Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Vietnam’ Category


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22 November 1963, President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Huge deal at the time, though at 6 years old I was only dimly aware of it. I am reasonably sure I remember seeing his funeral on TV, possibly the first news event I have recollection of. I also remember the buzz when the Beatles came to the US a few months later, the grown ups were excited about that too. I couldn’t understand why some beetles from England were such a big deal, I was not a worldly six year old. What I thought about the Kent State shooting a few years later is even more embarrassing.

So yes, big deal at the time. Fourth US president to be assassinated. And seventh US president to die in office due to the “Curse of Tippecanoe.” IE starting in 1840 every president elected in a year divisible by 20 died in office. Reagan being elected in 1980 finally broke the curse, though one wonders just how senile he was near the end of his term, maybe technically he didn’t. The curse was completely broken by George W. Bush in 2,000, since he was appointed by the Supreme Court, not elected. Don’t worry, I’ll bash Dem presidents in future blogs, I despise virtually all politicians.

Kennedy’s assassination started the modern conspiracy theory movement. Almost from the beginning, people had trouble with the official narrative. And it’s grown by leaps and bounds since. Including all sorts of theories and quotes about what Kennedy was going to do if he hadn’t been murdered. The meme above is a great example of this sort of nonsense. And nonsense it is, Kennedy never said any such thing. The poor man probably has more fake quotes attributed to him than almost anyone in history. Most of the conspiracy theories are based on similar factual errors.

His assassination is still an interesting case, there are minor discrepancies and mysteries. I noticed a few years back when I saw a nice aerial shot of the ambush sight … what a perfect location for an L shaped ambush. That’s an ambush where the ambushers are firing from in front and the side of the people being ambushed. That way the ambushed can’t take cover behind their vehicles. And if it was an L shaped ambush, Oswald was shooting from the side, and the front shooter would be on the grassy knoll. The infamous grassy knoll where some witnesses claimed to hear shots coming from. Still, without evidence, it’s just conjecture.

One of the unsolved curiosities of the assassination is the Babushka Lady. She appears in a number of the images and films of the scene, a heavy set, possibly middle aged woman wearing a headscarf tied under her chin reminiscent of how old Russian women wear scarves. (Babushka is grandmother in Russian.) At no point though is her face visible, because she is looking away from the camera, or her own camera is obscuring her face. That’s why there is such interest in her, no film or pictures attributable to her have ever surfaced. So possibly there is photographic evidence of the Kennedy assassination that has never been examined. And she was right freaking there in the middle of it, in fact she continued to film while the people around her were running for cover!

One can be sure every effort has been made to locate her. A Beverly Oliver claimed to be the Babushka Lady in 1970 and beyond, but her story is sketchy at best. And Beverly claims mysterious men confiscated her film. That’s convenient. Maybe someday the Babushka Lady’s film will show up somewhere, likely solving nothing or even adding more mystery. All that aside though, the Babushka Lady herself is evidence of nothing. There are all sorts of utterly prosaic reasons that could explain why her and her film never showed up. Like the infamous STENDEC mystery, just because we don’t know something doesn’t mean there’s anything important behind it.

So RIP John, your death was a tragedy for the nation. A wound that hasn’t healed yet. On the plus side, President Johnson was able to get a lot of JFK’s legacy enacted, in Johnson’s Great Society initiative. This was the last time a president accomplished anything for America’s poor and working class, subsequent presidents all threw poor and working class Americans under the bus. With the possible exception of Carter, but I would need to read up on that. And sadly, JFK was the one that got the US deeply involved in a stupid little war trying to prop up an unpopular American puppet state in South Vietnam. A war that proved Johnson’s downfall as well.

I remember in third grade the teacher writing ‘Vietnam’ on the chalkboard (do schools even have those anymore?) so we would know how to spell it. This would have been 1965 or 1966, when the Vietnam War was really starting to grind people’s gears.

In local news, our lake froze a few weeks back. And last night it unfroze. The temperature has been above freezing, barely, plus rain. Not much of an Indian Summer, but I’ll take what I can get. More pictures of leafless trees coming up. If one likes leafless trees and muddy fields of corn stubble, Iowa is beautiful this time of year. Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Fake Kennedy quote meme. Credit: Anonymous, used without permission, likely a Public Domain image.)

Written by unitedcats

November 22, 2019 at 4:29 am

Posted in History, Politics, Vietnam


with 2 comments

TonkingunboatsThe Gulf of Tonkin Incident, 2 August 1964. I thought I’d write about it because it is one of the formative incidents that led to our current national situation. Or more accurately, the incident led to Congress passing the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which basically gave the US government a blank check to go to war without congressional approval. Presidents Johnson and Nixon used the resolution to wage the Vietnam War against three nations.

