Greg Maybury (👉) is a freelance writer based in Australia. His main areas of interest are American history and politics in general, with a special focus on economic, financial, national security, military, and geopolitical affairs. For 6+ years he has regularly contributed to a diverse range of alternative, independent media (AIM), news and opinion sites, including OpEd News, The Greanville Post, Consortium News, Information Clearing House (ICH), Dandelion Salad, Global Research, Dissident Voice, OffGuardian, Contra Corner, International Policy Digest, Principia Scientific, The Hampton Institute, and others.
‘…[Did] our government put Israel’s interests ahead of our own? If so, Why? Does [it] continue to subordinate American interests to Israeli interests?…I’ve never seen a President…stand up to Israel.…If the American people understood what a grip these people have on our government, they would rise up in arms.’ — Statements attributed to Admiral Thomas Moorer, on the 1967 attack on the USS Liberty by Israel (© 2004). Adm. Moorer was Chief of U.S. Naval Operations (1967-70), and later Chairman, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (1970-74).
Everyone admits how praiseworthy it is in a prince to keep his word, and to behave with integrity rather than cunning. Nevertheless our experience has been that those princes who have done great things have considered keeping their word of little account, and have known how to beguile men’s minds by shrewdness and cunning. In the end these princes have overcome those who have relied on keeping their word.’ — Nicola Machiavelli, The Prince
‘If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.’ ― Founding Father Samuel Adams.
‘Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns of foreign policy’. ― Henry Kissinger
‘Greg, I can’t tell you when I have read a better article about our great ship Liberty and her crew [and] can’t thank you enough for this excellent [piece]…. [All] Americans should read this, read Phil’s book, and [then] demand justice once and for all…...’ — Phillip Tourney, USS Liberty Survivor, on “Of Treachery, Treason, Terror, Truth, and Liberty Forsaken (An American Tale)”
Synopsis: In this the 50th anniversary year of the 1967 Six Day War (SDW) between Israel and the Arab states of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, we take another look at the origins and causes of that pivotal war, and with that examine in some detail the deliberate attack by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) during that conflict on the US naval reconnaissance ship the USS Liberty, with the loss of 34 lives and scores of casualties. To this day, despite irrefutable evidence it was a deliberate attack, the official explanation is that it was a case of “mistaken identity”. Along with showcasing one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. military history — and from there seek a measure of recognition, justice, redress and closure for the survivors and their families — it presents us an opportunity to place into broader, now ever more urgent relief, the history of America’s increasingly contentious and counterproductive relationship with Israel in addition to probing the role of both nations in events unfolding in and across the Greater Middle East. It moreover, invites us to reexamine the largely unexplored role played in these events by one of America’s most psychopathic and criminally inclined of Oval Officeholders, Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ). On all counts, author Phillip Nelson’s new book – to be released this week – Remember the Liberty: Almost Sunk by Treason on the High Seas, provides us ample context and perspective within which to contemplate all of this and more.
Ed. Note: This is Part Two of a Two Parter. This instalment examines further the principal events mentioned in the previous piece and the key players involved, and from there consider some of the geopolitical consequences of these events. Having been privy to the galley proofs of the book, I’ve been working closely with the author and the publisher in the preparation of this article and the previous one, and on other pre-publication aspects of the project. Former CIA intelligence analyst, now activist, geopolitical commentator, and co-founder & member of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) Ray McGovern has penned the foreword to the book, available now at the usual outlets.
— Dangerous Allies (With Friends like These) —
Many folks of a certain age will recall to this day the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, with even those younger people given to nodding off in their high school history classes remembering at least one thing:
That this was the closest the two world superpowers of the era – the Soviet Union and the United States – came to a nuclear showdown, and the world to potential annihilation.
What is significantly less well known of course is that this crisis erupted at least as the indirect, if not direct, result – the blowback if one likes — of America’s incessant meddling in the affairs of other countries, a depressingly recurring leitmotif in the Grand American Narrative. That such verities barely rate a mention in those “history classes” is axiomatic, a situation unlikely to change anytime soon. Indeed, for any teacher with an eye to meeting the monthly mortgage repayments and maintaining a secure, stable career path will studiously avoid going off-script pushing any such subversive narratives down the throats of their students no matter how strongly they might feel about historical veracity.
Even less recognised, much less documented in the history curriculum, is the fact that in 1967 there was another closer call, this time in the Middle East. As Phil Nelson conveys all too vividly in his just released book, Remember the Liberty!: Almost Sunk by Treason on the High Seas, this crisis also brought the world to the nuclear brink. Though it too resulted from Uncle Sam’s recidivistic interventionist impulses, the circumstances were very different, this “crisis” being entirely of the ‘home-grown’, false-flag kind.
