June 8th, 2007, Reagan National Airport
I am not a big fan of soaring at 30,000 feet, so when the wheels touched down and the plane finally came to a complete stop I was indescribably relieved, despite the fact that it was Washington DC.
No, I am not an uncultured cretin, as some may imagine. Despite the fact I live “out in the sticks” of North Idaho, from time to time I enjoy broadening my horizons with what we call “cosmopolitan” atmospheres. Regardless of how insane it sounds, I think it is good to once in a while leave the peace and quiet of wherever and see how the other half lives, if for no other reason than to make a person better appreciate home sweet home. I could have done without leaving my wife and 8 children 3,000 miles behind me, but being a journalist covering topics such as Jewish power in America and all the corruption that this power has wrought means I am not paid a 6-figure salary for what I write and thus am forced to live on a budget that–at least mathematically–should be considered a miracle of sorts.
Nevertheless, with privileges come responsibilities of all sorts, including those involving service to country, and so when the call of duty came, I accepted, and this was the reason I found myself in a place as alien to me as Washington DC on June 8th, 2007.
Stepping off the plane in America’s most important city reminded me in part why many years ago I had left the heat and humidity of the eastern US in favor of the higher elevations found out West. Within seconds it was obvious that the air was thick as a blanket and as heavy as a sack of potatoes and if you did not suffocate outright you would at least suffer from some form of oxygen deprivation. Besides the atmospheric heat though there was the social heat that I found equally uncomfortable–The noise of the rat race…the growling and snarling of what was a dog-eat-dog society and the hustle-and-bustle of large numbers of people crammed together in what was–relatively speaking–a small space, trying to survive in what had become a hideout for gangsters with college degrees in law and political science.
Nevertheless, I was on a mission of sorts, to be the eyes and ears of American Free Press –“America’s last real newspaper” as we like to call her, at the ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the day on which 34 American sailors serving aboard the USS Liberty were murdered by “America’s only ally” in the Middle East, Israel.
Up to this point for several months I had been conversing with several members of the former Liberty crew on a semi-weekly basis, using these conversations as the foundation for several pieces I had written for AFP. I had seen their photos and had watched them in the few documentaries done on their tragic story–both on the day of the now-infamous attack and what has taken place everyday since that time, meaning the cover-up and the campaign of shameless, brazen lying.
Predictably, through the conversations I had been having with these fellows both over the phone and the internet I had developed pictures in my mind as to who they were and what they were like, and without reservation I can say that every second I spent speaking with them was worth its weight in gold. It’s one thing to come to grips with an historical event by way of some lifeless, sterile, 3rd hand account that might as well be a how-to manual on a tube of toothpaste. It’s another thing altogether to speak with someone who lived through it first-hand, the difference between the two being as stark as having fizz in your cola vs. having it go flat.
Despite the fact that I regularly deal with some pretty weighty issues taking place in the world, nevertheless speaking with the Liberty guys for the two months previous to my DC trip was one heck of a jolt to my otherwise serene equilibrium, even being the news junkie that I am. However, (and as invaluable as these conversations were in developing my own understanding of what the Liberty affair entailed) this process was in and of itself just a preparatory step as well, like margarine or some other butter substitute compared to the real deal. Now, after 3 months of using margarine and thinking that it was the greatest thing in the world, I was about to experience butter for the first time.
Despite the fact that I was invited by the Liberty Veterans Association to attend the reunion as their special guest, the truth was that I felt somewhat out of place at the event. Not because I had never served in the Navy nor that at the very moment these men were being brutally attacked 40 years earlier with hundreds of missiles, hundreds of thousands of armor-piercing rounds, napalm and a torpedo that blew a hole in the side of their ship the size of any average house in America I was crawling around the floor in cloth diapers…
Rather it was because I was there as a spy of sorts, to sit back, watch, listen, and in all other ways act as a sponge for what they said and all the emotions that fueled the sounds made by their mouths that were a raw testimony to the treachery of both the American and Israeli power elite who subjected these men to what took place on that June day 40 years ago.
“…Though I Walk Through the Valley of Death…”
The cab ride from the airport to Arlington was provided by a kind, gentle man from Afghanistan whose name escapes me at the moment. Seeing his Middle Eastern name on his dashboard-mounted ID card and paying homage to that old saying ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’ I did the completely natural thing of trying to strike up a political discussion in what was the world capital of politics, Washington DC. He however, not being from Rome but rather from a nation with which the new Rome–America– was at war apparently preferred living by the old adage “Silence is golden”, and other than indicating that he would never return again to his native country of Afghanistan as a result of what had been done by the American war machine, said very little. He did remark though that his loved ones were here in the US with him, having fled the “new and improved” Afghanistan that had been transformed into a no-man’s land of maimed and terrified children, unexploded cluster bombs and depleted uranium, all courtesy of the land of the free and home of the brave, America. I was glad that he was here and not there, despite the anti-immigrant, anti-Middle Eastern mood that seems to be gripping the country these days, something that no doubt he has had to deal with from time to time.
To call it an eerie feeling does not go far enough. It was more than that, the impossible-to-describe sickness in my gut that I felt while driving through the city. We often read in the Good Book of God’s power and how He looks after His own in that famous “Though I walk through the valley of death I shall have no fear,” proverb, but at that moment those words had very little meaning to me. I felt like a goldfish in a bowl surrounded by hungry cats watching my every move behind the glass. Driving through DC to Arlington was like traversing through an unholy graveyard of sorts and just another indication to me as to how much an alien I was in the capital of my own country.
