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How much of an influence does our amnesia have on our human experience.


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#1 FLASHINGROOSTER

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Posted 14 May 2021 - 04:36 PM

 

Edit: Sorry I just wanted to type it down somewhere before I forget.  A bit off topic but this has me thinking about a growing idea in my mind. How much of an influence does our amnesia have on our human experience.

 

But that is a thought for another thread

 

It is a trippy thing to think about. Without amenisa we would be riddled with guilt and terrible memories of things past. I think there is a bit of a forgiving beauty in being able to forget some things. Then the flip side of that is that as far as I can tell these meat sacks that make us are mostly formed by our memories. So to lose some of them or have them muddied up too much could have a detrimental effect.

 

It seems there is a happy balance achieved in order to best maintain the human psyche. The big trouble seems to take shape when that amnesia becomes collective. Thinking of things like repeating the absolute disaster that was Vietnam war time and time again when those regime changes are attempted

 

Interesting to see what collective amnesia will be born out of all this covid business, or is it already happening

 

 

 

I started this discussion from another thread so I thought I should include the first reply to my original qoute. Hopefully it does not throw it to far out of context

 

" How much of an influence does our amnesia have on our human experience."

   I am most likely biased, as I take what most may consider a cynical view.

We forget most of the pains of our lives: 

birth, teething, childhood fears of monsters, sibling rivalry, nightmares, being bullied and beaten up by bigger kids, possibly parents, childhood diseases, loss of the vivd imaginations we had as kids, the list goes on and on

Anybody who really remained in contact with all this misery, might well conclude if one is to go on living being a junkie is all that makes sense.

   As  Albert Camus said:

“But in the end one needs more courage to live than to kill himself.” and

“Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?” 
   

   So as adults we all engage in various sorts self deceptions.

The most famous, is that over 50% of people think they are better than average drivers.

An impossibility.

    Less well know is that there are anywhere from about 10 to 15 ego defense mechanisms, that are not confined to neurotics, according to different lists by psychologists. The lists are available on line.

So I think it actually is not cynical to say folks cope with reality, by using many sorts of self deceptions.

So whether we call this a sort of 'amnesia', forgetting, or repression may not really matter.

What is necessary is some sort of barrier between truth, and what we wish to believe, both about ourselves and the world.

 

   So to the list, at the end of my post above, I would add the words in CAPS, below, as follows.

 

   "It would seem the conclusion is that humans don't learn from experience, whenever profit, POWER, VANITY, REPUTATION, comfort or pleasure (which includes SEX and the desire for PROGENY ( a sort of substitute for immortality); or belief, run counter to reason".

   And they partly avoid learning by distorting the truth with self deceptions or the "ego defense mechanisms" IMO.

 

   It would seem in the case of the Covid story: profit, power, and fear of discovery or reputation, motivated some of the main characters, to do things their better natures knew they shouldn't do.

   My view is that the evolution of human intelligence, is actually long term, a disaster, as it is a very narrow intelligence rooted in ego, or selfishness, and strategies that are mostly concerned with short term advantage. Due to the nature of ego it constantly distorts the truth, and so constantly runs into conflict with reality and copes with ego defense mechanisms, which only make matters worse.


 


Edited by FLASHINGROOSTER, 14 May 2021 - 04:37 PM.


#2 shiftingshadows

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Posted 15 May 2021 - 11:58 AM

 

Edit: Sorry I just wanted to type it down somewhere before I forget. A bit off topic but this has me thinking about a growing idea in my mind. How much of an influence does our amnesia have on our human experience.

But that is a thought for another thread


... Thinking of things like repeating the absolute disaster that was Vietnam war time and time again when those regime changes are attempted

Interesting to see what collective amnesia will be born out of all this covid business, or is it already happening
...

...
We forget most of the pains of our lives:
birth, teething, childhood fears of monsters, sibling rivalry, nightmares, being bullied and beaten up by bigger kids, possibly parents, childhood diseases, loss of the vivd imaginations we had as kids, the list goes on and on
....
My view is that the evolution of human intelligence, is actually long term, a disaster, as it is a very narrow intelligence rooted in ego, or selfishness, and strategies that are mostly concerned with short term advantage. Due to the nature of ego it constantly distorts the truth, and so constantly runs into conflict with reality and copes with ego defense mechanisms, which only make matters worse.


