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writing for godot

Give me Liberty, or Give me Death

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Written by Greg Maybury   
Wednesday, 07 June 2017 23:23

Article/Review Remember the Liberty! Almost Sunk by Treason on the High Seas, by Phillip Nelson, ©Trineday 2017

— Dangerous Allies (With Friends like These) —

With the anniversary of the enormously consequential 1967 Six-Day War (SDW) between Israel and the Arab states (Egypt, Syria, Jordan) upon us, Phil Nelson’s new book is a timely and welcome addition to the literature of that event and the key people involved, and indeed, the era. Although on its face about the deliberate attack by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) during that conflict on the U.S. naval ‘sig-int’ ship the USS Liberty, with the loss of 34 lives and over 170 casualties, it's much more than that.

Along with showcasing one of the most disgraceful episodes in U.S. military history -- to say little of the self-serving, hypocritical and callous manner in which the political and military establishment treats its service personnel -- "Remember the Liberty!" presents us an opportunity to place into broader, more urgent relief, the history of America’s increasingly dangerous -- some might say existentially so -- relationship with Israel, in addition to probing the role of both nations in past events and those unfolding as we speak in and across the Greater Middle East.

His new book moreover, crucially invites us to reexamine the virtually unexplored, indeed, wilfully neglected role played in these events by arguably America's most psychologically unhinged and criminally 'sectionable' of Oval Officeholders, one whose political ascendancy and White House tenure may have been the most consequential of all. We're talking here the then president of the U.S., Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ), he of the Gulf of Tonkin fame. As the author reveals, had things gone the way as LBJ had planned, it almost certainly would've triggered the most cataclysmic consequences of all for humanity. Suffice to say that to the extent there might have been anyone around to write about it after, by way of comparison, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis would’ve ended up a mere footnote in history.

On all counts then, Nelson’s book provides us ample context and perspective within which to contemplate all of this and more. The truly astonishing story in this new book then is about one of the most explosive and hidden secrets in U.S. history – one that has never been previously told in such a transformative way. It is made all the more explosive because it involves Israel. Based on all available evidence, this is the most authentic, complete, up to date -- and it has to be said, disturbing -- account of the Liberty tragedy and its subsequent cover-up; the war in which it took place and that war's own hidden backstory; and the real perpetrators behind both of these, along with revelations about their motivations and intrigues. No matter what you read elsewhere, I can pretty much guarantee you're not getting the 'full monty'. For those looking to write about the Liberty going forward, don't put pen to paper without it. Whether such folks are in the mainstream or alternative media camps, they'll just look like they've not done their homework!

"Remember the Liberty!" explores how a sitting U.S. president collaborated with Israeli leaders in the fomentation of what became known as the Six-Day War between them and their Arab neighbors. The so-called “spontaneous war" had been planned for months -- possibly even as early as two years before -- to be a war that would ensure a victory for Israel; the weakening of her enemies in neighboring Arab nations; and the acquisition of additional territories for Israel. These were all incentives to create 'buy-in' from Israeli leaders to this diabolical quid pro quo between them and LBJ, which might not otherwise have been forthcoming.

But the man known as "Landslide Lyndon" had his own ulterior motives in facilitating the Six-Day War: For the estimable LBJ, his highest priority was always about the ruthless accumulation of power, and in this case, it was about holding onto said power by ensuring his re-election the following year. Upset by his loss of popularity generally and with Jewish voters in particular, he wanted to give Israel as much covert – and ultimately, had the plan succeeded, overt – support as possible in the plan to engage their neighbors in that war, including the creation of a pretext to join them in attacking Egypt.

After the botched plan was implemented, the ship refused to sink even after being hit by a torpedo (more on this shortly), leading the attack to be abandoned and a massive cover-up set in motion, which included serious threats to the crewmembers to "keep their lips sealed." As ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern put it in the book’s Foreword, those orders “put steroids to the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) suffered by many of the survivors.” That cover-up is still in place (barely), but now completely exposed. Indeed, we can now say with certainty it is the worst best-kept secret in the history of the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

Written in conjunction with three of the remaining survivors, Ernie Gallo, Ron Kukal and Phil Tourney, the book includes harrowing first-hand accounts from them. It’s perhaps apposite to cite just one account of the numerous disturbing, poignant of those written for the book, this one by Tourney. With his shipmate Rick Aimetti helping him, they,

‘….found some fire hoses and began hosing off the deck with a “suicide nozzle” on it that sprayed water in a very concentrated, high-pressure stream. It took both of us to handle this hose, because it was like a giant python and one man could not do it alone. It was the most gruesome, heartbreaking task we've ever done because every piece of flesh was the remains of one of our fellow sailors, many of whom were friends. As [we] went about this ungodly task, tears streamed down our faces and I prayed to God for forgiveness in how we were forced to treat the remains of these men so sacrilegiously. In the gun-tubs we found a shoe with a foot still in it, which we put aside for collection. Many of the bloodstains would not come off, even with that special hose, because of the previous day’s heat – not just baking under the sun’s heat, but from the rockets and napalm that had be dropped on the ship by the attacking [planes]. We found out the hard way how hot our government’s most brutal weapon can burn: It can get as hot as 2,200°F, which explains why that blood could not be completely cleansed from the steel decks.’