Not that I had left America, but rather that America had left me. I grew up idolizing selfless individuals such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and always lamented the fact that I did not grow up in a better time of America’s history such as 1776. The day I fell in love with America (upon reading as a young child the diary of Joseph Plum Martin, American soldier in the revolutionary war) I dreamt of the day I would get to meet a real American hero, and now, thinking of what had transpired since the birth of this nation and what it has become today was like stepping into the Twilight Zone. In most respects it was now a place of despair dressed up to look nice, a “white-washed tomb” in borrowing yet another biblical phrase, only on a more subtle, institutionalized and corporate level. Huge tombstones 30 stories high or more jutted into the air, the abodes of lifeless ghouls and vultures whose existence was inextricably tied to feeding off the death that this city provided. Passing the Capital building and trying to avoid hearing the deals being made on a regular basis between the same members of Congress entrusted with the well-being of America and the various Jewish groups steeped in treachery such as AIPAC, JINSA, WJC and all the others responsible for dragging this once-Christian nation into the gutter of fighting Israel’s dirty wars was like trying to pretend that all was silent during a thunderstorm. It–meaning the treachery–was real, something you could feel, hear, see, smell, and as tangible as if you had inadvertently grabbed two bare electric wires.
“Right there”… I thought to myself, looking at the great dome… “is where it all takes place…The belly of the beast…”
And indeed, there it was, the giant dome that for all intents and purposes had become the new tower of Babel, the meeting room where individuals (who would have been shot for treason during a better time in America’s history) gathered together amidst bags of money and threats of blackmail and plotted how to best shed the blood of innocent people all around the world for their own personal gain. As easily and clearly as I could hear the deals being made I could see clouds of treason hanging over the entire area like black, choking smoke from a 5-alarm fire out of Hell itself. I thought to myself that if ever there were a place the devil would have an embassy built, it would be right here, right now in America of 2007. Despite the 100-degree heat, I shuddered as if I were at the south pole.
I must have muttered something out loud, because the kind man from Afghanistan turned his head slightly in my direction gesturing politely that he had not heard what I said, and to which I smiled slightly and shook my head disarmingly as if to say, “Nothing”.
I glanced again at the dome, and for whatever reason I thought of Jesus and how before His enemies bribed and blackmailed the Roman governor Pilate to have Him killed He had made a whip and drove the money changers from the temple. I thought of the way that He referred to those making up the organized Jewish lobby of His time who had abused their positions of authority for personal gain as a brood of vipers and the locale from where they did it a den of thieves. What could be more fitting? As St. Paul once stated, “There is nothing new under the sun” and thus I was forced to conclude that indeed nothing has really changed these last 2,000 years–Jewish power wedding itself to the wealth and influence of the Roman empire, the only difference in this case being that the Romans speak a form of provincial English rather than Latin.
It was a surprisingly short ride. Having never been to Arlington before I was not aware how close it was. As cynical as it may sound, I do not think it’s a stretch to predict that the day is coming when the governing entity of the United States–uncomfortable with living in such close proximity to the final resting place of so many Americans who lost their lives as a result of wars begun by America’s power elite for nefarious reasons–will pass a bill for the relocation of this hallowed ground known as Arlington to some far-and-away, out-of-sight-and-thus-out-of-mind place such as the middle of Kansas. I know that some would scoff at this, but what must be remembered is that this is the 21st century, where our leaders “downsize” most of what is sacred to us by shipping it someplace else where greater profits can be made, and whether it is America’s industrial and economic might or whether it is the remains of our beloved dead heroes, the fact is that nothing is sacred to these men and women anymore except their power and their wealth.
…And, just like that, there we were…
The transition from the irreverent, nerve-grating noise of the world’s most important metropolis to the peace and quiet of America’s most important cemetery was profound, as were the surroundings. The sign at the entryway of the cemetery–the burnt umber, reddish brown background faced with white lettering–immediately imposed a change of composure upon those as they entered. Like whispering when you entered a church and tip-toeing so as not to make too much noise in such a sacred place, I too felt the compulsion of silence even before I had left the vehicle, and from the air-conditioned cab I knew immediately that I had just entered a different room within the national mansion, a room where foolishness or any other kind of casual, carefree obliviousness was unacceptable.
Instead of skyscrapers erected in the interests of self-serving/self-interested individuals trying to grab the big brass ring, now there were stone monuments no more than 30 inches in height testifying to the ultimate in American altruism. Tombstone after tombstone after tombstone, seemingly millions of them in what was an endless sea of bravery, honor, duty and sacrifice. The grass was as meticulously maintained and as green as if this were God’s back yard and the birds–mindless of what this place was, sang songs of joy despite the fact that this garden represented death and incalculable suffering on a grand scale for many.
As I said, the heat and accompanying humidity were incredible, and the rows of stone monuments–all of the same basic size, shape and color as if they were uniformed troops in perfect formation on a battlefield–did not make it any better. The tombstones acted as sponges for this heat, and it is no exaggeration to say that we could have baked one of those made-to-order take-home pizzas right there in the cemetery had we wanted to. Given the fact that this was the 40th anniversary of the attack meant that most of those in attendance were well into their 60’s or above, a cause for concern on a day as uncomfortable as this. As uncomfortable as it was for me physically–the “whippersnapper” of the bunch at 40 years of age–meant that it had to be much worse for the older folks.
Nevertheless, despite the heat, there they were, the men of the USS Liberty, seated in the front row, just as they should be on a day such as this, with their families and friends seated in the rows behind them. From the back I could see heads that were bald or else well on their way to such a distinguished state, and whatever hair that had remained despite dealing with the daily stress and anguish of what has taken place since June 8,1967 was some shade of grey. True to their former military decorum, many wore their covers–meaning their hats, dark blue ones proudly reading “USS Liberty AGTR-5.”
“Simply amazing” I thought to myself…Despite what they had gone through on that day 40 years ago and the betrayal of their own government every day since, they were still proud of the fact that they were Americans and had once been sailors in the navy of the United States aboard a ship called Liberty.
