image: USS Maddox in 1964, Wikimedia commons (link).
This day in history, the second of August, marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Tonkin Gulf incident, which took place on August 02, 1964, and which was used as justification for a major escalation of US military activity in Vietnam.
The incident was described to the world by politicians and the media as an unprovoked attack on US Navy vessels conducting routine operations in international waters during the night of August second, followed by a second unprovoked attack on August 04.
Based on allegations that US naval vessels which had simply been "lawfully present in international waters" had been "deliberately and repeatedly attacked," the president went to Congress, asked for and received authorization for the use of "all necessary steps, including the use of armed force." The Tonkin Gulf Resolution was signed into law by joint resolution of Congress and approval of the president on August 10, 1964.
This grant of authority was used to initiate US air strikes in 1964 and major deployment of US conventional ground forces (in addition to the limited numbers of special operations forces that had been in the country since at least 1961) throughout 1965 into Vietnam, with over 184,000 conventional military personnel on the ground by the end of 1965.
Whether or not the deployment of military force into Vietnam was justified in order to stop the violence that was in fact taking place there, the evidence which has been uncovered in the decades since strongly suggests that any attack which took place on US naval vessels on August 02 was not exactly "unprovoked," that those naval vessels were in fact supporting covert military raids into Vietnam (a fact which Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara denied in testimony before Congress during the deliberation over the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution itself in 1964 and again in 1968), and that there was probably no second attack at all on August 04, 1964.
In other words, setting aside the larger question of whether or not military intervention in Vietnam was justified, the evidence strongly suggests that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution itself was based upon a false version of reality which was presented to the American people and their elected members of Congress. This false version of reality led directly to the combat deployment of over 184,000 people to Vietnam by the end of the following year, a number which increased to over 500,000 at the war's peak in 1968 (see chart below, which can be found here).
This article from the 30-year anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin incident (in 1994) lays out some of the arguments and evidence supporting the conclusion that the facts surrounding the August 02 confrontation were completely misrepresented, and that it is likely that no actual second confrontation took place two days later on August 04, 1964.
This more-carefully footnoted essay by Professor Peter Dale Scott of the University of California, published in 2008, explains that of the one hundred twenty-two pieces of signal-data collected on the night of August 04 (from radar, sonar, and other signal-gathering devices available to government intelligence personnel), only the fifteen pieces of data which would support the picture of a second attack were passed on to the White House.
Meanwhile, in a completely separate agency from the one which passed on that incredibly selective array of data, a paragraph stating that suggested that the data supported the conclusion that a second attack had not taken place on August 04 was removed from the Current Intelligence Bulletin "which would be wired to the White House and other key intelligence agencies and appear in print the next morning."
Professor Scott writes that it is possible to conclude that these two actions in two separate agencies could conceivably have taken place spontaneously, based upon a certain "shared bureaucratic mindset, or propensity for military escalation."
Of course, it is also possible that these two actions, each designed to paint the picture of a second confrontation which in all likelihood never even took place, and each removing critical information in order to support that false picture, were in fact coordinated.
This possibility is further supported by the published testimony of the Secretary of Defense himself, who went on record before Congress not just in 1964 when they were deliberating over the initial Gulf of Tonkin Resolution but also nearly four years later in 1968, stating "that attacks occurred against our ships both on August 2nd and August 4th, that we had available to us incontrovertible evidence of these attacks when the decision was made to make our limited and measured response, and that these attacks were in no sense provoked or justified by any participation or association of our ships with South Vietnamese naval operations" (see remarks by the Secretary of Defense to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 20 February 1968, about half-way down this web page).
Either he was deceived as well, or he was aware of the selectivity of the data and conclusions that had been presented to the American people and their elected politicians in August of 1964 and was participating in the fabrication of a false reality designed to create a "movie" in the minds of the vast majority of the citizenry which had in its opening scenes events they could look back on and say to themselves, "well, we were illegally attacked first."
The conclusion that the Gulf of Tonkin represents an example of the deliberate creation of a false reality in the minds of a massive number of people is difficult to avoid.
This conclusion becomes even more likely when we realize that the two ships involved in the incident, the destroyers USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy, each had a Navy captain in command, but that they themselves were commanded by a Naval officer on the flagship of their fleet, the aircraft carrier USS Bonhomme Richard -- and that the officer in command of that fleet during that critical time was none other than George S. "Steve" Morrison, the father of the future lead singer of the band The Doors. This fact is stated in the obituary of Admiral Morrison published in the New York Times from December of 2008.
