Tuesday, October 2, 2007

It's About Time For The "Incident"

August 1964 -- The war hawks were conducting business as usual. Covert operations against North Vietnam had been ongoing for quite some time -- attacks on radio transmitters and radar sites in coastal areas by South Vietnamese Navy patrol boats -- planned, equipped and financed by the Pentagon, and supported by the US Navy. The war hawks got what they wanted on August 2nd when the destroyer USS Maddox, on patrol in the Gulf of Tonkin, came under fire in international waters from three North Vietnamese gunboats. No real damage was done to the Maddox. The torpedoes missed, and one machine gun bullet lodged in one of the boat's stacks. The gunboats were driven off by return fire from the Maddox and planes launched from the carrier USS Ticonderoga. President Johnson decided not to retaliate just yet, but warned Hanoi against "any further unprovoked offensive military action against United States forces". Unprovoked? Yeah right. Both sides knew the score. Hanoi had already lodged a formal protest over the attacks on its territory by American "puppet" forces. They knew the Maddox was involved in an operation attacking the islands of Hon Me and Hon Nieu just the day before, their mission being to sniff out fresh targets by monitoring the spike in radar and radio signals just after the attacks. The gunboat attack on the Maddox was a personal message to Johnson. Not to be out-hawked, Johnson ordered another destroyer, the USS Turner Joy, to accompany the Maddox on further patrols in the same area, ratcheting up the tension another notch. He had shown restraint to the American public, but now he was itching for a fight.

Two days later, "freak weather effects," "almost total darkness" and an "overeager sonarman" who "was hearing his ship's own propeller beat" caused a panic aboard the Maddox and the Turner Joy. The infamous "Gulf Of Tonkin Incident" had begun. For two and a half hours the sailors evaded ghost torpedoes, called in air strikes from the Ticonderoga, and fired wildly at boats that probably never existed -- all the while sending frantic "Flash Priority" messages to Washington, reporting on the progress of the ongoing "engagement". When the smoke cleared, Captain John J. Herrick issued this message:
"Review of action makes many reported contacts and torpedoes fired appear doubtful. Freak weather effects on radar and overeager sonarmen may have accounted for many reports. No actual visual sightings by Maddox. Suggest complete evaluation before any further action taken."
Any sane, prudent leader would order that complete evaluation before taking further action, but not a war hawk like Lyndon B. Johnson. He ordered immediate "retaliatory" airstrikes against targets in North Vietnam. Old Lyndon later confided: "For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there."

The rest is sad, shameful history. The press immediately started cheerleading. Congress didn't ask any questions. Johnson got his Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. The military-industrial complex got their billions of taxpayer dollars. The American people got over 58,000 deaths and 350,000 casualties, and the Vietnamese deaths numbered in the millions. Quite a legacy for old Lyndon the bad-ass Texas war hawk.

October 2007 -- The war hawks are conducting business as usual. Forget the fact that Iraq is an unmitigated clusterfuck. That doesn't matter to a bad-ass Texas war hawk like George W. Bush or a hell-bent psycho like Dick Cheney. They aren't up for re-election, and the Republicans are screwed next time anyway. The Democrats are going to have to clean up the mess. Besides, everything is going great for the all-important cronies in the military-industrial complex. They're raking in billions and ready to go for more. Forget our nation's future, and the future of the world for that matter. Strap on your pig snout and think like a heartless, greed-driven warmonger for a minute. The next target is Iran, and we almost have them surrounded.

To the east -- Afghanistan is occupied and Pakistan is our ally. Well, Musharraf is anyway. To the west -- Iraq is occupied and Kuwait is practically our own private military base. The Saudis to the south are allied with us and certainly no friends of Shiite-led Iran. But what about that pesky Strait of Hormuz? If Iran could disrupt shipping there, they would immediately cut off 20% of the world's oil supply. It's imperative that it be kept open. Three U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike groups operating in the Persian Gulf should do the trick. The USS Enterprise strike group has been there for a while, and the USS Nimitz and USS Truman groups just arrived at the end of September. All of the pieces are in place to keep the strait open while also raining a heap of good old "shock and awe" down on the heads of those uppity Iranians. The propaganda campaign has been pretty successful so far. Nobody fell for Iran as an imminent nuclear threat, but the "Iran meddling in our business in Iraq" campaign seems to be getting some traction. We got our Kyl Amendment from Congress, didn't we? Hell, that's almost as good as a preemptive Gulf of Tonkin Resolution! The plans are all drawn up. Now all we need is the "incident".

So what will the "incident" be? An "unprovoked" attack on our Navy in the Persian Gulf, just like in 1964? An "engagement" on the Iran-Iraq border? A "terrorist attack" blamed on the Iranians? The possibilities are just about endless, but the "incident" is inevitable, and no matter what it is, the "reaction" is predictable. The "retaliatory" bombing will immediately begin. The press will start cheerleading, and Congress won't ask any questions. The cronies will get more billions, and the corpses will pile up. As usual, the long-term consequences haven't been planned for, or even considered. The next president will have to deal with them, and Bush will leave us three wars as a parting gift. Quite a legacy for old George the bad-ass Texas war hawk.

Update: October 6, 2007 -- Today, White House mouthpiece General David Petraeus, speaking at a US military base 20 miles from the Iranian border, escalated the accusations of Iran's interference in Iraq and accused Tehran's ambassador to Baghdad of being a member of the Revolutionary Guard's Quds force. According to Petraeus: "They are responsible for providing the weapons, the training, the funding and in some cases the direction for operations that have indeed killed U.S. soldiers".

The drumbeat grows louder.


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