Whereas the U.S. was responding to the placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba by the Soviets with the stand-off being finally resolved largely due to adroit back-channel communications between then President John F Kennedy and USSR general-secretary Nikita Khrushchev (given the interminable ructions permeating the Beltway at present over the current administration’s alleged dealings with Moscow, the irony here doesn’t come much thicker), what happened on June 8, 1967 was something else altogether, although admittedly the outcome might’ve been much the same. All of which is to say, had things gone the way they were planned, it almost certainly would’ve triggered the most cataclysmic outcomes of all for humanity and civilization. Put another way, to the extent there might’ve been anyone around to write about it after, by way of comparison, the CMC would’ve ended up a mere footnote in history.
We’re talking here about the attack by Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) on the USS Liberty, the aim to create a casus belli for America’s entry into the Six-Day War against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, and which almost certainly would have brought the Soviets into that war. That drawing the U.S. into the war on their side was not the main aim of the Israelis but that of the then President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) is what we’ll explore herein, and this is what makes Nelson’s book such a unique and compelling – albeit both shocking and disturbing — account of the Liberty saga.
For this isn’t just a story about the Liberty, its fate and that of its crew, one that has been dissected every which way from the Sabbath in several books and documentaries (see here, here, here, here, here, and here), not to mention countless articles. By dispelling some of the long-held, carefully constructed myths of the Six-Day War, Nelson has made a substantial contribution to our understanding of the genesis of that pivotal historical event. Moreover, he’s delivered us further insight into Johnson’s mindset, a man whose rise to the highest office and subsequent tenure there in so many enduring ways has been the most consequential of all.
In looking at the story of the USS Liberty then, we cannot examine its fate without looking closely at the circumstances surrounding the origins of the “spontaneous” SDW, and we cannot examine either event without a substantive focus on the man known as “Landslide Lyndon”. And for an even more complete depiction of, and insight into, these events, it is necessary to then look at America’s past and present relationship with Israel and how that relationship evolved, along with some of Israel’s own history, its influence on American politics, and its place in the geopolitical firmament now.
We’ll return to these points shortly. Along with examining some broader considerations explored in the first part, it is perhaps instructive here to recall a couple of revelations that brought this writer to the story of the Liberty, and from there, to a more enlightened, nuanced view of Israel’s past history, the realities (as distinct from the myths) of the Six-Day War, the motives and machinations of its always contentious foreign and national security policies, and how its place in that “firmament” has itself advanced.
In the latter, one of the first books I read was Alison Weir‘s excellent tome Against Our Better Judgment and from there, her essential on-line repository of all things Israel, America and Palestine, If Americans Knew. As both titles suggest, if right thinking Americans truly knew just how much influence, power and control the Israel lobby wields in and around the Beltway, they’d be horrified, shocked and angry.
There was also Stephen Walt‘s and John Mearsheimer‘s 2008 book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, another eye opener for those seeking further illumination into this all too frequently pernicious influence and power. And the Roger Waters‘ narrated documentary The Occupation of the American Mind is essential viewing for insights into how the Lobby exerts control over the media in America. There are plenty of other resources and references. The truth is out there as it were to be had on the Middle East’s only ‘democratic settler-colonialist’ state, and you don’t need to travel far to find it, although one might need to expand one’s cognitive horizons during the ‘trip’.
And as for the Liberty story, it was in 2014, here in Australia I watched an interview with one of our former prime ministers Malcolm Fraser (1975-1983), who was at the time promoting his book Dangerous Ally, the “ally” in this case being the U.S. Here was a former Liberal (read: “conservative”) PM of America’s most faithful ally not simply emerging from the political closet and declaring our ANZUS alliance with the U.S. in need of a major strategic review – such opinions being anathema in ‘polite’ political circles on both sides of the divide no matter how cautiously one advances them – but proclaiming it “dangerous” to adhere to this treaty. In referencing our history of “strategic dependence” – firstly on Britain, then on the U.S. after WWII — he recommended a more independent stance, free of the diktats of Washington’s war-meisters.
But it was what Fraser ‘impolitely’ revealed next in this interview that raised eyebrows and the ire of many, especially the Australian Jewish lobby (yes, we have ’em too). Along with acknowledging the false-flag attack of the Gulf of Tonkin incident that sparked America’s massive escalation of the then Vietnam ‘debacle in progress’ and our subsequent involvement (an historical episode we can now say foreshadowed our participation in the Iraq War in 2003 based on faulty or contrived intelligence by the U.S.), our former PM publicly declared his view that Israel’s attack on the Liberty was a “deliberate act of war”, and that it was in fact covered up.