 


    Some would say the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan prove we learned nothing from Vietnam, but that is not quite the same as amnesia. I have heard others say that the mess in Iraq with Shiites, Sunnis, & Kurds, all fighting once Saddam Hussein was gone parallels what happened, when Gandhi got the British out of India, and the Hindus and Muslims went to war, showing that the Bushes, Dick Cheney, and company were too ignorant to have ever have studied history, or too dumb to understand it, or too arrogant to think it worth considering.
   Of course a vast number of Americans went along with them, fueled by misinformation, & the emotions surrounding 911, and ignorance of history and maybe amnesia for Vietnam.
   Of course the weapons manufactures didn't care and profited in any case. But the US government did not achieve its goals in any of these wars: Iraq 8 years & then another 4 years against "ISIL, also known as ISIS or IS"; Vietnam war about 8 1/2 years, and the Afghanistan war about 20 years.

   On another note, as children we are amazing learners, but something happens around the age of 6 generally, and we are expected to leave the curiosity, imagination, and openness behind, and begin to focus narrowly on a few subjects that will help us be able to have a career, so we get out of our parents' house, and can support kids of our own.

So, I think to some degree, 'society' actually 'wants' its members not to be too free, and one method used is perhaps to 'prune' memory, along with curiosity, imagination, and openness. Unfortunately age also frequently continues the process.

   Perhaps how covid factors in may have a lot to do with how folks spent their time. If they used the time & quiet to pursue creative prodjects they will likely remember more than those who chose to drink too much, do lots of 'social media', & constantly watch movies.


Edited by shiftingshadows, 15 May 2021 - 12:03 PM.


#3 EYMAIOS

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Posted 15 May 2021 - 02:43 PM

.

Non pathological Amnesia is a defence mechanisn we employ to rid of unpleasant memories.

We push them deep into the subconscious, and they immobilise there, but they are not lost and remain availlable to emerge whenever conditions permit. (regression, dreams, flashbacks)

.

At the very end, concluding our lives at the Hall of Memories we recollect them all...

.

Esoterically we are our Memories.

It is perhaps the only property we retain beyond the grave.

Our mission on Earth, (most probably) is our Memories.
We feedback the Unknown with the unique recollection of our passage on this plane.

.

So temporary amnesia may be a relief, but after all, the human drama is too precious to lose.
To my view point, if there is any "God", he is sending us here as apostles to bring back memories.
Good or bad, criminal or benevolant, all collective memories are the treasures feeding the ONE who is projecting itself as rays of unconditional consciousness...

.

No ethical concerns, just precious memories!
 


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#4 FLASHINGROOSTER

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Posted 16 May 2021 - 09:37 AM

The idea that we get to keep our memories beyond this life seem to shape much of how that experience would be. If there is a reincarnation factor and one happens to come back as an other human being, are those memories stored in our dna somewhere and can we experience flashes of them occasionally.  I had never thought of them being collected like you said EYMAIOS it is nice to read what others can imagine

 

 

Side note: I have to ask what does your name have meaning in another language or something I am missing? I don't recognize it


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#5 EYMAIOS

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Posted 16 May 2021 - 10:32 AM

.

FlashingRooster, my overseas Brother,

Evidently you have not read, or do not recall Homer's Odyssey.
The word is Greek as I am. The name goes back to Homeric Times.

Eymaios was one of the two loyals servants that Ulysses had found upon returning to Ithaka, to help him exterminate Penelope's suitors.

The name is meaning one that is giving good (ey) - birth (maios) to things, and he was a pig herder.

As birthing is what we do here in topia, I humorosly selected it...

 


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#6 FLASHINGROOSTER

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Posted 16 May 2021 - 11:10 AM

My knowledge on that book would be best described as casual. Heard of it but have never read it sir

 

However I can relate to the humorous selection of a screen name that's for sure  :wink:



#7 August West

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Posted 16 May 2021 - 01:51 PM

 ...showing that the Bushes, Dick Cheney, and company were too ignorant to have ever have studied history, or too dumb to understand it, or too arrogant to think it worth considering.

