Thursday, August 07, 2014

A Day to Remember Ernest Gruening and Wayne Morse

On this fiftieth anniversary of the passing of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that pulled us deeper into Vietnam on false pretenses, I wasn't happy to turn on my computer at lunchtime to see this updated headline about Iraq on The New York Times' homepage:
"U.S. Weighs Iraq Airstrikes, Citing Crisis" The New York Times, 8/7/2014 at 1pm EDT
On August 7, 1964, the House voted unanimously and the Senate voted with only two exceptions to give President Johnson the authority to "take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force" in Vietnam after an incident between American warships and North Vietnamese patrol boats in the Gulf of Tonkin that turned out to be not at all what it was presented to be when Johnson and McNamara explained it to the press, the Congress, and the American people.

Members of Congress and the American people should always remember when they read a bellicose headline or watch a speech from a Secretary of Defense or State with professional-looking maps, that only two members of Congress took a correct action 50 years ago today.

All Vietnam is not worth the life of an American boy...
Alaska Senator Ernest Gruening, August 1964
I believe that history will record this resolution as a historic mistake. I am not going to go along with this kind of program, in South Vietnam … that in my judgment is going to kill needlessly untold numbers of American boys, and for nothing.
— Oregon Senator Wayne Morse, August 1964

If you want more details of the event itself, click here for the the Gulf of Tonkin excerpt from Daniel Ellsberg's Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.

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