For anyone still beholden then to the official story as advanced by Washington and Tel Aviv to this day, Fraser’s remarks dispelled once and for all for those listening any notion the attack was an “accident”, a “tragic mistake” as it were, collateral damage in the “fog of war”. Of course, the Liberty attack was decidedly not an “accident” or a “tragic mistake”; Fraser – like other notables before and since who’ve refuted this nonsense – was on the money here! Predictably, the Israel lobby in Australia and those predisposed to defend the country come hell or high water dismissed his “anti-Semitic rantings”.
Yet few could argue that Fraser, who as a senior Cabinet minister at the time of the 1967 attack and who later became Defence Minister, was not in a position to know. Given the man’s unimpeachable stature and credibility nationally and globally in defending human rights and fighting discrimination and racial inequality, for example, this was a ludicrous proposition.
Despite this, and perhaps not surprisingly, there was little commentary in the MSM that accorded any veracity to Fraser’s statements or even attempted to revisit the Liberty backstory. This included the Rupert Murdoch-owned The Australian (our national, if self-styled, ‘paper of record’; yes, we have on of those too), Murdoch himself being a die-hard Israeli apologist if not closet Zionist. Like many of his erstwhile political colleagues, they were all too ready to ignore or dismiss our former PM’s ‘rantings’.
Beyond Fraser’s revelations, later that year I also read Nelson’s second book LBJ: From Mastermind to “The Colossus”, the follow-up to his LBJ: The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination. In the latter tome — as the title unambiguously advanced — he convincingly argued that in respect of “The JFK Thing”, Johnson was ‘(y)our man’ as it were. But it was also in “Colossus” that Nelson first laid bare in some detail the tragic story of the Liberty, further underscoring for me at least Fraser’s assertion. It is in “Remember the Liberty!” where he finishes the job. In the context of examining LBJ’s singular role in the Liberty attack and the cover-up, we’ll return to Nelson’s earlier books at a later point.
— When Golden Opportunities Beckon (How to Plan a “Spontaneous” War) —
As it turned out though Fraser and others of a similar mindset barely knew the half of it. Even to this day, much the same can be said about most commentators, no matter how well intended they might be in their attempts to advance the cause of truth and justice, precepts fundamental to the Liberty narrative. Nelson’s new book lays bare the other “half” of the story, and then some!
At its most basic, the Liberty attack was a false flag gambit, purpose-built by none other than the then POTUS himself as a casus belli for America’s entry into the SDW on the side of Israel. For its part “Remember the Liberty” is a tale of betrayal, abandonment and justice denied, yet also one of great courage and determination, and what we might call here Down Under, “mate-ship forged under fire”. It is moreover a tale of true patriotism, not the ersatz variety defined as such by the power elites (the “chicken-hawks”) who rule the roost today.
All in all then, based on the available evidence (like with so many of these things, many of the crucial documents and records relating to the attack remain under wraps, the pro forma rationale “for reasons of national security” being the pretext), Nelson’s account of the Liberty tragedy is the most up-to-date, accurate, complete and insightful chronicle of not only the attack itself, but the Six-Day War and LBJ’s direct, hands-on role in planning and precipitating these events.
Although as we’ve seen the realities are very different, much of the mainstream media (MSM) still cling to many of the myths of the Liberty incident, as always as self-serving as they are subservient to the official narrative. Much the same can be said of the Six-Day War, the prevailing myth here being that in 1967 Israel faced an existential threat from its neighbours, principally Egypt, but also Jordan and Syria, and therefore had “no choice” but to go to war.
In his excellent, recently published book Ten Myths about Israel, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe demolishes the “spontaneous war” theory. From the time of Israel’s inception in 1948, key figures amongst the military and political elites had been looking for an opportunity to occupy the whole of historical Palestine ‘from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan’, and that this would be achieved by Israel via a series of aggressive military provocations.
And from at least the mid-1960s, according to Pappe they, ‘carefully planned how to create a greater Israel that would include the West Bank.’ For Pappe, the key factor in the rush to war was the ‘absence of any authoritative challenge to the warmongering within the Israeli leadership at the time’. About such hypothetical resistance, he added,
‘… this might’ve offered some form of internal friction delaying the hawks’ pursuit of conflict, allowing the international community to [find] a peaceful resolution…There was no intention in the Israeli cabinet of providing the time to the peace brokers. This was a golden opportunity not to be missed.’
And as Stephen Shalom declares forcefully in a 2015 piece, ‘military and intelligence leaders in both Tel Aviv and Washington knew better.’ Even notable Israeli political and military figures are on record declining to perpetuate such myths. Shalom cites a number of folks who refuted that Israel was actually threatened prior to the outbreak of this “spontaneous war”.
One included the former Israeli PM Menachim Begin, a member of the Israeli cabinet during the war, who with uncharacteristic Zionist candour noted, ‘In June 1967, we again had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that [Egyptian president] Abdel Nasser was…about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.’