   Of course a vast number of Americans went along with them, fueled by misinformation, & the emotions surrounding 911, and ignorance of history and maybe amnesia for Vietnam.
   Of course the weapons manufactures didn't care and profited in any case. But the US government did not achieve its goals in any of these wars: Iraq 8 years & then another 4 years against "ISIL, also known as ISIS or IS"; Vietnam war about 8 1/2 years, and the Afghanistan war about 20 years.

 

 

This begs the question, "What were the goals?" The US gov't is not a monolith but instead a complex mix of banking, weapons and energy manufacturing, controlling drug routes, and the tip of the spear for creating or maintaining neo-liberal (I hate that term) economic opportunities. It is also entirely possible that a chaotic fracturing of the "Middle East" is an acceptable outcome to certain policy makers. Did the U.S. "win" in Afghanistan or Vietnam? Neither war (if that's what either of those can be called, exactly) did much for building confidence in U.S. hegemony but I'm not sure the answer is entirely easy to come by.

 

Probably not where this thread was headed but I just wanted to respond. 


Edited by August West, 16 May 2021 - 01:52 PM.

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#8 shiftingshadows

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Posted 16 May 2021 - 10:16 PM

   Assuming you are right, that some factions achieved some aims. There is of course a concern some might have, about both the economic cost and cost of those aims in lives, you think might have been achieved, and wether when looked at that way, the notion of gains, makes any sense.
   If one thinks the world trade towers were an inside job, then one assumes that those making decisions at the highest levels have peculiar ideas as to what is a worthwhile price to pay, for pure power plays. Considering that tyrants like Mao, Stalin, and Hitler, had no moral sense what-so-ever and that as Snowden & Wiki Leakes have shown, the true motives behind political acts on the world stage are more often than not hidden, and that multiple parties have opposing aims and deals, it is most likely impossible to know accurately all causes, reactions, & follies.
    The only sure thing is that the weapons manufacturers, of all countries profit from both sales, as well as  from having a testing ground for their products, where they do not have to pay for the demolished planes (the way car makers have to for collision tests). They also have to pay no health insurance for, for example: pilots forced to bail out, who end up with broken legs, or those fucked up by agent orange, or the 'spent uranium' bullets used against tanks in Iraq.
    Of course in the US, the weapons' manufacturers have lobbyists in Washington DC, and they compete for military contracts, and so on, so again there are levels that may be tangled beneath the surface.
     As regards: "It is also entirely possible that a chaotic fracturing of the "Middle East" is an acceptable outcome to certain policy makers." I doubt the Arab countries are united by anything except a hatred of Israel. Syria contains multiple fighting factions. Saudi Arabia vs both Yemen & Iran. Egypt 2 rapid government changes. Libya a mess. Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites, & ISIS are all at each others throats. And fabulously rich Dubai and Saudi Arabia seem to do nothing for poor Palestein, or Pakistan.
In Afghanistan the Taliban are unwelcome, and are brutal.
    So there was never any need to fracture the "Middle East". They have never been a united family.
 

Edited by shiftingshadows, 16 May 2021 - 10:36 PM.


#9 FLASHINGROOSTER

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Posted 16 May 2021 - 10:53 PM

At this point I had no particular direction sir August, to be honest I hoped it provoked any response.  Often my thoughts are adrift in a ever changing sea.

 

 

I think you raise one of the most important points in most discussions. When does the monetary factor take control


Edited by FLASHINGROOSTER, 16 May 2021 - 10:54 PM.


#10 FLASHINGROOSTER

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Posted 16 May 2021 - 11:02 PM

Side note.

 

How many people still think  "gulf war syndrome" is a mysterious illness from that era.

 

Uranium tipped shells now exposed as  radiation poisoning

 

But ya just trust what the government has to say. They always have our best interest at heart

 

As close as your going to get to using nuclear weapons in the 21st century....


