Sunday, August 7, 2011

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passes 88 to 2 in Senate & 416 to 0 in House  

Sunday, August 07, 2011



On This Day


Front Page Image

Congress Backs President on Southeast Asia Moves; Khanh Sets State of Siege

Resolution Wins

Senate Vote Is 88 to 2 After House Adopts Measure, 416-0

By E. W. Kenworthy


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Washington, Aug. 7 -- The House of Representatives and the Senate approved today the resolution requested by President Johnson to strengthen his hand in dealing with Communist aggression in Southeast Asia.

After a 40-minute debate, the House passed the resolution; 416 to 0. Shortly afterward the Senate approved it, 88 to 2. Senate debate, which began yesterday afternoon, lasted nine hours.

The resolution gives prior Congressional approval of "all necessary measures" that the President may take "to repel any armed attack" against United States forces and "to prevent further aggression."

The resolution, the text of which was printed in The New York Times Thursday, also gives advance sanction for "all necessary steps: taken by the President to help any nation covered by the Southeast Asia collective defense treaty that requests assistance "in defense of its freedom."

Johonson Hails Action

President Johnson said the Congressional action was "a demonstration to all the world of the unity of all Americans."

"The votes prove our determination to defend our forces, to prevent aggression and to work firmly and steadily for peace and securityin the area," he said.

"I am sure the American people join me in expressing the deepest appreciation to the leaders and members of both parties in both houses of Congress for their patriotic, resolute and rapid action."

The debates in both houses, but particularly in the Senate, made clear, however, that the near-unanimous vote did not reflet a unanimity of opiion on the necessity or advisability of the resolution.

Except for Senators Wayne L. Morse, Democrat of Oregon, and Ernest Gruening, Democrat of Alaska, who cast the votes against the resolution, members in both houses uniformly praised the President for the retaliatory action he had ordered against North Vietnamese torpedo boats and their bases after the second torpedo boat attack on United States destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin.

There was also gneral agreement that Congress could not reject the President's requested resolution without giving an impression of disunity and nonsupport that did not, in fact, exist.

There was no support for the thesis on which Senators Morse and Gruening based their opposition- that the resolution was "unconstitutional" because it was "a predatead declaration of war power" reserved to Congress.

Nevertheless, many members said the President did not need the resolution because he had the power as Commander in Chief to order United States forces to repel attacks.

Several members thought the language of the resolution was unnecessarily broad and they were apprehensive that it would be interpreted as giving Congressional support for direct participation by United States troops in the war in South Vietnam.

Expansion Held Inevitable

Representative of these doubts and reservations were the brief remarks by Senator George D. Aiken, Republican of Vermont. Senator Aiken, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said:

"It has been apparent to me for some months that the expansion of the war in Southeast Asia was inevitable. I felt that it shouldn't occur, but the discussion wasn't mine.

"I am still apprehensive of the outcome of the President's decision, but he felt that the interests of the United States required prompt action. As a citizen I feel I must support our President whether his discussion is right or wrong.

"I hope the present action will prove to be correct. I support the resolution with misgivings."

Senator Gaylord Nelson, Democrat of Wisconsin, made much of this question yesterday. Today he proposed an amendment to resolve all doubts about the meaning of the resolution.

Conflicting Views Noted

Mr. Nelson noted that some members had welcomed the resolution as authorizing the President "to act against the privileged sanctuary" of the Communists in North VIetnam while other members thought it did not envisage an extensio nof the present mission.

His amendment stated: "Our continuing policy is to limit our role to the provision of aid, training assistance, and military advice, and it is the sense of Congress that, except when provoked to a greater response, we should continue to attempt to avoid a direct military inolvement in the Southeast Asia conflict."

Mr. Nelson asked Senator J. W. Fulbright, Democrat of Arkansas, whether as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and floor manager of the resolution he would accept the amendment. If not, Mr. Nelson said, he could not support the resolution.

Mr. Fulbright replied that he could not accept the amendment because the House had already voted and adoption of the amendment would require that the resolution go to conference with resulting delay.

'An Accurate Reflection'

However, Mr. Fulbright added that the amendment was "unobjectionable" as a statement of policy and was "an accurate reflection of what I believe is the President's policy."

With this resassurance, Mr. Nelson was satisfied that he had made a "legislative record" of Administration intent. He did not offer his amendment and voited for teh resolution.

The second reservation arose from the possibility that Premier Nguyen Khanh of South Vietnam might extend the war into North Vietnam and that the Unietd States would lose control of its freedom of action.

Senator Jacob . Javits, Republican of New York, asked Mr. Fulbright: "Suppose that South VIetnam should be jeopardized by its own extension of the struggle beyond its own capacity to wage a successful war in NOrth VIetnam. Then what would happen in terms of our commitment and the commitment which the President is empowered to undertake?"

Mr. Fullbright declared that he did not believe South Vietnam "could involve us beyond the point where we ourselves wished to be involved."


Copyright 2011 | The New York Times Company




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