Wednesday, January 12, 2005

WMD's: George W. Bush's "Gulf of Tonkin"

I was rather young when the United States was plunging into the war in Vietnam. Back in 1964, young Daniel Ellsberg was starting out in his new job at the Pentagon as the new Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara. Ellsberg commented extensively on the now infamous Gulf of Tonkin episode and how our entry into Vietnam was facilitated by events that now in retrospect, appear manipulated and questionable.

On August 4th, a second attack on American vessels was reported in the Gulf of Tonkin. As Ellsberg explains
The President's announcement and McNamara's press conference late in the evening of August 4 informed the American public that the North Vietnamese, for the second time in two days, had attacked U.S. warships on "routine patrol in international waters" (10); that this was clearly a "deliberate" pattern of "naked aggression"; that the evidence for the second attack, like the first, was "unequivocal"; that the attack had been "unprovoked" (11); and that the United States., by responding in order to deter any repetition, intended no wider war.

By midnight on the fourth, or within a day or two, I knew that each one of these assurances was false.

The problem was that Daniel Ellsberg knew that the evidence suggested that there had been NO second attack on American forces. And that this contrived episode became the pivotal point in American policy on Vietnam, plunging our nation into that conflict.

As Ellsberg explains about the problems with the President's announcement:
Unequivocal"? In the President's initial public announcement and in every official statement afterward, it was implicit that the August 4 attack on our ships, which had triggered our retaliatory strikes, was a simple fact. There was no official hint, either to Congress or to the public, that in the minds of various experienced Navy operators and intelligence analysts at the time of our retaliation, as well as earlier and later, doubt adhered to every single piece of evidence that an attack had occurred at all on August 4.

A "routine patrol in international waters"? The two destroyers were on a secret intelligence mission, codenamed DeSoto patrols, penetrating well within what the North Vietnamese regarded as their territorial waters. We assumed, correctly, that the North Vietnamese claimed the same limits as other communist nations, twelve miles from their coastline and from their islands. The U.S. did not officially "recognize" this extended limit; nevertheless U.S. Navy ships were prudently directed to keep at least fifteen miles out from the Chinese islands or mainland. But before the August 2 incident, the Maddox had been frequently eight miles from the North Vietnamese mainland and four miles from its islands. The purpose of this was not merely to demonstrate that we rejected their claims of limits on our "freedom of the seas" but to provoke them into turning on coast defense radar so that our destroyers could plot their defenses, in preparation for possible air or sea attacks. Thus, it was true that the August 2 attack had been twenty-eight miles out to sea, but that was because a warning of attack when the Maddox was just ten miles from the coast had led the skipper to change course and to head out to sea, with the torpedo boats in pursuit.

"Unprovoked"? Hanoi had claimed that "puppet" forces of the Americans had shelled two of their coastal islands, Hon Me and Hon Nieu, on the night of July 30-31. In public releases, the State Department denied any knowledge of any such attacks, as did McNamara in his press conferences on August 4 and 5. In top secret testimony to Congressional committees in closed hearings over the next two days, Secretary of State Dean Rusk and McNamara acknowledged such attacks but insisted that they could not realistically be considered U.S. provocations that justified or were intended to evoke North Vietnamese counterattacks because they were entirely "South Vietnamese" operations, run by the South Vietnamese navy, aimed at stopping infiltration from the North.(12) The United States supported them and knew about them in general terms, but, Rusk claimed, not in detail; there was little knowledge of them in Washington. They had no relationship at all with our destroyer patrols, they were in no way coordinated, and in fact the commander on the destroyers knew nothing of them at all. It was implicit in this testimony, and not challenged, that in any case no such raids were taking place in the context of the second attack, or since July 31st. The resolution that Congress was being asked to pass quickly and as nearly unanimously as possible was nothing other than a gesture of support for the president's action, to demonstrate solidarity to Hanoi and to deter future attacks on our forces. Each one of these assertions was false

Does this scenario sound familiar?

In October, 2002, in an address at the Cincinnati Museum Center, President George W. Bush outlined his rationale for the war in Iraq. He stated:
The Iraqi regime has violated all of those obligations. It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism, and practices terror against its own people. The entire world has witnessed Iraq's eleven-year history of defiance, deception and bad faith.

President Bush went on:
The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today -- and we do -- does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?

In 1995, after several years of deceit by the Iraqi regime, the head of Iraq's military industries defected. It was then that the regime was forced to admit that it had produced more than 30,000 liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents. The inspectors, however, concluded that Iraq had likely produced two to four times that amount. This is a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for, and capable of killing millions.

We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas. Saddam Hussein also has experience in using chemical weapons. He has ordered chemical attacks on Iran, and on more than forty villages in his own country. These actions killed or injured at least 20,000 people, more than six times the number of people who died in the attacks of September the 11th.

And surveillance photos reveal that the regime is rebuilding facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons. Every chemical and biological weapon that Iraq has or makes is a direct violation of the truce that ended the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Yet, Saddam Hussein has chosen to build and keep these weapons despite international sanctions, U.N. demands, and isolation from the civilized world.

Unfortunately, all of this turned out to be untrue.

