Part III. Dangerous and Disturbing This Puzzle Is

Supreme Chancellor Palpatine “What if I told you that the Republic was now under the control of the Dark Lords of the Sith? ... Hundreds of senators are now under the influence of a Sith Lord called Darth Sidious.”

— Count Dooku,
Attack of the Clones

As much as anything else, Attack of the Clones is a mystery story. The riddle that sets the story in motion — who's trying to assassinate Senator Amidala? — turns out to be a red herring. (It's Viceroy Nute Gunray who wants her killed. Big deal.) Obi-Wan's investigation accidentally uncovers a much larger mystery involving deleted Jedi records, a clone army and a separatist conspiracy. We viewers know that the Sith are secretly behind all of this. When Count Dooku informs Lord Sidious that the war has begun, the Sith master says, "Excellent. Everything is going as planned." But what is the plan? What exactly is Palpatine up to?

Well, obviously he's out to take over the galaxy and destroy the Jedi, but it's difficult to figure out how the separatist movement, the clones, and all the other threads of deception fit into making that goal a reality. We won't know for sure until Episode III, if then, but we can analyze all the evidence and attempt to piece together Palpatine's grand strategy. The following discussion relies heavily on assumptions and speculation, and could turn out to be packed full of errors, but I'll try my best to unravel the mystery of the Sith.

We can start by extrapolating what Palpatine has been doing between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. (Incidentally, it should be obvious by now that Palpatine and Darth Sidious are the same individual, and for the purposes of this dissertation I will refer to him as "Palpatine" except where there is a specific need to invoke his Sith Lord alias.) At the end of Episode I, Palpatine has scored a victory by getting himself elected Supreme Chancellor, but he hasn't won the game yet. Even with his powerful new political position, in other respects Palpatine is now weakened, suffering the death of Darth Maul and the failure of the droid armies on Naboo. He won't have the ability to declare himself Emperor until he has enlisted a new Sith apprentice and developed a stronger fighting force to use in his schemes to weaken the Republic and whittle down the ranks of the Jedi.

Count Dooku Palpatine ends up with the former Jedi Master Count Dooku as his replacement apprentice. Some observers have commented that Dooku must have been a desperation choice in the wake of Maul's untimely demise. The background stories on Darth Maul tell us that Palpatine trained him in the ways of the Sith from infancy. At this critical stage in his plans, Palpatine didn't have time to raise another child to be his right-hand man. So he had to settle for the best grown-up and pre-trained candidate for the job, who turned out to be an elderly man grounded in the traditions of the Sith's sworn enemy.

But I don't believe Dooku represents an emergency stopgap, or a compromise in the lineage of the Sith. And I don't believe Palpatine was caught with his pants down when Maul got killed. If you belong to an ancient secret society that can only have two members at a time — no more, no less — you'd better spend some time lining up potential successors who'll be standing by in case one of you croaks. Palpatine has shown that he is anything but short-sighted. Even with all his confidence in Maul's abilities, he knew his apprentice would be putting his life at risk in the field, especially once he openly encountered the Jedi. So Palpatine undoubtedly had a list of future prospects in mind. For that matter, Maul probably did as well, in case anything should happen to Palpatine and he were to become the new master. Lining up your next apprentice would have to be central to a Sith Lord's mentality.

Dooku was probably right at the top of Palpatine's recruitment roster. As a senator, Palpatine would have previously interacted regularly with Jedi Master Dooku. The two must have known each other for many years, and they probably would have been friends. Even though Dooku might have recognized and been put off by Palpatine's political B.S., he could just as easily have bought into his rhetoric about corruption in the Senate and the need for stronger leadership. And Palpatine would certainly have been impressed by this powerful Jedi Master who had grown disenchanted with the Jedi party line. His mastery of the Force combined with his contempt for the political status quo would make Dooku a highly attractive candidate for Sith membership. He wasn't just some guy Palpatine went and picked out in a panic after Maul died. In fact, if Obi-Wan hadn't killed Maul, Palpatine might actually have whacked Maul himself when the time came that he needed an apprentice with Dooku's particular skills.

