Saturday, January 12, 2008

Faking it in the Navy

Back in the '60's the USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy had some kind of incident in the Gulf of Tonkin that LBJ used to get congress to pass legislation that authorized the use of military force against North Vietnam. That was in 1964 and we all know what happened next.

The resolution was passed after McNamara gave testimony to Congress that essentially misrepresented what had happened in the Gulf of Tonkin.

At the time it would have been very simple to discover that McNamara was misrepresenting events. All you had to do was ask a sailor who was serving on the Maddox or the Turner Joy what had happened. They would have told you.

I know the answer they would have given because I actually asked sailors who'd been there at the time what happened. In 1966, in my senior year of high school, I worked at a fried chicken place in Baton Rouge LA managed by a guy who had been on the Turner Joy at the time. Later, in 1968, I served on a destroyer that had a gunner's mate who'd been on the Maddox at the time. They both gave the same answer about what had happened. They didn't know.

It was nighttime, things were confusing, it wasn't clear one way or another what had happened. As near as I can tell any sailor who'd been on either of those ships at the time would have told you that. Possibly the senior command would have told the same bullshit story of certainty that McNamara told, but that just means you can't trust senior military officers. You can trust sailors though. Very few sailors will make something up just to protect the bullshit of some officer or politician. Very few.

One of the things about scuttlebutt on a ship is that news travels. Fast. Throughout the ship. Security classifications don't matter. When I was on the USS Hull we were at sea between the Philippines and Vietnam when the USS Pueblo was attacked by North Korea. The message our ship received about that was top secret. It probably took 5 minutes for every sailor on the ship who was awake to know about it. Sailors just don't keep secrets from their shipmates.

Things haven't changed that much. If you wonder whether or not that Iran/US Navy conflict was staged/faked by the US Navy all you have to do is ask a sailor. Don't ask some talking head on ABC News. Ask a sailor who was there. They'll tell you.

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