In and of itself, the connection between the rock frontman and the Naval officer does not necessarily add anything the already substantial evidence that the Tonkin incident represented the deliberate creation of an illusory mental construct designed to influence the thought patterns of massive numbers of people. However, some researchers and in particular researcher David McGowan have recently presented additional evidence that many of the influential rock bands to have formed around Laurel Canyon just north of Los Angeles may also have been part of a coordinated effort to "create a new reality" and change the thought patterns of massive numbers of people.
In his recently-released book, Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon, Mr. McGowan argues that there was something contrived about the sudden influx of prospective band members into Laurel Canyon, many of whom (but not all) had little or no musical experience, many of whom came from military families and/or families with powerful political connections, and many of whom shot to rapid success without going through the usual path of struggling to gain recognition, play at better gigs, and eventually sign deals (he notes on page 151 that the members of Buffalo Springfield had supposedly only first met one another five days before they were playing at the prestigious Hollywood club the Troubadour, and a mere six days after that they were already on tour opening for the Byrds, "the hottest band on the Strip"). He also notes that this sudden confluence of suddenly-successful musical acts all happened to center in a self-contained canyon that also housed a secret military facility.
Mr. McGowan points out that the initial output of all these bands coincided very closely with the buildup of combat troops in Vietnam following the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, beginning with the release of the Byrds' Mr. Tambourine Man (on June 21st, 1965 -- summer solstice in the northern hemisphere) and rapidly followed by "releases from the John Phillips-led Mamas and the Papas (If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, January 1966), Love with Arthur Lee (Love, May 1966), Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention (Freak Out, June 1966), Buffalo Springfield, featuring Stephen Stills and Neil Young (Buffalo Springfield, October 1966), and the Doors (The Doors, January 1967)" (13).
Regarding the Doors in particular, Mr. McGowan presents evidence from previously-published interviews conducted by other interviewers with Jim Morrison himself that the future lead singer never went to concerts before forming the band, and in fact in his own words "never did any singing. I never even conceived of it," nor had he ever felt any desire to learn to play any musical instrument (129). Then, he suddenly formed a band with three other acquaintances who also had no previous musical background, and immediately began putting out albums filled with songs which Morrison had written himself, before even forming the band.
Morrison did not, you see, do as other singer/songwriters do and pen the songs over the course of the band's career; instead he allegedly wrote them all at once, before the band was even formed. As Jim once acknowledged in an interview, he was "not a very prolific songwriter. Most of the songs I've written I wrote in the very beginning, about three years ago. I just had a period when I wrote a lot of songs."
[. . .]In any event, the question that naturally arises (though it does not appear to have ever been asked of him) is: How exactly did Jim "The Lizard King" Morrison write that impressive batch of songs? I'm certainly no musician myself, but it is my understanding that just about every singer/songwriter across the land composes his or her songs in essentially the same manner: on an instrument -- usually either a piano or a guitar. Some songwriters, I hear, can compose on paper, but that requires a skill set that Jim did not possess. The problem, of course, is that he also could not play a musical instrument of any kind. How did he write the songs?[. . .]And these are, it should be clarified, songs that we are talking about here, as opposed to just lyrics, which would more accurately be categorized as poems. Because Jim, as is fairly well known, was quite a prolific poet, whereas he was a songwriter for only one brief period of his life. But why was that? Why did Morrison, with no previous interest in music, suddenly and inexplicably become a prolific songwriter, only to just as suddenly lose interest after mentally penning an impressive catalog of what would be regarded as rock staples? 129-130.
David McGowan's work raises the strong possibility that a concerted campaign of what we might call reality creation was somehow behind the sudden rise of numerous successful bands in the Laurel Creek scene from mid-1965 through the early 1970s. In fact, he presents evidence that some of these band members (notably the members of the Byrds) began arriving in Laurel Canyon specifically in "autumn of 1964" (see page 135) -- in other words, immediately on the heels of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and before the actual troop buildup of 1965 (this would only be expected, if the Byrds were to release an album by summer solstice of 1965).
This fact tends to defuse the possible counter-argument that the phenomenon Mr. McGowan is chronicling was somehow an organic response to the sudden deployment of young men to Vietnam (even without the information that these band members were arriving in Laurel Canyon well before the first conventional troops arrived in Vietnam in March of 1965, there would not seem to be enough time between those first troop deployments and the sudden outpouring of albums listed above to be explained by the "organic response" hypothesis).
The thesis that the Laurel Canyon outpouring was some kind of "reality creation" is reinforced by the fact that the first album cited above, the Byrds' Mr. Tambourine Man, came out on the date of summer solstice, indicating the possible involvement of parties who understood the ancient significance of such dates. The possibility is further strengthened by the fact that both the Vietnam War and the counterculture movement at home which was closely associated with the music from the bands described in Mr. McGowan's book were profoundly transformative of society as a whole. It is also notable that music itself is uniquely suited to "creating realities."
