry into the war]. I almost expect such a thing. […] If a British liner full of American passengers be blown up, what will Uncle Sam do? That’s what’s going to happen.[23] (emphasis added) Edward Mandell House – Wilson’s chief advisor on European politics and diplomacy during World War I, and more importantly, key behind-the-scenes player in establishing Wilson as president and one of the founding fathers of the Council on Foreign Relations – was in the American embassy in Britain with British Foreign Minister Edward Gray on the morning of the fateful 7 May, and, bizarrely, recorded in a telegraph that he foresaw the event a couple of hours in advance. Quoting from a biography detailing his intimate papers, he had written:

“‘We spoke of the probability of an ocean liner being sunk,’ recorded House, ‘and I told him [Gray] that if this were done, a flame of indignation would sweep across America, which would in itself probably carry us into the war.’ An hour later, House was with King George in Buckingham Palace. ‘We fell to talking, strangely enough,’ the Colonel [House] wrote that night, ‘of the probability of Germany sinking a trans-Atlantic liner… He said, ‘Suppose they should sink the Lusitania with American passengers on board…’ That evening House dined at the American Embassy. A despatch came in, stating that at two in the afternoon a German submarine had torpedoed and sunk the Lusitania off the southern coast of Ireland. Many lives had been lost.”[24] (emphasis added)

Second, although Wilson was personally involved in covering it up, it is now mainstream history that the Lusitania was not only carrying passengers and civilian cargo but high explosives and other contraband as well. Decades later, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stumbled upon a package that Wilson had ordered concealed in the archives of the Treasury Department, only to be opened by a US president, which contained the original cargo manifest. Contrary to the manifest that was shown to the outside world in 1915, the original bill of lading did list contraband, including millions of small-arms ammunition and above 50 tons of shrapnel shells. The most plausible explanation for the sinking of the vessel in just 18 minutes, many believe, is that the torpedo strike set off a secondary blast of high explosives in the ship’s magazines, comparable to the case of the USS Maine.[25] It remains unknown which material eventually caused that explosion, but an interesting affidavit of the US Justice Department offers additional circumstantial evidence of conspiracy. In the document, a chemist employed by British Naval Attaché to Washington Captain Guy Gaunt claimed that the captain had asked him what the effect of sea water coming into contact with guncotton would be, whereupon he answered that only contact between water and the pyroxylin type of guncotton could cause sudden explosion. Gaunt then went on to buy tons of pyroxylin and had it packaged in burlap and loaded onto the Lusitania. Perhaps this is what really accounts for the numerous containers of butter and cheese listed in the manifest for the unrefrigerated compartments on the ship.[26]

Third, Germany tried to warn passengers that the Lusitania route crossed a war zone, and that it therefore could be targeted by its U-boats. The Germans knew that the vessel had the dual function of traversing passengers while at the same time shipping contraband to the war front. They were thus faced with a dilemma; either they risked turning world opinion against them if they attacked civilian vessels carrying weapons and ammunition, or they let the chances of losing the war increase if they allowed the shipment of war material to the front. Therefore, the German embassy tried to place advertisements in 50 American newspapers that were sold in the vicinity of the departure point of the Lusitania a week before its final journey, warning of the risk for passengers of boarding the vessel. In a remarkable move, the US State Department ordered the warning’s publication suppressed, and the advertisement only appeared in a few journals. Thus, while Germany clearly showed attempts at avoiding killing American civilians, the State Department did the exact opposite and put them in harm’s way.[27] The warning read as follows:

“TRAVELLERS intending to embark on the Atlantic voyage are reminded that a state of war exists between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and here allies; that the zone of war includes the waters adjacent to the British Isles; that, in accordance with formal notice given by the Imperial German Government, vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of her allies, are liable to destruction in those waters and that travellers sailing in the war zone on the ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk.”

