[Much extended later on the 13th of January 2008; expanded on the 17th and 18th of January; material on Cyprus: colonial terrorism; false flag operations posted separately (on human rights archaeology) on the 19th of January.]
U.S. National Security Archive (NSA) researcher John Prados commented that '[t]he parallels between the faulty intelligence on Tonkin Gulf and the manipulated intelligence used to justify the Iraq War make it all the more worthwhile to re-examine the events of August 1964 in light of new evidence'; yet there are even more pressing events that demand analysis.(3)
Of a recent incident in which US Navy and Iranian Republican Guard met in the Strait of Hormuz that leads to the Persian Gulf ('a crucial international oil shipping route'), the BBC reported that:
An alleged threat to blow up US warships ['I am coming at you, and you will explode in a few minutes'] "may not have come" from Iranian speedboats involved in a recent stand-off, the BBC has learned. The voice on a Pentagon tape could instead have come from another ship in the area or a transmitter on land, senior US Navy sources told the BBC....Indeed, a former US Navy officer observed that, 'in that section of the Gulf, slurs/threats/chatter/etc. [on the radio] is commonplace. So my first thought was that the "explode" comment might not have even come from one of the Iranian craft, but some loser monitoring the events at a shore facility' and the Navy Times stated that '[t]he threatening radio transmission... may have come from a locally famous heckler known among ship drivers as the "Filipino Monkey"'.
The New York Times noted on Wednesday that the US-released audio includes no ambient noise of the kind that might be expected if the broadcast had come from on one of the speedboats.
Iranian Defence Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar stated that, '[t]he identification of vessels passing through the Strait of Hormuz by Iranian Navy units is a natural occurrence' (as it would be for British Navy units if Iranian military vessels passed through the Channel).
U.S. President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley all called it a provocative act. '"We have made it very clear, and they know our position, and that is: There will be serious consequences if they attack our ships," Bush said on Wednesday. "My advice to them is: Don't do it."' What happens if, like the Vietnamese in 1964, they don't do it?
The Guardian relayed that,
Yesterday the Iranians put out their own four-minute video that showed an Iranian patrol officer in a small boat communicating with one of the US ships. "Coalition warship number 73, this is an Iranian navy patrol boat," the Iranian said. An American naval officer replied: "This is coalition warship number 73 operating in international waters."Neither side have provided anywhere near complete footage of the crucial 20 (or even 30) minutes: the U.S. released a four-minute, 20-second video and Iran released a four-minute clip.
The voice of the Iranian sailor in Tehran's footage was different to the deeper and more menacing voice, threatening to blow up the warships in the US version. Nor was there any sign of aggressive behaviour by the Iranian patrol boats....
The Pentagon has said that it recorded the film and the sound separately, and then stitched them together - a dubious piece of editing even before it became known that the source of the voice could not, with certainty, be linked to the Iranian patrol boats.
- the American military/intelligence must have known, as its Navy did, that the voice lacked the background noise that would have been heard in Iranian Republican Guards' communicae from speedboats and so,
- the American military/intelligence must have known that the voice did not come from the speedboats when it dubbed it over the speedboats video;
- the American government decried the 'provocative act' even after their own retired officers had asked publicly if it were not merely the work of a 'loser' (which must have been asked privately before); and
- the American government lodged a 'formal... complaint' even while their own serving officers were asking publicly if it were not just a 'heckler' (which, again, must have been asked privately before); furthermore,
- (via Glenn Greenwald via Bill Weinberg) Iranian Hooman Majd observed that 'the person speaking doesn't have an Iranian accent' and others concurred that it was 'not Persian', 'wrong'.
It reveals 'how western government officials turned a blind eye to, or were even helping, countries such as Pakistan acquire bomb technology' (via the Sunday Times, though Lukery (Luke Ryland) corrected that it was a matter of 'criminal infiltration, not state-based espionage', with even more detail provided by Mizgîn, Luke Ryland, Scott Horton and Joseph Cannon).
Regarding the threats that triggered the American-Iranian naval confrontation, these facts together suggest that:
- it might have been an uninterested Arab heckler;
- it was probably not an Iranian hoax calling to get the U.S. military to fire on the Iranian military, because an Iranian would have had an Iranian accent;
- it might have been an American false flag operation - an incident faked to escalate the war; or,
- it might have been an interfering third-party - one listener said the voice sounded 'Arab', though that says nothing in and of itself - manipulating known weaknesses in American intelligence and military to escalate the confrontation.
- The Agence France-Presse (AFP) explained that the Tonkin Gulf incident 'was a reported North Vietnamese attack on American destroyers that helped lead to president Lyndon Johnson's sharp escalation of American forces in Vietnam.
- Found via Robert K. C. Johnson's note on information about the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident presented by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). Stuart McGeady noted that some information was already available in the National Security Archive (NSA), which found 'Tonkin Gulf intelligence "skewed" according to official history and intercepts'. In reply, Robert K. C. Johnson pointed to even earlier documentation, then observed that the FAS documents were the only complete collection and also documented other incidents related to the Vietnam War.
- That was a poorly-phrased segue: it is only because of the study of these historical events that we are able to analyse these contemporary ones so acutely; these provide precedents of individuals', groups' and institutions' behaviour and analogies for situations.