The published backstory on Dooku indicates that he left the Jedi Order following the battle on Naboo. This suggests that he didn't resign until Palpatine offered him Maul's vacant position. Palpatine's revelation of his true Sith identity would have been a risky proposition, but he would have finessed it with his unmatched talents of diplomacy and manipulation. For example, Palpatine probably played down the notion of "apprenticeship" in his proposal, careful not to bruise Dooku's ego as an accomplished elder among the Jedi. He would have pitched it more as becoming "allies" or "partners," rather than master and apprentice — similar to how he would later address Vader as "my friend." Palpatine would have played on Dooku's resentment for the complacency on Coruscant, as well as the Count's thirst for personal influence, to convince him to join the Sith. If Dooku had refused, Palpatine would have been prepared to kill him immediately and move on to the next name on his draft list.

But Dooku accepted. The true motivations behind his decision are a mystery, and the possibility of whether he has his own agenda that doesn't jibe with Palpatine's is a matter I will address later. For now, though, let's proceed under the assumption that Darth Sidious and Darth Tyranus are working together for the united cause of Sith dominance.

As powerful as they are, Palpatine and Dooku could never simply take over the galaxy by force, on their own. The newly elected Chancellor Palpatine couldn't just announce to the Senate that he is now the Emperor. The Republic's political infrastructure is still intact enough to remove him from power should he attempt such a brazenly unconstitutional ploy, and he and Dooku wouldn't be able to hold off the horde of Jedi that would rush in to arrest them. The Sith Lords know that their success will only come slowly, as they discreetly and covertly turn the system in upon itself and allow the Republic to finish rotting from within.

Now that he has a capable new apprentice, Palpatine has two major issues to contend with before he can seize totalitarian control of the galaxy: unrest among the galaxy's citizens, and resistance from the Jedi Order. Palpatine distracts each of these problems by blanketing them with confusion and deception. First, he devotes a substantial portion of his Sith powers to obscuring the Jedi's connection to the Force. Somehow he is deliberately using the dark side to cast a hazy shadow over the Force, particularly around himself and his conspiracies. Yoda recognizes that the dark side clouds everything, and he and Mace Windu later admit in private that their ability to use the Force has weakened. This obfuscation prevents the Jedi from detecting Palpatine's schemes and keeps them loyal to the Republic's leadership.

Secondly, Palpatine has to deal with the threat of rebellion. His plan requires the Republic to become increasingly corrupt and ineffective, and this means that billions of citizens are going to become discontent with their galactic government. If they rise up against the Republic before he can secure his position, they could very well overthrow him and take back their democracy. Palpatine comes up with a brilliant solution to the problem of civil unrest, which is to co-opt it. Since rebellion is inevitable, he positions his apprentice as the leader of the separatists, and plays both sides against the middle.

This is where Dooku's strengths are invaluable. Whereas Darth Maul served his purpose during the time when Palpatine's operations were in the shadows, carrying out covert missions of assassination and intimidation, this stage of the game calls for a Sith apprentice with a public face and the aura of a trustworthy leader. Dooku is widely known and respected for his protests against the corruption in the Senate. He comes before the downtrodden peoples of the galaxy and tells them what they all know: the Republic is tarnished and broken. It no longer functions. It's beyond repair. Let's give up on trying to fix it or waiting idly for things to get better, he says. Let's form our own association of independent worlds that will cooperate and take care of each other, unlike the tattered shambles of the Republic.

