It is abhorrent that only the passage of time reveals true, or dare I say truer, explanations of history. This is how history has played out. Only the witnesses of historical events know the unabridged facts. Sadly, witnesses’ accounts are mostly overlooked, and it is the perspectives of the powerful that impinge on the record, leaving a limited view for future onlookers.
A prevalent examples of this moral abatement is the manipulation of facts that pose as acts of war and result in U.S. retaliation. In the 20th century, a big vehicle for disseminating the government’s call to conflict has been the press. The press, even though professes objectivity, receives information from “official” sources and government agents, making their reports favorable for the government’s actions. An example would be the press coverage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of 1964, which gave President Johnson power to increase military attacks in Vietnam and result in the loss of more than 58,000 American lives and an unknown body count of Vietnamese civilians.
On August 2, 1964 a U.S. navy vessel reported undertaking enemy fire from North Vietnamese torpedo-boats. The U.S. was perturbed because we were in international waters and abiding by U.N. laws. Two days later the ships were attacked again. Reported were two boats damaged and two sunk. On August 5, the Wall Street Journal, on page one in Vol. CLXIV No.26, reported President Johnson ordered a “limited” airstrike over North Vietnamese bases. The Journal writes, “This Government is united in determination to take all necessary measures in support of freedom and peace in Southeast Asia.” The report also mentions Johnson’s request to Congress for permission to deploy more military might to Vietnam. Johnson is quoted, ‘“our response, for the present, will be limited and fitting.”’ The papers failed to report though that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution gave the president the power to send as many troops as he wants, and for as long as he obliges.
The resolution was signed into law on August 7. On August 7, 1964 the Los Angeles Times reported, buried between headlines on page two, “Senate, House to Back Action by President.” The article reads how “overwhelmingly” the legislature has endorsed the resolution. Two opposing voices are acknowledge, but immediately after that paragraph, Sen. Frank Church’s responds to those two dissenters by being quoted as saying “there is a time to question policy and ‘“there is a time to rally around the flag.’’’ One dissenter is quoted. Sen. Morse is quoted: ‘“The United States has been a provocateur in Southeast Asia…Both sides have provoked this war. There’s only one place to take it, and that’s to the conference table.”’ Morse’s remarks are then refuted by the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Wheeler and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, J. Fulbright. The press favorably communicates the resolution to the public. One counter argument is heard, but overall the article leans toward the government’s sentiment.