In case anybody hadn't heard what Bush had to say, Vice-President Dick Cheney joined in the chorus. As he stated on August 26, 2002, in an address to the VFW:
The case of Saddam Hussein, a sworn enemy of our country, requires a candid appraisal of the facts. After his defeat in the Gulf War in 1991, Saddam agreed under to U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 to cease all development of weapons of mass destruction. He agreed to end his nuclear weapons program. He agreed to destroy his chemical and his biological weapons. He further agreed to admit U.N. inspection teams into his country to ensure that he was in fact complying with these terms.

In the past decade, Saddam has systematically broken each of these agreements. The Iraqi regime has in fact been very busy enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological agents. And they continue to pursue the nuclear program they began so many years ago. These are not weapons for the purpose of defending Iraq; these are offensive weapons for the purpose of inflicting death on a massive scale, developed so that Saddam can hold the threat over the head of anyone he chooses, in his own region or beyond.

In case there was any question of Cheney's certitude on this issue, he emphasized:
Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us. And there is no doubt that his aggressive regional ambitions will lead him into future confrontations with his neighbors -- confrontations that will involve both the weapons he has today, and the ones he will continue to develop with his oil wealth.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is no basis in Saddam Hussein's conduct or history to discount any of the concerns that I am raising this morning

I am certain that you all have heard the news. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And we are no longer going to be looking for them. As was reported:
The U.S. force that scoured Iraq for weapons of mass destruction -- cited by President Bush as justification for war -- has abandoned its long and fruitless hunt, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

The 1,700-strong Iraq Survey Group, responsible for the hunt, last month wrapped up physical searches for weapons of mass destruction, and it will now gather information to help U.S. forces in Iraq win a bloody guerrilla war, officials said.

"I felt like we would find weapons of mass destruction ... like many -- many here in the United States, many around the world," Bush told ABC's Barbara Walters, according to excerpts from an interview airing on Friday.

Bush said "we need to find out what went wrong in the intelligence gathering," and that the invasion was "absolutely" worth it even if there were no weapons of mass destruction.

I am glad President Bush had a FEELING that there would be weapons of mass destruction. So what went "wrong". You did Mr. President. You and Vice-President Bush and all the rest of you who lied to the American people.

The Republican talking heads have been screaming about a reporter, Dan Rather, who repeated lies that were fed to him. But what about you Mr. President, who has been feeding lies to all of us? Do you deserve a Medal of Freedom?

John Kerry was misled as well. But he stood up to the Republicans and the War Machine and challenged them this past election. He stated:
"I will not have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and who misled America into Iraq,"

America needs John Kerry today. We need honesty in our leaders. We need truth told to the public. We need to avoid wars and make sure that we have the proper intelligence. And don't go around telling people that your assertions are unassailable. Pull us from the water Senator Kerry. You couldn't pull the over thousand men and women who have already died for a lie. But there are still so many more lives at stake.



Blogger ocean_minded said...

I predict a drop in Bush's approval ratings by a percent or two, a renewed backlash against the war in lieu of the recent (obvious) reports of no WMDs, a loud-mouthed O'Reilly being a big jackass about it, but still... no end to the war. Sigh.

4:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any thoughts about the race for DNC Chair? Also, I believe the Republicans push to privatize parts of social security, if successful, will prove to be a rallying point for Democrats in the '06 elections. Americans, especially the elderly (the most dependable voters), will not approve if benefits are cut and trillions borrowed so individuals can start their own HSA's. The case for changing social security has not been made, and if this "ownership society" agenda is pushed through the Republicans will suffer from a backlash at the ballot box. Congressional Republicans are aware of this. We'll have to see how persuasive the administration can be.

7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Kerry was indeed a war hero. If he would of used some of that strength and decisiveness in the election he would of fared better.

The re-election of Senator Russ Feingold should be looked at and examined as a case study of what Democrats can do by taking hard votes and then using a good PR team to advertise them.

Feingold's anti-war vote and his vote on the Patriot Act, along with his campaign finance reform bill (also sponsored by Senator McCain) were his main taking points. You never heard much about the other votes he took. Few know that he voted to approve John Ashcroft as Attorney General. What would Democrats think of that?

The point is, if you have flagship issues, you are able to slip under the radar several other issues without the public really knowing. The Republicans are executing this to perfection with their "terror talk" while pushing through one of the most ambitious agendas in recent memory.

Perhaps the Democrats should employ such a tactic to take back the majority in the House and Senate and then focus on the White House. It will be a lot easier in '08, whether it be for Kerry or another candidate, if Democrats are setting the agenda in the two years prior to the election.

7:26 PM  
Blogger BobsAdvice said...

I am betting on Howard Dean for DNC Chair...just a hunch. I believe he best expresses the convictions that Democrats share on how America should be moving forward.

There is no doubt that 2006 Congressional Elections will be quite important in setting the stage for the 2008 election. I do think that the attack on Social Security is an over-reach by the Republicans. But I wouldn't put it beyond their ability to confuse America once more. However AARP is a pretty big factor in elections, and I believe that AARP will be coming down much more clearly on the Democratic side of this issue.

Thanks so much for commenting here! I try to write my heart out on these issues.


5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bush today as he was speaking .His White House staff was cutting veterans with his new budget for the V.A.

9:33 PM  
Anonymous DALE PETERS said...

As the former head of veterans for Kerry in IL. I have to say when our the people of this country going to wake up.President Bush promised a Democracy an as we see today.The Gov. in Iraq will be a Totalitarian Gov.This to me means that our hero's who have died an gave arms an legs have done it for nothing.John run please run.

9:40 PM  

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