Dooku and the Separatists The disenfranchised systems would naturally be drawn to Dooku's convincing appearance of integrity and righteous indignation, and join his Confederacy of Independent Systems in droves. What they may not realize is that Dooku is also enlisting the loyalty of the galaxy's most notorious financial and industrial interests, including the Trade Federation, the Techno Union, the Banking Clan, the Corporate Alliance and the Commerce Guilds. These organizations lend the Confederacy the power and resources it will need if it is to confront the Republic, but Dooku has a larger motivation for recruiting them into his movement. Palpatine wants to paint the separatists as villainous traitors, and their association with these greedy corporate scumlords is a sure way to achieve that. The shady reputations and selfish motives of Dooku's cronies will make all those who wish to leave the Republic look like criminals, even the innocent systems who joined in the interest of freedom and justice. Furthermore, by gathering all the seceding systems and all the "massive organs of commerce" together under one united front, Dooku and Palpatine are able to monitor and manipulate their actions. As the Confederacy grows, it becomes far less likely that some isolated faction of rebels or business tycoons will catch Palpatine off guard or strike in any way that seriously endangers his goals.

Besides harnessing the unrest in the galaxy for Palpatine's own purposes, Dooku's separatist movement also serves as a primary distraction for the Jedi. The ranks of the Jedi are stretched thin as they try to negotiate with systems bent on secession and resolve local disputes that have broken out over the issue. This mess keeps them too busy to pry into Palpatine's business, should any insightful Jedi harbor suspicions about the Supreme Chancellor. And the icing on the cake is that the Jedi don't think Dooku is a bad person. Even though he has left the Jedi Order, they still think of him as one of the gang and refuse to accept that he could turn to murderous treachery.

All in all, Palpatine's schemes for the past ten years have left the Republic in ruin and rendered the Jedi almost entirely clueless. But these are just delaying tactics, buying him the time he needs to produce the tool that will bring about the final solution for both the threat of rebellion and the threat of the Jedi: an army of the Republic.

Why is creating an army so crucial to Palpatine's plan? To understand that, first we have to consider the fact that the Republic has no army. Obviously the Jedi are the closest thing the Republic has to a department of defense, but they are keepers of the peace, negotiators, ambassadors — not soldiers. Many systems in the Republic have their own militaries, even if they're just minor volunteer militias like the one seen on Naboo. But the Republic itself doesn't have a military, and that's because it's never needed one. It isn't just that the Republic has always the Jedi to protect it — it's primarily that, aside from the Sith uprising of a thousand years ago, the Republic hasn't ever had anyone to fight.

"No need to note where it was or whence it came," as the Journal of the Whills bluntly states, "only to know that... it was the Republic." For millennia, the Republic was everything there was. The Star Wars saga involves a single galaxy, and there's no evidence that it has experienced much intergalactic contact, unless you count that Yuuzhan Vong stuff from the "New Jedi Order" Expanded Universe novels. The only known entities of any consequence outside the Republic are groups like the Hutts or the Kaminoans, who aren't powerful enough or foolish enough to launch an attack on the Republic. So there's really no external threat that would cause the Republic to need its own army. The government has only had internal disputes to worry about, and the Jedi have traditionally been more than sufficient to settle them. The only development that could cause the Republic to require an army would be a full-blown civil war.

And that is exactly where Dooku's separatist movement is leading. With the emergence of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, the Republic now faces a challenge to its hegemony that it may have to take up arms against. The Jedi are already taxed by the minor skirmishes that are breaking out in response to the separatists. If the Republic now has a need for militarization, what kind of army will it create?

A conventional army made up of soldiers from all the different systems of the Republic would pose all kinds of problems. Just think about how touchy people in our world are about the issue of U.N. peacekeepers, and multiply that by a million. There would be the question of equal representation among species in the ranks, and some systems wouldn't be willing to have their native sons lay down their lives in the name of the Republic, and on and on. Many cultures in the Republic may consider it barbaric beyond all comprehension to send armies of sentient beings to kill and die in battle, and oppose militarization on moral principle. And if this army is going to require a mandatory draft to augment its volunteer forces, all hell is going to break loose.

