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Friday, July 23, 2004


Questions, once again, are being asked as to why the Bali disaster was allowed to happen and why Australians were not warned about the likelihood of such a disaster. Bruce Power in his piece, ‘Seventeen Days’(1), back in October 2003 asked the question lengthily in a way that could not be more emphatic. He also demonstrated very convincingly that there is no way that the Australian government could not have known that something reasonably specific was soon to happen in Bali and in the tourist district. What he makes no attempt to do, however, is to give an explanation as to why the Australian government failed to warn Australians about the impending dangers of travelling there. We all want some answers. Brian Deegan, who is about to give Foreign Minister Alexander Downer a run for his money in the forthcoming election by contesting the seat of Mayo, desperately wants some answers. So too, I should imagine, do all of the relatives and friends of the victims.
The problem is we’re not likely to get the real answers. The truth is more than likely totally unpalatable for most Australians and far too hurtful for the relatives and friends of the victims. It may be the reason why Bruce Power is so reluctant to provide us with what he thinks are the real reasons for the government’s failures.
Throughout history politicians have manipulated situations and events that have caused death and anguish to the people that they serve in order to bring about a desirable set of circumstances that is favourable to the politicians’ cause. These manipulations are perpetrated covertly and, more often than not, without suspicion. At other times, for various reasons, suspicions have been raised but never proven. Very few are ever revealed wholly. Some historians have begun to call them ‘flagged incidents’. There are many examples of them and they come in various guises. Some are called ‘Black Flag’ incidents, some are known as ‘False Flag’ incidents while others are known as ‘Green Flag’ incidents.
‘Black Flag’ incidents are usually perpetrated completely covertly. The incident is rarely heard of and rarely enters the public domain. They may be operations such as political assassinations carried out by one government agency against a person or group of persons of another government or a person or group of persons within its own government or nation. They are carried out, as are most of these types of incidents, in order to gain an advantage over an enemy either within a nation or outside of it.
‘False Flag’ incidents are those that are carried out by one group of people against another but in such a way as to cast the blame on a third party; i.e., to make it seem as though another group or nation was responsible. A classic example of this type of operation was the one carried out by the Nazis at the beginning of the Second World War when a German radio station at Gleiwitz, close to the border with Poland, was attacked, seemingly, by Polish soldiers. In fact the entire incident was staged by the SS who had killed Jews from concentration camps and then dressed them in Polish army uniforms before firing small arms in to them to make it look as though they had been killed by the German defenders in a skirmish. It was Hitler’s causus belli for invading Poland. Another ‘False Flag’ incident of note resulted in the so-called Lavon Affair of 1954.(2) In this case Israeli Mossad agents planted a series of bombs in buildings in Egypt, including one at an American diplomatic facility, with the intention of making it look as though Arab extremists were responsible. Unfortunately, for the Mossad, one of the bombs went off prematurely which resulted in the immediate capture of one of the agents and subsequent revelation of the plot. In the resulting scandal in Israel, Pinhas Lavon, the Israeli Defence Minister, was forced to resign. In 1986, in yet another Israeli ‘False Flag” operation, Mossad agents had planted a transmitter in Tripoli, Libya, from which was transmitted messages designed to implicate the Libyans in the bombing of the La Belle discotheque in West Germany, a place frequented regularly by American servicemen. As a result President Reagan ordered retaliatory air strikes sending some 200 aircraft that dropped over 60 tonnes of bombs on completely innocent people in Libya.(3) The aims of these types of incidents are obvious.
