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With tailoring, Tonkin expose might fit this Texan's misadventure
What do you know--bogus intel got us into a war.

 Maj. T. R. Milton (left) and Adm. U. S. Grant Sharp of Cincpac discuss options after reports of a North Vietnamese attack on U.S. ships in the Tonkin Gulf.
BILL RAY/GETTY IMAGES
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Date published: 11/5/2005

FINALLY, the government has admitted it doctored intelligence that plunged us into a disastrous war.

The Vietnam War, that is.

The New York Times reported this week that a National Security Agency historian concluded that communications intercepted by U.S. eavesdroppers during the Gulf of Tonkin incident were altered to make it appear that North Vietnamese had attacked American warships in August 1964.

I know, a lot of you are shocked to hear this news. You are flabbergasted to learn that this great nation went to war at least partly as a result of falsified intelligence. Who but the most rabid America-hater could ever have imagined such a thing?

What's really crazy is that the NSA officers who greased the skids for our Southeast Asian adventure apparently had no political motive; they distorted intelligence to cover up some of their initial blunders during their Tonkin surveillance.

"Rather than come clean about their mistake, they helped launch the United States into a bloody war," said an independent historian familiar with the NSA's research, which the agency had kept secret since 2001.

It's hard to miss the irony of these findings coming to light at a time when the Valerie Plame case has been dominating the headlines. The CIA agent's outing occurred, of course, after her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, revealed that the Bush administration had relied on fake documents to bolster its claim that Saddam Hussein was rebuilding Iraq's nuclear-weapons program.

Investigators may soon figure out for certain who was behind those forged documents and what their motives were.

For now, what we know is that we're stuck with another Texan in the White House who can't find his way out of a military debacle that we charged into under false pretenses.

It's true that Iraq is no Vietnam. One reason this is so is that the current war will wind up being much more damaging to our security than Vietnam was. In spite of all the talk about the danger of falling dominoes in Southeast Asia, the communist victory in Vietnam had limited repercussions for the United States.

Not so the mess we've created in Mesopotamia. We've turned Iraq into the new Afghanistan, the place where tomorrow's global terrorist movements are being conceived and nurtured.


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