So Palpatine turns to alternative options for building an army, involving non-sentient troops from politically neutral sources. Lucas has often commented that the battle droids in Episode I are the forerunners to the stormtroopers. Such an evolutionary link is not explicitly demonstrated in the movies, but we can extrapolate a plot thread there. Let's say Palpatine was monitoring the Trade Federation's use of the battle droids with an eye to eventually using them as an army for the Republic. When he saw how easily the Jedi could slice them up, and how vulnerable they were if their command center was compromised, he would have had second thoughts. Palpatine would then look for a smarter and more capable kind of fabricated soldier, and he decided on human clones.

Clone Army Episode II makes no direct references to the ethical controversies that surround the issue of cloning in our world, but we can assume it's not a universally accepted procedure. Since Kamino is an obscure system beyond the Outer Rim, we might guess that cloning is either illegal or highly regulated within the Republic. Dexter Jettster suggests that the Kaminoans offer their services to anyone with the wealth to pay for them, so they would probably create individual clones for clients who wish to duplicate themselves for whatever reason, as Jango Fett does. But their facilities are obviously set up for volume. If you're churning out clones in that kind of quantity, it's probably for some morally questionable purpose. The Kaminoans would have been commissioned to produce such wares as worker drones, sex slaves, specimens for organ harvesting, creatures to be grown as livestock for food, and of course armies.

Any of these cloning practices would be likely grounds for heated debate in the Galactic Senate. Even so, Palpatine must have reasoned that it would be easier to get the Senate to go along with a clone army than a conventional army, and a sufficient crisis would convince the politicians and the public to let their ethical objections slide. After all, if you're going to have to go to war and thousands are going to have to die in your defense, wouldn't it be better to have faceless clones bite the dust instead of real people?

Anticipating that most of the Senate would probably think so, Palpatine makes arrangements with the cloners on Kamino through an agent using the alias of Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas. There is elaborate fan speculation on who this Sifo-Dyas was, but I think the name is just another red herring. Clearly there really was a Master Sifo-Dyas, since Obi-Wan recognizes the name and says that he was killed "almost ten years ago." It's doubtful that Sifo-Dyas was a Jedi traitor or covert ally of the Sith; more likely, Palpatine had Sifo-Dyas killed so that he could use his identity, or maybe Palpatine chose the name of a Jedi whose death just after the battle of Naboo was coincidental. Many have pointed out the phonetic similarity of "Sifo-Dyas" and "Sidious," but I don't think that carries much significance. It would be more notable if Sifo-Dyas were a fictitious name that Obi-Wan had never heard before. Palpatine couldn't be both the Supreme Chancellor and a "leading member of the Jedi Council," unless he always wore a disguise as Sifo-Dyas or something silly like that. Plus, given Palpatine's reluctance to conduct his secret Sith business directly or in person, it's unlikely that he would travel to Kamino and allow the cloners to know him as Sifo-Dyas, or any other name, for that matter. The most plausible answer to the "Who is Sifo-Dyas?" mystery is that the person who ordered the clone army using that alias was Count Dooku.

Let's speculate on how this went down. Just after the events of Episode I, Palpatine decides that he's going to need a clone army a few years down the road. He chooses Kamino for the job because it's so remote and because the Kaminoans seem completely amoral, unlikely to ask too many questions. But he would have wanted to avoid any direct connections between his administration and Kamino in case word of the clone army got out prematurely. Thus he would send his new Sith apprentice to pose as Master Sifo-Dyas, representing the Jedi Council as opposed to Chancellor Palpatine. While the Kaminoans seem out of touch with current events in the Republic, and unconcerned with even cursory background checks on their clients (seeing as they went ten years without knowing the real Sifo-Dyas was dead), Palpatine still must have thought it would help to impress them with some high-ranking Coruscant brass as their contact. With his qualifications, Dooku could obviously give a convincing performance as Sifo-Dyas, ostensibly acting on behalf of the Republic. And more than being an effort to trick the Kaminoans, the Sifo-Dyas ruse might actually be part of a grander scheme to frame the Jedi for creating the clone army.