"Remember the Liberty!" places much more focus on the brutality and ruthlessness with which the Johnson administration and the U.S. Navy brass treated the sailors themselves, not only then, but, significantly, continuing even now. It began immediately after the attack but – because of the threats of prison "or worse" if they ever uttered a word about it, even to their wives or parents – it festered for decades, while they and their families had to live with the trauma they experienced. This meant keeping their horrific memories to themselves for 15-20 years before they felt safe enough to even discuss it with anyone. Their stories recount how they’ve continued to be marginalized, dismissed – even ridiculed -- by the MSM and accused of anti-Semitism by Israel's defenders in knee-jerk fashion. In fact, the book contains an entire chapter dedicated to this point.

Possibly the most brutally shocking revelation thus far about the events of June 8, 1967 -- one hitherto virtually ignored or neglected, even apparently by some of the survivors, and one likely to induce cognitive dissonance even in those folks who might imagine themselves immune to the discomforts of this most curious of psychological conditions -- is the following: After the IDF motor torpedo boats (MTB) had fired four torpedoes and all had missed the target (this may or may not have been deliberate upon the part of the MTB commanders; we can only surmise), the fifth torpedo which did hit the ship was fired, according to one sailor’s account, by the Liberty's escort submarine the USS Amberjackthe result of a direct order from President Johnson. (My emphasis).

The grievously wounded sailor who revealed this – Richard Larry Weaver – who only relatively recently went public with this part of the story (and further claimed the Amberjack filmed the assault through its periscope), barely survived. He was only saved by one of his shipmates who came to his rescue and helped him to the medics, the then 21-year-old literally holding his intestines inside his abdomen until his fellow sailor delivered what was left of him to the ship's only doctor. The most severely wounded of all of the remaining survivors, even for those who aren't especially God-fearing would have to concede some kind of miracle occurred that day to save Weaver. But well might we say, that day was remarkable for its many "miracles", and Nelson's narrative is littered with them.

-- A Few Dead Sailors (And then Some) --

When he was finally released from hospital and returned Stateside, Weaver then discovered that his Navy records had been doctored to hide the fact he was even assigned to the Liberty. He was then forced to hire a private investigator to prove it just to get his disability service pension acknowledged. His investigator reportedly had "high-level Pentagon contacts" who revealed many of the secrets to him, and that's how Weaver found out about that "fifth torpedo" and who had fired it. I'm given to understand that this investigator has since denied he made this revelation, but to this day Weaver – a man who has undergone more than 35 major operations since that day -- is adamant his account is true. The YouTube video in the link above is a must watch, but folks should prep themselves for a singularly distressing account of his experience. Those who do watch it can then make up their own minds as to whether the man’s account is credible. Without the ongoing corroboration of his story by the private investigator though, quite a few of his former shipmates by all accounts are struggling to accept his story. All in all though, make of this what you will.

But for those folks who've read Nelson's earlier books on LBJ (see here and here), they'll know such a monumental act of treachery and treason was not beyond this president. By Nelson's reckoning (and numerous others it needs be said), [LBJ] "wanted that ship sunk!" Johnson – interestingly, a former, albeit less than distinguished, Navy man himself -- was not prepped to allow a “few dead sailors” to cause “embarrassment” to an important ally like Israel. We might readily assume the president had in mind avoiding same (and more) for himself. The very fact that Johnson – via Robert McNamara, his then Defense Secretary, a man who was as complicit as his boss in this unmitigated act of treason and the travesty of the cover-up and who later denied being able to recall anything significant about the Liberty attack -- stopped in their tracks not one but two separate attempts by Sixth Fleet Commanders to come to the ship's rescue, is sufficient to underscore this.

There has been of course no shortage of books written about the attack on the Liberty. Some of those present the case put forth by the U.S. and Israeli governments’ “official story” (e.g. Judge AJ Cristol, or self-styled Six-Day War "expert" Michael Oren), concocted to perpetuate the cover-up narrative (not unlike the contrived narrative Israel has clung to about why it went to war in the first instance), hiding the incriminating facts and essentially writing it off as a freak “accident.” You know, the "Fog of War" thing!

