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When Governments Deceive and Provoke

Operation Canned Meat and Its Derivatives

by WERTHER

“Mundus vult decipi” (“the world wants to be deceived”)

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Item: On the evening of 31 August 1939, members of the S.S. took a concentration camp prisoner, Franciszek Honiok, to a German radio station in Gleiwitz (now Gliwice), on the border with Poland. S.S. operatives then broadcast a message in Polish urging Poles living in Silesia to attack Germans. After administering a lethal injection to Honiok, the operatives shot the corpse to simulate his having been shot while attacking the radio station. The German government invited police officials and the members of the press corps to view Honiok’s corpse as evidence of a Polish attack. As the S.S. referred to concentration camp inmates used for this purpose as “canned goods,” the operation became known to history (once it was revealed during the Nuremberg Tribunal) as “Operation Canned Meat.”

Item: During the late 1940s through the mid-1950s, the Strategic Air Command ordered RB-29s, RB-36s, and RB-47s into Soviet air space, ostensibly to test Soviet air defenses and reconnoiter defense installations. The appearance of those aircraft being identical to their nuclear weapon-equipped stable mates, it raises the question of precisely what the United States government intended, given that the country whose sovereignty was being violated by military aircraft was nuclear armed, declared hostile, and presumed to be paranoid. Stalin was in power at this time.[1]

Item: On 13 March 1962, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Lyman Lemnitzer, submitted a document to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. It proposed as part of an anti-Castro program (Operation Mongoose), staging the assassinations of Cubans living in the United States, developing a fake “Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington,” including “sink[ing] a boatload of Cuban refugees (real or simulated),” faking a Cuban air force attack on a civilian jetliner, and fabricating a major incident by blowing up a U.S. ship in Cuban waters and blaming the incident on Cuban sabotage. The attack on the jetliner was an elaborate false-flag operation that involved unmanned drones. [2] The specific plan was dropped; however, covert operations under the rubric of Mongoose continued. These included poisoning the Cuban sugar cane fields.

Item: On 5 August 1964, President Johnson announced in an address to the nation that U.S. naval vessels on routine patrol were attacked on the high seas by North Vietnamese forces. He thereupon ordered bombing attacks on North Vietnam. Subsequently, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (78 Stat. 384), officially recognizing the presumed fact and authorizing use of military force. The North Vietnamese attacks, however, were apparently imaginary. And the ships in question were covering South Vietnamese fast boats on raids into North Vietnamese territorial waters; the operation was known as OPLAN 34-A. Daniel Ellsberg, who was on duty at the Pentagon the night of the incident, claims the U.S. vessels were on a so-called DeSoto mission inside territorial waters to probe North Vietnamese radars.

Item: According to a British government memo seen by Phillipe Sands, a Queen’s Council and professor of international law at University College, London, discussions between the President of the United States and the British Prime Minister prior to the invasion of Iraq included discussion of provocations. The President told the Prime Minister that “the U.S. was so worried about the failure to find hard evidence against Saddam that it thought of ‘flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft planes with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colors.’” [3] The evident intent was to provoke a military reaction, justifying an invasion.

Item: For more than a year, the press has reported, with gauzy and anonymous sourcing, the overflights of U.S. reconnaissance drones within the Islamic Republic of Iran. The apparent hope of the authors of these operations is that the Iranians would turn on their radars. We also hear stories of special operations into that country, courtesy of the irrepressible Seymour Hersh. New York Times reporter James Risen recounts in his book State of War (published January 2006) the intriguing tale of a U.S. attempt to plant a bogus nuclear bomb recipe on the Iranians–a plan that backfired. There is also the tale of a “found” Iranian laptop brimming with nuclear secrets. Why do one’s thoughts turn to Ahmed Chalabi, Michael Ledeen, and Yellowcake? And there is this latest bulletin, an obscure Reuters dispatch, reproduced in full below. [4]

What are we to conclude from this tour d’horizon of history’s dark crevices? We can hardly guess at the implications. Some incidents led to horrifying carnage; some fizzled out; one at least is indeterminate as of this writing. And for every incident like those recounted here, how many others have gone unrecorded?

Looking back on our historical period from the perspective of geological time, some ethereal intelligence might disdainfully surmise that the then-dominant species, being after all merely a belligerent primate, had devised deceitful behavior in order to give rise to incidents allowing him to vent his primitive aggressive impulses. At the same time, he could beat his chest in simian rage about being the aggrieved party.

That is speculation. But man, the naked ape, has occasionally risen above his degraded condition to make more cerebral conclusions than the norm. In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal deposed the perpetrator of Operation Canned Meat, S.S. Sturmbannfuhrer (Major) Alfred Naujocks, who testified to his role in the incident. Hearing of such outrages against the peace, the chief prosecutor at the tribunal, Justice Robert Jackson, was moved to say this:

"We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy."

And again this:

“Let me make clear that while this law is first applied against German aggressors, the law, if it is to serve a useful purpose, must condemn aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment. We are able to do away with domestic tyranny and violence and aggression by those in power against the rights of their own people only when we make all men answerable to the law.”

WERTHER is the pen name of a Northern Virginia-based defense analyst.

[1] In his Air University (and thus quasi-official) 225-page tome, A Need to Know: The Role of Air Force Reconnaissance in War Planning, 1945-1953, author John Thomas Farquhar, Lt. Col., USAF (Ret.) claims that he can find no documentation of such flights (page 162, footnote 18). How odd that a retired SAC pilot, Col. Hal Austin, posted a story on the internet asserting he flew such a mission in an RB-47.

And Walter Boyne, the unofficial bard of the world’s most expensive flying club, states in Air Force Magazine, the journal of the Air Force Association, that more than 200 SAC pilots were killed in shoot-downs over or on the periphery of Soviet air space:

[2] That the United States government was thinking so far ahead, at a period when airplane hijackings were virtually unheard of, may be of interest to scholars on the subject of airline security and may enrich their understanding of the hijacking phenomenon. The JCS document may be viewed here: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20010430/northwoods.pdf

[3] http://politics.guardian.co.uk/iraq/story/0,,1700881,00.html

[4] Iran shells Kurd positions in Iraq: Kurd official
Fri Apr 21, 2006 7:16 AM ET

SULAIMANIYA, Iraq (Reuters) – Iranian forces shelled Iranian Kurdish guerrilla positions inside mountainous northern Iraq early on Friday morning to repel an attack, a Kurdish official said.

"This morning Iranian Kurdish fighters infiltrated the border into the Iranian side and the Iranian army bombed the area and repelled them. The shelling hit Iraqi land at Sidakan," said Saadi Pira, an official of the Iraqi Kurdish, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, party.

There was no word on casualties in the shelling of the Iranian Kurdish rebels of the PJAK movement.