I grumbled silently over the weather. I had spent the last 6 years out in the Northwest where the heat and humidity are as rare as chicken’s teeth and thus had developed an intolerance for weather like this. Unlike me though, there was not a peep of discontent from any of the Liberty boys despite the fact that it felt like an oven. I suppose that having endured the heat of June 8th, 1967 when Israel unleashed hell on their ship by dousing it with napalm and setting it on fire meant that today’s heat was–comparatively speaking, nothing.
Besides, they knew better. They had learned a long time ago when going through boot camp that there was no place in the armed services of the United States for petulant, prissy, petty-minded individuals who would whine about something like a little heat and discomfort. They were, after all, Americans–the great-great grandchildren of those who sailed to this land aboard the Mayflower, who fought for and won America’s independence from what was at that time the most powerful military and economic power in the world and who did not complain. America was founded by doers, not whiners, and as far as they were concerned there would be no new changes in that American character anytime soon. How many times had the men onboard the Liberty heard it from their NCOs whose job was to make them the best they could be? A thousand? A million?
…Suck it up and go, sailor…
…and it was something that had obviously stuck with them, even to this day.
Some of them wore sport coats and ties. Some wore full-dress Navy uniforms, mopping their foreheads from time to time with a handkerchief. There was very little chatter, something which I attributed not so much to the heat as to the solemnity of being in the place where the remains of 34 American boys– killed by America’s only ally in the Middle East, Israel–were buried.
I scanned the environs for one of “them”–meaning a spy from one of the pro-Israel groups such as ADL, AIPAC, JINSA, JDL or whatever. They HAD to be there in some capacity, because they always were. There was no way in Hades that an event as important as this was going to come and go without them slithering about like political Peeping Toms or KGB agents, keeping tabs on who was there, what took place and, most importantly, what was said. Doubtless that whoever the mole was, he or she–rather than making known to everyone their real identity and agenda, would instead come disguised as a true American by sporting some type of USS Liberty regalia or some other vestige of “Isn’t America Great? God Bless America!” pin, hat, t-shirt or something thus. Like Judas some 20 centuries past who affectatiously tried to hide his treachery with a kiss, the Zionist operatives were, are, and probably always will be some of the best spies in the business by virtue of their ability to blend with their environment like any chameleon in the wild, as well as their willingness to bold-facedly lie in whatever manner necessary.
The truth is, these weasels had good reason to worry about the whole Liberty affair. There is no question that it has been and remains one of the worst–if not THE worst–thorns in the side of the Israeli lobby now these last 40 years. It is the one thread in the dirty, smelly, soiled Zionist pantyhose that–if snagged and appropriately pulled–would lead to the unraveling of the whole deceptive garment the Jewish state uses in hiding her ugly nakedness. What makes the Liberty incident so bad is the fact that it cannot be thrown into the witches’ cauldron with all the other charges of “anti-Semitic” conspiracy theories that have dogged Israel for years, be it her role in the attempted poisoning of President Harry S. Truman, the assassination of JFK, the bombing of the US Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, the attack on the World Trade center in 1993 and of course, the mother of them all, 9/11. With the Liberty incident, no such slight-of-hand, no “let’s change the subject to something less uncomfortable” maneuver was possible as it was with other events. There could be no “WHY, YOU DIRTY ROTTEN SOB’s, HOW DARE YOU ACCUSE US OF SOMETHING SO LOW-DOWN” that Israel’s spokesmen typically shriek when confronted with the reality of their nation’s criminal past.
No, just as John Adams, one of America’s Founding Fathers and 2nd President of the United States remarked, “Facts are stubborn things”, and like a mountain the size of Sinai off the coast of which the Liberty was attacked for over an hour, it was the facts surrounding the event that stood in the way of that ‘shitty little nation’ Israel coming out of it all smelling like a rose.
The Liberty was attacked–no ifs, ands or buts about it, and attacked–not by militant Islamic fanatics or neo-Nazi, right-wing militia types from the mountains of Montana, but by America’s “only ally in the region”–Israel. Attacked by Israel after 6 hours of low-level, lumbering reconnaissance flights. Attacked by the Jewish state for over an hour with more than 800 rockets, tens of thousands of armor-piercing shells, napalm and 5 torpedoes. As a result of Israel’s actions 34 American men died, 171 were wounded, and what’s worse is the fact that for the last 40 years the survivors have told a version of what happened that does not jibe in anyway with the pathetic excuses offered by the attackers for the event.
What’s more, (and more importantly) the thing that causes Israel and her advocates the most nausea is that the boys of the Liberty are not just believable, but likeable. They represent the best of what America was and is. Unlike Israel’s loud-mouthed, belligerent, unlikable, ugly cheerleaders represented by the likes of Alan Dershowitz, Abe Foxman, Frank Gaffney and Daniel Pipes (just to name a few) who regularly get in our faces and tell us what a swell friendship America has with the Jewish state and how Goddamned lucky we all are to be giving her 3 billion a year, the swabbies of the USS Liberty are not obnoxious, self-interested, deceitful, haughty individuals who assume that everyone else is too stupid to figure out what is really going on and how they’re all being scammed.
Collectively the Liberty fellows are like the guy next door who comes to help you out when a tree blew over in your yard following a night of thunderstorms or the guy who helps an old lady out by changing her flat tire. Unlike the liars who argue that the act of war perpetrated against the United States on 6/8/67 was all a big accident, by contrast the Liberty boys are honest to a fault, like the customer who points out to the cashier that she gave him too much money in change. These simple, unassuming, non-pretentious sailors are not wealthy, ambitious, greedy, blue-blooded bloodhounds following the scent of money and political power. All they want is the truth told. None (to my knowledge) have tried to get rich off of the event. None (to my knowledge) have sought or won any high political offices. None are trying to use the event as a springboard for some high-profile public career. All they want is a fair airing of the facts so that the demons loosed into their unassuming lives 40 years ago can be put to rest and that–once again–they can be proud to call themselves the sons and grandsons of those who 200 years ago caused a foreign, occupying power to scurry off with its tail between its legs as a result of the happy marriage of American arms and resolution.
