Fifty Years Ago, A Lie Led To War: The Gulf Of Tonkin Resolution Under Lyndon B. Johnson

A half century ago, the move toward massive escalation of the war in Vietnam began, with the false, misleading report of the supposed attack on US ships, the Turner Joy and the Maddox, by North Vietnamese patrol boats off the of the Gulf of Tonkin.

Lyndon B. Johnson immediately called for a resolution from Congress, infamously known in history as the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, calling for a bombing attack on North Vietnam and its key cities, the capital of Hanoi and the port city of Haiphong.

The push for quick action led to a 416-0 vote in the House of Representatives, and an 89-2 vote in the US Senate, with Oregon Senator Wayne Morse and Alaska Senator Ernest Gruening, both Democrats, the only negative votes, and with both heavily criticized as “unAmerican” for their skepticism and doubts, and their desire to know much more information before they cast their vote for military action.

This event led to a war which killed 58,000 Americans, and divided the nation like nothing had since the Civil War a century earlier!

It divided the Democratic Party, and caused its defeat in 1968, as the nation repudiated LBJ through the defeat of his loyal Vice President, Hubert H. Humphrey.

It led to total disillusionment with American foreign policy, and growing distrust of the Presidency as an institution, something which remains the same way today!

LBJ might be remembered for his great domestic achievements under the appellation of the “Great Society”, but it caused the loss of his stature when he misled the nation on the road to proving his “manhood” by going to war, and it ultimately destroyed the liberal coalition which brought his domestic reforms.

This is a very sobering moment a half century later, what might have been if only LBJ had not gone into a massive war in Vietnam, including maybe a continuation of the “Great Society”, and no Richard Nixon in the White House at all!

13 comments on “Fifty Years Ago, A Lie Led To War: The Gulf Of Tonkin Resolution Under Lyndon B. Johnson

  1. Princess Leia August 7, 2014 1:38 pm

    It looks like we’re being drawn back into Iraq. The US is considering air strikes as part of a humanitarian effort to help some minority groups being attacked by ISIS.

    Should have left Saddam in place. He may have been bad but he was keeping people in check.

  2. Ronald August 7, 2014 1:49 pm

    You are correct, Princess Leia, about Saddam.

    I see an humanitarian crisis as something worthy to engage in, however!

  3. Princess Leia August 7, 2014 7:23 pm

    Me too Professor.

  4. Pragmatic Progressive August 7, 2014 7:28 pm

    In addition to the humanitarian effort, we also have a consulate in the area.

  5. Princess Leia August 7, 2014 7:56 pm

    I see one of the replies to the article called them devil worshippers. So typical of people who are intolerant about others beliefs.

  6. Engineer Of Knowledge August 7, 2014 8:22 pm

    Hello All,
    Daddy Bush told his “Alfred E. Newman” mentally lame son not to go in Iraq. Quote, “You break it….you own it!”. Too much oil wells for Cheney to let go of the chance. The working middle class has been paying for it ever since.

  7. Ronald August 8, 2014 7:52 am

    You are so correct, Engineer, as usual! 🙂

  8. Southern Liberal August 8, 2014 11:27 am

    President Obama gave a speech telling about authorizing air strikes in Iraq as needed. Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and ABC interrupted programming to carry the speech. CBS and NBC continued to show Big Brother and a football game.

    After the speech, I flipped around between Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC to check out commentary. Saw a commercial on Fox News about Hamas using human shields. CNN and MSNBC have mentioned in their coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that Hamas may be using human shields but there is no definitive proof. Fox’s commercial about it acts as if it’s absolutely true. So typical of Fox.

  9. Southern Liberal August 8, 2014 1:09 pm


    CNN had a report on all of the refugees fleeing from ISIS. It’s a wide variety.

  10. Southern Liberal August 9, 2014 1:05 pm

    I’ve heard several reports that ISIS has seized control of a dam in northern Iraq. Concern is that if they breach the dam, it could cause catastrophic flooding as far south as Baghdad.

    Have also heard reports that there are lots of foreign fighters in ISIS, including dozens of Americans. Concern is that they could come home and carry out attacks here.

  11. Former Republican, Now Democrat August 9, 2014 1:11 pm

    Following the ”If we break it, we own it” philopshy, we should airdrop GW Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and Condi Rice onto that mountain and have them pass out the food and water to the Iraqi refugees. It’s the least they could do since they are ones who caused this mess to begin with. Make no mistake folks, they are the reason this country is broken. There was no Al Qaeda in Iraq before the invasion and there certainly wasn’t anything like ISIS. We should also airdrop John McCain, Bill Kristol, John Bolton and all the idiotic conservative talking heads who said that the invasion of Iraq would be ”quick and easy” and that we would be greeted as liberators.

  12. Ronald August 9, 2014 1:32 pm

    I have to laugh, Former Republican–Now Democrat, at your suggestion! LOL

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