But that was never the reaction of the State Department officials of the time, or certain members the Navy brass who weren't under orders to conduct a phony investigation designed to cover it up. One of the latter, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff no less Admiral Thomas Moorer, observed that the president’s handling of the Liberty attack was “…the most disgraceful act I witnessed in my entire military career.” By the same token, one of the Admirals who did his best to keep a lid on the real facts of the attack was none other than Admiral John ("Mr. Seapower") McCain Jr., which if the name doesn’t ring any bells for folks, was the father of the estimable Beltway 'bovver-boy', Arizona Senator John McCain III, not coincidentally one of the most ardent of Capitol Hill's apologists for Israel.

Tellingly, the man who wrote the original fabricated Navy “Court of Inquiry” report on the incident – the report used by those same authors as the basis for their books – eventually retracted all of it: Former Navy Captain Ward Boston Jr., JAGC, in 2004 penned a scathing denunciation of the book by Cristol, admitting that the original Navy report was designed to cover up the truths and replace them with bald-faced lies. And interestingly, one of Australia's former Prime Ministers Malcolm Fraser in 2014 declared unequivocally the attack on the Liberty by Israel was deliberate. As a senior cabinet minister at the time -- and later Defence Minister -- few could argue Fraser didn't know what he was talking about, even if he barely knew the half of it.

These earlier books which have attempted to lay out the real facts behind the attack all come to the conclusion that the brutal two-hour+ attack was an intentional, well-coordinated assault, designed not to just put the ship out of commission and prevent it from sending or receiving real-time ‘intel’ about unfolding events, but to ensure that it sank to the bottom of the Mediterranean. These books (e.g. by James Ennes, Peter Hounam, and James Scott) do not mention the key factor that actually caused the attack in the first place, and which then necessitated the massive cover-up. One book (Hounam’s Operation Cyanide) did suggest something strange was going on at the White House, and posited that Johnson’s political travails -- of which there were plenty -- might have something to do with the chain of events.

"Remember the Liberty!" though is the first book to factor LBJ’s psychopathological issues – again of which like his "political travails", there were many -- into the calculus. Only by understanding his obsession with winning back the political support of Jewish people who'd abandoned him because of his shambolic Vietnam policies -- along with the monomaniacal nature and character of Number 36 -- can one understand what really happened. Like his previous “false flag” 'op' mentioned earlier – the phantom 'attack' at the Gulf of Tonkin by North Vietnamese gunboats on two U.S. Navy destroyers, conveniently occurring just three months before the 1964 elections, which helped him win his landslide election – he calculated this attack would secure his at that time, much sought after re-election the following year.

Yet the opposite happened: when the Liberty didn't sink -- and his devious “false flag” plan to use it as a pretext for blaming the attack on Egypt and join Israel in their victorious “Six-Day War” collapsed – it was his re-election chances that were deep-sixed. Nine months later he reluctantly pulled the pin on seeking reelection to the very office he’d lusted for his entire life. And as they say, the rest is history. Except that with these things, it never is of course! By this time, LBJ was a broken man. But by then so was pretty much everything else in the Home of the Brave.

Of the two principals involved, the conflicted -- in both cases ulterior -- goals of the Six-Day War are the root cause of the turbulence in the Middle East which the world has both witnessed and endured for the past five decades. Numerous ironies abound, such as the fact that over half of the U.S. foreign aid budget goes to Israel, a well-developed, prosperous economic power set amidst some of the most poverty-ridden nations in the world. And Israel has for fifty years been dining out on the myths associated with the Six-Day War. Moreover, it was through the paradox of Johnson’s most sordid, devious manipulations that the U.S.-Israel relationship became so entwined in the aftermath of the Liberty attack: Virtually overnight, U.S. policy was transformed from being “neutral” towards all countries in the area – as earlier administrations had tried to remain, to avoid being seen as partial to either side – to that of openly and aggressively backing Israel in all possible ways, including its acquisition of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, an ambition which LBJ's predecessor JFK had adamantly opposed.

-- My Country, Right or Wrong --

Doubtless this book will cop plenty of flak for its controversial assertions, even from some prominent, purportedly progressive/liberal/left-wing quarters, with many therein resisting any embrace of the real truth about Johnson the man, the consequential nature and character of both his presidential tenure and his political career overall, and his overarching position in the historical firmament. Bizarrely, Number 36 still seems to be regarded as some kind of "liberal" icon (check everyone from Jimmy Carter to Bill Moyers), largely due one supposes to the so-called "Great Society", a busted flush by any measure when one considers the individual state today of most of the key areas where the program was supposed to improve the socio-economic lives of Americans. These 'improvements' included ambitious reforms in everything from immigration, health, civil rights, consumer protection, housing and urban development, education, along with addressing major issues of economic inequality and racial injustice, to name the key areas.

