If you’ve been watching the world news you’ve probably been as nervous as I have, especially if you’re a Vietnam vet. On Thursday, President Donald Trump reported that an Iranian guided drone got too close to one of our ships in international waters in the Strait of Hormuz. He said it was shot down forthwith.
To this report the Iranians replied, “What drone? We’re not missing any.” A news agency quoted a military spokesman, a Gen. Shekari, saying, “All Iranian drones that are in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz […] have returned to their bases.”
Vets of my generation will take in this news with some alarm because this sounds a lot like the way the Vietnam War started. To review, in Aug. 2, 1964, the destroyer USS Maddox was on an intelligence mission in the Tonkin Gulf, off the Vietnam coast, watched by several Vietnamese patrol boats at some distance. The Maddox fired on them and they fired back, surely a gutsy, foolish thing for small patrol boats to do. A lot of fireworks were exchanged and the Vietnamese suffered big losses. Our destroyer caught one bullet hole in the fray.
Two days later President Lyndon Johnson claimed a second assault occurred and this he used as pretext to launch an invasion. Later it was revealed in the Pentagon Papers, and by former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara that this “attack” never happened.
Johnson leveraged an outright lie to confound his political rival, Barry Goldwater, who had claimed he was “soft on communism.” Well, he showed him. For many, that war marks America’s historic low point, all launched by a huge ego, via a tragic ruse. Have we learned anything from this? Perhaps that from such a small, crass deception millions of lives can be wasted?
August, 1964 was my first month as a fledgling second lieutenant. Watching the horror unfold in the next months, all I recall was feeling confused, like everybody else at Ft. Benning.
Johnson was a big, aggressive Texas hill country boy. Anyone of his era would not hesitate to term him a bully who could charm when needed. He was also a deft strategist could who craft fictions to take advantage of whatever political trends fell to him. He beat Goldwater in the next election. ’Nuff said.
Trump is a big, aggressive city boy with a history of reckless, angry behavior involving business ventures, partnerships, friendships, sexual liaisons and decisions of state. He’s not a strategist; he’s more like a mean seventh grader with ADD. Could one say we’re re-entering another Gulf, only now by another name? I would and it scares hell out of me. I hope you too.