Cover image for Why the senate slept; : the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and the beginning of America's Vietnam war
Why the senate slept; : the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and the beginning of America's Vietnam war
Siff, Ezra Y., 1942-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Praeger, 1999.
Physical Description:
xix, 172 pages, 4 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


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Material Type
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DS557.8.T6 S54 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Siff provides the first accurate account of how the political processes in the U.S. Senate allowed the executive branch to launch a major war, with basically no accountability to Congress. He reveals the heretofore untold personal and public roles of key Senators as well as those of lesser stature whose actions and failures to act resulted in a bloody and costly conflict that divided a nation and scarred its politics and armed forces.

The ambition and significant weaknesses of key figures--LBJ, Robert McNamara, Senators Russell of Georgia, Fulbright of Arkansas, Nelson of Wisconsin, McGovern of South Dakota, Gruening of Alaska, and Church of Idaho--who, from the onset, fought to prevent or limit the Americanization of the Vietnam War are examined and judged. This is an important work for students of American politics, the war making powers of the president, and the Vietnam War.

Author Notes

EZRA Y. SIFF is a practicing attorney in Baltimore, Maryland./e He was a legislative assistant to Senator Gaylord Nelson from late 1965 until 1968.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Siff, a former legislative assistant to Senator Gaylord Nelson, blames the Senate for passively going along not only with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in August 1964 but also for not questioning President Lyndon Johnson's escalatory policies and statements over the following months. Not surprisingly, his hero is Senator Nelson, who knew enough to question the policy while Senator J. William Fulbright backed his president for almost a year after he led a "sham" three-hour debate in the Senate chamber. In this exceedingly slim volume (111 pages of text dominated by long verbatim selections from speeches and testimony), Siff, without much evidence, fingers Robert S. McNamara and McGeorge Bundy as the men behind a befuddled Johnson's policies during 1964-65. Based on published sources, a few useful interviews, and Siff's own experiences, this volume contributes information about the thinking of several senators, particularly Nelson, Fulbright, and Richard Russell. However, in good measure because of its brevity, it is not a major contribution to an understanding of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. M. Small Wayne State University

Table of Contents

Background to Passage of S.J. 189
Passage S.J. 189
The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution Was There an American Policy in Vietnam?
The Gathering Storm Rolling Thunder
Appendix I President Johnson's Address of August 4, 1964
Appendix II Senate Resolution 189
Appendix III Statement of Honorable Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense, Before Joint Committees of House and Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations, August 6, 1964
Appendix IV Secretary Rusk's Full Statement
Appendix V Was There a Precedent for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution?
Appendix VI Address of SenatorJohn F. Kennedy
Appendix VII Text of President Johnson's Speech Delivered on April 7, 1965 at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore
Appendix VIII Text of Presidential Message Accompanying H.J. Resolution 447, A Supplemental Military Appropriation Bill for $700 Million
Appendix IX Letter of April 24, 1975 from Frank Valeo to SenatorGaylord Nelson