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To The Brink Once Again
By John Crandell (reviewer)
Blood in The Water: How The US and Israel Conspired to Ambush The USS Liberty
by Joan Mellen
(Prometheus Books, 2018)
To get the housekeeping out of the way, there are a few date and time miscalculations as well as a whopper regarding the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The publisher has been advised of this for additional printings of this work. Blood in the Water is a fascinating exposé regarding a thorny issue which refuses to fade into history. It is well illustrated with photos and drawings distributed throughout the text. One only wishes that the photos were all in higher resolution, on finer paper, in larger format. Mellen's supporting footnotes reflect an astonishing array of primary sources — far beyond the resounding secondary sources listed in the bibliography.
Time will show that amongst her large body of published works, her greatest contribution to history will be the revelation that both the Israeli and American governments, as an avenue to escalating a projected war between Israel and the United Arab Republic (now Egypt), conspired to sacrifice a US Navy vessel and all of its crew in a false flag attempt, both as trigger and rationale — for the US to enter what became the Six Day War and launch nuclear missiles against Cairo. One could assume that readers of The Veteran know the outline of death, injury, and deceit wrought by the notorious attack upon the Liberty. What is just as startling is her relating an outlandish degree of extremism extant in Tel Aviv and in the Counterintelligence section at Langley in the spring of 1967.
Enter the names James Angleton and Meir Amit, the former in charge of CIA Counterintelligence, the latter in charge of Mossad, partners in lunacy, all out fanaticism. Lordy, if they'd only have eloped to Puerto Vallarta and stayed there. Yet they somehow managed to corral the top echelon of America's government into a plan that almost killed us all.
Instead of delving into the complexity, the thicket of details would fill years worth of editions of The Veteran, I'd much rather discuss the implications of her work. It was she who out-Seymoured Seymour Hersh with her startling revelations of contretemps between Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Otto Otepka, specifically the latter having charge of Security at the State Department and his knowledge of the former's deep interest in Lee Harvey Oswald beginning in the winter of 1961. As well, she has soundly put the kibosh on the theory that longtime LBJ associate Mac Wallace had had a role on the sixth floor of the School Book Depository a thousand days into the Kennedy administration. A critical examination of Johnson's early malfeasance is integral to her work on Wallace. But for those who seek the truth, her incisive mastery of facts within the final chapters of her new work will live forever. They ought to blow the lid off of the shape-shifting cauldron of inordinate Zionist influence which continues to reign over American foreign policy.
Anticipating this review, wading into the early chapters of the work I tried like hell to keep an objective, balanced attitude. But slightly past the halfway point I gave up and ceased with the litany of note-taking. Nope, no further need to continue to list major iotas within the complex maze of high corn of what was clearly an outrageous injustice to Liberty's personnel, to America and our national history. She distills and clarifies essential perfidy and great, unheralded heroism, an effort worthy of a Pulitzer Prize given the continued state of affairs in Washington.
The Liberty incident had occurred three days after the start of the Six Day War. Within those hours, Israeli forces had already committed two war crimes, the sort of crimes which, if Egyptians had committed against Israelis, we would have ever since been continually reminded in book, film, and broadcast special. In the larger crime, eight hundred and fifty Egyptian POWs were slaughtered en masse near El Arish. Each had had to dig his own grave approximately at the same time that Israeli jets and patrol boats attacked Liberty.
The insidious degree of continuing government deception regards the attack is instructive. It brings to mind Trump's decision eighteen months ago ordering that certain, long-hidden JFK assassination files remain in the dark, information so troubling that we're told that the nation must not know, despite the passage of so many years and the passing of those involved. What is it we supposedly cannot know? Suddenly, a light bulb just might illuminate the scene. If said information were to simply pose a deep embarrassment to America's intelligence sector, Trump would only be too happy to see it all be revealed and parroted on high. The information is likely far more serious and never mind that RFK had been tracking Oswald. A 2005 exposé by Mellen reveals that Jim Garrison had been onto something with his investigation of the later Sixties and therein lies the lightbulb moment.
Final facts: early in the fall of 1964, Angleton had somehow been involved in the execution of Mary Meyer, divorced wife of one of his fellow agents at Langley — the sister in law of (CIA asset) Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. Ms. Meyer had been JFK's final and most intimate mistress. Her diary, still lost, has become legendary, is alleged to have been included in a trove of materials secretly absconded with from Counter Intelligence quarters after Angleton finally got fired. Author Peter Janney has written that this trove was stolen by the late Vietnam war hero William Corson (another CIA asset). In the days following Meyer's death, Angleton was twice caught red-handed attempting to pilfer her residence. She is said to have become a great influence on Kennedy who very early in his administration had voiced objection to Israel's development of nuclear weapons. Janney's dad was also a CIA agent, described as being Angleton's closest friend.
Like the termination of the Kennedy administration in Dealey Plaza, it seems that there will never be adequate clarification. James Angleton's craven, obsessive joust with the Soviets and with communism may have provided him a suit of armor, a gargantuan distraction in what may possibly have been an outward smokescreen disguising his search for a Soviet mole within the CIA — said mole, in this case, being himself. His having sponsored and been so friendly with double agent Kim Philby and been so wrapped up with himself playing the ultimate double agent in world history could explain the tragic bizarreness of Israel's attempt to annihilate Liberty.
Here follows a rationale: Given as dangerous as Angleton and Amit got, how could they have exerted such leverage as to literally force the movement of the Liberty to a position where a disguised assault would become a pretext for America's destruction of a portion, if not all of Cairo? This respondent can think of only two scenarios to account for such a degree of leverage.
# 1: That by 1967, Israel had managed to secretly convey an atomic weapon into the US and hide it at a strategic locale and advise the threat of its existence to powers that be.
Or else —
# 2: That Israel had gained knowledge that J.J. Angleton was, in fact, THE Soviet mole operating inside America's intelligence establishment.
If true, a public revelation of either postulate would have been too much weight to bear upon the Johnson administration. Hence, Angleton and Amit and company exerted madness over the intelligence sector, the 303 Committee, Cyrus Vance, McNamara, and Johnson.
Soviet Russia had been prepared for the Six Day War, had stationed a sizeable fleet of surface and subsurface vessels in the east Mediterranean. One sub had targeted Jerusalem with a nuclear missile that would have been launched if American planes had attacked Cairo. How could LBJ have been so confident that the Soviets wouldn't retaliate in any degree, triggering a tit-for-tat escalation of violence? American aircraft launched from the USS America had gotten halfway across the Nile Delta, were within sixty-five miles of Cairo before Johnson ordered them to turn back.
Finally, it was Petty Officer 3rd Class Terence Halbardier who during the attack had managed to extend a coaxial cable to the one remaining cold antenna from the ship's sole remaining transmitter. Thereby, the ship's MayDay alert was broadcast. The powers that be were countered and advanced forms of life on this planet still remain. He saved us all.
One recommends that you buy Blood in the Water! You'll want to call your representatives, tell them about Joan Mellen's amazing book, and demand that a full Congressional investigation finally be conducted.
John Crandell, a II Corps veteran of '69 who retired from Beale AFB in 2014, has previously written for the Southern California Quarterly, Major General, the Los Angeles Times and Landscape Architecture magazine. He authored Homage To Downtown: In Search of Place and Memory in L.A. in 2010. Otherwise, he grows cacti in southeast Sacramento.