Thursday, August 9, 2012

History and Deceit: "The Gulf of Tonkin Incident" (August, 1964) and American Leaders Betray Public Trust Over Iraq


The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, was the largely fallacious "casus belli" used by President Lyndon Johnson, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk to begin unlimited military operations against North Vietnam and Vietcong forces in the southern regions of that divided nation.

Wikipedia, the helpful reference guide for the Internet , provides some background to the events that occurred this very week 48 years ago:

********************"The Gulf of Tonkin incident, or the USS Maddox incident, are the names given to two separate confrontations, one actual and one now recognized as intentionally fabricated, involving North Vietnam and the United States in the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. On August 2, 1964, the destroyer USS Maddox, while performing a signals intelligence patrol as part of DESOTO operations, engaged three North Vietnamese Navy torpedo boats of the 135th Torpedo Squadron.[1] A sea battle resulted, in which the Maddox expended over two hundred eighty 3-inch and 5-inch shells, and in which four USN F-8 Crusader jet fighter bombers strafed the torpedo boats. One US aircraft was damaged, one 14.5 mm round hit the destroyer, three North Vietnamese torpedo boats were damaged, and four North Vietnamese sailors were killed and six were wounded; there were no U.S. casualties.
The second Tonkin Gulf incident was originally claimed by the U.S. National Security Agency to have occurred on August 4, 1964, as another sea battle, but instead may have involved "Tonkin Ghosts"[6] (false radar images) and not actual NVN torpedo boat attacks."*********************

We now know that President Johnson and his officials lied about the August fourth incident and lied again about the mission of the ships, and in stating that the position of the destroyers "Maddox" and "Turner Joy" were simply patrolling in international waters. (A dubious claim, in light of later revaluations. )

Some suspected this at the time but it wasn't until several years later in a 1970 documentary by the CBS News program "60 Minutes" that reality began to catch up to the chicanery in Washington. The release of the classified "Pentagon Papers" by former US Marine and intelligence analyst, Daniel Ellsberg, also played a major part in opening the eyes of Americans to the deceit.

Many officials after the fact--even Bobby McNamara himself admitted a few years before his death in the Errol Morris documentary "The Fog of War" (2007) that the second and most politically significant attack on August 4 th never occurred.

This was either a "false flag" operation or a mistake that LBJ seized on to thrust America into direct combat operations and ramp up a war that had been previously touted as a war between North and South Vietnam with the Americans in an "advisory" role. The term "advisory" must be considered loosely in light of the fact that there were 15,000 US forces in Vietnam when Lyndon Johnson assumed office at the time of John Kennedy's assassination. It is also clear that, unlike Kennedy, Johnson had zero ability to say "no" to the Pentagon until his own Presidency was at risk in 1968 and the US largely conscript forces has sustained high casualties. With no end in sight and General William Westmoreland braying for 150,000 more troops on top of the over half-million already there, AND that public opinion in his own Democratic Party turning away from him, Johnson chose not to run for re-election.

By the time Lyndon Johnson left office 550,000 American troops were engaged in the war and 20,000 had died. While never officially declared as a war by Congress, as per the Constitutional requirement spelled out directly in the document, a Gulf of Tonkin Resolution giving the President wide powers to wage war was approved on August 9th, 1964. It passed by a wide margin in the Senate. Only two Senators, Wayne Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska, voted against this measure.

Another 38,000 thousand Americans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese would die before this most destructive part of the Vietnam War would finally end almost eleven years after the "USS Maddox Incident".

(below) From the 2007 documentary, "War Made Easy", narrated by Sean Penn: here is a segment devoted to the Maddox incident. It also covers what would happen 39 years later in the run-up to the next major "war of choice" by the US Pentagon chiefs, a willing President, and a gullible major media, against Iraq in 2003. Think we'll get a retraction from the media on that one, ever?


  1. It sure seems like the old saying is true,
    The more things change the more things stay the same,
    Times may seem to change on the surface but deep down inside
    it is still the same.
    I wish it were true that the News Media could be gullible but after all
    the largest distributed Media is Corporate and is in most cases intentionally biased. IMO
    Great Share 8-)

  2. I'm afraid you're exactly right, Michael. We think people learn something from history, but all it takes is one awful event or enough time and it's back to acting like we've never been suckered into a war.

    Thanks for your comments.

  3. The very idea the North Vietnamese motor torpedo boats could be involved in a "sea battle" with the US navy sounds absurd to me. This lie destroyed thousands of human lives, led to the environmental catastrophe of Agent Orange defoliation and was a crime against humanity and nature.

    Nobody seems to be asking the question why US naval vessels were in the area in the first place, it is a long way from US territorial waters.

    The US government and media have never stopped lying about this.

    Colin Powell is a most heinous war criminal who first made a name for himself when he covered up the My Lai Massacre in 1968.

    He is a liar and a mass murderer who should be on trial in the Hague along with entire US High Command and political I outlined in a blog from October 2008

    Nothing has changed, except now the world knows the truth and nobody believes anything that the corporate media says anymore, even in places where the disinformation and propaganda was once effective, the neo fascists have lost the information war.

    This whole incident and every act of military aggression by the US and its NATO puppets is an abomination and it has never stopped, not for a single day since that disgraceful false flag pretext.

    Syria and Iran are of course the latest victims of this duplicity and global criminality.

  4. I think that is the crux of the matter, AA, at least about the direct incident of the USS Maddox and Turner Joy in August of 1964. Why would a small number of lightly-armed patrol boats sally forth into international waters to attack two state of the art superpower destroyers? A suicide mission? To what purpose? A plot by Hanoi to escalate the war? To what end?

    Of course it was a provocative action by the US Navy, coordianted through the White House.

    And the blueprint was there for Bush/Cheney and the Neo-Cons to do the same thing. Powell could do nothing about his past; but he could have and should resigned before he went to the United Nations to carry lies for Bush.