Now that President Obama’s administration is giving itself the option to have “boots on the ground” in Iraq, there has never been a more important time to look at how we get sucked into unending wars. Professor Martin Hellman examines how it’s been done for the last 70 years.
Of course, the people don’t want war… But… it is always a simple matter to drag the people along… All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism… It works the same way in any country.
So said Hermann Göring, Hitler’s right-hand man, before he committed suicide while facing the death penalty for war crimes in 1946.
Unfortunately, what might be called The Göring Doctrine has proved as tempting to democratic leaders as to fascist dictators. Witness these examples drawn from recent American history.
Remember the Maine?
In March 1962, seven months before the Cuban missile crisis, the Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously recommended to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and President Kennedy that the United States use Göring’s prescription for dragging the people into war with Cuba. They suggested a number of false flag operations including:
We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba. … [Or] we could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington. … [fostering] attempts on lives of Cuban refugees in the United States even to the extent of wounding [anti-Castro Cubans].
While McNamara and JFK rejected these proposals, Bobby Kennedy resurfaced the idea during the Cuban missile crisis:
We should also think of whether there is some other way we can get involved in this, through Guantánamo Bay or something. Or whether there’s some ship that … you know, sink the Maine again or something. [Tuesday, October 16, 1962, 6:30 PM meeting in the Cabinet Room, recorded on JFK’s secret taping mechanism].
While that suggestion was also rejected, the Göring Doctrine came into its own two years later, when the Tonkin Gulf incidents of August 2 and 4, 1964, provided the legal basis for the Vietnam War.
Remember the Gulf of Tonkin?
At the time, the Johnson Administration portrayed America’s full-scale, boots-on-the-ground entry into the civil war between North and South Vietnam as a response to unprovoked acts of communist aggression.
But a now-declassified phone call that LBJ made to former Treasury Secretary Robert Anderson on August 3 reveals the truth: communist naval forces in the Tonkin Gulf were in fact responding to U.S. covert operations in North Vietnam.
Unbeknownst to the American public, Johnson told Anderson, American forces were already
blowing up some bridges and things of that kind, roads, and so forth. So I imagine they wanted to put a stop to it. So they come out there and fire and we respond immediately with five-inch guns from the destroyer and with planes overhead.
In other words, contrary to what he later told Congress and the world, LBJ knew that prior American actions had provoked this North Vietnamese attack.
Equally startling is the fact that the second (August 4) Tonkin Gulf attack never happened at all—a conclusion reached by several sources.
For the rest of the story, please go to WhoWhatWhy.com