More tellingly, one Israeli cabinet member Mordecai Bentov, who was against the war because he wasn’t persuaded all diplomatic and political means of preventing it had been exhausted, said: ‘This whole story about the threat of extermination was totally contrived, and [later] elaborated upon….to justify the annexation of new Arab territories.
For his part, General Matti Peled, the IDF’s logistics chief at the time (incidentally the father of prominent Palestinian rights activist Miko Peled, to whom we shall return), said the idea that Israel was fighting for its survival was ‘a bluff born and developed…after the war.’ As he affirmed, ‘All those stories…about the great danger that we faced because of the [size] of our territory, an argument advanced [when the war] was over, were never taken into consideration in our calculations before the hostilities.’
Such “provocations” as documented by Nelson, Pappe, Thomas Suarez, Norman Finkelstein and numerous others – which for the most part have been buried underneath the myths associated with the official narrative despite later being ‘admitted to by a succession of Israeli leaders’ – were designed to place Israel’s purported enemies on a defensive military footing so Israel could then credibly claim it was facing an existential threat.
The main game for both Washington and Tel Aviv then was intentionally instigating a war, most certainly it would seem for the purposes Ventov noted above, to ‘justify the annexation of new Arab territories’, with the unofficial ‘cause and effect’ narrative since then having been interred in support of the official one. As we’ve seen by noting the basic, incontestable facts herein – albeit minus the crucial minutiae as documented by Nelson — even the Liberty false-flag attack was part of the calculus.
But as Nelson points out, there was even more to the story of the Six-Day War, one conceived within the Johnson administration in collaboration with Israeli leadership. Whilst also debunking the “spontaneous war” myth, Nelson asserts that as early as mid-1965, LBJ and members of his administration in league with those elites in Tel Aviv were planning for this war, abetted as noted by consecutive Israeli military and political provocations in various parts of the neighboring territories.
For Johnson’s part, he had his own motives for instigating the War. His principal interest lay always in the ‘accumulation of power’, and in his case, ensuring his re-election in 1968, fulfilling his life-long dream of becoming “America’s greatest president”, an ambition that necessitated a second term. As Nelson explains it: ‘Upset with his loss of popularity by Jewish voters…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.’
Beyond concerns about the Jewish vote but still connected to them, Johnson was being crapped on from great heights in the polls over the ‘Nam Thing and looking down the barrel of a general election loss in 1968. It needs to be noted here it was the Jewish community in general and Jewish voters in particular who were amongst the more vocal and active opponents of his Vietnam policies, which by this time were an absolute shambles, and seen to be so. Moreover, in ordering the Israelis to bomb the Liberty with the objectives already outlined at the forefront, LBJ wanted to “explode the world into war”, presumably a much larger, even more “spontaneous” one.
Nelson explains LBJ’s ‘rationale’ this way: in the president’s demented imaginings, Americans “love an outraged and indignant president” who will use the “full force of the US Military” at the slightest provocation, even if it takes a USG initiated ‘false flag’ attack to elicit one. The implications for the here and now of this last statement – to say little of any number of events both prior to and since 1967 – should not be lost on anyone! In looking at the SDW, it is now all but irrefutable that this was anything but the “spontaneous war” that the history books have required us to believe (and teachers to teach).
— A Few Dead Sailors (And then Some) —
Another brutally shocking revelation — 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 (MTBs) 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 Amberjack, the result of a direct order from President Johnson. (My emphasis).
Now the grievously wounded sailor in question – Richard Larry Weaver – who only relatively recently went public with this part of the story (he further claimed the Amberjack filmed the assault through its periscope), was nearly killed. He was only saved by one of his shipmates who came to his rescue, 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 June 8, 1967, was remarkable for its many “miracles”, and Nelson’s narrative is littered with them.
————-*————-USS Liberty survivor Richard Larry Weaver talks about his eye-witness experiences and some of the unmentioned aspects of the attack, including how the USS Amberjack actually fired the torpedo that hit the Liberty — after all those fired by the IDF failed to hit their target — and filmed the attack via the periscope. Published on May 31, 2017
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’d fired it.
I’m given to understand that this investigator has now since denied he made this revelation, but to this day Weaver – a man who has undergone more than 35 major operations since that day and the deep, abiding physical and psychological trauma that comes with the territory — is adamant his account is true. The YouTube video herein is a ‘must watch’, but not for the faint-hearted, and folks should prep themselves for a singularly distressing and anger-inducing 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.
But again for those folks who’ve read Nelson’s earlier books on LBJ, they’ll know such a monumental act of treachery and treason was not beyond this president. By Nelson’s reckoning (and 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 LBJ – via Robert (“Fog of War”) McNamara, his then Defense Secretary, a man who was as complicit as his boss in this unmitigated act of treason and treachery, 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 enough to underscore this.
