Well, that all sounds dangerously familiar, doesn't it?
War is terrible. We're pretty sure we're not the first people in history to voice that opinion. However, you get the sense that it's at least waged over important things: territorial disputes, national security, assassinations, which starter Pokemon is best -- big, big stuff. But, wars are sometimes started by nothing much at all -- just a little lie, and then ...
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World War II began on September 1, 1939, when the Nazis invaded Poland. But, roll back one single day, when Hitler justified said invasion by beaming a heaping load of horse shit across Germany's airwaves. See, the Fuhrer had a hideously mutated hard-on to invade Poland for quite some time, but he also had that whole "convincing the German populace that he was not, in fact, evil incarnate" thing to worry about. So, debuting the big budget sequel to a hit war would require a damned good excuse.
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
One better than "Carts of kielbasa, ripe for the taking!"
That's why, on August 31, 1939, Sturmbannfuhrer Alfred Naujocks led six SS officers disguised as Polish resistance fighters as they nabbed Polish farmer Franciszek Honiok, drugged him, and carried him to a German radio station in Gliwice, 4 miles from the Polish border. Once there, the men stormed the station, wrestling control from the three engineers on duty. A Polish-speaking SS officer announced, "Attention! This is Gliwice. The broadcasting station is in Polish hands," before an engineer cut power to the transmission. To the average German citizen, it was the equivalent of a modern American hearing, "Live from New York, it's Canada totally invading your shit!"
Tomasz Gorny/Wiki Commons
This was back before TV, when you could only hear teabaggings.
Before leaving, the SS officers dressed farmer Honiok in a Polish army uniform, put a bullet through his forehead, and left him on the steps of the radio station as "proof" of the "Polish invasion." The German news agency dutifully spread word of the attack throughout Germany, other agencies such as the BBC picked up and spread the news worldwide, and Germany had their justifiable reason to kick Poland's ass after school by the flagpole. As Hermann Goering would later put it while chilling in his dank cell at the Nuremberg trials: "Naturally, the common people don't want war ... But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along ... All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."
Well, that all sounds dangerously familiar, doesn't it?
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Six months after 9/11, then-Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski made a big announcement to the world. In a pitched gun battle near Skopje, Macedonian police had taken out seven "mujahideen" whose intent was to attack U.S., British, and German embassies in the capital city.
"We only had our training and above-average in length and girth penises to stop them."
Questions were soon raised about the validity of the report, however, and by September 2002, the immensely disturbing details had come to light: The seven so-called terrorists were actually Pakistani and Indian migrants, lured to Macedonia with promises of assistance in immigrating to Western Europe. After being put up in a nice apartment and comfortably fed, the seven men were driven to the edge of Skopje and handed guns before the minivan carrying them peeled off. Then, a special police unit known as the Lions -- who, to be clear, were unaware that the men they were confronting were not actual terrorists -- opened fire on them, shooting them up to 53 times each.
Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images News/Getty Images
That's more ammo than Macedonian cops had used in the entire 20th century.
Ljube Boskovski earned himself a prominent spot on the United States blacklist for penning this fucked-up screenplay and is currently serving dual jail sentences for illegal campaign funding during a 2011 election and for the cover-up of a 2001 gangland-style murder that took place under his watch. Though that's probably scant comfort to the families of the seven innocent immigrants killed just so Macedonia could impress America and join the War On Terror. That's like spamming LinkedIn with bullshit resumes, begging and pleading to be let in. You were already a member, Macedonia. They were taking literally anyone.
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Back in the early 1950s, Israelis became concerned that the United States was becoming overly enamored with Gamal Abdel Nasser, then-president of Egypt and possible sleep aid against America's increasingly red nightmares. The resulting scheme has come to be known as the Lavon Affair, and it reads like what would happen if the Zucker brothers joined ISIS.
They even had their own Leslie Nielsen.
Israel's plan was simple: set off homemade bombs at American- and British-owned targets in Egypt, and then shrug and point at the nearest Muslim and/or communist. This would ostensibly demonstrate to the Americans that Nasser wasn't the badass ally he was cracked up to be (seeing as how he couldn't even maintain order in his own country), as well as convincing the Brits that it was a good idea to continue operating a military base at Suez. In July of 1954, Egyptian Jewish operatives successfully planted and detonated explosives at libraries, railway stations, and movie theaters in Alexandria and Cairo. But then, it all went south when, on his way to a theater, agent Philip Natanson committed history's worst fashion faux pas when his pants exploded a good decade before exploding pants would become a fashion craze.
The trouser shockwaves were felt all across Israel and Egypt. The affair took its name from Israeli defense minister Pinhas Lavon, who resigned in the aftermath, even though it would later become apparent that the then-director of Israeli military intelligence, Binyamin Gibli, had masterminded the entire thing. Eight Egyptian Jews were charged with the attacks, two of whom were hanged, one of whom committed suicide, and another of whom died during interrogation of pants-related complications. Said hangings prompted a retaliatory military incursion by Israel into Gaza, which resulted in 39 Egyptian casualties, which sparked a Soviet-Egyptian arms deal, and all of which toppled like horrific dominoes toward the 1956 Suez Crisis.
United States Army
In which 4,000 died, destroying nearly 4,000 pairs of pants.