Photo Lusitania (2)
The German warning in Des Moines Register

Lastly, as a final nail in the coffin, the British Admiralty failed to provide the most basic guarantees of a safe passage while knowing full well that the Lusitania and a German U-boat were on a collision course. Not only could it have ordered the Lusitania to reroute around northern Ireland where it knew no U-boats were operating, navy ships did not accompany the Lusitania when it entered the war zone as well, even though that was common practice when there were threats of German submarine attacks. Naval Intelligence Officer Joseph Kenworthy, who met with fellow Admiral officials, including Churchill, two days prior to the attack in the Admiralty’s map room, admitted in his postwar book that “the Lusitania was deliberately sent at considerable reduced speed into an area where a U-boat was known to be waiting with her escorts withdrawn.” (emphasis added) Interestingly, although that does not change the core of the statement, his publisher removed the word “deliberately” due to pressure from the Admiralty.[28]

Pearl Harbour and World War II

After World War I, the battle of semantics indicated that the “larger policy” had won. Anti-interventionists were now called “isolationists,” a pejorative label that implied blindness to the nation’s interests and the world’s problems instead of prudent restraint. The term “imperialism,” on the other hand, was ditched in favour of “globalism” or “internationalism,” which gave the connotation that the victors of history did not promote war and coercive power but rather economic growth, human rights and, above all, democracy. Yet, horrified by World War I, most Americans recognised that involvement in that war was to be a one-time exception, and thus, the US entered a long and profound period of anti-interventionism not seen since before the Spanish-American War. Indeed, the first three presidents of the interbellum were all classic conservatives who sought to keep their country’s nose out of global affairs, and perhaps, President Herbert Hoover is the most clear example of this “isolationist” era. During his presidency, he bluntly told the American people that in “a large part of the world,” the US was seen as “a new imperial power intent upon dominating the destinies and freedoms of other people.” Soon after taking office in 1929, he declared that “it ought not to be the policy of the United States to interfere by force to secure or maintain contracts between our citizens and foreign states.” According to Kinzer, “no previous president had spoken like that. None has since.”[29]

It is in this climate that Franklin Delano Roosevelt ascended into the Oval Office in 1933. As a result, he had to balance the scales between his moderated public speeches and his personal desire to involve the US into World War II when yet another global conflict broke out in 1939. In January 1941, while the war was already in full swing in Europe, Asia and Africa, a Gallup poll revealed that a staggering 88% of American citizens were still opposed the US’s entry into another European war.[30] FDR understood the anti-war sentiment that gripped America, and stated in a 1940 election speech that “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.”[31] To make this statement into a lie, a plot more sinister than that of the RMS Lusitania had to be connived, as the latter had not immediately sparked the desired outcome of catapulting the US into World War I. This time, a harbour full of American servicemen was to be sacrificed.

That happened on the morning of Sunday 7 December, 1941 in Hawaii, where a large American naval base was stationed. Commencing on 7.48 am Hawaiian Time, over 350 Imperial Japanese military planes, launched from six aircraft carriers, attacked the base. After 90 minutes, all eight US navy ships were damaged, four of them had sunk, and eventually, 2.403 Americans lost their lives. The attack came as a profound surprise to the pacified American people, who had now been convinced that entering the war was necessary after all. On 8 December, an hour after FDR delivered his “day of infamy” speech to a joint session of Congress, Congress passed a formal declaration of war against Japan, officially bringing the US into World War II. On 11 December, then, Germany and Italy declared war on the US, after which the American government responded in kind. In the mass media and history books, the event is remembered as a surprise attack that happened due to an unimaginable failure of American intelligence, and most of all, incompetence of Hawaiian commanding officers Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and General Walter Short. Not only did the Roosevelt administration on multiple levels provoke Japan into making the first overt act of war, however, it knew the attack was coming, held Kimmel and Short in the dark and deliberately allowed it to happen. Naval officer and cryptanalyst Joseph J. Rochefort, who unlike Kimmel and Short was not removed from the information pipeline, remarked after the war that the Pearl Harbour tragedy was a “cheap price” for the unification of America.[32]

In January 1995, following decades of indefatigable archival research, journalist and World War II veteran Robert B. Stinnett discovered a very interesting memorandum in the personal classified archive of Arthur H. McCollum, head of the Far East desk of the Office of Naval Intelligence in the World War II era. Being one of FDR’s most trusted advisors, having grown up in Japan and basing his reports on a worldwide network of American military cryptographers and radio intercept operators, few understood Japan’s diplomatic and military activities better than McCollum in the lead up to the war. McCollum believed that war between Japan and the US was inevitable, but that Japan had to be provoked into making the first “overt act of war.” In the October 1940 memorandum, which circulated in Washington’s intelligence circles, he advised an eight-step plan to succeed in this:

“It is not believed that in the present state of political opinion the United States government is capable of declaring war against Japan without more ado; and it is barely possible that vigorous action on our part might lead the Japanese to modify their attitude. Therefore, the following course of action is suggested:

1) Make an arrangement with Britain for the use of British bases in the Pacific, particularly Singapore.