It is further notable that 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 the Capitol Hill’s apologists for Israel. As one reader recently commented to this writer via social media, whilst McCain remains in Congress, there is “Buckley’s chance” of there ever being a new inquiry into the tragedy, especially without media support.
Indeed, as is so often the case with these matters, this cover-up was facilitated by the ever-reliable MSM, frequently complicit handmaidens in safeguarding the secrets and lies of the powers that be. They remain so to this day. For this and any number of other reasons though, Phil Nelson’s book underscores the absolute imperative for the fate of the ship and its crew and Israel’s involvement in it to be kept on the political and public radar.
The first is that despite being possibly the best worst-kept secret in the history of US-Israeli relationship, few folks are aware of the incident at all, much less the backstory as it stands at present. This includes even some in the alternative media, ostensibly those who might be in principle at least, prepped to expose the official narrative for the ugly fiction it is. Those who are aware seem perfectly happy let sleeping dogs lie as it were. In this respect and with numerous precedents to go by, we can all but imagine the ‘all hell breaks loose’ hue and cry if a bunch of Jihadi-fuelled ‘terror-meisters’ of the ISIS ilk perpetrated a similar attack on a US vessel. We’d never hear the end of it. 9/11 anyone?
The second reason is the reality that no-one, either in the US or in Israel, was ever held to account for this — let’s call a spade a spade — unconscionable war crime, and unmitigated act of treachery upon the part of Israel, and a no less unmitigated act of treason upon the part of Johnson, McNamara and McCain in particular. For his part, Admiral Thomas Moorer, the then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, later observed after he retired that:
‘The men of the USS Liberty represented the United States. They were attacked for two hours, causing 70 percent of American casualties….. These sailors and Marines were entitled to our best defense. We gave them no defense. The American people deserve to know the truth about this attack. We must finally shed some light on one of the blackest pages in American naval history. It is a duty we owe not only to the brave men of the USS Liberty, but to every man and woman who is asked to wear the uniform of the United States.’
And the third reason is that the Liberty narrative should be held up as a constant reminder for us all of Israel’s pernicious impact on the geopolitical order and its ongoing ability to literally get away with murder, to say nothing of its propensity for flouting international law with impunity. In this case we’re talking the premeditated “murder” of active service personnel of the armed forces of its own principal patron and protector, America, itself a nation ironically with a long history of selective adherence to the basic principles of international law.
That said, although I for one am an unabashed critic of Israel and its foreign policies, and in particular, its inordinate influence largely via the Israel lobby in the U.S. on America’s own foreign policy and military and national security affairs — along with the legislative and democratic process in general — I fully appreciate those engaging in any form of criticism of Israel are treading a fine line.
To even question, much less condemn Israel, its policies or its motives and actions in the Greater Middle East and elsewhere — no matter how gingerly and ‘rationally’ one might approach the subject — automatically invites accusations of “anti-Semitism” and similar name-calling and ad hominem attacks.
As recounted earlier, former Aussie PM Fraser would have been well aware of this when he revealed his own thoughts on the Liberty for example, and it is to his eternal credit he eschewed the attendant caution most politicians and public figures (even retired ones, and especially those of a more conservative hue) bring to the fore vis a vis Israel if and when they get the urge to say anything untoward against it.
If you’re a non-Jew, such accusations of anti-Semitism are of course amongst the most damning — albeit gratuitous — epithets than can be leveled at anyone wanting to be taken seriously as a writer, journalist and political commentator, with the charge of “self-loathing Jew” serving as the equivalent for Jewish folks packing similar inclinations. It is a response for which the Zionists and hardliners in Israel and their apologists in the U.S. and elsewhere have an easy propensity to be sure. It further explains why so few political figures — including folks like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — will contemplate such critiques in their public utterances, no matter their private feelings and views.
Yet there is no way of escaping the deplorable reality of the fate of USS Liberty for those still habitually inclined to bury said “reality”. Nor should there be. For others, that is those willing to see it for what it represents, it remains one of the truly ugly blots on the morally desertified landscape that is the US-Israel relationship.
It is moreover a savage indictment not just on Israel itself but on all those so-called ‘American friends of Israel’ who have created and fed this increasingly out-of-control monster, in far too many instances at total odds with their own country’s national interest. If Israel can get away with such a heinous act, then there was/is no holding them back.
