A blunder from the beginning

Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018 | 2 a.m.

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The “Gulf of Tonkin incident” began the United States’ war in Vietnam.

In the documentary “Fog of War,” Robert S. McNamara admits that the attack on the USS Maddox, which occurred 54 years ago this month, never happened. The Navy sent a second transmission about two hours later, correcting the first attack report as a false alarm due to radar reflections.

Squadron Commander James Stockdale was one of the U.S. pilots flying overhead during the second alleged attack. He writes in his 1984 book that “(I) had the best seat in the house to watch that event, and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets — there were no PT boats there. … There was nothing there but black water and American fire power.”

Stockdale, a Medal of Honor winner, was later shot down and spent seven years as a prisoner of war.

The Vietnam War was the result of President Lyndon Johnson’s failure to accept the updated report and, instead, take America to war. The failure was not with the war protesters or Jane Fonda, it was a failure of U.S. government at the highest levels.

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