Tonkin Gulf & NordStream Pipeline

  • by Pete O'Brien
  • 02-26-2023

I was reading several old interviews of Admiral Stockdale this afternoon, in  which he commented about the Tonkin Gulf incident and how Washington - the Johnson White House - was determined to get the “facts” they needed to justify the actions they wanted to take.

Stockdale was a man of the highest principals; it led me to wonder what he would think about the events possibly surrounding the Nord Stream pipeline.

In case you missed it, this past week Seymour Hersh published a story on the Nord Stream pipelines. Hersh is the investigative reporter who broke the story of the My Lai massacre, and the US bombing of Cambodia, among others, but also has produced stories that’ve been regarded as less than creditable. And, he always uses many anonymous sources (but so does nearly everyone in Washington). Of note, some of his reports that’ve been vociferously panned haven’t actually been disproven, which over time lends more credence to them.

The long and short of Hersh’s story on Nord Stream is that the President, the National Security Advisor, the Secretary of State and one prominent Assistant Secretary of State, came up with this idea, and worked out a plan, with the assistance of the Norwegian government, to cut the pipeline. If you haven’t read the story, the NY Post has a recap here: ( ) and the article in full is here: ( ).

What follows is pure conjecture, with a starting point that IF something happened that is along the lines of what Hersh reports… this is me asking “if this, then what about” sort of questions. I assume someone with real authority - like some members of Congress - are asking these same questions.

The first question is this: Does the president have the authority to direct the Navy (Army, Air Force, Marines) or the CIA (or anyone else for that matter) to conduct an attack on another country? Deep down, we all sort of - but only sort of - want the answer to be yes, because we’d like to think that if something were developing in Iran, for example, that the President is perfectly within his authorities to put some cruise missiles down on top of it, or some other such thing. And certainly over the last 50 years or more the Presidents have all assumed that authority.

One of the differences however, is that in virtually all cases the Presidents have kept the leadership in Congress (normally the Speaker and minority Leader in the House, and the Majority and Minority leaders in the Senate) informed of what was being considered and, when decisions were made, they were also usually informed. Hersh asserts that in this case there was a specific decision to not inform Congress. Note too, that the decision wasn’t one based on the exigencies of time; this wasn’t the President responding to an imminent event, where decisions needed to be made in a matter of minutes, this entire operation unfolded over many months; there was more than enough time to inform the leadership of the House and Senate.

And even if you think the President can so act without informing Congress, consider it in this light: what if the target of the action is in the country of an ally or owned by an ally? In this case the target was owned by a private corporation in a country with whom we have friendly relations… Nord Stream is a consortium incorporated in Switzerland, with 51% ownership held by GazProm, which is a Russian state-owned enterprise. That seems like an out: it’s 51% Russian owned.

But think of this in other terms: if the US had blown up a railroad bridge between Germany and France in 1938 would that be okay?
And what should be the US response - assuming all this is true - if the Russians were to blow up a US owned pipeline? Or cut an undersea cable? Would that be an act of war?

Sweden and Denmark conducted a criminal investigation. Right now the need for the citizenry of the US and Europe to know the truth is a tad more important than some prosecutor’s desire to build his case. It’s time they tell the world what they found, though I’ve the unsettled feeling that if they’d found evidence that Russia had blown the pipeline then the evidence would’ve been on front pages already. Instead, all we got was a comment a few weeks after the explosion that they’d solid evidence there had been an explosive on the outside of the pipelines that caused the explosion.

Step back; this war is about letting the Ukrainian people live free. Covering up mistakes and bad ideas will eventually unravel and leave the citizens of the US and Europe with a bad taste in their mouths about this war. And that would be disastrous. Is the coverup worth that?

Admiral Stockdale spoke often about the issue of the twisted, and in large part fabricated, tale that was the Tonkin Gulf Incident, was used by the Johnson White House to get the Tonkin Gulf Resolution passed and thereby escalate the war in Vietnam.

In the end, that mix of a few facts and a large number of spins and fabrications served neither the US nor the people of South Vietnam. We need to remember that lesson in regard to the people of Ukraine. The people of Ukraine fighting for their freedom is just and should be supported. Actions that are almost certainly unethical sully that cause. It’s in the interests of the Ukrainian people, of Europe, and of the US to lay all the cards on the table and explain to everyone what we know. And if we did something, own it now and get it behind us. The people of Ukraine at least deserve that.