Saturday, January 12, 2008

CIA, Iran & the Gulf of Tonkin

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.”

A Good Piece

By Ray McGovern
January 12, 2008

"As a current intelligence analyst responsible 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 theatrical accounts of Sunday’s incident involving small Iranian boats and U.S. naval ships in the Strait of Hormuz, this is—as my old Russian professor used to insist—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 U.S. 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 of 535,000 U.S. 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 10 years.

Ten years. How can our president speak so glibly about 10 more years of a U.S. armed presence in Iraq? He must not remember Vietnam.......

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.......

Good News: It’s Different Now

It is my view that the only thing that has prevented Bush and Cheney from attacking Iran so far has been the strong opposition of the uniformed military, including the Joint Chiefs.

As the misadventure last Sunday in the Strait of Hormuz shows, our senior military officers need all the help they can get from intelligence officers more concerned with the truth than with “keeping lines open to the White House” and doing its bidding......

If you’re working in the bowels of the CIA and you find that your leaders are cooking the intelligence once again into a recipe for casus belli, think long and hard about your oath to protect the Constitution. Should that oath not transcend any secrecy promise you had to accept as a condition of employment? By sticking your neck out, you might be able to prevent 10 years of unnecessary war."

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