Monday, May 29, 2017

"What Great Thing..."

"What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?"
- Robert H. Schuller

"Please Don’t Hurt My Mom and Dad"

"Please Don’t Hurt My Mom and Dad"
by Motus

"We don’t call them snowflakes for naught. The age of majority in 48 states is 18 and 19 in the other two. Yet one of our nation’s most vaunted universities finds these adults unable to deal with the stress of…library fines. So they’ve done away with them. From The Harvard Crimson: “We have witnessed first hand the stress that overdue fines can cause for students. Eliminating standard overdue fines and standardizing loan periods across Harvard’s libraries should help students focus on their scholarship, rather than worrying about renewing library books every 28 days in order to avoid fines.”

Old enough to vote, marry, “hook-up”, and defend our country in mortal combat, but not yet old enough to either return borrowed books on time or deal with the consequences. Something that most children learn by age 10, or at least they used to. I suspect it’s the “consequences” part of the equation that does not compute for the helicopter parent generation. It’s hard to understand something you’ve never had to deal with.
It’s probably too late for this generation. The only consequences they approve is the punishment imposed on people who dare express disbelief in the dogma that has been hammered into their heads since the day they were conceived: global warming, cultural relativity and white man’s guilt. Use free speech to express an opinion in opposition to one of these sacred lambs and the wrath of Political Correctness will rain down on your head.

Just ask the student whose paper was marked down for the audacity of using the term “mankind” instead of “humankind” (both defined identically in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary). His professor deemed the non-politically correct, non-gender neutral term to be a “writing mechanics” error. Apparently Professor Davis created his own rules since English grammar doesn’t prohibit the proper use of words simply because some people find them offensive. Mark Steyn accuses Professor Davis and his ilk of “engaging in the totalitarian moronization of a generation.” Current events would indicate that he’s correct.

Having been mind-melded by their teachers and culture, today’s youth believe that disagreement with their progressive doctrine is morally unacceptable and therefore grounds for both ostracizing and censure. With that type of totalitarian mindset I guess I can understand why the thought of breaking a simple rule like not returning your library books on time would throw them into a tailspin. I’m just surprised that exceptional students at such an elite university couldn’t figure out a way around the problem.
Oh wait – that would involve problem solving, something else seldom taught anymore. So I guess eliminating the fine was the only way to alleviate the overwhelming stress imposed by late library books."
"They would have returned them for me if only they would have known they were due."

"One Day..."

“Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori.”

“Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.”
- Horace

"They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country. 
But in modern war, there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying.
You will die like a dog for no good reason."
- Ernest Hemingway

“You still think it's beautiful to die for your country. The first bombardment
taught us better. When it comes to dying for country, it's better not to die at all.”
- Paul Baumer, "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1930)

“Memorial Day 2017: Ordinary People In Extraordinary Times”

"Haunted by the Ghosts of War"

"Haunted by the Ghosts of War"
By Edward Curtin

"Memorial Day, May 29th, is his birthday. He died defending his country. A true war hero, a naval officer, he risked his life to save his men. Like so many we should remember on Memorial Day, he goes before us as an exemplar of courage, real patriotism, and a witness to war’s brutality. But remembering all the war dead is like drifting on a ghost ship in a still sea of burning water. Haunted by the eerie silence of their absent presence, if we listen closely enough, we can hear such victims calling to us: Remember me, Remember me, why did it have to be?

“All warfare is ghostly,” writes Norman O. Brown, “every army an exercitus feralis (a funereal exercise), every soldier a living corpse.”

The world is littered with the corpses of war’s victims, those of the killers and the killed, soldiers of every nation – but the vast majority are innocent civilians who never picked up a gun. The earth is so saturated with all their blood that one would expect the rivers to run red as a reminder. But that only happens in poems, as with Federico Garcia Lorca: “Beneath all the totals, a river of warm blood.”
Russian soldier, in his foxhole. Stalingrad. (Source: The Greanville Post)

But what do poets know that the potentates, politicians, and mad generals don’t? These killers are experts at shedding innocent blood to satisfy their blood lust and then erecting monuments to the killers. They are necrophiliacs, while all the poets do is to remind us that we will all die and that we should affirm life and love each other before we do – that war is an evil lie, as Wilfred Owen told us:

  "If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
            Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
            And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
            His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
            If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
            Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
            Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
            Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
            My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
            To children ardent for some desperate glory,
             The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
             Pro patria mori."

