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Way back in the late 1990s, it is alleged by then-serving US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, General Hugh Shelton, that he was approached by a high-ranking member of the Clinton Administration’s Cabinet with a request that he allow an American U-2 spy-plane to be shot-down over Iraq as an effective pretext for starting a war to ouster Saddam Hussein.
General Shelton did not name the Cabinet member in question when detailing the encounter in his 2010 memoir; however, it is speculated based on various elements in the text and elsewhere that the requestor may have been then-Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.
Anyway, that is beside the point.
What is directly relevant here, is that a surveillance drone operating in Iranian airspace is the modern-day equivalent of the last century’s U-2 spy-flight missions. And, fortuitously, one that can be shot down by the country whom it is surveilling, without some poor American pilot having to make the ultimate sacrifice as a dangled lure-bait.
Much has been made of the rather curious pattern of the United States often seeming to start its wars via fishy incidents involving boats – the USS Maine at the outset of the Spanish-American War, for instance, or the USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin which preceded the significant upscaling of US entanglement in Vietnam.
Yet little attention has been directed towards another comparable instance to this week’s shoot-down – namely, the downing of an American U2 spy-plane over Cuba towards the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
While it is seriously doubtful as to whether this was an intentional occurrence on the part of the Americans the immediate reaction of then-Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Nitze, is rather telling. “They’ve fired the first shot,” he said.
So, if you are outright trying to start a war – having the country you wish to shortly be at war with, carry out an act of armed “aggression” against a border-penetrating reconnaissance effort, can be adequately sold as your bete-noire “firing the first shot”, and thus rendering rather more rhetorically ‘legitimate’ all the ensuing ‘return’ shots from cruise-missile range that may perhaps thusly ensue.
Marx famously opined that history seemed to repeat itself as tragedy, then as farce. The Americans appear to go the other way, from time to time – with the trumped-up attempts at sparking a war with Iraq under Clinton, that seem downright farcical with retrospect, being succeeded with actually-successful and thencely tragic whipping up of a ‘Coalition of the Willing’ to actually invade Iraq for real this time, less than a decade later under George W. Bush.
And, because the ‘rhyme-scheme’ of History is evidently a rather regular one, we have recently seen a bit of a shift in focus from straining to have Iran declared a Weapons of Mass Destruction seeking international pariah to be tarnished and toppled as Saddam’s Iraq was by Bush and Blair … through to what looks suspiciously like an attempted actual going ahead of the late-90s sacrificial-spy-flying-lamb gambit mooted for war-starting use against Iraq, except against modern-day Iran this time.
Given their previous predilections in these areas, I am almost surprised that the Americans did not haul a Catalina flying-boat out of a museum so as to attain the maximum faux-‘freedom’ synergy for this stunt.