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#11 August West

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Posted 17 May 2021 - 12:06 AM

 

   If one thinks the world trade towers were an inside job...

A quick note here - I'm not saying this is your position but, FWIW, I find this to be a cartoonish way of describing the events of 9/11. No wonder "normies" don't take people who question the official story seriously.

 

 

As regards: "It is also entirely possible that a chaotic fracturing of the "Middle East" is an acceptable outcome to certain policy makers." I doubt the Arab countries are united by anything except a hatred of Israel. Syria contains multiple fighting factions. Saudi Arabia vs both Yemen & Iran. Egypt 2 rapid government changes. Libya a mess. Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites, & ISIS are all at each others throats. And fabulously rich Dubai and Saudi Arabia seem to do nothing for poor Palestein, or Pakistan.

In Afghanistan the Taliban are unwelcome, and are brutal.
    So there was never any need to fracture the "Middle East". They have never been a united family.

 

Not that there's any way of giving this topic its due but, for a starting point, looking into the concept of the "Strategy of Tension" may go a long way. In it's modern form, it can probably be traced back to the British Empire.  As to the countries you've mentioned, starting with the fall of the Ottoman Empire when they were created, they have been mostly stable, if not primarily ruled by dictators (or my favorite, "strong men", The difference of course is if they are friendly with the west). Looking at history, a compelling case can be made that the idea of constant warring in this part of the world is overstated. This is especially true when one takes the history of Europe and "East" Asia into account.

 

Back to the point. The countries you've named were quite stable until just recently. Not that the rulers were benevolent people, but Iraq and Libya were rather high functioning until they ran afoul of their handlers. The same effort is being made in Syria, now. Who knows exactly what Afghanistan would look like if the Soviets and then the U.S. had let them alone. The Taliban is a direct result of that interference.

 

Without going any deeper here, these conflicts are heavily fueled by "western" arms and finance capital. It doesn't particularly require being "united". The peoples in this region are not monolithic, they are, of course, not even all Arab. They shouldn't necessarily be expected to be united. Historically, they didn't necessarily need to be. It may just take being left alone. But of course, that genie is well out of the bottle by now (sorry, couldn't resist).

 

Sorry, some pretty clunky writing there.

 

 

Side note.

 

How many people still think  "gulf war syndrome" is a mysterious illness from that era.

 

Uranium tipped shells now exposed as  radiation poisoning

 

But ya just trust what the government has to say. They always have our best interest at heart

 

As close as your going to get to using nuclear weapons in the 21st century....

I had a brief radio show on our local college station years ago. I played some sweet music (I assume) and occasionally interjected it with some, I guess, "long form" news". I remember discussing this essay:

 

Of Pynchon, Thanatos and Depleted Uranium. Weapons of Mass Destruction Found in Iraq

 

It looks like it was written in 2004 which sounds about right. I didn't go back and read it for this comment but, if memory serves, at some point he mentions the 300+ U.S. soldiers killed in Gulf War I. By the time he'd written the article, that number was up to 11,000+ over the proceeding decade. How'd that happen? Again, this is based on my memory and I'm sure there would be competing narratives for all those deaths but it's interesting to ponder.
 


Edited by August West, 17 May 2021 - 12:15 AM.

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#12 Juthro

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Posted 17 May 2021 - 12:20 AM

 

showing that the Bushes, Dick Cheney, and company were too ignorant to have ever have studied history, or too dumb to understand...

 

 

If you look at the record, agree with them or not (I personally don't), their success tells another story.  As a mater of fact I think it might disprove your statement.

 

IMO it is a mistake to think, 'they' are stupid just because they don't see things the same way you do.  I do not disagree with your ideals, I'm just saying more people would hear what you have to say if you tone it down a bit (spoken from experience).

 

EDIT: Spell check.  (It's hard to type when your drunk(    

:)


Edited by Juthro, 17 May 2021 - 01:34 AM.

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#13 FLASHINGROOSTER

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Posted 17 May 2021 - 03:37 PM

I suppose that is what makes Iraq so frustrating.

