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Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

The Truth of Why LBJ Wanted the USS Liberty To Sink – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on November 26, 2019

It’s Israel First.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2019/11/phillip-f-nelson/the-truth-of-why-lbj-wanted-the-uss-liberty-to-sink-getting-israel-to-help-ensure-his-reelection/

By

LBJ: Master of Deceit

A Look Behind the Scenes, showing how LBJ Moved his Pawns – including the men aboard the USS Liberty – on a Global Chessboard as he Schemed to Win Reelection in 1968. And the Four Faces of Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas – Simultaneously counseling LBJ, liaising with Israel, and member pro tempore of the National Security Council.

(Excerpted / reedited for context, from Remember the Liberty!)

LBJ Proclaims Himself “King of the World”

One instance of how Lyndon B. Johnson’s delusions surfaced occurred in 1965, while flying high on Air Force One, when he proclaimed to several reporters on board that he had become the most powerful man in the world, as he announced to them that he was basically now the “King of the World.” Johnson had invited four reporters from the press pool into his suite to share cocktails with him in his quarters. They were flying high above his domain, which was now the entire world. He was in an ebullient mood, and this phase of his mania was strengthened with each drink from his glass of Cutty Sark scotch.

As he sat in his huge, elevated, custom-designed leather chair (the crew called it “The Throne,”) with the reporters arrayed around him in their smaller cloth seats, he decided to remind this select group of reporters about how fortune had smiled on them that day, to be in the presence of the single most important person in the world. Suddenly, Johnson declared, “Look around the world: Khrushchev’s gone. Macmillan’s gone. Adenauer’s gone. Segni’s gone. Nehru’s gone. Who’s left – de Gaulle?’’ AP reporter Frank Cormier said that Johnson sneered as he uttered the French president’s name:

“Then, leaning back in his massive ‘throne chair,’ LBJ thumped his chest in Tarzan fashion and loudly bellowed, ‘I am the King!”[1]

Lyndon Johnson was known, arguably more so than any other president, as one who moved his subordinates — like a King moved pawns — into other positions as it suited his future needs. This was illustrated by such examples as Arthur Goldberg, who in 1965 had been happy to have a safe and secure position on the Supreme Court, until LBJ decided he needed to have him become the ambassador to the U.N. That was because of Johnson’s awareness of Goldberg’s strong attachment to Israel, and its Zionist leadership, which would become a great need when an operation — that would become known as the 1967 “Six Day War” — was then being planned, and would suddenly materialize two years later.

Questions Posed by Nicholas deB. Katzenbach 40 Years After-the-Fact

Nicholas Katzenbach, who was moved by President Johnson from the Justice Department and appointed as an assistant secretary of state a few months before the Liberty attack, may have inadvertently exposed revealing clues as to what was really going on behind the scenes during the Six Day War and the USS Liberty attack on June 8, 1967.  Within his 2008 memoir, Some of It Was Fun: Working with RFK and LBJ, he cited a number of points that still concerned him, over forty years later, which had never made sense to him.

There is no indication that Katzenbach had any foreknowledge of the attack, in fact, there are numerous indications that he was nowhere near being “in the loop.”  He stated that most administration officials, including Navy personnel, did not believe the Israeli explanation that it was “a case of mistaken identity.” And he acknowledged that Johnson accepted the apology for political reasons, but felt that Israel should have offered the families “generous compensation,” with an implicit understanding that they would be reimbursed. Moreover, Katzenbach admitted that the State Department had angered many in the Jewish community through its issuance of a statement of neutrality, which was considered in retrospect as unwise.[2]

That “neutrality statement” began during a State Department briefing when some of the officials became giddy over Israel’s successes. As described by Grace Halsell in her article, “How LBJ’s Vietnam War Paralyzed His Mideast Policymakers”: “With a wide smile, Eugene Rostow said, ‘Gentlemen, gentlemen, do not forget that we are neutral in word, thought and deed’.”[3]

Shortly thereafter, press spokesman Robert J. McCloskey repeated those words for reporters. This statement caused much consternation among the Israeli leadership and within the White House. According to the memoirs of Joseph Califano, the reason it was such a “political problem [that] reached white heat” was because it could be interpreted as an invocation of the Neutrality Act, which meant that Israelis would be constrained from raising money in the United States and that might prevent the United States from shipping supplies to Israel. Califano said that Abe Fortas was among those who expressed concern to him about that issue, however it was in the context of his having “deep reservations” that it applied.[4]

Behind the Scenes at the “303 Committee” – April, 1967

Abe Fortas, a sitting Supreme Court justice, was also simultaneously serving in three other unofficial positions: as one of Johnson’s primary advisers, as a liaison between Johnson and Israeli leaders, and attending meetings of the National Security Council, thereby becoming directly involved in the planning of the Six-Day War. The paradox created by Justice Fortas, in facilitating President Johnson’s efforts to subvert constitutional, legal, moral and ethical rules of conduct, and assisting the president to commit U.S. military might to support a war of aggression by a U.S. ally on its neighbors, should not go unnoticed, as it has inherently proven to have been the case for some five decades.

Even as he played these multiple roles, he seemed oblivious to the innate conflict of interests they invoked. Fortas had previously been Johnson’s personal lawyer for over twenty years, including having played a primary role in Johnson’s theft of the 1948 senatorial election and being his chief collaborator in the months after JFK’s assassination – to squelch the multiple Senate investigations into Johnson’s criminal past. Throughout all of it, he was a personal witness to Johnson’s long history of criminal activity, clearly becoming one of Johnson’s primary enablers/sycophants.

The Nascent Plot to Sink the USS Liberty

As detailed in my book Remember the Liberty, preparations for the attack on the USS Liberty were delegated by Johnson to the “303 Committee,” – a sub-group of the National Security Council named for the elegant corner office of the Executive Office Building where it met. It was located physically next door to the White House, but figuratively an extension of it, reserved as a second office assigned to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff [JCS]. According to Richard Helms, that committee was “… simply a device for examining covert operations of any kind, and making a judgment on behalf of the president, so he wouldn’t be ‘nailed’ with the thing if it failed.”[5]  But under Johnson, the function of the group was much more proactive in creating plans than merely reviewing the products of others.

In 1967, the “303 committee” was composed of the under secretary of state for political affairs (Foy D. Kohler, formerly the ambassador to the Soviet Union), the deputy secretary of defense (Cyrus Vance), the CIA director (Richard Helms), the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (General Earle Wheeler) and the President’s national security adviser (Walt Rostow). This committee controlled all covert CIA operations.[6]

Regardless of its name, or the president, the committee was always directly under the control of the president to whom it served, and was, therefore, as James Reston, the New York Times columnist observed, “above even the Joint Chiefs of Staff … charged with approving intelligence missions all over the world.”[7] Clearly, and implicitly it should be noted as well, it was also above the CIA and its director, who also served on it as merely one of its members.

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