Getting ahead of myself though. The incident in question, the destroyer USS Maddox was cruising up the coast of North Vietnam hugging the 12 mile limit, sometimes crossing it. This is where we have the first problem. This was not a routine cruise, this was a spying cruise and a deliberate act of provocation. Especially since it was not unusual for these cruises to be followed by South Vietnamese gunboat raids on the North Vietnamese coast. In other words, the USS Maddox was not peacefully minding its own business in international waters.

On the day in question, three North Vietnamese motor torpedo boats set out to confront the Maddox. (Image above.) We have no idea what their intentions were, but they were the ones defending their territorial waters. The Maddox fled, the patrol boats pursued, the Maddox opened fire. Ostensibly to fire “warning shots,” but there’s no such thing as warning shots under international law. The motor torpedo boats started firing in response, though at the time the Johnson administration neglected to mention the warning shots, and simply claimed the North Vietnamese had fired first. The patrol boats did launch torpedos, but none hit their target. The Maddox was hit by one 14mm machine gun bullet. Navy planes arrived, and the patrol boats were destroyed or driven off.

Two days later, the Maddox and another destroyer, the USS Turner Joy, started another “patrol.” During the night they were apparently attacked again. The attack consisted of both ships making sporadic radar contact with unknown bogies, opening fire on them, and making evasive maneuvers for four hours. Some visual contacts were claimed, and the ships claimed two torpedo boats were sunk. No wreckage was found, and even at the time there was a strong suspicion that no attack had occurred, it was just jumpy sailors shooting at ghosts. And since then all evidence has confirmed no actual second attack took place.

Didn’t stop Johnson. He promptly interrupted US television to give a speech claiming the US had been attacked in international waters. And asking Congress for authority to defend the US against Ho Chi Minh and his communist aggression. The speech was a masterpiece of omission and deception, and sadly the American mainstream media wildly exaggerated the attacks. Many politicians were already calling for war, and the incident gave them and Johnson all the excuse they needed to pass The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This gave the president the authority to wage war without Congress actually declaring war as the constitution stipulates.

And the Vietnam War was off. Ultimately hundreds of thousands of US troops deployed, three countries in ruins, worst chemical weapons atrocity in history, and more bombs dropped than were dropped by all of the participants in all of World War Two. Plus the US played an instrumental role in dragging Cambodia into the war, leading to the rise of Pol Pot and the eventual Killing Fields genocide, one of the worst in history. And nearly 60,000 dead Americans and as many as a million or more dead Vietnamese. All to prop up a wildly corrupt and unpopular rump state in South Vietnam for a few decades before the reunification of Vietnam in 1975.

Three points I think are good takeaways from this. The first is that even if the attacks had been unsullied North Vietnamese attacks on innocent Americans, this was not Pearl Harbor or anything like it. It was a border incident or border clash at worst, not some all out North Vietnamese attack on the US. And our response to it was disproportionate at best. One kid shoves another on the playground doesn’t give the hit kid justification to start bashing the first kid in the head with a rock.

The second more grotesque point is that the US portrayed itself as the victim and the defender in the whole mess, and indeed the whole war was characterised as defence against global communism. Even at the time people pointed out that this was nonsense. All the Vietnamese wanted after World War Two was independence, the fact that the independence fighters in Vietnam were “communist” was not part of some global plot. In fact after World War Two the Vietnamese were shocked that the US sided with French efforts to recolonise Vietnam instead of supporting their desire for independence.

Which brings us to the third point. Vietnam is another great example of how America has betrayed its founding principles, and instead uses them as window dressing for what is simply colonialism and imperialism in any real sense of the words. America is all about self determination and democracy, so long as the country in question chooses our chosen government.  I’d say more, but still don’t really know how to explain to people that the US is not really a force for freedom in the world. Maybe a list of all the times America has thwarted the will of the people of foreign lands? Future post I guess.

Yes, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was roundly criticised and pushback mounted until it was repealed in 1973 and replaced with the War Powers Resolution. Which basically just said the president can wage any war they want, as long as they send Congress a memo or two. It still is basically giving up Congress’s Constitutional mandate to decide with who the US goes to war with.

On the plus side, Senator Wayne Morse did his best to raise awareness of the deceptions the Johnson Administration was using to rush the Tonkin Gulf Resolution through Congress. There’s always a few people standing up for what is right. Came across a wonderful story along those lines the other day. Next post.

Comments, suggestions, shares appreciated.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The three motor torpedo boats in the first incident. Credit: Official U.S. Navy photo NH 95611 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage. Some of the people in this image did not live out the day.)

Written by unitedcats

May 29, 2019 at 7:24 am

Posted in History, Propaganda, Vietnam, War