2) Make an arrangement with Holland for the use of base facilities and acquisition of supplies in the Dutch East Indies.

3) Give all possible aid to the Chinese government of Chiang-Kai-Shek.

4) Send a division of long range heavy cruisers to the Orient, Philippines, or Singapore.

5) Send two divisions of submarines to the Orient.

6) Keep the main strength of the U.S. fleet now in the Pacific in the vicinity of the Hawaiian islands.

7) Insist that the Dutch refuse to grant Japanese demands for undue economic concessions, particularly oil.

8) Completely embargo all U.S. trade with Japan, in collaboration with a similar embargo imposed by the British empire.”[33]

To shatter any doubt why the US should adopt these provocative actions, McCollum concluded that “if by these means Japan could be led to commit an overt act of war, so much the better.”[34] Declassified intelligence cables from 1941 reveal that the Roosevelt administration indeed desired that Japan would make the first overt act of war. Following official concerns by Kimmel about the danger of Japanese hostilities, Admiral Harold Stark, chief of naval operations, ordered Kimmel that “if hostilities cannot repeat cannot be avoided the United States desires that Japan commit the first overt act,” reiterating that “undertake no offensive action until Japan has committed an overt act.”[35] In addition, Secretary of War Henry Stimson recorded in his diary that “in spite of the risk involved, however, in letting the Japanese fire the first shot, we realized that in order to have the full support of the American people, it was desirable to make sure that the Japanese be the ones to do this, so that there would be no doubt in anyone’s mind as to who were the aggressors.”[36]

In April 1940, Washington had decided to keep major portions of the navy’s military fleet in Hawaiian waters. Admiral James Richardson, Kimmel’s predecessor, resigned in protest because he believed that contrary to the fleet’s normal anchorage dock on the West Coast, Pearl Harbour was vulnerable to attacks from all sides. After this first step, action F, had been implemented, the Roosevelt administration started to enact the other seven steps during the course of the following year.[37] In response, as McCollum had hoped, Japan started preparing for war, especially after July 1941, when FDR had put into effect the last of McCollum’s proposals, action H. By imposing a complete embargo on all American and British trade with the Japanese, Japan, which heavily depended on foreign resources much the same as Germany had in World War I, had almost no other choice than to resort to military action. Rochefort later remarked that “we cut off their money, their fuel and trade. We were just tightening the screws on the Japanese. They could see no way of getting out except going to war.”[38]

Not only was it becoming pretty obvious that Japan increasingly saw war as the last recourse, Stinnett’s tireless research has also revealed that the intelligence community was aware that a Japanese spy was collecting information on the Pearl Harbour docks for a potential surprise attack. In May 1941, American intelligence discovered that a chancellor in the Japanese consulate called Tadashi Morimura was actually a spy reporting on types of warships and aircraft he saw operating from Pearl Harbour and at Army airfields. Naval intelligence, then, wiretapped his telephone and closely observed the diplomatic messages Morimura sent back to Tokyo. These coded messages were consistently and quickly decrypted and translated, as American cryptographers had cracked the “Purple” code used by Japan for diplomatic communication. On 21 August, Morimura sent a report to Japan that detailed the grid coordinates of the Pearl Harbour docks, piers and anchorage areas. By 29 September, he finished a more intricate grid system and sent it home, and although American intelligence intercepted and read these messages, they failed to act, let alone notify Kimmel or Short. This information was subsequently used by the Japanese military to construct a bomb plot for the assault, maps from a downed Japanese plane revealed after the attack. On 2 December, Morimura informed Tokyo that “no changes observed by afternoon of 2 December. So far they do not seem to have been alerted. Shore leave as usual;” and three days later, the spy cabled the Japanese fleet heading towards Pearl Harbour that “there are no barrage balloons up and there is an opportunity left for a surprise attack against these places.” (emphasis added) Several American cryptographic stations intercepted these two messages, but contrary to most diplomatic messages from between 1 and 6 December, they were supposedly only deciphered and translated after 7 December in an inexplicable crash of the impressive American cryptographic system.[39]

