The “Strategy of Tension” in the Cold War Period

The “Strategy of Tension” in the Cold War Period* Daniele Ganser Historians today and in the coming years face a challenging task: they must write the history of the events of September 11, 2001. What they write will be taught in history classes. But what will they write? Will they write that Osama Bin Laden sent 19 Muslims to launch a surprise attack on the U.S.? Or will they write that the administration of President George W. Bush was responsible for the attack, either constructing it or deliberately permitting it in order to shock the U.S. population and to create a pretext for increasing military spending and attacking Afghanistan and Iraq? Having examined much of the data related to the 9/11 events, I am convinced a new and thorough investigation is needed. But when I have questioned the official narrative of 9/11 in my native Switzerland I have encountered vigorous objections from people. Why would any government in the world, they have asked, attack its own population or, only slightly less criminal, deliberately allow a foreign group to carry out such an attack? While brutal dictatorships, such as the regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia, are known to have had little respect for the life and dignity of their citizens, surely a Western democracy, the thinking goes, would not engage in such an abuse of power. And if criminal elements within a Western democracy, in North America or in Europe, had engaged in such a crime, would not elected officials or the media find out and report on it? Is it imaginable that criminal persons within a government could commit terrorist operations against innocent citizens, who support the very same government with the taxes they pay every year? Would nobody notice? These are difficult questions, even for academics who specialize in the history of secret warfare. But in fact, there are historical examples of such operations being implemented by Western democracies. In this essay, I will not deal directly with 9/11 but will look at what we can learn from history. I will report on some of the newest academic data about secret warfare during the Cold War. A secret military strategy that targets domestic populations with terrorism does indeed exist. It is called the “strategy of tension.” And it was implemented by Western democracies.

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