And these facts (along with the hard, empirical data of what took place on June 8, 1967) are what the pro-Israel groups fear the worst. Instinctively they must know that despite all the propagandizing and bullying they inflict upon the American people that at some point blood will prove to be thicker than water, that the American people will remember who they are and thus will come to the conclusion that siding with the foreign body responsible for the murder of 34 American sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers has no upside to it and that no perks associated with being an FOI–meaning a Friend of Israel–are to be had.
At the very least…in the best of circumstances what this realization portends is the parasite being evicted from its comfortable penthouse atop the dog’s jugular vein. The immediate result of this realization would be poor lil’ Israel being forced to fend for herself in a sea of enemies she has created by her own violent, obnoxious behavior and rather than living off the handouts she receives from her wealthy benefactor she will have to pay her own way by the sweat of her own brow, something that has never been part of her people’s collective character.
But it certainly does not end there. More serious than the aforementioned is the fact that the Americans (being in many respects carbon copies of the Romans in their ingenuity, practicality, and resolution) are a very patient, forgiving people, up to a point, and after that “point” is reached there is no pulling back from the abyss with them. The American people are willing to put up with a lot, to “go along to get along” even with the most unpleasant and obnoxious individuals, but once she has been pushed a millimeter too far her wild side takes over and she tears her enemies to pieces, leaving nothing recognizable in the aftermath. No better proof of this tendency exists than what has taken place in Iraq today, as misdirected as this campaign is. Iraq–for all intents and purposes, has ceased to exist. There is nothing left of it, save the misery. It has been reduced to rubble and complete chaos, and all because the American people were convinced by a well-orchestrated misinformation campaign that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11.
And like her Roman counterpart 2,000 years ago that went into Palestine with legion upon legion and utterly decimated the Jewish state, leaving “not one stone upon the other” just as Jesus Himself predicted would happen, Israel today knows–even if but subconsciously–that the day may come when all her misdeeds will catch up to her, that the dog will finally tire of being sapped of its vitality by the parasite and will then turn and devour her, and the Liberty event may be exactly the catalyst for such a thing taking place…
…And the truth is that it really would not be such a hard sell to the American people, were they exposed to what really took place with the Liberty. Since 9/11 the Zionist media in America has been screaming until blue in the face all the business of “Supporting the Troops” and “God Bless America” and has in all other ways tugged at every emotional, patriotic heartstring available in order to galvanize the American people into fighting Israel’s wars for her. All that would be necessary in transforming the American people from a well-behaved, pliant, friendly mutt into a merciless pitbull would be a mere smattering of the facts surrounding the Liberty attack revealed in the proper context, and this is something that Israel knows all too well. Then the “We mistook the Liberty for an Egyptian horse ferry ¼ the size and no longer in service” excuse would be as worthless as money from a monopoly game. The whole “fog of war” ruse that she has used in feigning innocence for the attack would be as valuable as an expensive fishing rod on the dark side of the moon, and when the American people then began looking into Israel’s documented role in 9/11 and all the other dirty tricks she has played against the American people, it would be 70 AD all over again, something that she knows all too well, which is why Liberty remains the most non-discussed controversy in American History, particularly when compared to things such as Lincoln’s assassination, 9/11, JFK, Pearl Harbor and all the rest.
Nevertheless, scanning the assembled crowd I saw no one who struck me as possibly being one of those typical sniveling, scheming Israel-first shills, and, no blips having appearing on my radar, I settled myself into the proper mood and spirit that Arlington national cemetery commands–one of silent reverence.
Straight as an arrow and as stiff as an oak tree…
Despite the fact that he was not a young man anymore, he was still fit as a fiddle and his movements as precise and disciplined as would have been those of any pimply-faced, 18-year old US Marine fresh out of boot camp. He stood there as rigid as the gravestone in front of him with an expression on his face as serious as death, fitting, given where we were and what we were doing. With the same kind of flawless precision he had no doubt executed a thousand times before during his military career, he snapped a salute and said clearly for all those in attendance “Sgt. Bryce Lockwood, reporting for duty.”
The fact that he was not reporting to a superior officer but rather paying his respects before a singular, white tombstone in Arlington National Cemetery did not in any way lessen the seriousness of his demeanor. He was a soldier and the men whose remains were buried in the grave before him were soldiers as well, and not just any run-of-the-mill soldiers, but rather men just like him–meaning they had served aboard the Liberty when it was attacked 40 years earlier.
Unlike him though, they had perished that day 40 years earlier, when ‘America’s only ally’ in the Middle East attacked the ship for 90 minutes, unleashing as many as 800 rockets and tens of thousands–perhaps even hundreds of thousands–of armor piercing shells that transformed the American spy ship into a giant block of metal Swiss cheese.
It was 12 pm, “high noon” as they say, on June 8th, 2007 when the ceremony began marking the day on which 300 American sailors were attacked on the high seas by what they thought was an ally and then later betrayed by the very government they swore an oath to serve and obey.
I say ‘officially’ because–truth be told, the men had arrived the day before and had unofficially kicked off the reunion in the only way former seamen can–meaning in the bar on the 2nd floor of the Marriot Courtyard in Tyson’s Quarter, Virginia where most of them had booked rooms. They threw back beers and laughed, joking with each other just as they no doubt did 40 years earlier when they were young men, most of them barely out of high school with more hair and less wisdom.
All in all there were close 40 survivors there at Arlington and along with their wives, families, friends and hangers-on such as myself, a grand total nearing the 300 mark. There was some media, (I noticed the Middle East network Al Jazeerah) but nothing from what we would call our own home-grown news. But then, why should they be there anyway? After all, it was an American cemetery honoring American dead and anyone with an ounce of awareness these days knows that there is nothing “American” about an American news media that is controlled by a foreign power known as Israel.