Once Dooku made contact with Kamino as Sifo-Dyas, he would need two things to get the clone production started: money and DNA. The Kaminoans would require an enormous chunk of change for their services, and that would be no problem for the Sith Lords. Palpatine could divert vast amounts of cash from Republic bureaucracies and special-interest kickbacks. Plus, according to published background material on Dooku, the Count is one of the wealthiest men in the galaxy, so he could contribute his personal funds as well, if necessary.

Finding the genetic template for the clones would require a bit more work. Before Episode II was released, I used to have a personal theory that the clones in the Clone Wars would be Force users: the bad guys would make clones with high midi-chlorian counts so they would be on equal footing in battle against the Jedi. Two Sith Lords couldn't exterminate the Jedi, but an army of clones wielding the dark side of the Force could. Palpatine may have considered such a strategy, but judged that Force-using clones would be too unpredictable and difficult to control. After all, that would violate the Sith philosophy of having only two individuals at a time using the dark side, whether of natural or artificial origin.

Jango Fett Palpatine and Dooku end up choosing a normal human being with great fighting skills, the bounty hunter Jango Fett. Why a human, rather than a more powerful species, like Wookiees or something? For whatever reason, it seems that humans are the most common sentient species in the galaxy, inhabiting thousands of different systems, and Palpatine would want the army to be as generic as possible, not seeming native to any particular world. The soldiers would ultimately be outfitted in full body armor to increase their anonymity, and brawnier species could be less suitable for such uniforms. Plus, in the classic trilogy there is an undercurrent that the Empire may be prejudiced against non-humans (considering that we never see other species among the Imperial officers), so this could be the first emergence of that institutional racism.

We know it was Dooku who brought Jango Fett into the clone army equation. Jango tells Obi-Wan he was recruited by "a man called Tyranus," and we see Jango on Geonosis acting as if he's Dooku's bodyguard. Dooku probably chose Jango for his genetic traits as a warrior, and because he's a mercenary whose full compliance can be bought. Maybe Dooku even knew about Jango's desire to have a son and used that as an enticement. It's not entirely clear why Jango resides on Kamino, instead of donating his DNA, collecting Boba for himself and moving on. Some background materials suggest that the Kaminoans need fresh genetic samples from him on a routine basis, which is why they "keep him around." There are also indications that Jango is involved as a technical advisor in the training of the clones. I've got a lot more to say about Jango's importance in the story, but I'll set that discussion aside for Part V.

So that's more or less what went into ordering the clone army. The only thing left to do was wait... and cover up the evidence. I suspect it was Dooku who erased the records of Kamino from the Jedi archives. It could have been one of his last acts in the Jedi Temple before he resigned, along with any other inside tampering and sabotage that may be part of Palpatine's scheme. The question is, was Palpatine simply concealing the clone army from the Jedi, or making sure they would eventually discover it?

Over the years as the clones were "manufactured," Palpatine and Dooku kept busy with their secretly coordinated machinations on opposite ends of the Republic's political spectrum. As previously mentioned, one major player Dooku has to enlist into his separatist fold is the Trade Federation. Viceroy Nute Gunray and his associates are among the very few people who know about the existence of the Sith, so the Trade Federation would be of concern not only because of its political and economic clout, but also because of the secrets its leadership is privy to. Palpatine could easily have disposed of Gunray and the others by getting them locked away or simply assassinating them. But as Sio Bibble tells us, Gunray is still in power as Viceroy, despite numerous court trials in the wake of the Naboo invasion. It could be that Palpatine has kept the legal system from convicting Gunray because he wants to continue using the Viceroy as a pawn in his plans.

At any rate, Palpatine must not be terribly afraid of Gunray spilling the beans about the Sith. In the shooting script for Attack of the Clones, Dooku tells Obi-Wan that Gunray tried to tell the Jedi Council about the Sith Lords who betrayed him, but the Council didn't believe him. Since the line was cut from the movie, and since Dooku could have been lying anyway, there's no way to know if that's true. You might think Gunray would keep his mouth shut for fear of reprisals from Darth Sidious.