The evidence which fifty years later appears to confirm that the Tonkin Gulf incident involved the deliberate imposition of a false narrative or false mental reality upon a large number of people, for purposes of escalating military operations in Vietnam immediately thereafter. The evidence also appears to strongly suggest that at least some aspects of the sudden formation of numerous very influential bands in Laurel Canyon, California almost immediately following that incident may have also been an exercise in reality creation, orchestrated by parties who possessed the knowledge and the ability to do so, and who left clues such as the release of the first Byrds album on one of the most significant dates of the annual cycle.
The possibility that the two aspects of reality creation might be related, and even perpetrated by some of the same players, is astonishing. While it is by no means proven, there appears to be enough evidence to warrant further investigation of this subject by those whose areas of interest or expertise dispose them to doing so.
It should be noted that there is substantial evidence that the concept of "reality creation" -- which should be a positive subject, involving creativity, innovation, and the empowerment and greater freedom of individual men and women, as discussed in this previous post -- was actually at the heart of the ancient mythologies of mankind, which themselves may be a precious legacy to all human beings from an even more ancient "predecessor civilization." However, at a very specific point in history, this ancient knowledge was deliberately subverted and suppressed in a certain very important portion of the world (the western Roman Empire), and those who did so may well have sought to use that knowledge for their own purposes of control and self-enrichment, while suppressing the same knowledge for virtually everyone else (and launching campaigns to stamp it out both within the western empire and then over other parts of Europe and then the world).
The evidence which suggests that there was a historical monopolization of the secrets of "reality creation" by powers who wanted to use them for themselves alone may indeed be pertinent when examining the possibility that there was much more to the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and to the Laurel Canyon scene, than people were initially led to believe.
However, even if we set all of that aside and focus solely on the evidence that the Gulf of Tonkin incident involved the deliberate creation of an illusion which was then presented to the White House, to Congress, and to the people of the world, has extremely important ramifications.
First, when we realize that previous incidents which were used to inflame public opinion in favor of war (when the public might have been indifferent or even hostile to the idea before the incident) may have also involved elements of deception or fabrication (including the USS Maine incident at the start of the Spanish-American War, or the sinking of the Lusitania to inflame American public opinion towards participation in the First World War), we should naturally wonder to what extent incidents since the Gulf of Tonkin might fit into the same pattern.
Second, while it is obvious that most of the individuals who actually participated in the Tonkin Gulf episode are no longer in the positions of power that they held back in 1964 (and in fact, most of them have now left the body, or at least the body they had during that incarnation), it is worth asking to what extent the institutions which participated in the Tonkin Gulf deception in some capacity (that is to say, the branches of the US military, the executive and legislative branches of the US federal government, and the more powerful participants in the national and international media) are still controlled by powers or persons who would condone or even initiate such deception and the perpetration of the creation of illusions or false realities.
Further, a sober consideration of the Tonkin Gulf incident should cause us to reflect upon the frequency with which large numbers of people can be influenced to condone or tolerate the application of horrendous levels of violence against persons who are not actually combatants (whether through the use of munitions and chemicals that caused death and suffering among the noncombatant women and children in Vietnam, or in the massacres of women and children in Native American villages during the "Indian Wars" of the second half of the nineteenth century in what is today the western US). How often is such widespread indifference or toleration accompanied by the creation and propagation of a sort of collectively-accepted "false reality" or narrative, such as "Manifest Destiny" or the false storyline created around the attacks on the Maine, the Lusitania, or the Maddox?
The degree to which the media plays along with the creation of such illusions and does not challenge them (certainly evident in the Tonkin Gulf episode) is also worthy of careful consideration.
Finally, the possibility that certain players on the world stage understand the creation of realities on a level that goes far beyond the simple telling of lies or withholding of available radar evidence, and that they may be using techniques which were once widely seen as beneficial for human consciousness but which have now been suppressed among the wider community and monopolized by a few, would seem to be extremely important to carefully consider and not dismiss out of hand. If some version of this scenario is indeed operating in history, than beginning to understand that fact can help us to realize the extent to which our acceptance of false realities creates false limits and false chains which we let bind and restrict and limit ourselves and others.
But, as Jon Rappoport so eloquently stated in the June 2014 talk discussed in the previously-linked post above, the message of the "trickster-god" in so many ancient mythologies is that we do not actually have to limit ourselves to someone else's imposed realities, and that we can at any time choose to stop giving those realities and their artificial limits that power which they ultimately derive from our own acceptance of them.
An event that happened fifty years ago -- an entire half of a century -- may seem to be ancient history. But, as the above discussion should cause us all to realize, its lessons are profoundly important to our lives at this very moment, and to our understanding of events we see taking place around us today and this week and this year.