Gulf of Tonkin vs. Persian Gulf

In 1964 North Vietnamese forces supposedly attacked a US destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin. President Johnson used this incident to obtain approval for the Vietnam War from Congress.

But on Tuesday the National Security Agency declassified documents revealing -- to almost no one's surprise -- that the Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened.

Also on Tuesday, by an odd coincidence, the US military released video of an incident in a different Gulf... the Persian one.

The video shows Iranian speedboats approaching US warships. Then (separately) a heavily accented voice says over the radio, in English, “I am coming to you. … You will explode after … minutes.” (The video is on youtube)

The incident inflamed tensions between the two countries, but now it's looking like there are problems interpreting exactly what was happening in the Persian Gulf video.

As the US military admits, the audio and video weren't recorded together. And skeptics have been wondering why, if the audio did come from the Iranian speedboats (as the military implied) there was no sound of wind or water in the background.

It's starting to look more like the threatening audio was from some random guy with a radio on land.

Iran, for its part, is saying that the incident was just "a routine contact which happens all the time in the crowded waters of the Gulf." Not that I find anything the Iranian government says to be very credible. It's hard to know what to believe.


Posted on Fri Jan 11, 2008


The article says only that an attack by the North Vietnamese in the Gulf of Tonkin did not happen. I wish it would say what did happen, though. Was it a case of the NV Navy sending out some boats to intimidate the Americans, and the US Navy inflating the incident greatly? Or did the US destroyers sail along completely uneventfully, and the entire event was made up in its entirety?
Posted by Accipiter  on  Fri Jan 11, 2008  at  03:09 PM
Frankly, I'm surprised that it has taken this long for such an "incident" to occur in the crowded Straight of Hormuz and Persian Gulf area(s). I believe that the US has been hoping for some "event" that could lead to an escalation of tensions, reinforcing fear patterns, and raising the price of oil. I say, accept all claims with a great deal of scepticism, take any legitimate claims to international bodies, and quit any beligerant statements by GeeDub or Mahmoud the Great Snazzy Suit-Wearer (where does he get those wonderful toys?)
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Sat Jan 12, 2008  at  01:52 PM
Gee. Imagine that! Our government lied to us, and this story suggests they've been doing it all along... who'd have ever thought...???
Posted by Christopher  on  Sat Jan 12, 2008  at  02:46 PM
In 1968 I was stationed at Goodfellow AFB in Tx attending a technical school. On the base was a detatchment of Navy personnel attending the same school. I was talking to one of the Navy guys and he said he was on one of the destroyers in 1964 when the attack happened. He was stationed on deck at the time and saw a large portion of the incident. Now maybe he was lying to me but I have had no reason to think so. He outranked me, so there was no need to impress me and unless he was a pathalogical liar, which would have made it hard for him to get a Top Secret clearance, I can't think of any reason to lie.
I read an analysis in one of the news amgazines about the Iranian Gulf incident. Iran got a lot of good out of the confrontation if it happened, according to this analysis. It seems that there is rising discontent in Iran and the Iranian government used this to quiet it down a bit.
Posted by Christopher Cole  on  Sat Jan 12, 2008  at  07:05 PM
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