Editor’s Notes

Pub date January 16, 2008
WriterTim Redmond

› tredmond@sfbg.com

I had this eerie feeling last week as news reports began to come in of a naval engagement in the Strait of Hormuz. It was starting to feel like 1964.

The way the initial stories had it, a group of Iranian speedboats approached the USS Port Royal and the USS Hopper in the narrow strait, which controls access to the Persian Gulf. Commanders on both ships went on high alert and ordered their gunners to track the speedboats. They were probably responding to a Navy war game simulation of a few years back, in which a swarm of small boats was able to attack and disable a United States warship.

It got worse: as the small craft approached, the ships received a radio message in English, warning that "I am coming to you. You will explode in a few minutes." The ships’ captains were within a few seconds of directing their crews to open fire.

Now it turns out, according to the Guardian of London, that a widely known radio hacker who calls himself Filipino Monkey — a guy who often pesters ships in the Gulf — may have been the one sending the radio message. There was, apparently, no real threat.

But the George W. Bush administration has protested to the Iranians, the Navy commander in the Gulf says he takes the threat of attack on US ships "deadly seriously," and Bush has personally warned that "provocative actions" could lead to military retaliation.

Let’s see now: On Aug. 2, 1964, the US destroyer Maddox was conducting a spy mission in the Gulf of Tonkin, off the coast of North Vietnam, when the captain reported coming under attack by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. The destroyer opened fire, and aircraft from a nearby carrier pursued the boats, allegedly sinking one. Two days later the Maddox and another destroyer fired on what they said were hostile targets in the gulf.

Turns out both reports were total lies, the hostile actions by North Vietnam fabricated, and the entire event almost certainly set up as a casus belli — and the result was a war that killed 50,000 US troops.

And we know Bush wants to attack Iran. Eerie.