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40th Anniversary of Gulf of Tonkin shows history repeating itself with Iraqi War

By VVAW National Office

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The upcoming 40th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin is the perfect opportunity to consider the old adage, “those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it.”

“Just as 40 years ago, when our generation was sent off to war with a lie, today we’re watching our children kill and die in Iraq based on similar falsehoods. The Vietnam War produced 60,000 dead and 300,000 disabled Americans. How many of this younger generation will have to die for the Bush administration’s lies?” asks Joe Miller, a national coordinator of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). Miller served on a U.S. aircraft carrier during the Gulf of Tonkin.

On August 7, 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution giving President Lyndon B. Johnson the power to take “all necessary measures to repel armed attacks against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.” The Johnson administration had pushed the authorization through Congress based on a purported attack on an American destroyer that they knew to be false (see below for details.) That resolution allowed two presidents to continue U.S. involvement in Vietnam for what became the longest war in this nation’s history.

Almost 40 years later, history has repeated itself. On October 16, 2002, Congress passed Public Law 107-243 “Authorization to Use Military Force Against Iraq,” providing legislative support for President Bush to invade Iraq. In securing support for the use of military force against Iraq, President Bush presented incorrect information about Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” and Iraq’s ties to the Al Qaeda in order to push the authorization through Congress.

“The lessons of leading Americans into a war based on lies have been lost on this administration,” says Barry Romo, another VVAW national coordinator.

The story of the Gulf of Tonkin On August 2, 1964, two Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) PT boats attacked the U.S. destroyer Maddox in response to two previous attacks by the American-backed South Vietnamese on July 31. The Maddox was not damaged and returned fire while planes from the U.S. aircraft carrier Ticonderoga attacked the two PT boats.

On August 4, another attack on the Maddox was reported. Intelligence reports just a few days later indicated that attack did not occur and that radar and sonar evidence had been misinterpreted. Despite these reports correcting the misinformation, President Johnson called on Congress to grant him the power to take “all necessary measures to repel armed attacks against the forces of the United States." The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed with an overwhelming majority, pushing the U.S. into the Vietnam War.

Vietnam Veterans Against the War has more than 1,500 members throughout the country and includes veterans from World War II. It currently organizes for better benefits for American vets, runs a counseling program for current military servicemen and veterans, and has become one of the most outspoken and respected peace organizations in the country. The first group to organize Vietnam veterans in 1967, it was founded to voice returning service-men’s and women’s growing opposition to the Vietnam war and grew to include more than 30,000 members. The group started the first rap groups to deal with the war’s traumatic aftereffects on GIs, helped make known negative health effects of exposure to chemical defoliants and exposed the Department of Veteran’s Affairs attempts to cover up Agent-Orange-induced illnesses.

For Immediate Release
August 5, 2004

For more information, contact:
(9 a.m. – noon) Barry Romo 773-276-4189
(noon – 9 p.m.)Tracy Van Slyke 312-315-1127
www.vvaw.org


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