Each of the survivors took turns approaching the lone tombstone that housed the remains of 5 Liberty dead, saluted and called out the name of one of the 34 shipmates who had been killed that fateful day. Following this, ‘Taps’ was played by a sailor dressed in white whose rank I did not happen to note and who played every note with the same kind of perfection and precision that the US Military not only inspires, but demands of its people. Now, rather than wiping their faces of the sweat that poured out of their pores like broken water mains, the attendees wiped their eyes of the tears that flowed with equal force, paying respects to their fellow fallen Americans in the only way that they could at that moment, which was to grieve for them.
And although I did not know any of the men who died that day, I grieved as well. Unmindful of the fact that I was amongst strangers I also wept, lightly, trying as best I could to keep myself composed out of respect for those who truly deserved to wail out loud in emotional pain, the men of the Liberty.
Had it not been for the playing of “Taps” I could probably have maintained my composure as a man and kept my eyes as dry as those of Johnson, McNamara and the Israeli commanders who ordered the attack that took place that day in June of 1966. However, hearing that slow, sad tune has always done that to me, literally from the first moment I heard it as a child of about 8 years of age, when on Memorial Day soldiers came to the graveyard next to our home and honored the dead with music and rifle shots. Even as a young boy it made me think of selfless individuals who loved their country more than themselves and who understood what Jesus had meant when He said that “No greater love exists than that a man lay down his life for another”.
But more than the fact that these brave men died was how their deaths played a role in my own world 40 years later that was the cause of my outrage, since their killers–not only being given a free pass–were rewarded with billions upon billions UPON BILLIONS of dollars, year after year since this bloodbath took place. This one act alone of the US Government forking over (what is by some conservative estimates these days) over a trillion dollars to this pariah nation after it killed 34 of our fellow Americans signaled to me that this was no longer my country. It was not the country of my children. We were not safe in such a place. That could just as easily be my remains in the grave being saluted, or the remains of one of my children and the perpetrators of this would get off Scott-free as well, provided of course that they were Jewish. Yes, it is true that President Jimmy Carter negotiated with the Jewish state on behalf of the aggrieved people of the United States the payment of 6 million dollars for the damage she inflicted on the Liberty–one dollar for each of those said to have perished in the Holocaust–but that same year the US Congress simply added 6 million dollars to the 3 billion that she annually gives her in order to make up for the deficiency.
Through a mixture of tears and the sweat that had been running off my forehead I saw the backs of the men in front of me, their broad shoulders heaving up and down with the rhythm of their sobs, and I knew instinctively that they were thinking the same thing I was–the treachery. The betrayal. The lies. This was the worst part of the whole ordeal, not necessarily that their fellow shipmates had died. Had these deaths occurred as a result of something else, it would have been something that would have passed away as a mere act of God. Had it even been that they died in the line of duty and their country stood by them afterwards, the bitterness would have been mitigated. After all, as everyone knows, war is hell and you don’t join the service with the idea that bad things might not happen to you in wartime.
However, having your country–in the form of its government–turn its back on you is another matter altogether. It’s like having one of your parents run to the defense of someone who tried unsuccessfully to kill you. The thought of it causes the mind to do flip-flops, which is the biggest reason why so many of the men aboard the ship that day suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD as they have referred to it when speaking to me. As one of the Liberty fellows had once told me in a phone conversation, what was done to him by his own government was worse than what the Israelis themselves did, saying “I’d rather that Johnson and McNamara had put a bullet in my head than what they forced me to go through these last 40 years.”
Not surprisingly, there was not one member of the US Congress in attendance at the hallowed ground despite the fact that several had been invited. “Bigger fish to fry” than to pay respects to America’s fallen heroes, I suppose.
After the ceremony at Arlington, we boarded the busses again and headed for the Officer’s Club at Fort Meyers where we replenished the water lost during the first ceremony with lunch. The air conditioner worked and I was thankful for that. I searched the room for faces I might recognize, faces I had come to know fairly well by watching the DVD on the Liberty dozens of times. I could feel the eyes of the people there on me, people wondering who I might be, with my dark skin, nerdy glasses and beard. I caught a few of them glancing at me suspiciously, no doubt wondering if I was a spy from the “other side,” meaning the pro-Israel crowd who had made the lives of these brave men hell these last 40 years with their systematic and reality-defying cover-up of what took place that day.
I did not take offense at their suspicions. They had every right and every reason to be mistrustful and when I would catch them giving me a once-over would try to allay their fears with a simple nod of my head and slight smile.
I was standing in the lobby of the Officer’s Club when I heard his voice. It was unmistakable, and particularly given that I had heard it a thousand times on the phone, Gary Brummet, president of the Liberty Veterans Association. Besides his deep voice there was that trademark Louisiana drawl as well and the slight, almost imperceptible wheeze in his voice that made me assume during the dozens of discussions we had had that he was most likely a heavy man. I honed in on the voice to tried locating its origin, and much to my surprise there was Gary, although not as I imagined him. He was shorter and thinner than I had expected he would be, but–exactly as I had expected, smoking like a chimney, a habit of his I noted after many hours of speaking over the phone where I would hear him light up one cigarette after another. I came up and touched his arm, only to be met with a “Just who the hell are you?” expression. I extended my hand and simply said my name, at which point his wrinkled, tanned face lit up, causing his AGTR cap to slightly raise, indicating to me that he was glad I made it.
“Now look here Mark” (just as he would always say in our phone conversations when he wanted my attention) “I’m up to my rear-end in alligators right now but stay close to me ’cause we only got a few minutes left here and then we’re headed over to the memorial and I want to show you ‘round to the other fellas”.
And, as if he were a Czar of sorts with limitless power, within a few minutes we boarded the busses again for the trip back to DC towards the Navy memorial on Pennsylvania Ave. The air conditioner on the bus worked, and again, for that I was glad. As if we were back in high school, men who were old enough to be grandparents clambered for the back seats on the bus where we could say what we wanted without worrying about getting into trouble from a bus driver who might turn us into the principal once we got to school.
