Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
On August 4, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that two days earlier, U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin had been attacked by the North Vietnamese. Johnson dispatched U.S. planes against the attackers and asked Congress to pass a resolution to support his actions. The joint resolution “to promote the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia” passed on August 7, with only two Senators (Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening) dissenting, and became the subject of great political controversy in the course of the undeclared war that followed.
The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution stated that “Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repeal any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent any further aggression.” As a result, President Johnson, and later President Richard Nixon, relied on the resolution as the legal basis for their military policies in Vietnam.
The only member of the House to vote against the resolution was Republican Eugene Siler of Kentucky. However, due to the fact that he "paired against" the bill, some sites including GovTrack have no mention of how he voted.
As public resistance to the war heightened, the resolution was repealed by Congress in January 1971.
The New York Times claimed that the US had provoked the incident, but the Pentagon papers (published by the same newspaper) showed this to be false.
Transcript of Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (1964)
Eighty-eighth Congress of the United States of America
AT THE SECOND SESSION
Begun and held at the City of Washington on Tuesday, the seventh day of January, one thousand nine hundred and sixty-four
Joint Resolution To promote the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia.
Whereas naval units of the Communist regime in Vietnam, in violation of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law, have deliberately and repeatedly attacked United States naval vessels lawfully present in international waters, and have thereby created a serious threat to international peace; and
Whereas these attackers are part of deliberate and systematic campaign of aggression that the Communist regime in North Vietnam has been waging against its neighbors and the nations joined with them in the collective defense of their freedom; and
Whereas the United States is assisting the peoples of southeast Asia to protest their freedom and has no territorial, military or political ambitions in that area, but desires only that these people should be left in peace to work out their destinies in their own way: Now, therefore be it
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.
Section 2. The United States regards as vital to its national interest and to world peace the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia. Consonant with the Constitution of the United States and the Charter of the United Nations and in accordance with its obligations under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, the United States is, therefore, prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom.
Section 3. This resolution shall expire when the President shall determine that the peace and security of the area is reasonably assured by international conditions created by action of the United Nations or otherwise, except that it may be terminated earlier by concurrent resolution of the Congress.
- ↑ H.J.RES. 1145. SUPPORT PRESIDENT'S ACTIONS IN ORDERING RETALIATION AGAINST ATTACKS ON U.S. FORCES BY NORTH VIET NAM & PLEDGE U.S. DETERMINATION TO ASSIST ANY ANY MEMBER OR PROTOCOL STATE OF THE SEATO TREATY WHICH REQUESTS AID IN DEFENSE OF ITS FREEDOM.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
- ↑ Before Rand Paul, There Was Eugene Siler. fascinatingpolitics.com. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
- ↑ H.J. RES. 1145. SUPPORT THE PRESIDENT'S ACTIONS IN RETALIATING TO ATTACKS AGAINST U.S. NAVAL FORCES OFF VIET NAM AND PLEDGE U.S. ASSISTANCE TO ANY MEMBER OR PROTOCOL STATE OF THE SEATO TREATY WHICH REQUESTS AID IN DEFENSE OF ITS FREEDOM.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
- ↑ The Times went on to assert that American forces had deliberately provoked the alleged attacks on its ships in the Gulf of Tonkin to justify a Congressional resolution supporting our war efforts. In fact, the Pentagon papers said the opposite: there was no evidence that we had provoked whatever attacks may have occurred.