And although Johnson can't be blamed for all of the failures of these reform measures, still well might we ask, what does America have to show for the much-touted Great Society today, 50 years on? Or well might we ask, how much more successful might they have been had LBJ not blown the budget in -- and equally as important, not allowed himself and his administration to so distracted by -- the Vietnam debacle, one for which he was totally responsible, and for which he can and should rightly be blamed?

For their part, the formidable Israel Lobby -- which ironically went on to become even more powerful and influential in Washington after the Liberty attack, and is as entrenched today as it ever was -- and the uber-partisan "Friends of Israel" will attack this book and its author with a vengeance likely to metaphorically match the attack on the Liberty itself, with the same 'terminate with extreme prejudice' mindset.

But any criticisms of it being biased against Israel will be misplaced. If anything, "Remember the Liberty!" finally places the principal blame for the attack right where it has always belonged: upon the man also known as "Lyin' Lyndon". By Nelson’s reckoning, Israeli leaders at the time were only taking such actions because Johnson had insisted on them doing so as a pre-condition for his assistance in their plans for extending Israeli borders into Palestine, thus acquiring the extra territory they'd coveted ever since 1948. The Israelis simply would've had little motive for attacking the ship, if only because by that time, the war was over and they'd already achieved their objectives.

None of this of course, absolves Israel of culpability in this war crime -- not by a long shot from the Grassy Knoll -- nor does it let the country off the hook for taking full and unconditional responsibility for it now, this especially given its abject refusal to admit to this day it was indeed a deliberate, unprovoked and unjustified attack on its most important ally. Their propensity to attack those who might suggest otherwise only adds insult to 50-year-old injuries.

But for those folks with a more (ahem), nuanced view of the 36th POTUS there may or may not be any surprises herein. He was as some folks were wont to say, a man to see with the bark off! The fact that LBJ's diabolical plan failed, and the Liberty did not sink thanks to the heroic efforts of the survivors, undoubtedly saved the world from the nuclear conflagration which might have otherwise occurred, with Jerusalem – the “city of peace” – at ground zero. They say Americans don't do irony. This writer once again begs to differ.

"Remember the Liberty!" is then both a tale of abandonment, betrayal, and justice denied, and truth ruthlessly suppressed. It is also one of great courage and determination, and what we might term here Down Under, 'mateship forged under fire'. Moreover, it is one of authentic patriotism, not the dodgy variety that passes for such in and around the rarefied environs of the Beltway and which might be defined as such by feckless, self-serving mainstream media pundits. For their efforts in saving the ship, they helped avert the unthinkable, an achievement for which we all must be forever truly grateful. But the price they have paid must have left many of those remaining wishing they had not survived the attack, with presumably quite a few also calling into question the whole "Truth, Justice and the American Way/My Country Right or Wrong" Thing!

I trust readers are all able to see their way clear of keeping this story alive by buying a copy of the book and alerting interested friends, family and acquaintances to this very important -- if shameful -- piece of hidden American history. This will be the 'last shot in the locker' as it were these veterans and their families have to obtain some critical mass public recognition, accompanied by some measure of justice and redress for what they've been put through, and continue to go through. To say nothing of the all-important, much sought after closure.

After all, we'd all want that for ourselves and our own families, wouldn't we? And if America can't do that after all this time, we'd have to say it truly has lost its way! That being the case, on so many levels, we can trace that development back to the events which occurred between June 5-10, 1967.

Greg Maybury

Editor/Publisher

Pox Amerikana

poxamerikana.com

(Disclaimer: In case folks are wondering, I've not benefitted in any way shape or form from my involvement in this project, nor do I expect or wish to. Moreover, from my understanding, Nelson himself has a generous royalty sharing arrangement with his co-authors -- as noted, all Liberty survivors. For my part, this has been a labor of love from the get-go. I just happen to be blessed (or cursed) with an overdeveloped sense of justice and an abiding, sleep-depriving commitment to seeking and communicating historical truth, the latter an increasingly rare ambition in this the era of fake news and alternative facts, and the former a concept Washington's political elites and their assorted hacks, flacks, and lackeys inside and outside the mainstream media (MSM) would struggle to recognise if their careers depended on it. Which sadly in most cases it does. GM.)

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Greg Maybury is a Perth, Australia-based writer and blogger. Separate to this review, he has published an in-depth, lengthy analysis and commentary of the people and events covered by Nelson's book. This analysis is in two parts, and can be found on his blog.

http://poxamerikana.com/2017/05/08/of-treachery-treason-terror-truth-and-liberty-forsaken-an-american-tale-part-1/

http://poxamerikana.com/2017/06/08/of-treachery-treason-terror-truth-and-liberty-forsaken-an-american-tale-part-two/

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