This is only the tip of the iceberg, however, as there are a myriad of additional signs of foreknowledge of the assault. As far back as January 1941, almost a full year before the Japanese attack, American Ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew reported to Washington that “my Peruvian colleague told a member of my staff that he had heard from many sources including a Japanese source that the Japanese military forces planned in the event of trouble with the United States, to attempt a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor with all their military facilities.”[40] Also in early 1941, Congressman Martin Dies, who headed a committee investigating Japanese espionage activities, uncovered a Japanese military map that exposed “clear proof of the intentions of the Japanese to make an assault on Pearl Harbour.” In 1963, Dies disclosed that when he told Secretary of State Cordell Hull about this information, Hull asked him, after having consulted FDR, to keep quiet about it.[41] Knowing full well its vulnerability, Washington nevertheless kept the fleet at Pearl Harbour and further enacted the McCollum plan over the course of the next months.

Upon his arrival in the US in August, Yugoslavian double agent Dusko Popov warned FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover that he had discerned through information supplied by the Germans that Japan was planning a surprise attack on Pearl Harbour “before the end of the year.”[42] In November, Iowa Senator Guy Gillette received information from Kilsoo Haan, a Korean nationalist figure who engaged in intelligence activities through the Sino-Peoples League for the US, that Japan would make an attack on Pearl Harbour before Christmas. Gillette informed the president, who said the matter would be looked into.[43] During the course of November, Ambassador Grew reiterated on several occasions that the US should not underestimate the increasing possibility of Japan declaring war, stating that “war with the United States may come with dramatic and dangerous suddenness,” and that “we cannot give substantial warning [for a surprise attack].” Astonishingly enough, instead of making preparations to counter such a surprise attack, Washington ordered all US and Allied shipping out of the North Pacific Ocean. When Kimmel sought a way around this “Vacant Sea” policy and organised a search for Japanese carrier forces in the North Pacific Ocean, the White House promptly ordered him to pull back and abort the exercise.[44]

On 26 November, then, the US issued a ten-point memorandum that called for the settling of Japanese-American tensions, which in reality dealt the final blow to the possibility of peace. Rochefort later confessed that “I believe sincerely that the November 26 letter was an actual ultimatum the Japanese could not accept and their only alternative was to go to war.”[45] From that moment on, Japan decided to go ahead with its plan to attack Pearl Harbour, and Washington clearly knew it. In the first days of December, the Dutch army decoded a dispatch from Tokyo to its Bangkok embassy, forecasting an attack on Hawaii, among other targets in Asia. Brigadier General Elliott Thorpe, then military attaché in Dutch-controlled Java, realised its importance and immediately contacted Washington, but his alarms went unheeded by the army’s Chief of Staff General George Marshall. Thorpe tried again three more times, but eventually, he was told “don’t send this anymore, we are not interested.”[46] It is clear from another revelation that the military and intelligence circles were not just uninterested at this point but, to the contrary, knew that Japan was moving eastward towards Hawaii. Captain Johann Ranneft, Dutch naval attaché in Washington, attended a meeting of the Office of Naval Intelligence on 2 December and wrote in his diary that “the location of 2 Japanese carriers leaving Japan with eastern course are pointed to me on the map.” A day before the fateful 7 December, he returned and was again shown the position of the Japanese carriers, which were now situated just a couple of hundred miles northwest of Pearl Harbour. He recorded in his diary that “no one among us mentions the possibility of an attack on Honolulu. I myself do not think about it because I believe that everyone in Honolulu is 100 percent on the alert, just like everyone here at ONI [the Office of Naval Intelligence].”[47] History tells us, however, that despite this overwhelming amount of information pointing to a surprise attack on Hawaii, Kimmel and Short, along with thousands of American servicemen, were deliberately left out in the open.