Not only then can we legitimately ask questions and speculate about what other attacks or acts of terrorism or treachery Israel has been involved in and/or perpetrated on the US, as we have seen quite a few folks – many of them Jewish and/or Israeli citizens — have actually done with so with compelling, if not irrefutable argument. Moreover, for those willing to objectively view and unflinchingly report on Israel’s larger role within the geopolitical firmament — one that continues to be sponsored, fostered and sanctioned by the Washington establishment at great expense to us all — one suspects (or at least trusts) they are themselves becoming increasingly impervious to and dismissive of such labels and name-calling. The more the Israelis and their sundry apologists trot out such self-serving, ad hominem nonsense, the less meaningful and rational it becomes and is perceived to be. As it should be.
— Let Sleeping Sailors Lie —
And harking back to the USS Liberty, there is one other key reason for continuing to give oxygen to the tragedy, and exposing the truth at the core of the SDW. Along with setting straight the historical record, justice needs to be properly and fully served of course, whether in respect of full and total compensation and/or restitution to still living crew members, the families of those that didn’t survive the attack along with those who have long since passed on, with full and open acknowledgement from both the Israeli and US governments in respect of the former’s involvement in the attack and the latter’s cover-up. And along with that acknowledgment, there needs to be a formal apology to all concerned from both governments. A real bonus would be the MSM collectively acknowledging their own complicity in keeping this sordid secret under wraps.
But first and foremost, a new, independent public inquiry into the attack should be opened. If any of this is likely to eventuate, it seems that 2017 — the 50th Anniversary year of the attack and the War in which it took place — will present an ideal, timely opportunity for the release of all relevant documents pertaining to the tragedy and for both governments to finally come clean on the matter. We can only hope that those seeking such an outcome are presently working on leveraging the timing of the anniversary to this end. It may be a ‘good luck with that’ long shot, but “nothing ventured” as they say.
At the very least it should help keep the story alive, thereby providing a measure of ongoing discomfort for those that seek for whatever reasons to keep it under wraps. Otherwise, I expect there will be much more focus on celebrating Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War itself than commemorating the Liberty debacle — much less acknowledging the real story of what happened so as to bring about some closure for all concerned and atoning for their crimes — one that thus far has all but been relegated to the status of collateral damage in that ugly, self-serving, and unnecessary War of aggression, one whose impact is still reverberating today.
For a broader perspective of the Six-Day War itself and its outcomes – along with placing the Liberty tragedy into proper context in the overarching relationship between Israel and the United States — the following may be useful to consider. Another pivotal revelation for this writer on all things Israel was watching a presentation by prominent Israeli campaigner for Palestinian rights Miko Peled, as mentioned earlier the son of Israeli Six-Day War veteran Matti Peled, the elder Peled himself later becoming an advocate for peace, justice, and a two-state solution.
Along with numerous articles he’s written and talks he’s presented, it was reading Peled’s book 2012 book The General’s Son that alerted me to some important factors which have helped crystallize my thinking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular, and about Israel’s history and role in Middle Eastern affairs in general. Peled, who himself was recently arrested by Israeli authorities for his activism, is a man on a mission, and that “mission” is, in essence holding his country to account for the treatment of the Palestinians, and its many crimes and misdemeanors.
As a writer on such issues I found it especially encouraging that a prominent Jew – the scion of one of Israel’s most prominent military families – had rejected totally the dangerous myths that to this day propel this nation forward. We should all take no small measure of encouragement from the moral courage Peled demonstrates in his campaign to promote justice, democracy, and equal rights for Palestinians, almost all whose current travails were greatly exacerbated by the Six-Day War. Of course, as noted there are many prominent Jews who have in varying degrees gone against the grain of conventional thinking about all things Israel. These include folks as diverse as Gilad Atzmon, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, Gideon Levy, Ilan Pappe, and Shlomo Sand, to name a few.
Moreover, it is prominent Jewish folks like Peled and those mentioned that should be amongst the key drivers of a peaceful, fair and timely resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, one which the SDW ensured would be ongoing to this day. Such folks can also be instrumental in providing an essential counter-balance to the pernicious influence that Zionism has on U.S. foreign and national security policy in particular, and on Middle East and geopolitical affairs in general.
Just as importantly, it is these people who can counter the easy propensity for those in power inside and outside the U.S. and Israel to conflate criticism of the latter country with anti-Semitism. This I fear on so many levels is a singularly dangerous trend, surely benefitting no-one — Jew or non-Jew — that seeks to achieve the above objectives. Doubtless there are and will continue to be many folks and groups with ulterior motives and (not always well) hidden agendas who’ll seek to exploit the Big Issues for their own ends.
