Case #470
Title: How to Start a War: The American Use of Deception to Gain Popular Approval

Finding or creating justifications for going to war is a major first step in constructing public support for such deadly ventures. Perhaps the most common pretext for war is an apparently unprovoked enemy attack. Such attacks, however, are often fabricated, incited or deliberately allowed to occur. They are then exploited to arouse widespread public sympathy for the victims, demonize the attackers and build mass support for military "retaliation."

Like schoolyard bullies who shout 'He hit me first!', war planners know that it is irrelevant whether the opponent really did 'throw the first punch.' As long as it can be made to appear that the attack was unprovoked, the bully receives license to 'respond' with force. Bullies and war planners are experts at taunting, teasing and threatening their opponents. If the enemy cannot be goaded into 'firing the first shot,' it is easy enough to lie about what happened. Sometimes, that is sufficient to rationalize a schoolyard beating or a genocidal war.

Such trickery has probably been employed by every military power throughout history. Over the millennia, the deceitful strategem of using pretext incidents to ignite war has remained remarkably consistent.

Pretext incidents, in themselves, are not sufficient to spark wars. Rumors and allegations about the tragic events must first spread throughout the target population. Constant repetition of the official version of what happened, spawns dramatic narratives that are lodged into public consciousness. The stories become accepted without question and legends are fostered. The corporate media is central to the success of such 'psychological operations.' Politicians rally people around the flag, lending their special oratory skills to the call for a military "response." Demands for "retaliation" then ring out across the land, war hysteria mounts and, finally, a war is born.

Every time the US has gone to war, pretext incidents have been used. Upon later examination, the conventional perception of these events is always challenged and eventually exposed as untrue. Historians, investigative journalists and many others, have cited eyewitness accounts, declassified documents and statements made by the perpetrators themselves to demonstrate that the provocative incidents were used as stratagems to stage-manage the march to war.

This case provides a number of examples taken from the last 150 years of US military adventures, with extensive reference documentation. Included are the two fabrications used to justify the Gulf War: (1) The reports of babies ripped out of incubators by Iraqi troops, later found to be a fabrication developed by a PR firm, and (2) a Pentagon report of a huge Iraqi troop buildup on the Kuwait border, ready to invade Saudi Arabia. The US tried to block all satellite photo transmissions, but missed a commercial Russian satellite, that showed photos of the area: no troops, no tanks, only unused roads drifted over with sand.


(From article):
If people were asked to support a war to allow a small, wealthy elite to profit by exploiting and plundering the natural and human resources in far away lands, they would 'just say no.' Hence the need for creating a pretext.

Now we face another broad thematic pretext for war, the so-called "War Against Terrorism." We are told it will be waged in many countries and may continue for generations. It is vitally important to expose this latest attempt to fraudulently conceal the largely economic and geostrategic purposes of war. By asking who benefits from war, we can unmask its pretense and expose the true grounds for instigating it. By throwing light on repeated historical patterns of deception, we can promote skepticism about the government and media yarns that have been spun to encourage this war.

The historical knowledge of how war planners have tricked people into supporting past wars, is like a vaccine. We can use this understanding of history to inoculate the public with healthy doses of distrust for official war pretext narratives and other deceptive stratagems. Through such immunization programs we may help to counter our society's susceptibility to "war fever."

Location: global
Action: Environment, Human Rights, Peace/Conflict Resolution, Corporate/Economic Abuses, Resources
Setting: Developed World
Extent of Action: International
Categories: Environment, Human Rights, Peace/Conflict Resolution, Corporate/Economic Abuses, Resources
Year(s): 1848
Outcome successful
Source: Global Outlook, #2, p. 16

Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) (Ottowa, Canada),

Prepared By: alb, 10/02
Rating: 1