Photo Pearl Harbour (4)
The USS Shaw during the Pearl Harbour assault © CNN

Finally, Stinnett’s archival research revealed that American cryptologists had not only cracked Japan’s diplomatic “Purple” messages, which is common knowledge, but intercepted Japanese naval pre-Pearl Harbour communication as well. Although many historians claim that the Japanese navy maintained radio silence in the weeks leading up to the attack, Stinnett has found 129 Japanese naval intercepts obtained by US naval monitor stations between 15 November and 6 December that directly contradict that assertion. In separate interviews with Stinnett, Homer Kisner and Duane L. Whitlock, then respectively chief operators at Station H and Station CAST, analysed and confirmed these intercepted naval messages. After the war, Japanese sources disclosed that Japanese navy officers indeed broke the policy of radio silence by communicating several broadcasts that bluntly unmasked the plot. For instance, in early december one radio broadcast unveiled the preparations for “the carrier striking force’s attack on Hawaii” and the “Hawaii attack.” Considering the 129 obtained intercepts, it is quite possible, even likely, that US cryptologists decoded and translated this and/or other damning messages. Despite numerous Freedom of Information requests, however, full access to the naval archives remains closed to the public. As a result, a cloak of secrecy obstructs the full truth about Pearl Harbour.[48]

At any rate, on a final note, all remaining doubts about FDR’s personal knowledge of the plot are shattered by a quote published in the US Naval Institute’s Naval History Magazine. After learning of the the Kimmel and Short families’ efforts to posthumously restore the Pearl Harbour commanders, Helen E. Hamman went public with a secret from her father Don C. Smith, who directed the Red Cross’s War Service before World War II and was summoned by the president in the lead up to the attack:

“Shortly before the attack in 1941 President Roosevelt called him [Smith, my father] to the White House for a meeting concerning a Top Secret matter. At this meeting the President advised my father that his intelligence staff had informed him of a pending attack on Pearl Harbor, by the Japanese. He anticipated many casualties and much loss, he instructed my father to send workers and supplies to a holding area at a P.O.E. [port of entry] on the West Coast where they would await further orders to ship out, no destination was to be revealed. He left no doubt in my father’s mind that none of the Naval and Military officials in Hawaii were to be informed and he was not to advise the Red Cross officers who were already stationed in the area. When he protested to the President, President Roosevelt told him that the American people would never agree to enter the war in Europe unless they were attack[ed] within their own borders. [My father] was privy to Top Secret operations and worked directly with all of our outstanding leaders. He followed the orders of his President and spent many later years contemplating this action which he considered ethically and morally wrong.”[49] (emphasis added)

The Cold War: Operation Northwoods and the Gulf of Tonkin incident

World War II was the deadliest military conflict ever in absolute terms of total casualties. Over 60 million people from all over the world perished, including hundreds of thousands of Americans. On the backbone of all this death and destruction, the US outgrew its former place among the Great Powers and established a hegemony over the Western hemisphere. The American economy was in better shape than any other European or Eurasian superpower, and after the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference, the US dollar was established as a global reserve currency interchangeable to gold at a fixed price. In addition, the IMF and World Bank were created, two globalist institutions which would further the American-led world order in the coming decades. Similarly, with the coming into existence of the United Nations and NATO, the US gained a dominant position on respectively the diplomatic and military front as well. At the same time, however, communist regimes thrived from the Soviet Union and China to Southeast Asia and Cuba, and hence, the Cold War paradigm was born. Declassified cables reveal that in the 1960s, too, American intelligence agencies again planned a series of false flag assaults, this time to be blamed on the Cuban government of Fidel Castro.

In 1997, a throve of once-secret military records were made public by the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board, the federal agency overseeing the release of government records related to the JFK assassination. Among them was a document titled “Justification for U.S. Military Intervention in Cuba (TS),” a top secret collection of draft memoranda written by the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962 following the Bay of Pigs failure the year before. The document called for “a series of well coordinated incidents” that would have the “genuine appearance of being done by hostile Cuban forces.” Known collectively as Operation Northwoods, these actions would constitute “pretexts” for the “justification for US military intervention in Cuba,” as apparently neither the American nor the Cuban people were going to accept such overt intervention without this covert strategy. The plans detailed in the document included assassinating Cuban émigés, attacking the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay, orchestrating terrorism in American cities, blowing up drones disguised as manned aircraft, and, interestingly enough, hijacking planes. More in line with the mass casualty events at sea discussed above, the document also mentioned that “we could blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba.” This is especially reminiscent of the case of the USS Maine, an American military boat that was blown up on the other side of the island more than 60 years earlier in order to ignite the Spanish-American War. And indeed, the authors directly referred to “a ‘Remember the Maine’ incident [that] could be arranged in several forms.”[50] Fortunately, the plans concocted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Department of Defense were eventually rejected by the Kennedy Administration.

