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Foreign Policy Lies
Lead to War
July 25, 2003
By Harry Targ
Posted by permission of the author
On August 2, 1964, North Vietnamese armed
motor boats attacked two U.S. naval vessels off
the coast of North Vietnam. The administration of
Lyndon Johnson defined the attacks as an
unprovoked act of North Vietnamese aggression.
Two days later it was announced that another
attack on U.S. ships in international waters
had occurred and the U.S. responded with air
attacks on North Vietnamese targets. President
Johnson then took a resolution he had already
prepared to the Congress of the United States.
The so-called Gulf of Tonkin resolution declared
that the Congress authorizes the president to do
what he deemed necessary to defend U.S.
national security in Southeast Asia. Only two
Senators voted "no." Over the next three years the
U.S. sent 500,000 troops to Vietnam to carry out a
massive air and ground war in both the South and
North of the country.
Within a year of the so-called Gulf of Tonkin
incidents, evidence began to appear indicating that
the August 2 attack was provoked. The two U.S.
naval vessels were in North Vietnamese coastal
waters orchestrating acts of sabotage in the
Northern part of Vietnam. More serious, evidence
pointed to the inescapable conclusion that the
second attack on August 4 never occurred.
President Johnson's lies to the American people
about the Gulf of Tonkin contributed to the
devastating decisions to escalate a U.S. war in
Vietnam that cost 57,000 U.S. troop deaths and
upwards of three million Vietnamese deaths.
Forty years later, George W. Bush and his
key aides put together a package of lies about Iraq-
imports of uranium from Niger, purchases of
aluminum rods which supposedly could be used for
constructing nuclear weapons, development of
biological and chemical weapons, and connections
between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.
As the Vietnamese and Iraqi cases show, foreign
policies built on lies can lead to imperial wars,
huge expenditures on the military, economic
crises at home, and military casualties abroad.
The American people must insist that their
leaders tell the truth about the U.S. role in the world.
Harry Targ teaches U.S. foreign policy and international
relations at Purdue University. He is the author or co-author
of books and articles on these subjects. He is a member of
the National Executive Committee of the
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy
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