“Our 9/11.” That’s what some Russians were (and still are) calling the September (9, 13, and 16) 1999 bombings of four apartment buildings that left close to 300 dead, more than 1,000 injured, and became the spark that reignited a brutal war with repercussions that have lasted to this day. Soon after the attacks, a device similar to the others was found and defused in the Russian city of Ryazan (about 122 miles southeast of Moscow) before it detonated.

The next day, then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered the aerial bombing of Grozny, the Chechen Republic’s capital, marking the beginning of the Second Chechen War. Russian authorities immediately declared the bombings the work of Chechen separatists, in what many took as an open-and-shut case. But then, not 36 hours later, three FSB agents were arrested by local authorities in connection with the defused Ryazan device, and murmurs of a false flag attack began to emerge. But just what are false flag operations, and how often have they been/are they used?

Russia's 9/11 and the art of the false flag
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For those who may not be up on spy/conspiracy theory lingo, a false flag operation is one carried out in such a way as to appear to have been carried out by a government, entity, etc. other than the actual perpetrators. The term has its historical origins on the high seas, when sailing men o’ war would fly a flag other than their own before attacking an enemy vessel. Now here’s the kicker: It was forbidden to fly that false flag while the attack was underway, as it was seen as ungentlemanly. The false flag tactic has been used in some well-known (but not always well-executed) operations, such as the A-26C Invader aircraft painted in false Cuban Air Force colors used (poorly) to cover the April 1961 invasion at the Bay of Pigs by the CIA-sponsored Brigade 2506. We know how that went.

A lesser-known false flag operation was carried out (in part, although planned and led by then-Major Kurt Student) by Austrian-born Waffen-SS commando Otto Skorzeny. Skorzeny is best known for being part of the daring glider-borne rescue mission to liberate Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, but in December of 1944, under explicit orders from Adolf Hitler, a unit of his commandos was tasked with a bold undertaking to disrupt the aggressive Allied advance facing Nazi Germany. Dressed in American Army uniforms, the units had a threefold mission:

  1. Demolition squads of five or six men were to destroy bridges, ammunition dumps, and fuel stores.
  2. Reconnaissance patrols of three or four men were to reconnoiter on both sides of the Meuse River and also pass on bogus orders to any U.S. units they met, reverse road signs, remove minefield warnings, and cordon off roads with warnings of nonexistent mines.
  3. “Lead” commando units would work closely with the attacking units to disrupt the U.S. chain of command by destroying field telephone wires and radio stations, and issuing false orders.

Russia's 9/11 and the art of the false flag

As if the concept of the operation itself was not audacious enough, one unit heard rumors that they were being tasked by then-Lieutenant Colonel Skorzeny to infiltrate SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) and kidnap or kill General Dwight D. Eisenhower. (It was just a rumor, and the order was never given.) And because Mr. Murphy (of Murphy’s Law fame) likes wienerschnitzel as much as he likes Coney Island hot dogs, while the units were comprised of the brigade’s best English speakers, only a few had any experience working undercover or in sabotage operations, and the situation was such that there would be no time to train them.

After a few days of demo and commo training, memorizing TO&E of American Army units, their ranks, and their uniform badges, off they went. Their initial infiltration was successful, but then, as they came into closer contact with U.S. troops, things began to fall apart. After one group of three was stopped at a checkpoint, it was noticed that they were carrying British Sten machine pistols…then that their English was not so hot…then that they were carrying U.S. dollars, British pounds, and German Wermacht (army) pay books…and…the coup de grace…wearing German Army gray uniforms under their U.S. Army olive drab. They were quickly captured and just as quickly gave up the plans. It took a bit, but allied military police and line units soon rounded up the remainder.

Seventeen of the captured commandos were tried and then executed, but for Skorzeny and nine other officers of the Panzerbrigade 150, a strange and different fate awaited. Originally charged with violating the laws of war (the same charges that led to the executions of the others), the 10 were eventually acquitted of all charges after it was decided that, while Skorzeny and his men had donned US. uniforms for the purpose of deception and infiltration, there was no evidence that he or any of the other officers had actually ordered the men to engage in combat while in said uniforms. Go figure.