But there are also many, many more — Jew and non-Jew — who reject the notion that criticizing Israel’s actions, its foreign policies, its influence on US foreign and national security policy or any other aspect of that nation’s involvement in American, regional or world affairs is anything but the right and moral thing to do. Indeed, for those folks who purport to stand for truth, peace, freedom and justice and all that goes with it have an unerring obligation to do so. The stock-standard, knee-jerk reaction of labeling folks as “anti-Semites” or “self-hating Jews” for doing so has well and truly passed its use-by date. And from where I stand, no national, racial, ethnic, ideological or religious group has yet cornered the market on “hidden agendas” or “ulterior motives”.
By the same token, no national, racial, ethnic or religious group can readily claim immunity from being held accountable for their actions, nor should we — again, Jew or non-Jew — ever make allowances for them. To mix our metaphors, that surely is the thin edge of the wedge on the edge of an already very slippery slope. Phil Nelson’s book underscores the absolute imperative for the fate of the Liberty and its crew and Israel’s involvement in it to be kept on the political and public radar. This is the only way Israel will ever be properly held to account, even if only in the court of U.S. public opinion.
One of the glaring ironies – to say little of the unexpected turn of events and unintended consequences – is that despite the attack on the Liberty (and for now putting aside Johnson’s complicity), Israel and its U.S. based lobby didn’t just maintain its influence and power in Washington, but went on to consolidate and entrench it. That this took place at a time and under circumstances that would otherwise have deep-sixed this most consequential, enduring and toxic of modern history’s bi-lateral ‘bromances’ is also a point that should not be discounted. As noted, this power and influence is as entrenched and as pervasive as ever is axiomatic to be sure, and for this reason alone it is small wonder Israel sought to keep a lid on the real story behind the attack.
It also explains why the powers that be in Washington and Tel Aviv will resist with the collective fibre of its being any attempts to air the Liberty’s story.
It should moreover be noted that for Israel in all of this, if we accept indeed it was a deliberate attack (I’ll assume readers who’ve travelled this far at least tacitly accept such), some folks might suggest there were ‘mitigating circumstances’. After all, by Nelson’s account LBJ placed enormous pressure on Israel to buy into his treacherous, treasonous scheme, and even acknowledges not all those in power in Israel’s political or military establishment were keen on the idea.
Yet by the same token, without a Six-Day War – the planning of which the Israeli leadership in concert with LBJ was complicit in right up to their yarmulkes — there would have been no Liberty attack. Israel – with the “mastermind” egging then on from the White House – opened up the proverbial Pandora’s Box, out of which came all manner of unintended consequences for both parties to the conspiracy.
These consequences we’re still dealing with today of course, but nonetheless the big winner here both then and now from all these machinations – as always it seems – is ‘plucky little Israel’. Yet any “mitigating circumstances” are unlikely to be considered without recognition it was a deliberate attack from the off, which appears even more unlikely. In any event they are far outweighed by the circumstances that weren’t so “mitigating”. These might include:
— its ready and determined complicity with the US government in ensuring the cover-up of the incident at the time;
— its failure/refusal to acknowledge the real story behind the attack in the fifty years since and apologise to the survivors and their families so all might derive a measure of closure; and
— its failure/refusal to properly, fully and in a timely, sensitive manner both then and since provide adequate compensation to, and support for, survivors and their families.
— A Man for All Treasons (Power is Where Power Goes) —
As I’m fond of observing, the Grand American Narrative is not short on ironies, and it is perhaps LBJ who embodies and reflects these “ironies” more so than any other president.
He also brought to the table a few of his own home-baked, bespoke exemplars. When it came to Constitution-defying criminal activity, Richard Nixon may have felt that “when the president does it”, (whatever “it” might be), “it’s not illegal!”
But we can safely say that LBJ was a fully paid up subscriber to this belief well before the estimable “Trickster”, yet probably still showed his successor a clean pair of Texas boot-heels in the bargain, a big call by any measure. As noted earlier, LBJ’s ambitions went beyond just being president: He wanted to be the greatest goddamned commander in chief ever. By Nelson’s reckoning, he would brook few barriers and entertain any bargain to accumulate power, and once in hand, wield said “power” without moral restraint, political opposition, or legal encumbrance.
Not for nothing then was the man’s political positioning statement “Power is where power goes”. Not noted for being a ‘conviction politician’ by any stretch, there was always a disconnect between Johnson’s drive to push his country to its limits in Vietnam (and beyond), and his drive to push the Great Society and its accompanying reforms as far as he could. In keeping with that “unique psychopathology”, the Great Society was always all about LBJ. Any altruism embedded in its goals — these being egalitarianism, justice, equality, economic and social emancipation, and securing basic civil rights for African-Americans and other minorities in general — would have been foreign to the Johnson psyche.