And it was here that I was afforded the first opportunity of seeing the boys of the Liberty in a manner up close and personal. Like true Americans who did not like being told what to do by petty, would-be tyrants, they lit up cigarettes on a non-smoking bus and exhaled out the window to try and hide their crime. They told jokes–some of them racy and some of them silly, just as they would have done 40 years ago in the mess hall of the USS Liberty when they were not on duty. I was turned in my seat in a position that would have gotten me yelled at by the bus driver when I was in grade school to watch them and hear everything I could, which elicited a few accusatory questions from them as to who I was. Gary spoke up for me and let the fellas know I was alright–“Now look here fellas, this here’s ‘so-and so’ …He’s a writer with ‘such-and-such’ and they’ve been doin’ some good stories on us lately so treat him right’. The fellas relaxed and went back to what they had been doing and paid me no mind, which was just perfect for me.
Before long we were back in the heart of DC again and had come to a stop at the Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Ave. We exited the bus and again ventured out into what was the blazing heat and suffocating humidity of the mid-afternoon. Upon exiting the bus I looked around me at the environs–there was the Supreme Court and around the corner was the FBI building.
I shook my head in disgust, thinking of the irony to it all. Here we were commemorating the day on which an act of war was perpetrated against the people of the United States and where was America’s greatest crime-fighting organization, the vaunted FBI that “Always gets its man?”
The answer popped into my head as quickly as the question had been born–They were here, for sure…No doubt disguised as someone reading a newspaper or eating a lunch, watching all of us and possibly snapping photos, but was anything afoot to bring the perpetrators of this act of mass murder to justice?
No. Our photos would be added to an already-existing file of possible subversives and terrorist sympathizers, but as far as doing what was right by the American people–“Fahgetta ‘bout it”, just as Capone, Luciano and other infamous gangsters whom the Feds had once brought down used to say.
We settled in and prepared for the ceremony. At the front of the memorial was a row of seats with what appeared to be distinguished persons seated there. There were fiery, indignant speeches by an ex-ambassador and by Liberty survivors. Some of the people there who were not associated with the event watched casually and with as much interest as if nothing at all were taking place. Watching them as they paid passive attention to the goings-on, I thought to myself sardonically that if asked they would be completely well-versed on the latest news concerning Paris Hilton’s arrest or the status of Britney Spear’s rehab process. Ask them about the USS Liberty though and it might as well be something spoken in a foreign language for all the recognition (and interest) that it would garner.
Again, I scanned the environs for one of “them”. They had to be there in some capacity…I could smell it in the same way you know someone has just lit up a cigar. There was a young gal there with long, dark, curly hair snapping pictures who could easily have fit the bill. I tempered my paranoia be reminding myself that she could just as easily have been working for some newspaper instead of one of the organized Jewish groups such as ADL or AIPAC, when all at once I snapped back to reality and remembered that–all things being equal–the difference between these groups and the media was just a case of six of one vs. half a dozen of the other.
Amazingly (and, at least to my sense of outrage) the business of Washington went on unperturbed by our little event. Here were almost 40 men sitting in the middle of the nation’s capital begging and pleading for justice and yet there was not a peep of official recognition that they were even there, save for the Navy bugler. “How perfectly generous” I thought to myself. All the noise that had been generated by our media over the “rescue” of Pfc. Jessica Lynch in Iraq as well as ex-football star-turned Army Ranger Pat Tillman who was killed by one of his own in Afghanistan, and the best that the US Military establishment could do was to send over a lone bugler, not that I had any contempt for him, as he was just doing his job. I looked out at some large, imposing government building, and despite not knowing what took place in it merely muttered to myself “Goddamn them”.
For whatever reason, we did not encounter any hecklers of any kind, something of a miracle of sorts in and of itself. I have been to demonstrations in the past where the issue of Israel was involved and can say with authority that it gets LOUD, and particularly from the Jewish side of things. None of that today though, which again fits in with my theory that the Israel-firsters want as little attention drawn to the Liberty incident as possible.
After a half dozen passionate speeches from several people, again the names of the Liberty dead were read aloud. Stan White, one of the survivors, rang a bell after each name was said, and after it was all over, “Taps” was again played, and again, the tears flowed from everyone there. A wreath was laid at the statue of the unknown sailor by Gary Brummet and a few others whom I do not remember right now. I shook my head in shame for what my country had done to these men and their families.
We boarded the bus and went back to Tyson’s Corner so that we could once again replenish the fluids we lost in the heat of the city with some much-appreciated alcohol in the bar at the Marriot.
Gary took me by the arm and introduced me to as many people as he could, given his other duties. Again, I noted the suspicious nature with which I was handled, and, again, I did not take offense. The men of the Liberty probably hated the media as much as they do their attackers, seeing them as perpetrators of the Big Lie and as cogs in the giant wheel that has deprived them of the justice and respectability they deserved. Gary did the best he could in letting them know that I was ok and could be trusted. Once the alcohol got into our systems everyone seemed to relax a little and before long people who assumed the worst about me were shaking my hand and slapping me on the back. Some of them had read my pieces in AFP on the Liberty and expressed gratitude. I would simply smile at them and tell them that the honor was all mine, which was neither an exaggeration nor an affectation.
I studied their faces, and despite the fact that they were a salad of ethnicities and genotypes, the one thing common in all of them to some degree was the anguish, some of which was manifested in broken blood vessels on their noses, indicating years of heavy drinking. As I made my way around, talking to as many of them as time and circumstances would allow, the emotions ran the gamut as to how they had coped with this issue for these last 40 years–anger, sadness, bewilderment, etc, etc. what their answers told me was that trying to understand what had been done to them was like taking pieces from 100 different puzzles and trying somehow to fit them together in such a way that a rational, coherent picture exists…It can’t be done, and a person will go mad trying to do it.