Photo USS Maddox (1)
The USS Maddox engages a North Vietnamese torpedo boat on 2 August, 1964 © Wikimedia

Under the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson, who succeeded JFK after the latter was assassinated in 1963, however, a naval false flag was again engineered in order to escalate the Vietnam War. In the 1950s, American tax dollars and military advisors were already heavily involved in the Indochina War between France and the Vietminh independence movement. In the early 1960s, then, US involvement increased rapidly, as the Kennedy administration tripled the amount of troops in both 1961 and 1962. It was only after the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, though, that Congress managed to pass the closest thing there ever was to a declaration of war against North Vietnam. This resolution, passed immediately after American military vessels were said to have come under attack from North Vietnamese torpedo boats on 2 August and again on 4 August, authorised the president to express America’s military might in Southeast Asia, thereby providing a flimsy legal base for the disastrous Vietnam War.[51]

According to the official story presented to the public at the time, the Johnson administration had done nothing to provoke a naval engagement in the Tonkin Gulf. Essentially, the USS Maddox was said to peacefully minding its own business in the area when it came under sudden attack from North Vietnamese forces on 2 August. Navy and military officials declared that they had acted with restraint, refusing to respond, as they only reacted with returning fire after the second attack two nights later. This turned out to be blatantly untrue. Archival research has established that after its approval by Johnson in January 1964, the US started carrying out covert naval commando attacks against North Vietnam under a plan called Operation Plan 34-A. The naval battle between the Maddox and the North Vietnamese torpedo boats occurred in the immediate aftermath of a series of such 34-A maritime raids on coastal targets. Although the American destroyer was in international waters when the battle itself took place, the North Vietnamese forces logically concluded that the Maddox’s appearance was related to the 34-A raids.[52]

Not only had the US thus provoked the North Vietnamese just like it had provoked the Germans and the Japanese in respectively the Lusitania and Pearl Harbour cases, however, it had fired the first shots as well. This conclusion was made by Robert Hanyok, an intelligence analyst and historian with the Department of Defense, who published his findings in an article in the NSA’s own internal classified publication in early 2001, which was made available to the public under pressure of Freedom of Information Requests in 2005.[53] When “the Vietnamese boats inexorably closed the gap between themselves and the destroyer,” Hanyok wrote, “Captain Herrick ordered Ogier’s gun crews to open fire if the boats approached within ten thousand yards. At about 1505G, the Maddox fired three rounds to warn off the communist boats. This initial action was never reported by the Johnson administration, which insisted that the Vietnamese boats fired first.”[54]

Even more startling was Hanyok’s second finding. Confirming what many analysts had already suspected, he concluded that the 4 August attack had never actually taken place at all. Drawing from a comprehensive analysis of intelligence signals and intercepts that he was able to look into, he concluded that the attack simply had not occurred, and that Agency officials had “mishandled” and “skewed” intelligence in order to make the case that the attack did happen.[55] This means that the American destroyers essentially fired at a non-existing adversary on the night of 4 August, after which President Johnson asked for a congressional resolution and ordered retaliatory bombing against North Vietnam in response to what was, in all actuality, a non-event.

Conclusion: a new “American Century?”

Starting shortly after the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the escalation of the war, a huge anti-Vietnam War movement gradually developed and made American intervention less and less popular. After the capture of Saigon by the North Vietnamese army in 1975, which indicated the end of the war, the American people became prone to what was soon called the “Vietnam Syndrome.” The massive protests and riots against American involvement, the Watergate scandal as well as the horrific images from the front and stories of cruel atrocities all contributed to a general distrust to any type of foreign intervention. As a result, the last Cold War administrations had no choice but to scale down overt military intervention. It was only after the First Gulf War of 1990-1991, which resulted in a quick and relatively decisive victory, that President George H. W. Bush declared that the Vietnam Syndrome was finally “kicked.”[56] Still, a propagandistic lie was again needed to find support for that war as well. The UN Security Council was only able to authorise the use of “all means necessary” to eject Iraq from Kuwait after Nayirah al-Sabah’s testimony asserted that Iraqi soldiers had taken babies out of incubators and left them to die during the invasion of Kuwait. It later turned out, however, that Nayirah was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US, and that it simply did not happen, just like the second attack in the Tonkin Gulf in 1964 did not happen.[57]

