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A Persian Gulf of Tonkin in the Making?

The aircraft carrier Enterprise has moved into the Persian Gulf, although it’s an antique, slow-moving target and a potential lightening rod for war on Iran. As a retired Navy man told me last month, “A couple of torpedoes would stagger the thing, and then you’ve got the Alamo, the Maine, the Lusitania, Pearl Harbor, the Gulf of Tonkin and 9/11 all over again,” he said, “with Iran in the crosshairs.”

Enterprise needlessly joins the strike group of the 100,000-ton carrier Lincoln with its crew of 3,200 already in the Gulf. TV-Novosti reported April 10 that in March President Obama sent his second amphibious assault group to the Gulf. Those gun boats include a nuclear submarine, a Marine helicopter squadron and more than 2,000 Marines.

At 51, Enterprise is the oldest ship in the Navy, having seen action since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. From the bombing of Laos in 1973 and the 1986 bombing of Libya, to the 800,000 pounds of munitions it fired into Afghanistan in 2001, Enterprise has helped maintain a string of atrocity producing situations that has no end in sight.

Set for retirement and decommissioning this fall, Enterprise’s Gulf deployment is its last. But it has no purpose whatsoever as a war machine when 11 newer and more sophisticated carriers are available. Indeed Enterprise is a hugely expensive liability, a deadly heap of hazardous scrap. Its fiercely radioactive reactors and waste fuel require dangerous and costly removal and long-term isolation from the ecosphere as nuclear waste material.

So Enterprise, the first ever nuclear-powered carrier, parades through the Gulf with lots of gunpowder. Its “strike group 12” consists of:  Carrier Air Wing 1; the guided-missile cruiser Vicksburg; and Destroyer Squadron 2, comprising guided-missile destroyers NitzePorter and James E. WilliamsEnterprise is 1,123 feet long, weighs 94,000 tons, has 8 propulsion reactors, four 35-ton rudders, two gyms, a crew of at least 3,100, a television station and—no doubt demonstrating a free press— a daily paper.

The government knows its loss at sea would be cheaper than retirement, and if it can scare the country into yet another shooting war, our munitions makers and weapons merchants continue swimming in billions of tax dollars defending freedom and peace. In January, when Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta first said he would send Enterprise to the Gulf “to send a direct message to Iran,” the price of gas shot up and stayed up. You’d almost think the oil giants like war. The privatized DoD contractor corporations certainly do.

To get public opinion and NATO behind war on Iran, the war party needs to both sideline our Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan Syndromes and to flabbergast Russia, China and India. How better than to make it look as if Iran started it? Deployment of theEnterprise is hair-raising in the context of previous “false flag” provocations in the region. Like the Lavon Affair before it, Israel actually attacked the U.S. spy ship Liberty June 8, 1967 — using unmarked jet fighters and torpedoes — initially blaming Egypt in an attempt to draw Washington into the war. Israel later claimed it attacked what it thought was an Egyptian ship, yet no one was charged or disciplined. Ward Boston, the U.S. Navy Senior Counsel for the Court of Inquiry, says in a 2002 affidavit, “Both [lead investigator] Admiral [Isaac] Kidd and I believed with certainty that this attack, which killed 34 sailors and injured 172, was a deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew.”

Today the Enterprise has nothing to do but act like the greasiest sitting duck in history. No one should believe that Iran is dumb enough to take the bait.

John LaForge is on the staff of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog and anti-war group in Wisconsin, and edits its Quarterly.

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John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

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