Hollywood movies as pro-war propagandaMedia Workers Against the War, 8 March 2002
‘We Were Soldiers’ purports to tell the story of the bloody battle in the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam’s Central Highlands in November 1965. (more…)
LEVEL PLAYING FIELD
The Hindu, 13 January
The world looks on at the US presidential primaries with a mix of hopes and fears, and not a little bemusement.
The road to the White House is serpentine, its course laid out by an amalgam of federal and state law, constitutional interpretation by the courts, party regulations, custom, and media imperatives. In the horse race that ensues, presentation and positioning easily trump policy.
As a dramatic spectacle, the primaries can provide rich entertainment; but as a coherent democratic process, they are wanting. (more…)
The Ominous Lesson of Tet
The Vietnamese death toll after America's defeat 40 years ago is a terrifying pointer for the Iraq retreat
By Mike Marqusee
The insurgents struck simultaneously across the country, targeting more than 100 cities and towns in what the historian Stanley Karnow describes as an offensive "of extraordinary intensity and astonishing scope ... audaciously shifting the war for the first time from its rural setting to a new arena - South Vietnam's supposedly impregnable urban areas". Military installations, police stations, prisons, government offices and radio stations came under attack. Most spectacularly, a group of 19 commandos fought their way into the US embassy compound in Saigon, where they held out for six-and-a-half hours - long enough for the images of defiance to be broadcast around the world.
Hue, the ancient capital and the south's third-largest city, was only recaptured by the US after 25 days of house-to-house fighting. Atrocities against the civilian population were committed by both sides, and by the battle's end 116,000 of the city's population of 140,000 were homeless.
NLF and North Vietnamese casualties reached terrifying proportions. Perhaps a half - 45,000 - of the soldiers engaged in the initial offensive were killed. What is more, they were unable to hold any of the ground they had seized. The aim had been to spark a popular uprising in the South. When that did not materialise, partly because the communist party was weak among urban workers, the US's superior armaments prevailed.
The US counter-offensive was ferocious and indiscriminate. Urban areas held by the NLF were pulverised. Within two weeks, 630,000 civilians had been made refugees. On February 7, when the US recaptured the charred wasteland of what had been the town of Ben Tre, a US major told the press: "It became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it." Soon after, in the course of flushing out alleged collaborators in Saigon, the chief of South Vietnam's national police was filmed calmly shooting a bound prisoner in the head. This image also went round the world, further eroding US claims to moral purpose.
Years later, General Tran Do, one of the architects of the offensive, commented: "In all honesty, we didn't achieve our main objective, which was to spur uprisings throughout the South. Still, we inflicted heavy casualties on the Americans and their puppets, and this was a big gain for us. As for making an impact in the United States, it had not been our intention - but it turned out to be a fortunate result."
For an American public reared on a belief in US supremacy, Tet was a shock. For three years they had been assured that the war in Vietnam was being won. Now the disparity between US government claims and the reality on the ground became untenable. The antiwar movement was vindicated. In the New Hampshire primary, held on March 12, President Lyndon Johnson was embarrassed by the strong showing of antiwar candidate Eugene "Gene" McCarthy. On March 31, two months after Tet, he announced that he would not seek re-election and offered to open negotiations with the North Vietnamese, who accepted on April 3.
Tet caused fear and trembling in the corridors of power, but in the wider world the spectacle of the greatest power on earth defeated by an army of poor people inspired millions. The student revolts for which 1968 is famous took off in the wake of Tet, first in Germany and Italy, spreading subsequently to the US, France, Mexico and Pakistan.
However, the US war in Vietnam was to continue in its destructive fury for another four years. US policy did change after Tet - towards "Vietnamisation", in which reliance on air power increased. US casualties fell, from 16,000 killed in 1968 to 600 in 1972. On the other side the toll rose. Perhaps half the 5 million killed in the war, according to Vietnam government figures, perished during these post-Tet years.
Here is the ominous lesson for Iraq. There are few things as dangerous as an imperial power in retreat. Yes, the war is discredited and the major presidential candidates promise to reduce US troop numbers. None, however, seems prepared to abandon the mission in Iraq, which is also propped up by an array of corporate interests. As Vietnam showed, the alternative to a prompt and complete withdrawal is not a happy compromise, but prolonged devastation.