Over the course of the twentieth century, the US gradually assumed a hegemonic position on the global geopolitical chessboard like none European or Eurasian superpower was ever able to. With the fall of the Soviet Union and the advent of the First Gulf War, President George H. W. Bush declared a unipolar “new world order” in which the US would become the uncontested superpower. In 1997, Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor and former executive director of David Rockefeller’s Trilateral Commission, authored a book in which he meticulously outlined how the US must defend its global primacy by preventing, at all costs, the emergence of a Eurasian rival, as the present situation of an Atlantic superpower exerting global hegemony was unique to history.[58] Members of the conservative think tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC) such as Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Elliot Abrams, all of whom obtained key positions in the George W. Bush administration in 2001, understood this very well. In a policy document called “Rebuilding America’s defenses” published in September 2000 in anticipation of the presidential elections, PNAC outlined an aggressive military plan “for a new century” of American global domination.[59] As I have demonstrated in this article, the twentieth “American Century” might have looked totally different absent a number of naval false flag operations. PNAC recognised that the same counted for the 21st century. “The process of transformation [towards American primacy], even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one,” it postulated,” absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.”[60] Prophetically, that “new Pearl Harbor” came one year later in the form of the 9/11 attacks. Perhaps it is not that silly after all that one in every two Americans doubt the government’s official account of Osama bin Laden having masterminded the well-coordinated sophisticated assaults from a cave in Afghanistan while on dialysis.[61]


[1] Stephen Kinzer, The true flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the birth of the American empire (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2017).

[2] Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Norvell, 11.06.1807 (Library of Congress: The Thomas Jefferson Papers, series 1: general correspondence),

[3] James Perloff, “Trial run for interventionism,” The New American, 20.08.2012, 29-31,,%202012.pdf.

[4] Edward P. McMorrow, “Who destroyed the USS Maine – an opinion (part 2),” The Spanish-American War,

[5] Quoted in Perloff, “Trial run for interventionism,” 33.

[6] Perloff, “Trial run for interventionism,” 32.

[7] Kinzer, The true flag, 29.

[8] Edward P. McMorrow, “Who destroyed the USS Maine – an opinion (part 1),” The Spanish-American War,

[9] Louis Fisher, “The destruction of the Maine (1898),” The Law Library of Congress, 04.08.2009,

[10]  Ivan Musicant, Empire by default: the Spanish-American War and the dawn of the American Century (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1998), 143-4.

[11] Quoted in Kinzer, The true flag, 35.

[12] Quoted in Kinzer, The true flag, 33.

[13] Fischer, “Destruction of the Maine (1898),” 2-3.

[14] Fischer, “Destruction of the Maine (1898),” 3-5.

[15] Perloff, “Trial run for interventionism,” 35.

[16] McMorrow, “Who destroyed the USS Maine – an opinion (part 1).”

[17] Quoted in Kinzer, The true flag, 226.

[18] Kinzer, The true flag, 231-3.

[19] James Perloff, “False flag at sea,” James Perloff, 21.05.2014,

[20] Quoted in Ralph Raico, “Rethinking Churchill,” Mises Institute, 14.11.2008,

[21] Quoted in Ralph Raico, “The blockade and attempted starvation of Germany,” Mises Institute, 07.05.2010,

[22] Quoted in Raico, “Rethinking Churchill.”

[23] Quoted in Burton J. Hendrick, The life and letters of Walter H. Page, Volume I (New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1923), 436,

[24] Charles Seymour, The intimate papers of Colonel House (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1926), 432,;view=image.

[25] Donald E. Schmidt, The folly of war: American foreign policy, 1898-2005 (New York: Algora Publishing, 2005), 73, You can find the original manifesto here:

[26] Perloff, “False flag at sea.”

[27] Gabriel Donohoe, “The sinking of the Lusitania, America’s entry into World War I, a bonanza for Wall Street,” Global Research, 08.05.2010, reprinted on 10.08.2014,

[28]  Perloff, “False flag at sea.”

[29] Kinzer, The true flag, 233-5.

[30] Robert B. Stinnett, Day of deceit: the truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor (London: Constable, 2000), 33.

