OpEdNews Op Eds

Gulf Shenanigans: No Laughing Matter

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 3 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

View Ratings | Rate It

opednews.com

Become a Fan
  (135 fans)

This piece was reprinted by OpEdNews with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

When the Tonkin Gulf incident took place in early August 1964, I was a journeyman CIA analyst in what Condoleezza Rice refers to as “the bowels of the agency.” As current intelligence referent for Russian policy toward Southeast Asia and China, I worked very closely with those responsible for analysis of Vietnam and China.

Out of that experience I must say that, as much as one might be tempted to laugh at the bizarre antics of Sunday’s incident involving small Iranian boats and US naval ships in the Strait of Hormuz, this is—as my old Russian professor used to say—nothing to laugh.

The situation is so reminiscent of what happened—and didn’t happen—from Aug 2-4, 1964 in the Gulf of Tonkin and in Washington, it is in no way funny. At the time, the US had about 16,000 troops in South Vietnam. The war that was “justified” by the Tonkin Gulf resolution of Aug. 7, 1964 led to a buildup to 535,000 US troops in the late Sixties, 58,000 of whom were killed—not to mention the estimated two million Vietnamese who lost their lives by then and in the ensuing ten years.

Ten years. How can our president speak so glibly about ten more years of a U.S. armed presence in Iraq? Wonder why he doesn’t know anything about Vietnam.

Intelligence Lessons From Vietnam and Iraq

What follows is written primarily for honest intelligence analysts and managers still on “active duty.” The issuance of the recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran was particularly welcome to those of us who had been hoping there were enough of you left who had not been thoroughly corrupted by former CIA Director George Tenet and his flock of malleable managers.


We are not so much surprised at the integrity of Tom Fingar, who is in charge of national intelligence analysis. He showed his mettle in manfully resisting forgeries and fairy tales about Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction.” What is, frankly, a happy surprise is the fact that he and other non-ideologues and non-careerist professionals have been able to prevail and speak truth to power on such dicey issues as Iran-nuclear, the upsurge in terrorism caused by the US invasion of Iraq, and the year-old NIE saying Iraq is headed for hell in a hand basket (with no hint that a “surge” could make a difference).

But those are the NIEs. They share the status of “supreme genre” of analytic product with the
President’s Daily Brief and other vehicles for current intelligence, the field in which I labored, first in the analytic trenches and then as a briefer at the White House, for most of my 27-year career. True, the NIE “Iraq’s Continuing Program for Weapons of Mass Destruction” of Oct. 1, 2002 (wrong on every major count) greased the skids for the attack on Iraq on March 19, 2003. But it is more often current intelligence that is fixed upon to get the country into war.

The Tonkin Gulf events are perhaps the best case in point. We retired professionals are hopeful that Fingar can ensure integrity in the current intelligence process as well as in intelligence estimates.

Salivating for Wider War: Tonkin Gulf

Given the confusion last Sunday in the Persian Gulf, you need to remember that a “known known” in the form of a non-event has already been used to sell a major war—Vietnam. It is not only in retrospect that we know that no attack occurred that night.

Those of us in intelligence, not to mention President Lyndon Johnson, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, and national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy all knew full well that the evidence of any armed attack on the evening of Aug. 4, 1964, the so-called “second” Tonkin Gulf incident, was highly dubious. But it fit the president’s purposes, so they lent a hand to facilitate escalation of the war.

During the summer of 1964 President Johnson and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were eager to widen the war in Vietnam. They stepped up sabotage and hit-and-run attacks on the coast of North Vietnam. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara later admitted that he and other senior leaders had concluded that the seaborne attacks “amounted to little more than pinpricks” and “were essentially worthless,” but they continued.

Concurrently, the National Security Agency was ordered to collect signals intelligence from the North Vietnamese coast on the Gulf of Tonkin, and the surprise coastal attacks were seen as a helpful way to get the North Vietnamese to turn on their coastal radars. The destroyer USS Maddox, carrying electronic spying gear, was authorized to approach as close as eight miles from the coast and four miles from offshore islands, some of which had been subjected to intense shelling by clandestine attack boats.

As James Bamford describes it in “Body of Secrets:”

“The twin missions of the Maddox were in a sense symbiotic. The vessel’s primary purpose was to act as a seagoing provocateur—to poke its sharp gray bow and the American flag as close to the belly of North Vietnam as possible, in effect shoving its 5-inch cannons up the nose of the Communist navy. In turn, this provocation would give the shore batteries an excuse to turn on as many coastal defense radars, fire control systems, and communications channels as possible, which could then be captured by the men...at the radar screens. The more provocation, the more signals...

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3

 

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)
 

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
2 people are discussing this page, with 2 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

It makes no more sense to have a Zionist in comman... by John Hanks on Saturday, Jan 12, 2008 at 9:52:17 AM
I READ THE ARTICLE, AND THEN I KNEW IT WAS YOU WHE... by BreakingThruTheCracks on Sunday, Jan 13, 2008 at 9:50:21 AM

 

Tell a Friend: Tell A Friend


Copyright © 2002-2014, OpEdNews

Powered by Populum