· Mike Marqusee is the author of "Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties" - mikemarqusee.com
12/01/08 "ICH" -- -- 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.” As current intelligence referent 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 antics of Sunday’s incident involving small Iranian boats and US naval ships in the Strait of Hormuz, this is-as my old Russian professor used to say-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 US 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 to 535,000 US 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 ten years.
Ten years. How can our president speak so glibly about ten more years of a U.S. armed presence in Iraq? Wonder why he doesn’t know anything about Vietnam.
Intelligence Lessons From Vietnam and Iraq
What follows is written primarily for honest intelligence analysts and managers still on “active duty.” The issuance of the recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran was particularly welcome to those of us who had been hoping there were enough of you left who had not been thoroughly corrupted by former CIA Director George Tenet and his flock of malleable managers.
We are not so much surprised at the integrity of Tom Fingar, who is in charge of national intelligence analysis. He showed his mettle in manfully resisting forgeries and fairy tales about Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction.” What is, frankly, a happy surprise is the fact that he and other non-ideologues and non-careerist professionals have been able to prevail and speak truth to power on such dicey issues as Iran-nuclear, the upsurge in terrorism caused by the US invasion of Iraq, and the year-old NIE saying Iraq is headed for hell in a hand basket (with no hint that a “surge” could make a difference).
But those are the NIEs. They share the status of “supreme genre” of analytic product with the President’s Daily Brief and other vehicles for current intelligence, the field in which I labored, first in the analytic trenches and then as a briefer at the White House, for most of my 27-year career. True, the NIE “Iraq’s Continuing Program for Weapons of Mass Destruction” of Oct. 1, 2002 (wrong on every major count) greased the skids for the attack on Iraq on March 19, 2003. But it is more often current intelligence that is fixed upon to get the country into war.
The Tonkin Gulf events are perhaps the best case in point. We retired professionals are hopeful that Fingar can ensure integrity in the current intelligence process as well as in intelligence estimates.
Salivating for Wider War: Tonkin Gulf
Given the confusion last Sunday in the Persian Gulf, you need to remember that a “known known” in the form of a non-event has already been used to sell a major war-Vietnam. It is not only in retrospect that we know that no attack occurred that night.
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.
During the summer of 1964 President Johnson and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were eager to widen the war in Vietnam. They stepped up sabotage and hit-and-run attacks on the coast of North Vietnam. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara later admitted that he and other senior leaders had concluded that the seaborne attacks “amounted to little more than pinpricks” and “were essentially worthless,” but they continued.
Concurrently, the National Security Agency was ordered to collect signals intelligence from the North Vietnamese coast on the Gulf of Tonkin, and the surprise coastal attacks were seen as a helpful way to get the North Vietnamese to turn on their coastal radars. The destroyer USS Maddox, carrying electronic spying gear, was authorized to approach as close as eight miles from the coast and four miles from offshore islands, some of which had been subjected to intense shelling by clandestine attack boats.
As James Bamford describes it in “Body of Secrets:”
“The twin missions of the Maddox were in a sense symbiotic. The vessel’s primary purpose was to act as a seagoing provocateur-to poke its sharp gray bow and the American flag as close to the belly of North Vietnam as possible, in effect shoving its 5-inch cannons up the nose of the Communist navy. In turn, this provocation would give the shore batteries an excuse to turn on as many coastal defense radars, fire control systems, and communications channels as possible, which could then be captured by the men…at the radar screens. The more provocation, the more signals…
“The Maddox’ mission was made even more provocative by being timed to coincide with commando raids, creating the impression that the Maddox was directing those missions and possibly even lobbing firepower in their support….
“North Vietnam also claimed at least a twelve-mile limit and viewed the Maddox as a trespassing ship deep within its territorial waters.”
On Aug. 2, 1964 an intercepted message ordered North Vietnamese torpedo boats to attack the Maddox. The destroyer was alerted and raced out to sea beyond reach of the torpedoes, three of which were fired in vain at the destroyer’s stern. The Maddox’ captain suggested that the rest of his mission be called off, but the Pentagon refused. And still more commando raids were launched on Aug. 3, shelling for the first time targets on the mainland, not just the offshore islands.
