Communist Party of Australia  

Home


The Guardian

Current Issue

PDF Archive

Web Archive

Pete's Corner

Subscribe

Press Fund


CPA


About Us

Why you should ...

CPA introduction


Contact Us

facebook, twitter


Major Issues

Indigenous

Unions

Health

Housing

Climate Change

Peace

Solidarity/Other


State by State

NSW, Qld, SA, Vic, WA


What's On

Topical


Resources

AMR

Links


Shop@CPA

Books, T-shirts, CDs/DVDs, Badges, Misc


 

Issue #1675      March 4, 2015

Culture & Life

Reviving the Tonkin Gulf incident

I see that they’re rewriting history again. Or, more accurately, not so much rewriting it as perpetuating a long-discredited lie. The US Pentagon has a website “commemorating” the outbreak of the Vietnam War, which according to the site, began with “the North Vietnamese attack on USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964”. But it has been known for many years that that attack (the so-called Gulf of Tonkin incident) never actually happened.

The US sprayed the vegetation (and the people) with a toxic defoliant, Agent Orange, which causes cruel genetic mutations generation after generation.

The Johnson Administration was looking for an excuse that would enable it to expand the scope of the war in Indo-China, a war that was not going too successfully for the US. The bogus attack on the Maddox provided the pretext for what the Pentagon calls “the beginning of the [US] Navy’s air and surface bombardment against North Vietnam.” But that wasn’t the beginning of the war. The US had been fighting the Indo-Chinese national liberation movement for years before that. They even began spraying the notorious Agent Orange as early as 1961. For the Vietnamese, the war began a lot earlier, as, led by Ho Chi Minh, they fought the attempt by Japanese imperialism to add the country to its new Asian empire.

Having seen off Japan’s would-be overlords, they were promptly invaded by their former French colonial masters, eager to re-establish their empire. Years of bitter fighting ensued, while the US tried to “roll back Communism” in Europe, China and of course Korea. With the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu, and the expulsion of US forces from North Korea, it looked like peace might break out. But, as France withdrew in defeat from Indo-China, the US stepped in to take its place in thwarting the hopes of the people for national liberation.

After years of unsuccessful but increasingly bloody and destructive warfare, the “Gulf of Tonkin incident” provided the Johnson Administration with the pretext for expanding the war with an unprecedented aerial bombardment of North Vietnam. The US dropped a greater weight of bombs on little Vietnam than had been dropped in the whole of WW2.

B-52s flying at 10,000 metres, flew to “targets” they could not see – identified by radar co-ordinates only – and dropped interminable strings of bombs, some 15 million tons of them. An estimated three million Vietnamese civilians were killed by the US during a decade of war.

Today, half a century later, Vietnamese are still being killed and maimed by these bombs as a huge amount of unexploded ordinance lies scattered throughout the country’s fields and gardens, waiting for unsuspecting farmers or children to disturb them with dreadful results. Vietnamese authorities estimate that unexploded bombs in Vietnam have wounded around 65,000 people and killed 34,000.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, the US didn’t just drop an unimaginable quantity of bombs. It also sprayed the vegetation (and the people) with a toxic defoliant, Agent Orange, which causes cruel genetic mutations generation after generation, grotesquely similar to those caused by thalidomide.

In fact, more than 70 million litres of herbicides were sprayed over 2 million hectares of land. It poisoned not just the crops but the soil, the waterways and the animals living there. American soldiers affected by contact with Agent Orange got scant help from their government, so what chance have the Vietnamese? President Ronald Reagan’s Veterans Affairs director Robert P Nimmo dismissed Agent Orange as causing no more than a little “teenage acne”!

The Vietnamese Red Cross, however, foresees a formidable continuing toll of cancers, birth defects and other chronic diseases linked to Agent Orange. In the US, activists are concerned that the companies that made a fortune from the production of Agent Orange are still at it: “The US population,” says one of them, “should pay special attention to this matter of Agent Orange and its parents – Monsanto and Dow Chemical. Generation after generation of Vietnamese and America’s Vietnam Veterans have suffered genetic mutations from exposure to that killer. Now Monsanto has produced GMO agriculture with its ‘Round-Up resistant’ crops and genetically-modified crops; and the corporations promise us that they’re safe to eat.

“Many countries in the world have banned the production of GMO crops and/or require food to be labelled to disclose if they contain GMO foods. But not here in the US. We’re still passively accepting whatever they put on our plates. I should say most people accept them without question ... but not me and a lot of other people like me. Now, the military industrial complex can’t even wait a generation between wars. Now, we have to live in a state of perpetual war and the world of Homeland Security and being fed a lot of poison for food.”

Similarly angry American veterans of the Vietnam War are taking on the Pentagon over its bogus delineation of the war. “We will not leave it to the government and war hawks to tell a one-sided tale of guts and glory,” blasts the Veterans For Peace organisation in a campaign it’s calling Full Disclosure. “The Department Of Defence commemoration of our war is a farce,” said Chuck Palazzo, a former US combat veteran who now lives in Vietnam. The commemoration will cost US taxpayers millions of dollars, which Palazzo rightly sees as “A waste of money and a feeble attempt to brainwash the younger generation as well as the rest of us, that what we did was right – it was, of course so wrong!”

As US soldiers have been sent to fight ever more wars since the Twin Towers catastrophe, surveys of US veterans show that many of those who were made to take part now question the validity and purpose of those wars. A third of US veterans of these conflicts are of the opinion that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for example “were not worth fighting for”.

As the old saying goes, you can fool some of the people all the time and most of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all of the time.

Back to index page

Go to What's On Go to Shop at CPA Go to Australian Marxist Review Go to Join the CPA Go to Subscribe to the Guardian Go to the CPA Maritime Branch website Go to the Resources section of our web site Go to the PDF of the Hot Earth booklet go to the World Federation of Trade Unions web site go to the Solidnet  web site Go to Find out more about the CPA