Between the long flight, the change of environment and the 2 beers I had drunk on what was an almost-empty stomach, I was wiped out and decided to get some sleep, bidding the survivors a good night until the next morning.
“You Know They Were Trying To Kill Us That Day…You Know That, Don’t You, Young man?”
Given that I was 3,000 miles away from my family, I left my cell phone on all night, just in case my wife needed to get hold of me for something important. When it rang the next morning I hoped it would be her or else one of my “little monkeys” as I refer to them affectionately. To my surprise however I answered the phone only to hear the same deep, Louisiana accent of Gary Brummet, asking me how I slept and telling me what the morning’s schedule was going to be.
I felt good. I was rested and eager to get back to the business of hanging around some real American heroes. After showering and getting myself fixed up, I headed down to the lobby of the hotel, and, true to his word, there was Gary, talking with a few fellows, one of whom was Bryce Lockewood, a Marine sergeant on the Liberty when it was attacked.
I had not met Bryce the previous day, although I had wanted to meet him ever since reading about him in the various books and articles written on what took place. The story was that he had saved several guys that day, dragging them out of the lower room where an Israeli missile had penetrated the ship’s hull and then exploded. Once Gary was aware of my standing next to him, he deferred to me and made introductions all the way around. As politely as I could, I shook hands with the few who were standing there, and when it came time to shake the hand of Sgt. Lockewood, he grabbed my hand as firmly as if I were one of the guys whom he was pulling to safety that day. He fixed his large, grayish-blue eyes on mine, and in a mask of barely-concealed rage, said to me “You know they were out to kill us that day…You know that, don’t you, young man? EVERY GODDAMNED ONE OF US…”
An air of uncomfortably–if indeed that is the correct word–came over our small group as we stood there. The other fellows stopped chattering and got quiet, lowered their heads somewhat in deference to what Bryce was saying. What I came to understand in an instant was that this was something they had dealt with many times before in their 40 years together. They had come to recognize when someone was having an episode where emotions were raging like a hurricane and that everything else taking place that moment needed to stop and let the guy purge himself of his demons. Sgt. Lockewood continued holding my hand in his grip, continued staring into my eyes as if to say to me “WHY, YOUNG MAN??? CAN YOU TELL ME WHY??? WHY DID THEY DO THIS TO US???”
I could see in his eyes that this man has been living in hell since that day, and I was moved to immediate, unconditional, unadulterated compassion for him. I stood there, not moving, holding on to his hand as long and as tight as he held on to mine. I continued staring at him and allowed him to continue staring at me, and once I felt that he had gotten it out of his system, I simply nodded sympathetically to him and said “I know, Sergeant, and may God damn them for what they did to you that day…”
No longer in the grip of his anger, I could now see that he was in the grip of the despair he had dealt with these last 40 years, that place where he wails out loud the question “WHY?!” over and over. He loosened his grip and walked off with his wife Louis, a lovely woman. As they wandered off, I kept my eyes on him as Gary (in hushed tones) resumed the business of telling us what we would be doing soon. As much as I tried concentrating on what he was saying however, I could not take my eyes of Sgt. Lockewood and his wife, who had wandered off to a more private place in the lobby about 10 yards away with their backs to me, as he obviously wept and she rubbed his back reassuringly.
I wondered to myself how many times this scenario must have taken place over the last 40 years, and that if these two had a nickel for every time it had occurred they could probably retire someplace tropical.
On this morning we were headed for the Annapolis Naval Academy where–finally, after 40 years–the graduates of that academy who had perished at the hands of the Jewish state 40 years earlier were to be honored. As I stepped outside to board the bus, I noticed immediately (and to my eternal gratitude) that–perhaps by the sheer grace of God–the heat and humidity were gone. It was almost as pleasant as any day in North Idaho where I currently reside, with a slight breeze.
We boarded the busses, and again, we were as noisy as hormone-driven teenagers without a care in the world. The guys headed for the back where they could talk like guys and the gals gathered somewhere in the middle where they could talk like gals and everyone seemed happy with this arrangement. We headed out, away from DC and, I assumed, towards someplace better.
Again, the clashing of the past and present was something surreal to experience first-hand. I sat and listened to these guys telling jokes and laughing as if the events of 40 years ago and every day since were things they had never experienced. They could just as easily have been guys who played football together getting together for a high-school reunion or a barbeque. Dale, whose last name I do not recall, was a big guy, spoke in a very soothing way and seemed to chuckle at about everything that was said. By his accent he was obviously from the Midwest section of America. Another fellow even shorter in stature than me (if that can be believed) spoke with a New England accent that can only be described as extreme and had the pale blue eyes that typically accompanied people from that region of the country. Another fellow, obviously from Brooklyn, had a few tattoos on his arms and an attitude that accompanied his dialect that, given all the Italian gangster movies we Americans have been subjected to all these years, made me slightly wary of him, despite the fact that I married an Italian gal whose family was also from Brooklyn and the fact that I knew these people were the salt of the earth.
Perhaps because of the weather, perhaps because it was morning, I do not know, but the fact is that there was no political talk of any sort taking place on the bus ride over, which I found somewhat odd, given the reason that we were all here. Then again, perhaps it was as understandable as not eating chili for breakfast, as the human system needs to prepare itself for something spicy like that. I glanced at Bryce Lockewood, who simply sat there, motionless and silent as if he were on guard duty somewhere. Seated next to him was Donald J Lundin, not as granite-like in his demeanor as Bryce but certainly very stoic nonetheless and who had wound up a police officer after leaving his stint in the navy.
