Persian Gulf tensions recall a previous “gulf” crisis: The Tonkin Gulf Resolution

Why congressional oversight and investigative journalism must be aggressive

Dear Member of Congress,

Dear Investigative Journalist,

The recent ebb and flow of tensions in and around the Persian Gulf and the president’s family’s business ties to Gulf and Mid-east states need to be investigated and closely watched. His public actions reflect a fear of not being re-elected. Although bluster directed at Iran has calmed for the moment, his replacement of an experienced DNI (Dan Coats, whose only apparent fault was giving the president accurate reports) with an inexperienced sycophant – and quickly fell apart – should make everyone worry.

By coincidence, 55 years ago this week in another faraway gulf, a minor but intentionally provoked incident took place, when North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked a U.S. destroyer. Two days later a second attack was alleged, which most accounts conclude never happened. At the president’s request, Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. Since a draft of the resolution had been written two months earlier, it could be termed a resolution in search of an incident. Then, too, the president, Lyndon Johnson, was facing an election and accusations of being “soft on communism.”

The Tonkin Gulf Resolution gave him war powers equivalent to a declaration of war and passed Congress with only two dissenting votes. The result was the rapid escalation that became the Vietnam War. The attached article, a primer on the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, appeared in the OAH (Organization of American Historians) Magazine of History in 1992, written at the request of Truman scholar Prof. Robert Ferrell was guest editor of an issue of devoted to turning points in foreign policy. The article refers to the explosion of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana harbor (off the Gulf of Mexico ). Here, too, despite the lack of evidence, Congress declared war on Spain (Several studies support the conclusion of an internally triggered explosion).

I hope that you (member of Congress or investigative journalist), will keep a close watch on the Persian Gulf and the actions of the president. A president who fires a top intelligence official for honestly briefing him with the facts as they are known to be demands aggressive oversight. The article may suggest some lines of questions to pursue.

Sincerely,

Erich Martel

retired DCPS high school history teacher (world history, AP U.S. History)

ehmartel@starpower.net

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