Chinese state media chose Veterans Day to drop some anti-American propaganda, including posts by the People’s Daily celebrating Cuban Communist dictator Fidel Castro for outlasting American efforts to dislodge him and hyping the Vietnam-era Gulf of Tonkin incident as a “clear-cut example of U.S. escalation and warmongering toward other countries.”
The People’s Daily celebrated Castro overthrowing “Cuba’s pro-American dictatorship” in 1959 and establishing a “revolutionary government,” a deeply offensive whitewash of a brutal regime noted for slaughtering dissidents and murdering those who tried to help refugees fleeing from Castro’s island paradise.
The Chinese Communist paper focused on Operation Northwoods, a controversial plan devised in the early 1960s, although the People’s Daily tried to make it seem more recent by saying only that it was “exposed in 1997.”
Operation Northwoods was, as the People’s Daily described it, a covert plan approved by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Kennedy administration to stage “false flag” attacks against U.S. civilians and military personnel, to create a pretext for military action against Cuba.
The proposal was swiftly rejected by civilian leaders and kept under wraps for decades. In a final embarrassment for the Joint Chiefs, author James Bamford said in a 2006 interview the Operation Northwoods documents became public because someone forgot to destroy them as ordered in the Sixties, and public interest in papers from that era peaked after the 1992 Oliver Stone film JFK.
Bizarre as the Operation Northwoods proposal might have been – one of its recommendations involved blaming Cuban terrorists if astronaut John Glenn’s 1962 Mercury spaceflight crashed – the 60-year-old document exposed 20 years ago is not really on the minds of anyone except Chinese editorialists looking to score cheap shots on Veterans Day.
“In order to maintain its hegemony, the U.S. has not hesitated to formulate ‘terrorist attack’ plans to be orchestrated against itself so as to win the national support needed to wage war against targeted foreign countries. Perhaps only an American government could cook up such ‘ruthless’ and extreme ideas,” the People’s Daily sneered, oddly choosing to saddle its own tirade with scare quotes.
The Gulf of Tonkin incident was the subject of another Veterans Day nastygram from the People’s Daily:
Lyndon Baines Johnson, the president of the US at the time, appeared on national television to announce on Aug. 4, 1964 that patrol torpedo boats of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam had attacked US destroyers, with the destroyers and supporting aircraft having “acted at once” on the president’s orders to engage the offending targets. Following this incident, the US Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized President Johnson to take any measures he believed were necessary to fully retaliate.
However, the so-called provocation was in fact wholly baseless. A report released by the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2005 revealed that it was highly unlikely that the named vessels of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam were involved during the reported incident of Aug. 4. Files from the US Navy showed that two US destroyers fired off nearly 400 shells and five depth charges. James Stockdale, one of the pilots at the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, recalled that the US destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets. In the end, there were absolutely no patrol torpedo boats to be found in their vicinity. There was nothing surrounding them but the deep black depth of the waters below and excessive American firepower above.
“Even without the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, the U.S. would most certainly have found some other excuses in any case to go ahead with its unilateral intervention in the Vietnam War, as the country’s real aim was to maintain American hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region,” the People’s Daily concluded.
The Gulf of Tonkin incident has been much discussed and criticized by both civilian and military analysts over the decades, since in the United States – unlike in China – people are not thrown in prison for questioning “official history.”
Here, for example, is an exhaustive 2008 Gulf of Tonkin report from the U.S. Naval Institute. It does not shy away from discussing errors and deliberate obfuscations on the part of government and military officials. The affair is generally viewed today as a cautionary tale. China, on the other hand, just spent $200 million on a movie celebrating its role in the birth of the psychotic nuclear-armed dictatorship in North Korea as a fabulous triumph.
A cynic might look at these Chinese articles and wonder what the leadership in Beijing is planning to do in the near future that it might try to pass off as an American “false flag” action.