 

Was it a failure to reckon with history, or choosing to ignore it in pursuit of the neo con's plan for "A new American Century"

 

The footage of Colin Powel talking about the disaster it would create by removing Sadam back in desert storm is hard to watch. This is a good indication that at least some of them knew the dangers of what they were trying to do. Blow back does not feel like a sufficient enough term in this case. Blow up in your face would more adequately describe it, well for the face of America anyway. Like August suggested many factions came out ahead in all that freedom profiteering.

 

I wonder if the previous white washing of history had a powerful effect on the situation. Seems like only recently has the government and much of the public at large acknowledged that Vietnam was a terrible mistake. It should be remembered as it was, and countries should use it as a great warning about trying to invade other countries and installing regime changes. Then again you do have civilians that cheer these regime changes on, it would be a false retelling of history to say that many people did not want revenge for 911 too. It was not just the politicians and media pushing those feelings. I remember it was a lonely place back then if you did not support the invasion around here. All my friends calling me a faggot or pussy or whatever unmanly thing they imagined would lead someone to reject "justified" war. Even to this day, too often do I hear someone say in passing fashion about bombing a foreign country that appears to be a thorn in their side.

 

 

I suppose what evolves in the next coming years will be telling. It feels like people are starting to wake up to the bullshit regime changes that we are constantly told are for our benefit. George bush was an absolute disaster but by my estimation Hillary and Obama managed to do an equal amount of destabilizing without landing boots on the ground. They went for the old school intelligence agency method of regime change. Funding and supporting rebel factions that seek to topple the government, no matter how crazy their ideology might be. Trump got close himself with Iran, while he technically did not invade any countries it is not like he came out unscathed as some peace loving president either.

 


 

 

Side note.

 

How many people still think  "gulf war syndrome" is a mysterious illness from that era.

 

Uranium tipped shells now exposed as  radiation poisoning

 

But ya just trust what the government has to say. They always have our best interest at heart

 

As close as your going to get to using nuclear weapons in the 21st century....

I had a brief radio show on our local college station years ago. I played some sweet music (I assume) and occasionally interjected it with some, I guess, "long form" news". I remember discussing this essay:

 

Of Pynchon, Thanatos and Depleted Uranium. Weapons of Mass Destruction Found in Iraq

 

It looks like it was written in 2004 which sounds about right. I didn't go back and read it for this comment but, if memory serves, at some point he mentions the 300+ U.S. soldiers killed in Gulf War I. By the time he'd written the article, that number was up to 11,000+ over the proceeding decade. How'd that happen? Again, this is based on my memory and I'm sure there would be competing narratives for all those deaths but it's interesting to ponder.
 

 

 

Good thing they saved us from those weapons of mass destruction, not so much for the Iraqi civilians though

 

What a lesson in how easily they can suppress the truth. Still trying to claim that those weapons are not harmful and no link has been proven.. I guess all that radiation must have come spewing out of those oil wells.

 

Perhaps a poor selection for a joke considering there is normally occurring radiation in some oil wells

 

That was good article considering its age. The people are always there in these tragic history events, the little guy knows the truth but they never get heard. Often it takes decades for the truth to emerge, and by then most people have forgotten about it or don't care to have their version of history challenged.

 

I need to read it again when not hungover, skipped over a few parts

 

Here is an article where they talk about that famous neo con plan. Funny that they claimed in 2006 that it was coming to an end. Oh if they only knew about the twenty year war in Afghanistan...... Don't even get me started on the lame ass decision to officially end the war on this coming 9/11. Most people in Afghanistan don't even know what that means

 

http://news.bbc.co.u...ast/6189793.stm


Edited by FLASHINGROOSTER, 17 May 2021 - 03:45 PM.


#14 shiftingshadows

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Posted 18 May 2021 - 02:12 PM

    "I wonder if the previous white washing of history had a powerful effect on the situation. Seems like only recently has the government and much of the public at large acknowledged that Vietnam was a terrible mistake. It should be remembered as it was, and countries should use it as a great warning about trying to invade other countries and installing regime changes."