By the same token LBJ, ever the consummate political chameleon and ‘chancer’, may just have been sucking up the zeitgeist; the Civil Rights movement at that time was unstoppable in any event. He knew supporting change in this area was one of many keys to his re-election in 1968, as well as providing him with extra ballast for his legacy, something that Johnson became increasingly obsessed with. But as with his desire to claw back the Jewish vote and enter into the Faustian bargain he did with Israeli leaders regarding the Six-Day War, and therein scheming the false-flag Liberty attack for the reasons already documented, it all came spectacularly unstuck, in the grand Shakespearean tradition.
Ultimately, although as already noted the biggest winner in this grand “bargain” was Israel, there was little redemption to be had for Number 36 on any of these fronts. At that point, the Vietnam War that was — and always had been — America’s to lose and [lose] badly, had ‘won out’ in more ways than one, with the seminal event of the Tet Offensive in early 1968 dispelling any doubt about the direction of the war except for the real die-hards. If nothing else the sheer political and financial cost of Vietnam meant that many of the Great Society programs stalled or weren’t adequately implemented or supported.
The attention also that managing his “bitch of a war” progressively demanded, undermined further any level of priority Johnson might’ve otherwise accorded his domestic agenda, no matter how genuinely committed he might’ve been to it. Having painted himself into a corner, but still harboring the manic desire for re-election up to that point, the only way for him to achieve this was via the unthinkable.
But as documented convincingly in his first book on the man, for Nelson the “unthinkable” for LBJ was terrain with which he was intimately familiar. It had served him well in the past, and the man probably had little reason to think “the unthinkable” would not continue to do so. That said, there may still be a little moral causation (trade name: ‘karma’) to be had in the case of Johnson. He began in his sunset years by some accounts to feel remorse for his past, which might suggest that even the “master of denial” could no longer keep it all in check. If this was indeed the case, the master of illusion may have morphed into the master of delusion, and from there into the ‘servant’ of despondency, disillusion, and despair.
In his second book, Nelson observed that LBJ’s own grandmother predicted he’d end up in prison — a prediction he was determined to prove wrong. But it would appear Grandma Johnson was in a sense on the money after all — LBJ metaphorically speaking ended up in a prison of his own making, and may have been in one all along. The downside though is that he visited so much misery, violence and tragedy into the lives of millions of innocent folks inside and outside of America whilst inhabiting his own personal panopticon, the legacy of which is still sadly very much evident today. The annual reunion of the Liberty veterans — taking place as I write this — is just one of the ‘exhibits’ in support of that statement, to say little of the Six-Day War itself, and the blowback from that.
And yet maybe this was the ‘fine print’ in the Faustian pact LBJ made with El Diablo in that he would not just forfeit his soul after he was dead, he lost it before the Grim Repo Man came a-knocking. In this case, to paraphrase one of Johnson’s own favourite sayings, it may have been the Lord of Fire and Brimstone after all that had LBJ’s ‘pecker in his pocket’ the whole time. And as I’m frequently reminded by many God-fearing folk of my acquaintance, for the wicked amongst us, it is He who usually gets the better part of the deal.
As for Johnson’s purported desire in his final years to balance the scales, or seek some redemption of sorts in expressing such regrets, we may never know. If he did, it’s possible he may have been saying that to portray a more human side for posterity and provide some ballast to his diminished legacy, the poor state of which he’d have been well aware of in his last years, no matter how deluded he was. According to some folk Johnson — who had been receiving psychiatric treatment in his twilight years — may have ‘fessed up to his shrink before the Grim Reaper stopped by the LBJ Ranch for his first and last house call.
Now what Number 36 might have spilt his guts about if at all no-one knows, and until and unless those patient records become public, we can all but speculate on both counts. In the meantime it would seem, the Big Fella from Johnson City, TX., like he’s been doing for over well over half a century now, will keep us all guessing. Which according to some folk, may have been his intrinsic game-plan from the off.
And if his records are ever released, given his “unique psychopathology” and the extent to which we are now familiar with it, every Ph.D psychiatry or psychology student on the Big Blue Ball would doubtless be willing to give into his/her inner Oedipal proclivities to get a piece of that action. This not to mention every conspiracy theorist and JFK ‘tragic’ who ever sniffed then breathed the 11/22 gunsmoke-scented Dallas air. Of this we can be sure.
At this point, we have probably only scratched the surface where LBJ’s concerned. And, according to Nelson and many others of a similar mindset, that’s not just with the Liberty thing or the Six-Day War. But all that’s a story for another time. As for Larry Weaver’s extraordinary revelations in the above video, whilst they no doubt may strike many folks as simply not believable, neither Nelson, this writer or many others can be found amongst those of that mindset.
For his part, LBJ may or may not have gone gently unto that good night. One suspects though had he been asked the question: ‘Do you have any regrets?’…we know what the answer almost certainly would’ve been. Such was the measure of the man it seems. Such is the measure some might say, of America itself!