The Polish Missile Incident and the Gulf of Tonkin

USS Maddox
The lie about an August 4, 1964 attack on the USS Maddox was used to justify a huge escalation of the Vietnam War.

By David Sole

The initiation or escalation of a war can be sold to the public more easily when the people believe that their leaders are responding to an outrageous aggression.

So when a missile crashed into a town in Poland just across the border from Ukraine on November 15, killing two people, western media and some government officials immediately denounced it as an attack by Russia against a NATO member nation. There were hysterical calls to “defend every inch of NATO territory.” Polish officials immediately shouted that they were going to invoke Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization charter for mutual military defense, authorizing measures to prepare for open war, possibly nuclear, against the Russian Federation.

Clearly some forces in the west wanted to use this incident to propel NATO directly into the Ukraine-Russia conflict to go beyond just supplying Ukraine with tens of billions of dollars in military hardware and the training of thousands of Ukrainian troops.

This danger should not be underestimated. The New York Times described the situation:

“The intense reaction Tuesday night to news of a Russian-made missile striking a NATO ally, Poland, since understood to be a false alarm, was a sobering reminder — if one were needed — of the risks that an already brutal conflict in Ukraine could escalate into a wider war that brings Russia and NATO into military confrontation….Ukrainian officials and some of their European backers were quick to accuse Russia of intentionally firing a missile into Poland on Tuesday.”

Russia, which had hit Ukraine that same day with about 100 cruise missiles, vehemently denied that the missile which hit Poland was theirs. In the hours after the strike some news media and government officials admitted that the wayward missile was a Ukrainian anti-aircraft weapon.

If this had not been widely made public it could have escalated into a massive and direct NATO intervention into the 9 month conflict in Ukraine. There are thousands of U.S. troops already stationed on the Romanian – Ukraine border as well as U.S. troops inside Ukraine supposedly monitoring weapons deliveries. U.S. and NATO military officers are working directly with the Ukraine military in areas of intelligence, logistics and planning. And the United States recently announced the creation of a special Ukraine War command set up in Germany.

The squelching of the provocative rhetoric reflects that powerful forces inside the U.S. ruling class, and especially among the Pentagon generals, do not want to go head to head with the Russian Federation at this time and place. They are, no doubt, more sober in their analysis of the correlation of forces that favor Russia under the current circumstances compared to the ultra-hawkish ideologues in the Biden administration and on Wall Street who are captives of their own propaganda.

At the beginning of the conflict western media and politicians were whipping up the public non-stop with horror stories of Russian slaughter of civilians across Ukraine. Pentagon sources then fed out some facts that exposed these reports as greatly exaggerated.

It seemed that the Pentagon didn’t favor “too much propaganda” that might push them into a direct war. A proxy war, one that lets Ukrainians die to “weaken Russia” is fine with them. And the tens of billions of weapons shipments to Ukraine were very popular with the military-industrial contractors.

It is critical that the U.S. public remember that media reports about the war cannot be trusted. Manipulation of the media and public opinion is a time-honored tradition when the rulers want to go all in. One only has to recall the Gulf of Tonkin incident of August 4, 1964.

It was announced that North Vietnamese patrol boats had attacked the USS Maddox off the coast of Vietnam. Furious speeches were made from the White House and in Congress. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed both houses of Congress on August 7, 1964. The House voted 416 – 0 and the Senate gave its approval with a vote of 88 – 2. That bill gave authority to President Lyndon Johnson to use any military resources he deemed necessary in Vietnam

On February 7, 1965 President Johnson authorized massive bombing of north Vietnam. Tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers were sent to Vietnam in the months following the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. In July 1965 alone, 180,000 more troops were sent.

Only years later, after Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, was it revealed that the entire Gulf of Tonkin “incident” never happened. It was a complete lie cooked up by the U.S. government to justify a massive escalation of the Vietnam conflict and win public support for the expensive and deadly years of imperialist war that followed.

The fraud carried out against the people of the United States is now widely known. Wikipedia says

“Later investigation revealed that the … attack never happened… The resolution served as Johnson’s legal justification for deploying U.S. conventional forces to South Vietnam and the commencement of open warfare against North Vietnam.”

Another cynical ploy being used to manipulate public opinion is the lie that the Biden administration is pushing Ukraine to “negotiate” with Russia. There is concern that the U.S. and European public may grow tired of the endless expense of this proxy war with no end in sight. So a few headlines have had U.S. officials urge Ukraine’s president Zelensky to be open to negotiations.

Here is what one news source admitted about this posturing:

“In an effort to bolster international support for the ongoing war, the Biden administration is urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to reverse his previous stance and signal he is open to peace talks with Russia, according to reporting by the Washington Post.

“The move is not intended to push Ukraine to the bargaining table, but instead to ease international fears about supporting an indefinite war, the Post reported, and is a sign of the increasingly complex foreign policy strategy being employed by the White House.”

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