Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"Those who cannot remember the past..."

"...are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

It's a tired old saying, isn't it. But the fact is it speaks to the heart of the mess our society is in today: a tragic, pervasive lack of awareness about own history and how it relates to the events of today.

Forty-nine years ago today, on Aug. 7, 1964. U.S President Lyndon Johnson easily persuaded Congress to pass the "Gulf of Tonkin" resolution, giving the president broad powers to use military force against North Vietnam. This was in response to reports only five days previous, that American ships had been attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin, off the coast of North Vietnam. The mainstream media carried the stories provided to them by the government, and the drumbeat for war was pounded. Congress approved the resolution almost unanimously after a mere 10 hours of consideration. The resolution served as Johnson's legal justification for deploying U.S. conventional forces and the commencement of open warfare against North Vietnam.

The problem? The story of the attack presented to the public, and to Congress, was false, and top leadership knew it at the time. Read the Wikipedia entry for an introduction to how this happened.

Here's a good quick summary, with commentary by Robert MacNamara, who was secretary of Defense at the time. After reading the Wikipedia, you can see how, all these years later, he is still deliberately obscuring key facts.

The resulting escalation in Vietnam went on for nine more years. It resulted in over 50,000 American troops dead, over 2 million dead Vietnamese, and finally, withdrawal with none of the ostensible objectives being achieved.

Starting to sound familiar? This clip makes the connections for you:

The media has always been a participant in this game, willing to be used to propagate the official line, not bothering to fact-check. The always reliable James Corbett of provides a thorough and meticulously prepared reminder of how this has happened time and again.

Let's throw something else into the mix: Operation Northwoods. From ABC News:
In the early 1960s, America's top military leaders reportedly drafted plans to kill innocent people and commit acts of terrorism in U.S. cities to create public support for a war against Cuba.
Code named Operation Northwoods, the plans reportedly included the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities.
And of course Wikipedia has an entry about it:

Here's a brief clip about it:

If this still sounds too conspiracy theory for you, follow this link
for articles, interviews and links to the declassified documents. (Thanks again to for being such a valuable resource.)

The relevance for us today should be obvious and simple. Based on what is now public knowledge about our government's past actions, we have the right, perhaps even a duty, to regard the words and deeds of our leaders today with intense scrutiny, distrust and suspicion. With history as a guide, it is not hard to see why we think it so likely that we are being misled every step of the way, by people who are pursuing their own self-serving agendas, unrestrained by any ethical boundaries whatsoever. And history also shows us that if we don't reject the lies and demand the truth, the results are certain to be tragic, destructive and futile.

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