Israel denied involvement in the plot for a full half-century until, in 2005, former Israeli president Moshe Katsav presented the three surviving bombers with certificates of appreciation for their service. We're not entirely certain what type of certificate one receives for blowing up libraries and movie theaters, but we're betting the presentation ceremony involves one hell of a thorough pants check.
In 1788, King Gustav III of Sweden was facing a declining reputation with politicians and his people alike, partly due to his rumored affinity for show tunes. According to the story, Gustav turned to friend and stable master Adolf Fredrik Munck for "help" consummating his marriage to Sophia Magdalena of Denmark ... after nine years of marriage. This resulted in what may be the greatest political cartoon of all time:
Carl August Ehrensvard (NSFW)
Step up your game, The New Yorker.
Luckily for Gustav, all it takes to pump up a king's manly reputation is some good old-fashioned warring. Unluckily for Gustav, even being king didn't grant him the authority to wage an offensive war, thanks to a pesky little thing called the Swedish constitution. So, he put his love of a good show to work: He had a tailor at the Royal Swedish Opera sew him up some convincing Russian military uniforms, recruited a bunch of Swedish soldiers to play dress-up in said uniforms, and then ordered them to attack a Swedish outpost in Finland. Gustav leveraged the ensuing outrage to demand that Catherine the Great of Russia return Finland to Sweden, Catherine responded by declaring war on Sweden, and now Gustav had his excuse to declare a defensive war against Russia. The Russo-Swedish War had begun.
Johan Tietrich Schoultz
You reap what you sew.
Gustav predicted an expeditious spanking of an unprepared Russian navy, but he failed to account for the fact that the Russian navy was already largely mobilized due to their escalating tensions with the Ottoman Empire. As a result, the war lasted two years and cost tens of thousands of lives before ending with the Treaty Of Varala. It did ultimately achieve Gustav's goal of bolstering support from the Swedish people, however. Well, for the most part: On March 16, 1792, a disgruntled Swedish army captain approached Gustav at a Royal Opera House masquerade and blasted him in the gut with a pistol packed with "two balls, five shot, and six bent nails."
At least he died how he lived: taking two balls.
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Since the early '60s, Colombia has been embroiled in a "low-intensity" war that involves more sides than a Game Of Thrones episode. Right-wing paramilitary groups fight socialist guerrillas, drug-trafficking cartels fight whoever's not handing them obscene piles of cash in exchange for obscene piles of cocaine, and the Colombian government fights a war that could be compared to herding cats, if cats were capable of brandishing AK-47s. Needless to say, the populace had grown good and sick of this clusterfuck well before the conflict hit its semicentennial, so, in 2002, authorities acting under then-President Alvaro Uribe came up with a way to demonstrably prove to the people that they were making headway: They offered promotions, prestige, vacations, and other incentives to military personnel in exchange for producing dead rebels.
"You want a panini press? You earn that panini press!"
Now, here's the thing about killing heavily-armed rebels: They're heavily armed. Right there in the name, really. So, it didn't take long for corrupt soldiers to realize that the surest way to score a sweet-ass vacation was to lure in innocent civilians -- mainly poor, unemployed, and mentally-challenged civilians -- with promises of jobs, dress them up in whatever it is a leftist terrorist wears, and murder them in cold blood to inflate the army's body count.
Between 2002 and 2008, more than 3,300 innocent people fell victim to the "false positives" scandal. To be fair to the Colombian government, since the scandal came to light in 2008, the courts have been plowing through thousands of cases and convicting those involved. At their current rate, they should have just about gotten through them all around the time the Colombian conflict kicks off its big centennial hootenanny.
Sometimes, lying can be as simple as not telling the whole truth, like that one time a Prussian prime minister tossed half of Europe into war by simply editing the common courtesies out of a goddamned telegram.
Back in 1870, Otto Von Bismarck had two things: a silly name and a dream. The name is self-explanatory; the dream was to unite the disparate German states. The most effective way to do that was to have them collectively kick the shit out of France, and that opportunity presented itself when France sent their ambassador Count Vincent Benedetti to speak with King William I of Prussia.
Mayer et Pierson
Counts have silly names too. It's the law.
William sent a telegram to Otto Von Bismarck, informing him of the meeting and asking him to share the details with the press. But, when Bismarck published the telegram, he edited out every last bit of the flowery language, shortening a near-200-word account by almost half. By the time Bismarck was done with it, the telegram started as an almost personal insult and ended with the king basically telling the French ambassador to GTFO and never bother coming back.
Bildarchiv Preusischer Kulturbesitz
Wait, did he invent Twitter?
Each side was enraged at the other's downright boorishness, and, less than a week after the telegram, France declared war on Prussia. Just as Bismarck had predicted, the German states coalesced under Prussia to collectively hand France its impolite ass. Three-quarters of a million deaths later, that's precisely what they did -- all triggered by the omission of a few pleasantries. But, however terrible Otto's means, they were justified by the ends -- i.e., a unified Germany that learned from its violent beginnings and never instigated another war ever again.
We may have edited some key words out of that last sentence.
What do Chuck Norris, Liam Neeson in Taken, and the Dos Equis guy have in common? They're all losers compared to some of the actual badasses from history whom you know nothing about. Come out to the UCB Sunset for another LIVE podcast, April 9 at 7:00 p.m., where Jack O'Brien, Michael Swaim, and more will get together for an epic competition to find out who was the most hardcore tough guy or tough gal unfairly relegated to the footnotes of history. Get your tickets here!
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