The Vietnam War started secretly off the books, like so many of these ventures that have ended disastrously. The CIA got there early, soon after the Vietnamese won their independence from the French in 1954.
President Lyndon Johnson: It is my duty to the American people to report that renewed hostile actions against United States ships on the high seas in the Gulf of Tonkin have today required me to order the military forces of the United States, to take action and reply.
Moyers: This President was not telling the truth either. The action at the Gulf of Tonkin was not unprovoked. South Vietnam had been conducting secret raids in the area against the North and the American destroyer, ordered into the battle zone, had advanced warning it could be attacked. But Johnson seized the incident to stampede Congress into passing the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. He then used it as a blank check for the massive buildup of American forces.