For most Americans who were old enough to be horrified and outraged 12 years ago, each anniversary of 9/11 is a kind of an anti-holiday, a day of remembrance and reflection, a powerful reminder of the fragility of life and the privileged position we share as American citizens. To this day, however, there are those who believe America was devastated not by Islamic radicals, but by its own government.
This type of attack, when a government or other powerful organization assaults its own people in order to advance its agenda, is called a false flag attack. In the broadest and oldest sense, a false flag is any attack in which one belligerent wears colors or uniforms different from their true colors or uniforms to deceive an enemy.
However, the term has also come to reflect its more sinister and Machiavellian connotations. False flag conspiracy theorists are not limited to 9/11, though; in fact, false flag theories exist for several major events from American history, from Pearl Harbor to the conflict in Syria today, and they often have more support than one might think.
Abandon all hope, all ye who perform a Google search for the term “false flag.” Doing so will send you down a rabbit hole into the deep, seedy underbelly of the internet, where groups with names like “End the Lie,” “Want to Know,” and “From The Trenches” lob charge after charge at the U.S. Government of conducting highly complex false flag operations. Boston Marathon bombings? A U.S. government plot to impose martial law on its own citizens. The 1993 Trade Center bombing? Perpetrated by the FBI in order to test the viability of scapegoating Muslims. The accusations go all the way back to the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941 (with the idea being that Franklin Roosevelt allowed the attack to rally the U.S. citizenry for World War II), and even the Spanish American War.
And as for 9/11? Well, there are a myriad of methods by which either the CIA, FBI, Zionists, or Bush Administration (depending on whom you ask) supposedly brought the towers down, all to provide a pretext for the expansion of the security state and the war On terror that followed. You’ll recall, of course, that this is the same federal government that runs the soon-to-be-bankrupt Postal Service. Skeptical that it could pull off those complex acts of skullduggery? Good. You ought to be.
All of this, of course, brings us to the false flag theory du jour, the conflict in Syria. Contrary to the claims of the Obama administration, the French and German governments, and the Arab League, some have argued that the Syrian rebels themselves launched Sarin gas, killing hundreds of civilians, in order to force the international community to condemn the Assad regime and come to their aid. Adherents of this belief are not limited to fringe elements, however. Prominent figures like former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and former presidential adviser Pat Buchanan have both raised the idea, arguing that it would be irrational and simply stupid for Assad to use chemical weapons, thereby risking incurring the wrath of the United Sates and the rest of NATO. Jamelle Bouie did a decent job of arguing the implausibility of these claims, but don’t be surprised to see this idea floated even more broadly in the coming weeks.
To be clear, there’s nothing inherently absurd about the idea of a false flag operation, and there are certainly notable instances in which governments and various media have sensationalized tragedies to stoke the public into war. Pressure from false flag believers may even have the benefit of forcing governments to be more open and transparent with its evidence in cases like Syria. Nevertheless, in most instances, the only things being sabotaged in false flag claims are the reputations of the ones making the accusations.