Over 1,100 pages of previously classified Vietnam-era transcripts released this week by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee highlight the fact that several Senators knew that the White House and the Pentagon had deceived the American people over the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident.
The latest releases, which document skepticism over the pretext for entry into the Vietnam war, date from 1968.
Four years into the war, senators were at loggerheads with Lyndon B. Johnson. At the time Foreign Relations Committee meetings were held behind closed doors.
It would take over thirty years for the truth to emerge that the Aug. 4, 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, where US warships were apparently attacked by North Vietnamese PT Boats – an incident that kicked off US involvement in the Vietnam war – was a staged event that never actually took place.
However, the records now show that at the time senators knew this was the case.
In a March 1968 closed session of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Albert Gore Sr. of Tennessee, the father of former vice president Al Gore, noted:
“If this country has been misled, if this committee, this Congress, has been misled by pretext into a war in which thousands of young men have died, and many more thousands have been crippled for life, and out of which their country has lost prestige, moral position in the world, the consequences are very great,”
Senator Frank Church, Democrat of Idaho, said in an executive session in February 1968:
“In a democracy you cannot expect the people, whose sons are being killed and who will be killed, to exercise their judgment if the truth is concealed from them,”