Again, I tried to be as invisible as a bug on the wall. I felt a certain sense of impropriety at my being there, despite the fact that I had been invited by the Liberty Veterans Association. I had not suffered with these guys and thus I had no right to be involved in the solemnity of the events taking place that weekend. My instinct was to express to them my outrage and my sympathy over what they had gone through as well as my admiration for the fact that–even now, forty years later, they had never given up, but I thought better of it and decided to keep my mouth shut.
We arrived at Annapolis and headed for the coliseum where the ceremony was to be held. Everywhere I looked there was some celebration of the US Navy. Pictures, flags, signs, monuments, everything capable of being constructed by human hands and all of it a continuum going all the way back to that event when a man named John Paul Jones, an immigrant from Scotland, said that he had “not yet begun to fight” when offered to chance to surrender by the British. Clearly, his spirit lived on in the men of the Liberty who had traveled thousands of miles to mark the day that their ship was deliberately attacked.
We gathered at the seats that prepared for us. The ceremony opened with a prayer from a retired Navy Chaplain. I liked him immediately, as I sensed in him the kind, gentle, gentile spirit that is the mark of a true Christian. I could tell by the specificity in the words of his prayer that he was well-versed on what the men of the USS Liberty had endured and that this was not some generic, one-size-fits-all benediction. I thought to myself that if America had men of the cloth like him instead of the likes of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, John Hagee and all the others who have sold out this once-Christian country to the worst enemy she has ever had, Israel, that we could rescue our nation, just as God Himself had once promised.
Lt. Commander Dave Lewis, Intelligence Officer onboard the Liberty the day it was attacked, gave the keynote address. Despite the fact that he was old, somewhat frail and walked with a cane his mind was still as sharp as a tack. He was one of the fellows I had come to know the most from the books and videos documenting the event and had a very likeable way about him that inspired confidence. Looking at him now you would never know that 40 years earlier, he had been only a few feet away from a missile when it exploded, resulting in him losing a good portion of his hearing and having the surface of his eyeballs charred with burning paint.
Again, as in the other two ceremonies at Arlington and at the Naval Memorial in downtown DC, the bitterness hung like a dark cloud, still, yet silent. No one needed to say a word as it was obvious to all of us, like we all possessed some extra-sensory abilities and could read each other’s minds. I scanned the environs and noticed a few well-built guys of an obvious serious demeanor in sunglasses I had not seen before, hands either behind their backs or folded in front of them as they stood and looked around. The first thought that entered my mind was that they were FBI or some other agency sent to be the eyes and ears of men such as Michael Chertof, son to an orthodox rabbi and an ex-Mossad officer mother and who, as a duly-sworn officer of the United States working for the US Department of Justice, quietly sent back to Israel dozens of spies following their arrest after 9/11, some of them seen cheering as the buildings came crashing down.
I put them and their presence in the back of my mind as best I could so that I could pay attention to the event that had brought us all together this day, which was the dedication of a plaque to the graduates of the Naval Academy who were on the USS Liberty the day it was attacked. Receiving the award in honor of those who had died that day was Lt. Commander Lewis who, usually very reserved and self-contained, could not help but cry, not only for his classmates whose lives had been snuffed out by the most dangerous enemy America has ever had, Israel, but as well for the fact that it took 40 years for them to finally be recognized. Having set the tone by his own grief, the rest of us followed suit, and, once again, the tears flowed, all of us asking–even if silently, “How is such treachery possible? What has happened to our country, and what is to come?”
Again, the chaplain ended the service in the way that it had begun, which was with a prayer, thanking God for all the goodness He has bestowed upon our nation and asking that He continue…
…and, almost as if He heard our prayer, lunch was served, American style, which meant hot dogs, hamburgers, coleslaw, chips, and a ton of beer. I wandered from table to table and from group to group, saying hello to the men and their families. As anyone who has lost a loved one will tell you, food has a way of dulling pain and making you forget momentarily about your loss. I started to feel pretty good, laughing with the men as we put the past behind us for a few minutes long enough to eat, after which time we would get back to the business at hand. For me it was not long before that moment arrived.
I was passing two fellows who were engaged in discussing something heavy, or at least–according to what my instincts told me–appeared to be such. I stood off at a short distance of about 10 feet, trying to glean what it was they were saying without appearing to eavesdrop, although that was exactly what I was doing. I consoled my somewhat guilty conscience with the fact that their conversation was not private or else they would have wandered off somewhere else. One of the fellows was Stan White who had rung the bell at yesterday’s ceremony at the Navy Memorial. After the two ended their conversation, I wandered over to Stan and introduced myself. He had a kind face but one that betrayed the obvious anguish had he felt over the years. He knew about me and what I had been doing in writing about the Liberty for AFP and expressed his gratitude. He asked me if I was scared, doing all this, to which my answer was “No” which was only half-true in that I found the whole topic too interesting to be afraid. Had it been anything else I am sure that I would not have touched it with a ten-foot pole. He went on to talk about some of the things that had happened over the years to those who had delved into the Liberty case, ending his discussion with the story of a Hollywood producer who was onboard with doing a movie on the event and who had later been found in his home, shot to death several times in what was ruled a suicide, and, almost as if his spirit took them with him when he departed this life, all the papers dealing with the USS Liberty were gone as well.
I had come to know that this was not an uncommon thing. In speaking with the Liberty guys over the last few months I heard stories about what each of them had gone through in the aftermath. In addition to some of them being told by their own government that they would be imprisoned (or that “worse” things would happen to them–you can figure out what that means) if they breathed a word about what happened that day, as well the nice folks from the Jewish lobby added their two cent’s worth as well, as if the murderous assault was not enough all by itself. Phone calls, emails and letters laced with deadly implications for both the men and their families had been commonplace for many of them, and particularly those who had been the most vocal. One person associated with the group had the pleasure of being tailed for a few days by two obviously-Jewish guys driving a car with New York license plates before being apprehended by the local sheriff, put on a plane back to New York and told never to return again…
…TO BE CONTINUED
2007 by Mark Glenn