Early on Aug. 4, the Maddox captain cabled his superiors that the North Vietnamese believed his patrol was directly involved with the commando raids and shelling. That evening at 7:15 (Vietnam time) the Pentagon alerted the Maddox to intercepted messages indicating that another attack by patrol boats was imminent.
What followed was panic and confusion. There was a score of reports of torpedo and other hostile attacks, but no damage and growing uncertainty as to whether any attack actually took place. McNamara was told that “freak radar echoes” were misinterpreted by “young fellows” manning the sonar, who were “apt to say any noise is a torpedo.”
This did not prevent McNamara from testifying to Congress two days later that there was “unequivocal proof” of a new attack. And based largely on that, on the following day (Aug. 7) Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf resolution bringing ten more years of war.
Meanwhile, in the Trenches
By the afternoon of Aug. 4 (Washington time), the CIA’s expert analyst on North Vietnam (let’s call him “Tom”) had concluded that probably no one had fired on US ships in the Tonkin Gulf over the past 24 hours. He included a paragraph to that effect in the item he wrote for the Current Intelligence Bulletin, which would be wired to the White House and other key agencies and appear in print the next morning.
And then something unique happened. The Director of the Office of Current Intelligence, a very senior officer whom Tom had never before seen, descended into the bowels of the agency to order the paragraph deleted. He explained:
“We’re not going to tell LBJ that now. He has already decided to bomb North Vietnam. We have to keep our lines open to the White House.”
“Tom” later bemoaned-quite rightly: “What do we need lines open for, if we’re not going to use them, and use them to tell the truth?”
A year or two ago, in the wake of the policy/intelligence fiasco on Iraq, I would have been inclined to comment sarcastically, “How quaint; how obsolete.” But the good news is that the analysts writing the National Intelligence Estimates have now reverted to the ethos in which “Tom” and I were proud to work.
Today’s analysts/reporters of current intelligence need to follow their good example. And we trust that Tom Fingar will hold their feet to the fire. For if they don’t rise to the challenge, the consequences are sure to be disastrous. This should be obvious in the wake of the Tonkin Gulf experience, not to mention the more recent performance of senior officials before the attack on Iraq in 2003.
The late Ray S. Cline, who at the time was the boss of the Director of Current Intelligence, said he was “very sure” that no attack took place on Aug. 4. He suggested that McNamara had shown the president unevaluated signals intelligence which referred to the (real) earlier attack on Aug. 2 rather than the non-event on the 4th. There was no sign of remorse on Cline’s part that he didn’t step in and make sure the president was told the truth.
We in the trenches knew there was no attack; and so did the Director of Current Intelligence as well as Cline, who was Deputy Director for Intelligence. But all knew, as did McNamara, that President Johnson was lusting for a pretext to strike the North and escalate the war. And so, like B’rer Rabbit, they didn’t say nothin’.
Commenting on the interface of intelligence and policy on Vietnam, a well respected, retired senior CIA officer addressed:
“… the dilemma CIA directors and senior intelligence professionals face in cases when they know that unvarnished intelligence judgments will not be welcomed by the President, his policy managers, and his political advisers…[They] must decide whether to tell it like it is (and so risk losing their place at the President’s advisory table), or to go with the flow of existing policy by accentuating the positive (thus preserving their access and potential influence). In these episodes from the Vietnam era, we have seen that senior CIA officers more often than not tended toward the latter approach.”
“CIA and the Vietnam Policymakers: Three Episodes, 1962-1968″ Harold P. Ford
Bummer. I wish there were more of a sense of anger at that.
Back to Iran. This time, we all know that the president and vice president are seeking an excuse to attack Iran. There is a big difference from the situation in the summer of 1964, when President Johnson had intimidated all his senior subordinates into using deceit to escalate the war. Bamford comments on the disingenuousness of Robert McNamara when he testified in 1968 that it was “inconceivable” that senior officials, including the president, deliberately used the Tonkin Gulf events to generate Congressional support for a wider Vietnam war.
In Bamford’s words, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had become “a sewer of deceit,” with Operation Northwoods and other unconscionable escapades to its credit. Then-Under Secretary of State George Ball commented, “There was a feeling that if the destroyer got into some trouble, that this would provide the provocation we needed.”
Good News: It’s Different Now
As indicated above, we now have more integrity at the top of the intelligence community. But, in my view, the main 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. The circumstances attending the misadventure last Sunday in the Strait of Hormuz are far from clear. But the incident certainly shows that our senior military 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.
