Saturday, December 3

Schadenfreude

In this recent reuters article, we discover that:
U.S. intelligence officials in 1964 skewed evidence of an attack on two U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin to support claims of communist aggression that led to a massive escalation of the Vietnam War, according to a newly declassified government document.
Is anyone still capable of being surprised by this sort of thing?

2 comments:

Opinionated Chick said...

Is this new? I thought information to this effect was revealed in the Pentagon Papers. Admittedly, I haven't read the Pentagon Papers, but I thought this was known.

Steve in MD said...

This passage is fairly remarkable for its deliberate naivety:

"Information was presented in such a manner as to preclude responsible decisionmakers in the Johnson administration from having the complete and objective narrative," said the article, which was among hundreds of documents on the Gulf of Tonkin released by the NSA.

I recently read Daniel Ellsberg's book _Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers_. In it Ellsberg recounts the context of the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Johnson was intent on escalating the war but couldn't actively take that position because it was what Goldwater was campaigning on. Consequently, the administration was aggressively patrolling North Vietnamese territorial water trying to provoke an attack that would be used as causus belli.

Ellsberg doesn't think that the incident was fabricated but that a radar glitch and the context that anticipated such an attack conjoined to produce a convenient 'truth'.

Much the same thing happened in the run up to George and Dick's excellent adventure in Iraq (the air campaign started well before the 'invasion' per se -- we were trying to provoke Iraqi forces into firing on warplanes). Bush and his cronies had already decided to invade; that context made the 'conventional wisdom' that Saddam had stores of WMDs sufficient (for the White House cabal) reason for war.

Another book, Norman Solomon's _War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death_ illustrates the common themes that inform the tactics and debate that occur after an administration has decided to go to war.

Steve in MD