[31] Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “Campaign address at Boston, Massachusetts,” (Speech, Boston, 30.10.1940), The American Presidency Project,

[32] The reminiscences of Captain Joseph J. Rochefort (US Naval Institute Oral History Program, 1970), 163, quoted in Stinnett, Day of deceit, 117.

[33] Memorandum from Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum to ONI director Captain Walter Stratton Anderson, 7.10.1940 (McCollum’s personal classified file, RG 38, Station US papers, box 6, folder 5750-15, Archives II, College Park, Maryland), reproduced in full in Stinnett, Day of deceit, 261-7.

[34] Memorandum from Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum.

[35] Cable from Admiral Harold Stark, 28.11.1941 (Navy Department, RG 38, Station US papers, MMRB, Archives II, College Park, Maryland), reproduced in full in Stinnett, Day of deceit, 284-5.

[36] Quoted in Stinnett, Day of deceit, 178-9.

[37] Stinnett, Day of deceit, 17-8 and 36.

[38] The reminiscences of Captain Joseph J. Rochefort (US Naval Institute Oral History Program, 1970), 65, quoted in Stinnett, Day of deceit, 121.

[39] Stinnett, Day of deceit, 83-119.

[40] Quoted in Stinnett, Day of deceit, 31.

[41] Michael T. Griffith, “The Pearl Harbor attack: an introduction,” Mike Griffith, 2012,

[42] Thomas O’Toole, “Did Hoover know of Pearl Harbor?”, Washington Post, 02.12.1982,

[43] Steven L. Danver, Popular controversies in world history: investigating history’s intriguing questions (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2011), 250, available online:

[44] Stinnett, Day of deceit, 142-51.

[45] The reminiscences of Captain Joseph J. Rochefort (US Naval Institute Oral History Program, 1970), 66, quoted in Stinnett, Day of deceit, 218.

[46] “Elliott Thorpe, 91, army attache who warned of Japanese attack,” New York Times, 28.06.1989,; Interview with Thorpe from BBC documentary Sacrifice at Pearl Harbor, produced by Roy Davies (London: BBC, 1989), from 41m45 until 43m00, available on Youtube:

[47] Stinnett, Day of deceit, 42-59.

[48] Stinnett, Day of deceit, 189-224.

[49] Daryl S. Borgquist, “Advance warning? The Red Cross connection,” Naval History Magazine 13, no. 3 (1999),

[50] US Joint Chiefs of Staff, “Justification for US Military Intervention in Cuba (TS),” US Department of Defense, 13.03.1962, available online at the National Security Archive,

[51] Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon, “30-year anniversary: Tonkin Gulf lie launched Vietnam War,” FAIR – Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, 27.07.1994,; John Prados, “Essay: 40th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin incident,” National Security Archive, 04.08.2004,

[52] Prados, “Essay: 40th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin incident.”

[53] John Prados, “Tonkin Gulf intelligence ‘skewed’ according to official history and intercepts,” National Security Archive, 01.12.2005,

[54] Robert Hanyok, “Skunks, bogies, silent hounds, and the flying fish: the Gulf of Tonkin mystery, 2-4 August 1964,” Cryptologic Quarterly 19, no. 4 (2001), 16,

[55] Prados, “Tonkin Gulf intelligence ‘skewed’ according to official history and intercepts.”

[56] Alan Rohn, “Vietnam Syndrome,” Vietnam War, 27.06.2014,

[57] Tom Regan, “When contemplating war, beware of babies in incubators,” Christian Science Monitor, 06.09.2002,

[58] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The grand chessboard: American primacy and its geostrategic imperatives (New York: Basic Books, 1997).

[59] Bette Stockbauer, “‘Rebuilding America’s defenses’ and the Project of the New American Century,” Antiwar, 18.06.2003,

[60] Project for the New American Century, Rebuilding America’s defenses: strategy, forces and resources for a new century (report, Washington, DC, September 2000), 51,

[61] Harris MacLeod, “New poll finds most Americans open to alternative 9/11 theories,” YouGov UK, 12.09.2013,


  1. Great research, meticulously describing the systemic, recurring false flag events, leading to eternal US wars for Wallstreet profit. The US billionaires, banksters for a large part, rule the world through deception, divide & rule and massmurder.


      1. @Luutzen: daar vrees ik voor. Ik zou altijd eens kunnen horen natuurlijk, maar ga het niet eerst vertalen om dan waarschijnlijk teleurgesteld te worden.


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