In addition, today the intelligence oversight committees in Congress seem to be waking from their Rip Van Winkle-like slumber. It was Congress, after all, that ordered the controversial NIE on Iran/nuclear (and was among those pushing strongly that it be publicized). And the flow of substantive intelligence to Congress is much larger than it was in 1964 when, remember, there were no intelligence committees as such.
So listen, you inheritors of the honorable profession of current intelligence, don’t let them grind you down. If you’re working in the bowels of the agency and you find that your leaders are cooking intelligence to a recipe for casus belli, think long and hard about the oath you took to protect the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Should not that oath transcend in importance any secrecy promise you had to agree to as a condition of employment?
By sticking your neck out, you might be able to prevent ten years of unnecessary war.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer, then a current intelligence analyst at CIA, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
Kyoto and Disarmament
By Ted Craill
Acknowledgement: The following quote was copied from the
In this article I present a case for the adoption of Kyoto-style, legally binding targets for staged disarmament and for the cessation of armaments manufacture. If adopted, these measures should significantly reduce green-house gas emissions.
For economy in writing I have adopted the
Estimation of the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere due to all aspects of war would take into account the manufacture of weapons, their use and the amount released in repairing the damage resulting from their use. Understanding the extent of damage to the environment caused by the manufacture of weapons and war, and acknowledging that war inflicts great suffering, logic inevitably leads to a realisation that this is a nonessential human activity that we should discontinue. To this end, the Nuclear-Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) provides a sound legal basis to argue for the inclusion of disarmament as a component of environment-protection measures.
The NPT came into force on
Article VI of the NPT requires all parties to the treaty to negotiate in good faith for general disarmament. Failure of the World’s leaders to honour agreements to disarm; their failure to recognise the obvious fact that weapons manufacturing and war are adding significant amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere; both failures are evidence of deficiencies in leadership responsibility that must be addressed.
Peace and Environmentalist groups need to launch a campaign to gain wide public support for disarmament to be accepted as a component of environment remediation. A well-informed public will ensure the elevation of leaders with the will to negotiate for staged reductions of armaments and for ending armaments manufacture. Without a grass-roots movement directed to achieving these objectives,
Ending armament manufacturing will, of course, deliver more than relief to a polluted environment. Its realisation would release capital for investment in life-supporting, non-polluting technologies, thereby enhancing prospects for enjoyment of all that a peaceful and healthy Planet Earth has to offer.
Article dissemination commenced January 1, 2008.
At a ceremony in 1997 to mark the 50th anniversary of the CIA, the elder George Bush, the former U.S. president and director of Central Intelligence, invoked Agee as a symbol of treachery. "Remember Philip Agee, who I consider a traitor to our country?" Bush asked.
Agee was sometimes accused — wrongly, according to him and his friends — of bearing some responsibility for the death of Richard Welch, the agency's Athens station chief, who was assassinated in 1975 by the Greek terrorist group November 17.
Barbara Bush, the former first lady, included such an accusation in her autobiography. Agee sued, and Barbara Bush omitted the reference to him from later printings.
"He really, truly did not want to see anyone hurt," said Wolf, the friend and co-author who carried on Agee's work of exposing agents. "He wanted to neutralize what they were doing — the whole gamut, from fixing elections and hiring local journalists to plant stories all the way up to creating foreign intelligence services that became agencies of oppression."
"When I joined the CIA I believed in the need for its existence," he wrote in "CIA Diary." "After 12 years with the agency I finally understood how much suffering it was causing, that millions of people all over the world had been killed or had their lives destroyed by the CIA and the institutions it supports."
What a difference a sad event in someone's life makes.
GEORGE CARLIN (His wife recently died...)
Isn't it amazing that George Carlin - comedian of the 70's and 80's - could write something so very eloquent...and so very appropriate.
A Message by George Carlin:
The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more con veniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.
We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We'v e learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.
These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when the technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete...
Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.
Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.
Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.
Remember, to say, "I love you" to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.
Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.
Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.
AND ALWAYS REMEMBER:
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.
"In times of war, the first casualty is truth."
- UN Secretary-General, U Thant, during US war against Viet Nam. His words are just as true today.
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