Being a realist, the Viceroy knows he'll probably never get to exact vengeance on the Sith, so he has focused his hatred on a more vulnerable target: Senator Amidala. Dooku says that Gunray came to him for help following the fiasco on Naboo, and Gunray later reveals that the Trade Federation will join Dooku on the condition that Dooku has Padmé killed. This explains the assassination attempts in the opening act of Episode II, with Dooku having assigned Jango Fett the task, and Jango contracting it out to Zam Wesell.

Obviously Palpatine has approved of entertaining Gunray's petty vendetta and putting out a hit on Padmé. Palpatine too has possible reasons for wanting her dead, since she is the leader of Senate's opposition against militarization, and getting her out of the way could make it easier for him to institute the army of the Republic. Palpatine could also harbor a grudge against Padmé for her interference during the battle of Naboo, just as the Viceroy does. But Palpatine's motivations are typically not as primitive as that. Maybe he doesn't care at all whether Padmé lives or dies, but he wants to capitalize on the assassination plot as a useful diversion.

Anakin and Palpatine Let's not forget the other major interest Palpatine has developed in the interim between Episodes I and II: Anakin Skywalker. We can imagine that Palpatine has been contemplating Anakin as potential Sith apprentice for several years, maybe even from the day he promised to keep an eye on him at the end of Episode I. Palpatine is deeply impressed with Anakin's prodigious strength in the Force, and considering Anakin's emotional character and the late age at which he joined the Jedi, Palpatine must suspect that Anakin could eventually be lured to the dark side.

Palpatine has been mentoring Anakin and creating an intimate bond with the young Padawan. In their personal talks over the years, Anakin would surely have mentioned Padmé, especially considering that she and Palpatine are both natives of Naboo, and Anakin would naturally discuss her election to the Senate. Anakin might even confide in the Chancellor regarding his affections for Padmé and how much he misses her. Really, he wouldn't even have to say it — Palpatine would have no trouble reading between the lines and figuring it out for himself. If Palpatine is grooming Anakin as a future Sith Lord, he might want to precipitate events that will lead young Skywalker down the quick and easy path and leave him ripe for indoctrination. Padmé would represent an ideal wedge to stick between Anakin and the Jedi Order.

So let's say that Palpatine decides that one day, when Anakin is old enough, he will arrange somehow for Anakin and Padmé to be reunited, and given some time alone together... just to see what sparks might fly. In time, Dooku brings his report that Nute Gunray wants to have Padmé killed. Palpatine sees that he can kill two birds with one stone. Once Padmé has been put in jeopardy, Palpatine can personally assign Anakin to be her bodyguard. Remember that he eagerly recommends her "old friend" Obi-Wan to protect her after the first assassination attempt. I believe that Palpatine is acting as an evil matchmaker, hoping to ignite Anakin's passions for Padmé and tempt him away from proper Jedi protocol.

Of course, not even a Dark Lord of the Sith can foresee whether two people will fall in love, but it doesn't really matter to Palpatine what the outcome of Anakin and Padmé's reunion is. If neither Anakin or Padmé make any romantic overtures, then at least Anakin's emotions will be all stirred up and frustrated, softening him up for further corruption later. His agitated hormones might compel him to seek out female companionship elsewhere, which works just as well as far as Palpatine is concerned. If Anakin puts the moves on Padmé and gets shot down, same thing, only with extra anger and hatred mixed in. You can just imagine Palpatine cackling, "Good, good!" On the other hand, if Anakin or Padmé should happen to have a genuine love connection, then Palpatine hits the jackpot.

In Part II, I pointed out that Anakin is anxious to conform to the Jedi code in the wake of his Tusken massacre primarily because he sees no other alternative for himself. His Jedi identity is the only thing he has left at that point. But Palpatine will offer Anakin another option, a new way to seize his potential for nearly limitless power and follow the will of his passions, when the Jedi stand between him and Padmé as they once stood between him and his mother. It will be an offer he can't refuse.