Finally, ‘Green Flag’ incidents are those that are perpetrated by one group of people against another but with the foreknowledge of the victim’s government and security agencies. The idea here is to allow the plot to go ahead, and in the worst case scenario, encourage it to succeed, in order to gain a political advantage via an increase in public opinion or sympathy in order to enhance the pursuit of another political aspiration for which the government was previously experiencing difficulty in gaining public support for. The classic example of a ‘Green Flag’ incident is the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The great American social critic and historian, the late Charles Beard, argued that President Roosevelt knew that the US would be attacked at Pearl Harbor but did nothing to prevent it knowing that this is just what he needed to join the war.(4) Beard further argues, very convincingly, that not only did Roosevelt know of the impending attack but politically manoeuvred the Japanese into a position whereby they had no alternative but to go to war with the US. The recent release of the McCollum Memos vindicates all that Beard asserted.(5)
In the weeks leading up to the Bali bombing the Australian people, indeed most of the people of the world, were showing no signs of changing their stance against what seemed to be an inevitable march toward a war with Iraq. On the weekend of 5-6 October 2002, the weekend prior to the Bali bombings, tens of thousands had demonstrated throughout Australia against war. Howard, mimicking Bush and Blair, tried desperately to link 11 September and the resultant ‘war against terror’ to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Opinion polls, both formal and informal, showed Australians were overwhelmingly against any attack against Iraq especially if it lacked UN endorsement. The attack on Bali, from Howard’s political point of view, was, to say the least, very opportunistic for him. A terrorist attack in his own region would, he clearly would have thought, been a blessing in a terrible disguise. He believed that public opinion against any war with Iraq would now rapidly turn around. He was wrong as we now know. Public opinion didn’t turn as he wanted and the great demonstrations across Australia on the weekend of 15-16 February 2003 rammed the fact home to him. It hasn’t, however, stopped Howard from milking the Bali tragedy for all its political worth. Howard will, of course, be ‘outraged’ by this suggestion. Some readers even may be offended at the idea. And that’s just the idea of Howard getting as much political mileage as he can from the tragedy, let alone ‘green flagging’ the tragedy to gain a political advantage. But it appears I am not alone in drawing these conclusions. Andrew Wilkie infers as much in his book "The Axis of Deceit".(6)
The Bali factor is essential for Howard’s maintenance of Australia’s role in the ‘war against terrorism’. Some may see some logic in this strategy. After all, there is supposedly a war against terror and the tragedy of Bali should be held up as a reminder as to why we are fighting this war. I may even be persuaded by this logic but for two reasons: 1) Howard has ulterior political motives for propagandising the tragedy in this way and, 2) something that cannot ever be forgiven; his government let the tragedy go ahead, without warning Australian travellers, knowing that if it did happen he would receive political benefit from it. For these reasons I do not believe for one instant that Howard is motivated out of sympathy for the Bali victims’ relatives and friends.
And that, of course, is your ‘Green Flag’ example. I said at the beginning it would be unpalatable and hurtful.
I didn’t lose anyone in Bali but I do know folk who did and do know just how unpalatable and hurtful all this may sound. But we need to be reminded occasionally that we do not live in a fairy floss nation of perfectly well intentioned politicians. Australian politicians, like politicians the world over, are, as we all know, hardnosed and downright dishonest. And we all know we haven’t had a more dishonest one in Australia than John Howard. He’s lied about everything in order to pursue this alliance Australia now has with the madmen in Washington. We have since been involved in the slaughter in Afghanistan and the unprovoked attack and continuing slaughter in Iraq. Thousands have died as a result of it.
Australians have died as a result of it.


(1) Bruce Power, ‘Seventeen days’ in Margo Kingston’s column, ‘One year on, still no accountability for Howard and Downer on Bali’. Sydney Morning Herald, 10 October 2003.

(2) For a full account of this affair see: Teveth, Shabtai, “Ben-Gurion's Spy: The Story of the Political Scandal that Shaped Modern Israel”. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.)

(3) For a full account of this incident see: Ostrovsky, Victor, “The Other Side of Deception”. (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1994.)

(4) Beard, Charles, “President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War, 1941: A Study in Appearances and Reality”. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1948.) Chapter XVII, ‘Manoeuvring the Japanese into Firing the First Shot’.

(5) The McCollum Memo, 7 October 1940. Available online in PDF form of the scanned original document at

(6) Wilkie, Andrew, “Axis of Deceit: The Story of the Intelligence Officer Who Risked All to Tell the Truth about WMD and Iraq”. (Melbourne, Vic: Black Inc. Agenda, 2004.) p. 66 and p. 132.

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