 

     So Vietnam was mainly under Nixon & Johnson, I think. And I think it was mainly later, under Regan, that the CIA, with drug money (Ollie North), practiced "regime change" in Central America. So it would seem those pulling the strings did not feel there was any lesson to be learned. Indeed the USA seems to have a long history of supporting tyrants, and installing tyrants or puppets. 

 

     Were ordinary Romans guilty because their government was expansionist, and constantly fought wars? Perhaps not. But never-the-less they ended up living in an inhuman and brutal culture (in many, but not all ways), so although not punished by God, they never-the-less ended up paying a steep price, for living in the most powerful & richest nation.



#15 FLASHINGROOSTER

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Posted 19 May 2021 - 05:04 PM

Were ordinary Romans guilty because their government was expansionist, and constantly fought wars? Perhaps not. But never-the-less they ended up living in an inhuman and brutal culture (in many, but not all ways), so although not punished by God, they never-the-less ended up paying a steep price, for living in the most powerful & richest nation.

 

I don't think you were insinuating this but I just to be clear I am not suggesting that citizens of any country are responsible for the actions of its government. I do however wish that some people placed half the amount of attention that they do on silly issues like Trans bathrooms, and or who said what awful thing. Rather than who their country is dropping bombs on and should they be doing it? Likely we have all heard a trans bathroom argument over the years, but how many conversations about foreign countries and installing regime change. Not to many, I mean that type of talk does not bode well for the billion dollar arms industry

 

Insert the forever war line of, "well when we pull out it is going to F said country". Oh okay I guess we will just have to stay forever, like those 35,000 troops in Germany or the 50,000 in Japan. Last time I checked the insurgency numbers were pretty low in those regions

 

I get the on top argument, and I struggle with it all the time. It is possible I would not be enjoying many of the creature comforts if it were not for that Western Imperialism that was seeded across the globe. However when it comes to bullshit wars like Iraq and Afghanistan that argument is all but moot. All they seemed to accomplish there was turning Iraq back 100 years and creating an even more powerful version of the terror they claimed to be eradicating. Afghanistan was one hell of an expensive trip that failed to net bagging one particularly wanted asshole at the time. Never mind that intelligence agencies were reporting he fled the country before the invasion happened. The military will pull out and no doubt within a few years of fighting the Taliban will retake the country. Just like Vietnam. Short of systematically eradicating every soul in the country you simply cannot defeat an insurgency with weapon alone, you need the people. I remember hearing some stat like 90% of rural Afghani's are thought to be Taliban supporters. For them it has been and endless stream of guys with guns showing up and saying we are in charge now, be it Insurgents or Russians, or years later Americans and Canadians and British Forces

 

The failure of full scale invasion became abundantly clear after Vietnam, no matter how much technology and money and forces you throw at it, you can't kick someone out of their own country. I mean it is easy to picture it the other way around. Imagine if the Ruskies landed an invasion and managed to knock out a good portion of the military. Would the average citizen throw down their arms and submit, or would they fight till their last breath defending their homeland.

 

I suppose when it comes to the amnesia effect of this I am referring to the public at large. It would be interesting to find out what most folk really know about Vietnam. My guess is its mostly from movies and cliche things like playing fortunate son and flying around in helicopters. When we fail to learn from history we are doomed to repeat its mistakes. Even if the Patriots in charge laughed in the face of such thoughts it still doesn't explain away the public perception... Oh right WMD's, so they lied to get into the conflict, reminds me of something..... VIETNAM

 

Fuck even then they knew they should not go in after the disastrous time the french had there.

 

What is the lesson to be learned in all this I don't know, governments are corrupt as hell and wont hesitate to cover up disastrous failures

 

https://www.history....nt-50-years-ago

 

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, 50 Years Ago
One real and one phantom firefight embroiled the United States in the Vietnam War.