Assuming Palpatine wants Anakin and Padmé to have some time to themselves, the major obstacle threatening any possible chemistry between them would be Obi-Wan. As it happens, Kenobi gets sent off on a mission to track down Padmé's assailants, letting the kids get shipped off to the most romantic planet in the galaxy without a chaperone. But was this just dumb luck, or did Palpatine plan it all that way? We're getting into the realm of heavy speculation here, but it's entirely reasonable the Palpatine not only wanted Anakin and Padmé alone on Naboo, but also that he wanted Obi-Wan to uncover the secrets transpiring on Kamino and Geonosis.

Remember, Palpatine says everything is going as planned. And events could not have unfolded as they did unless the Jedi and the Republic stumbled upon the clone army on Kamino and the threats of the separatist alliance on Geonosis. Palpatine supposedly doesn't know about the clone army created for the Republic, and before he can put it to use, someone else is going to have to let him know it exists. The cover story maintains that a Jedi Master secretly ordered the army without the knowledge of the Republic, so it makes sense that Palpatine would want a Jedi to bring the army to public attention. Palpatine has taken care to isolate himself and the Republic's government from the production of the clones and linked the Kaminoan contract circumstantially to the Jedi. This leaves him an out in case popular sentiment turns against the clone army: he can say, "It wasn't my idea — blame the Jedi!"

Palpatine could have deliberately planted various clues to lead the Jedi to Kamino. Jango Fett used a Kamino saber dart whose origin Obi-Wan tracked down. Maybe this was an unintended lead, but it could also be that Palpatine and Dooku arranged for Jango to use obscure Kaminoan weaponry in hopes that a Jedi investigation would reveal their source. And that could be just one of dozens of clues that were strewn around. The kind of explosives that destroyed Senator Amidala's ship and the species of poisonous kouhuns unleashed in her bedroom may have carried some tenuous link to Kamino that went undetected. The deletion of Kamino from the Jedi archives would also throw up a red flag. If Obi-Wan hadn't encountered it, some routine database check might later have identified the edited records and led the Jedi to investigate Kamino, just as Palpatine wanted.

One could take this line of conspiracy-theorizing a step further, and propose that if Palpatine arranged for Obi-Wan to find the clones and arranged for Anakin and Padmé to fall in love, maybe he also arranged for Anakin's mother to die. It's true that Anakin would likely have told Palpatine about his separation from his mother, just as he could have confided about Padmé, and Palpatine might consequently consider using Shmi to manipulate Anakin — just as Vader placed Han and Leia in jeopardy to lure Luke. But this notion feels wrong to me on a gut level. It would require Palpatine's agents to somehow reason with Tusken Raiders and get them to fake her abduction and torture, which seems a remote possibility. But more importantly, this would invalidate the story point that Shmi's fate makes about the random forces of destiny that no one can control. Not even Palpatine can be the puppet master for every single event that transpires in the universe.

So to sum things up: Dooku's Confederacy subverts the unrest in the galaxy and poses a fabricated threat to the Republic. With impeccable timing, a battle-ready clone army suddenly materializes and falls into the Republic's lap. Capitalizing on the climate of political crisis, Palpatine secures totalitarian "emergency powers" for himself, with the assistance of a gullible Gungan representative, and immediately seizes command of the clone army to counter the separatists. Thus begins a long and bloody series of conflicts that will wear down all opposition to Republic rule, sacrifice a large percentage of the ranks of the Jedi, and enable Palpatine to declare himself Emperor and start building that familiar-looking "ultimate weapon" the Geonosians have designed. Even with the Jedi out of the way and a massive clone military enforcing their will, the Sith will still carry the vulnerability of being only two people — but we see they are already planning for the long-term insurance policy that the Death Star represents, an instrument of fear that will permanently secure their power.

