Taking a Step Back

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

by Gene Callahan

I’d like to take a step back from our post 9/11 crisis and contemplate a few stories from history. After considering them, I’ll contend that they are examples of a pattern, that the pattern is based on fundamental principles of human motivation, and that the examples are worth keeping in mind during our current situation.

The Franco-Prussian War

In the latter half of the nineteenth century, Otto von Bismarck, Prussia’s prime minister, wanted to unify Germany. He had succeeded in creating the North German Confederation, with Prussia at the helm. But even a decisive Prussian victory over Austria in 1866 failed to persuade the people of the southern German states that they should unite in a Prussian-dominated German nation, and in subsequent elections in the south, anti-union legislators were generally victorious.

Bismarck thought that a pan-German war with France would change popular opinion in the south, especially if he could make it seem that France was the aggressor. Therefore, he tried to bring one about. His chance came when the rule of Queen Isabella II of Spain was overthrown in 1868. The Spanish parliament then sought an existing dynastic family to assume the throne.

Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a Catholic Hohenzollern (the Hohenzollerns were the ruling dynasty in Prussia), was chosen by the Spanish parliament after Bismarck bribed many of its members into offering him the crown. But France was enormously upset by the prospect of having Hohenzollern kings on both its southern and eastern borders. Leopold rejected the offer after vigorous French protest.

But that was not enough for the French. French diplomats visited the Hohenzollern King of Prussia, Wilhelm I, while he was vacationing at Ems, asking him to guarantee that Leopold would be forbidden from ever accepting the Spanish crown. Wilhelm politely refused, and sent a telegram to Bismarck to that effect. Bismarck manipulated the message in such a way that, when his version was made public, the French were outraged. Popular opinion prompted Louis Napoleon into declaring war, in July of 1870.

Believing France to be the aggressor, the south German states joined the North German Confederation in the war. The German forces defeated France in a few months, capturing Paris in January of 1871.

The south German states now saw Prussia as the defender of Germany against foreign invaders, despite the fact that they were only attacked due to Bismarck’s machinations. As a result, Wilhelm I was offered the crown of all of Germany by the princes of the southern states, and Bismarck achieved his goal.

England’s Game Unmasked

I learned of my second example from my friend, Mr. Pieter Hoets. Mr. Hoets documented the story he uncovered in his book Englandspiel Ontmaskerd, which was made into a television documentary in the Netherlands, creating a major stir there. But since my ability to read Dutch is extremely limited, I must rely on the verbal account Mr. Hoets gave me of his findings.

Mr. Hoets was in the Dutch resistance in World War II, working in intelligence in England. A plan was developed to parachute forty (I’m working from memory here, so my number may be off by a dozen in either direction) members of the Dutch resistance into occupied Holland, as an advance squad preparing the way for the Allied invasion of the continent.

After parachuting in, apparently all forty were captured by the Germans and executed as spies. How had the plan gone so wrong? The British explained that there must have been a traitor in the group.

Hoets was not satisfied with that answer. He knew the men in question, and did not believe any of them were traitors. After the war, he went on to a successful career as a corporate attorney, specializing in international law. But he never forgot this incident, and was determined to unearth what had really occurred.

Finally, employing freedom of information laws, Hoets was able to uncover the real story. The British had decided that it would be expedient to convince the Germans that the Allied invasion would occur somewhere other than at Normandy. One way to do so would be to have the Germans capture Allied agents who, unknown to the agents themselves, had been fed incorrect invasion plans. When the Germans inevitably tortured the agents to learn what they knew, anyone who “cracked” would, in all honesty, lead the Germans to believe that the invasion was to occur at some other place than Normandy.

What disturbed Hoets the most about the British actions was that not only had they felt it necessary to sacrifice those brave men without their consent, but that they had also besmirched their memory by asserting that one of them had betrayed the others, and had kept up the smear for decades after the war was over.

The Same Old Song

The two stories above are examples of a pattern of state activity. Other examples abound. For instance, there are serious questions as to whether FDR knew about the attack on Pearl Harbor in advance. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the Army staged biological attacks on American cities using real microbes, albeit ones thought to be harmless. ABC News contends that in 1960 American military leaders developed plans to initiate attacks on American targets, then blame Castro, rallying support for a war against Cuba.

It turns out the story that Iraq was throwing babies out of IC units in Kuwait was developed by the PR firm Hill & Knowlton (which had been hired by the Kuwaiti government) and falsely presented to Congress as “eye-witness testimony” by the daughter of the Kuwaiti UN ambassador. Nevertheless, government officials presented it again and again as a story justifying our intervention. And Jude Wanniski explains that, after several years of searching, he has been able to turn up no evidence that Iraq “gassed its own people.” In Serbia, little evidence of the mass atrocities attributed to the Serbs before the Kosovo war has since been confirmed.

When I mentioned the story about the military plans to attack American targets and place the blame on Cuba to a friend, he commented, “Yeah, we used to do things like that.”

Of course, in 1990, the American people who were being fooled into supporting the war against Iraq thought, “We used to do things like that,” perhaps back in the Cold War 1960s. Those who the military planned to fool in 1960 thought that “we” used to do things like that, perhaps way back in World War II. The people being duped during World War II probably would have acknowledged that their grandparents had been tricked into supporting the Spanish-American War. The Germans deceived into fighting France in 1870 undoubtedly were sure that in the “bad old days,” back in the Napoleonic Wars, perhaps, governments pulled that sort of stunt.

The fact is, “we,” in other words, the state, does “things like that” all the time. Of course, the current government will not admit it is doing such things, or the deceptions wouldn’t work! Revealing the treacherous actions of previous governments is one way to fool the current populace into thinking that the current government is different.

Those representing the state generally act to further the ends of the state, not of the citizens under its rule. If the citizens must be deceived, jailed, even killed to further those ends, well, so be it. After all, one needs to look at the “higher good.” We needn’t posit any sort of conspiracy to accept that such a dynamic is at work. The process of rising up through the ranks of state service will weed out anyone who is not “willing to make the tough choices,” who isn’t “a team player,” without any necessity for initiation into an Illuminati brotherhood or Masonic cult. Democracy doesn’t fundamentally alter the nature of that weeding-out process. As Lew Rockwell says, “The candidates usually offered up to us have already been vetted by the political establishment.” No, it is the status of ruler that sets the dynamic in motion, and it is only the elimination of the dichotomy of ruler and ruled that will stop it.

Gene Callahan [send him mail] has just finished a book, Economics for Real People, to be published this year by the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

2001, Gene Callahan

Gene Callahan/Stu Morgenstern Archives

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare