Subversive Historian – 08/04/09

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident

Back in the day on August 4th, 1964, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident took place – or did it? If one were to read the headlines of newspapers such as the New York Times or the Washington Post the morning after the North Vietnamese supposedly renewed attacks on the USS Maddox, the story seemed clear; the United States had been provoked into launching retaliatory strikes. President Lyndon B. Johnson even went on television to address the nation citing a Pentagon report claiming as much. In the days that followed, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was overwhelmingly passed in both the House and the Senate and spoke of deliberate and repeated attacks on US navy vessels in giving the President the power to take “all necessary measures” in going to war. However, in the aftermath more than a large shadow of doubt has been casted over the justification. A year after appearing on television speaking so resolutely, President Johnson himself offered the skeptical statement, “For all I know, the Navy was shooting at whales out there.” More concretely, Robert Hanyok, historian of the National Security Agency, reviewed all intelligence in 2001 and concluded that no attack took place that day.

The Gulf of Tonkin incident was the impetus for the escalation of U.S. hostilities that claimed the lives of 58,000 Americans and millions of Vietnamese. Yet further proof that the U.S. government engages, in the words of the Thompson Twins, in “Lies, Lies, Lies, Yeah!”

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