The Sith This is why the Sith Lords are so pleased that the Clone Wars have begun, just as they intended. Still, even with an understanding of all these intricate machinations, you might wonder what the Sith's underlying motivation is. Are they going to all this trouble to fool everybody and take over the galaxy just because they're evil? I think it's not that simple. Remember my distinction between the Jedi and the Sith in Part I. I believe the Sith see themselves as superior beings in a world of insects, but their problem is that the insects outnumber them by trillions upon trillions. This scenario is what elevates the Sith above the level of the typical James Bond villain who wants to rule the world out of megalomaniac delusions. Their mastery over the dark side of the Force gives the Sith a legitimate basis for seeing all other beings as inferiors. They've been made to suffer the humiliation of living in secrecy for a thousand years while formulating a way to assert what they see as their rightful place in the natural order: complete and total power over everything. The genius of the Sith's plan is their realization that they can exploit the flaws and corruption inherent in other people — in all ordinary beings, as well as the arrogant and self-defeating Jedi — to make their "lessers" unwittingly do their bidding and fulfill their dark agenda. "...[A]s often happens when wealth and power pass beyond the admirable and attain the awesome, then appear those evil ones who have greed to match." And the Sith are not the only "evil ones" who contribute to the fall of the Republic. This is the key to the terrible success the Sith will achieve.

Of course, that still leaves the impenetrable mystery of what Count Dooku's true motives might be. Is Dooku really being sincere when he asks Obi-Wan to join him and help him destroy the Sith? He's truthful in everything else he reveals about Darth Sidious controlling the Republic, so it's possible that he's not bluffing when he suggests that he's seeking to betray Palpatine. Clearly Dooku has no love for the Jedi or the Republic, but he may wish to eliminate the Sith as well and institute his own regime. Or it could be that he's lying to Obi-Wan, perfectly content with his role as Darth Tyranus. We should expect to see Dooku's fascinating moral ambiguity resolved in Episode III prior to Anakin taking his place at Palpatine's side.

It's also possible that I'm all wrong about Dooku being the one who posed as Sifo-Dyas and/or being the one who erased Kamino from the Jedi archives. It may well be that there's a traitor amongst the Jedi who has yet to be revealed, serving as a mole and saboteur for the Sith. A lot of fans have voiced suspicions about Mace Windu. Does that unique purple lightsaber represent a mixed affiliation between Sith and Jedi, or is it just Samuel L. Jackson's favorite color? We shall see.

And here's one final note. Looking back at the legendary Journal of the Whills in light of the first two prequels, I had previously felt that the given characterization of Palpatine rang somewhat false: "Once secure in office he declared himself Emperor, shutting himself away from the populace. Soon he was controlled by the very assistants and boot-lickers he had appointed to high office, and the cries of the people for justice did not reach his ears." This doesn't sound like the Palpatine we know, letting himself be reduced to a mere figurehead manipulated by his underlings. I figured Lucas must have changed his concept of Palpatine over the years into a stronger, more assertive dictator than the weak-willed politician outlined here. Back then, it seems Lucas didn't even know the Emperor was going to be a Sith Lord.

But now I've reevaluated things in light of Attack of the Clones, and I've come to the conclusion that the Whills, or whoever these mysterious journal-keepers were, simply recorded history as Palpatine wished it to be known. Galactic scholars wouldn't be privy to the omniscient perspective that the movies afford us. There's no evidence that the general public ever knows that the Emperor is a Sith Lord. (The same goes for Vader, to whom Grand Moff Tarkin inaccurately refers as a follower of the Jedi religion.) Even secure in his position of supreme power, Palpatine would probably never fully reveal who he was and how he was solely responsible for masterminding and ruling the Empire. Palpatine has always thrived on keeping his schemes secret and attributing as much false responsibility as possible to other parties, and would thus be content to let his bureaucratic flunkies like Mas Amedda and Sly Moore absorb the blame for his atrocities. So even though it was published way back before the original film first unreeled on the silver screen, the Journal of the Whills has always been true... from a certain point of view.

Excellent. Everything is going as planned.

IV. Luminous Beings Are We
Descending into Episode II's complex symbolism.

The Shroud of the Dark Side
Cinema