After World War II, France reoccupied its former colonies in Southeast Asia, only to be kicked out again by the forces of Communist leader Ho Chi Minh. In 1954, as the conflict wound down, the world’s powers reached an agreement to temporarily divide Vietnam in two, with all Ho supporters going north and all French supporters going south. Elections were supposed to reunite the country within a couple of years, but the United States opposed them over concerns that Ho would win the presidency. Instead, it propped up the corrupt and authoritarian government of Ngo Dinh Diem. South Vietnam “was essentially the creation of the United States,” the Defense Department would later admit in the Pentagon Papers. Within a few years, a rebellion had sprung up against Diem, aided by Ho’s forces in the north, who oversaw a string of assassinations against non-Communist village leaders.

 

Under presidents Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, the United States gave France—and then South Vietnam—economic aid and weapons with which to fight the Communist rebels. It also sent over more and more military advisors, some of whom participated in raids despite ostensibly being there only for self-defense. As part of one such covert operation, the United States trained and directed South Vietnamese sailors to bombard radar stations, bridges and other targets along the North Vietnamese coast. Meanwhile, U.S. warships such as the Maddox conducted electronic espionage missions in order to relay intelligence to South Vietnam. The rebels continued gaining ground, however, both before and after U.S. officials sanctioned a coup in which Diem was murdered.

 

 

At this point, U.S. involvement in Vietnam remained largely in the background. But in the pre-dawn hours of July 31, 1964, U.S.-backed patrol boats shelled two North Vietnamese islands in the Gulf of Tonkin, after which the Maddox headed to the area. As it cruised along on August 2, it found itself facing down three Soviet-built, North Vietnamese torpedo boats that had come out to chase it away. The Maddox fired first, issuing what the U.S. authorities described as warning shots. Undeterred, the three boats continued approaching and opened up with machine-gun and torpedo fire of their own. With the help of F-8 Crusader jets dispatched from a nearby aircraft carrier, the Maddox badly damaged at least one of the North Vietnamese boats while emerging completely unscathed, except for a single bullet that lodged in its superstructure.

 

The following day, the U.S. destroyer Turner Joy was sent to reinforce the Maddox, and U.S.-backed raids took place against two additional North Vietnamese defense positions. Then, on August 4, the Maddox and Turner Joy reported that they had been ambushed, with enemy boats firing 22 torpedoes at them. In response, President Johnson ordered air strikes against North Vietnamese boat bases and an oil storage depot. “Aggression by terror against the peaceful villagers of South Vietnam has now been joined by open aggression on the high seas against the United States of America,” he said that evening in a televised address. He also requested a congressional resolution, known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which on August 7 passed unanimously in the House and with only two dissenting votes in the Senate, essentially giving him the power to wage war in Southeast Asia as he saw fit.

 

 

Throughout these hectic few days, the Johnson administration asserted that the destroyers had been on routine patrol in international waters. In actuality, however, the destroyers were on an espionage mission in waters claimed by North Vietnam. The Johnson administration also described the two attacks as unprovoked; it never disclosed the covert U.S.-backed raids taking place. Another problem: the second attack almost certainly never occurred. Instead, it’s believed that the crewmembers of the Maddox mistook their own sonar’s pings off the rudder for North Vietnamese torpedoes. In the confusion, the Maddox nearly even fired at the Turner Joy. Yet when U.S. intelligence officials presented the evidence to policy makers, they “deliberately” omitted most of the relevant communications intercepts, according to National Security Agency documents declassified in 2005. “The overwhelming body of reports, if used, would have told the story that no attack had happened,” an NSA historian wrote. “So a conscious effort ensued to demonstrate that an attack occurred.” The Navy likewise says it is now “clear that North Vietnamese naval forces did not attack Maddox and Turner Joy that night.”

 

In private, Johnson himself expressed doubts about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, reportedly telling a State Department official that “those dumb, stupid sailors were just shooting at flying fish!” He also questioned the idea of being in Vietnam at all. “A man can fight if he can see daylight down the road somewhere,” he told a senator in March 1965. “But there ain’t no daylight in Vietnam, there’s not a bit.” Yet even as he said that, he was committing the first ground combat units and initiating a massive bombing campaign. The United States would not withdraw from Vietnam until 1973, by which time a disillusioned Congress had voted to repeal the same Gulf of Tonkin Resolution it had so overwhelmingly supported just a few years earlier.

 






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