But that was long ago. War’s victims still fall everywhere, every day they are stilled in deserts, mountains, jungles, cities, houses, hospitals, schools, on the open roads, in bedrooms, in woods, in alleyways, crouched  in basements, killed from the sky, the ground, directly, remotely, by their own desperate hands, slowly in despair. Why count the ways, why count the victims – the truth is countless.
American casualty, Vietnam. (Source: The Greanville Post)

Yet we can remember a few that we know of and weep. Victims dead and victims alive. There is that naval officer whose birthday I mentioned. He survived the south Pacific and Indonesian jungles only to die by enemy fire in an open car on a street in Dallas, Texas. Let us celebrate and mourn President John F. Kennedy, who would have been 100 years old today, while remembering how hard he fought for peace that the killers within his own government, led by the CIA, didn’t want then and don’t want now. So they shot him down “over here,” just as the U.S. war machine keeps killing millions “over there.” George M. Cohan was right: “The Yanks are coming.” They are always coming, but he was wrong to think it is ever over. It’s not supposed to be ever over. 

Because he knew the horror of war and grasped the systemic evil of its proponents in his own government, John Kennedy grew out of the war machine – in James Douglass’s words from "JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters" when he was assassinated, JFK “was turning, Teshuvah, ‘turning,’ the rabbinic word for repentance,” against war and toward peace as his actions in the last year of his life make clear. As a result, the “unspeakable” deep state forces murdered him. But as a military veteran, his courage in turning against the war machine has inspired many other honorable veterans to do the same. Like others who followed Kennedy – MLK, RFK, et al. – he died in his own country as a soldier in a non-violent “war” for peace and reconciliation for all people across the world. His enemies were here at home.

And “over there,” Maha Khalil, a one year old Iraqi girl, was killed in the first few months of America’s criminal war against Iraq. Mrs. Ngugen Thi Tau was slaughtered by U. S. soldiers at My Lai, Vietnam.  Who knows all the dead in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Libya, East Timor, Indonesia, Cambodia, El Salvador, etc? Who can grasp it? Their names mean nothing to those who didn’t know them, just as the endless names of the U.S. military dead (most drafted into a war they didn’t want or understand) that line the Vietnam Veterans Memorial are a sad blur to those who come to look but didn’t know the fallen. The same is even truer for anyone who views the Holocaust memorial in Boston where all one sees are rows and rows of concentration camp numbers; for every number a real person, each one reduced by the Nazis to seven-digits tattooed on arms. When we try to name and count war’s victims, we are overwhelmed and stunned. Yet the wars persist. Like the pawns conscripted to fight them, the anonymous ghosts of all the victims murmur in our ears: Why?
Dylan sings:
"Oh my name it is nothin’
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I’s taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And the land that I live in
Has God on its side."

But not all of war’s victim’s die. Vast numbers become “living corpses,” also mostly anonymous and forsaken. Across the world wherever the American war machine has set its sights, the lame and crippled struggle on, victims of bombs and bullets, napalm and white phosphorous, nuclear radiation, small pox – all the grotesque weapons the ghouls of the weapons’ industry have conjured up from hell for their paymasters. Countless living victims, yes, but the weapons industries carefully count their bloody profits, as do those who invest in these companies while turning a blind eye to their own complicity.
And the innocent, too, in great numbers. (My Lai massacre, Vietnam). 
(Source: The Greanville Post)

Many of the wounds of war are psychological and spiritual. And so many of the victims suffer silently. Often misused and abused by their own government, they suffer (to paraphrase Douglass Valentine in his book, "The Hotel Tacloban", a son’s riveting tale of his combat veteran father’s haunting by war) “in an anguish so profound and so abiding that they live in torment ever after.” War’s terrors follow them everywhere down their nights and down their days, and they can often find no escape from the nightmare images that populate their minds, flashing in and out. It’s beyond imagining the living hell of children worldwide reliving the sight of the bloodied mangled bodies of their parents at their feet, victims of bombs or death squads or perhaps “collateral damage,” as if any words or reasons could undue their everlasting trauma.

We owe it to the wounded, dead, and tormented war victims everywhere to memorialize them with the words: War is a lie, and only truth will free us. Then we must devote ourselves to ending war. Each of us is responsible."
Related, and highly recommended:

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Musical Interlude: Brian Crain, “Dream of Flying”

Brian Crain, “Dream of Flying”

Happy Memorial Day!

We will not forget...
Have a happy, and thoughtful, Memorial Day holiday, folks!
Jaqueline Schwab, “Battle Cry of Freedom”

"Remembering the Dead"

"Remembering the Dead"
by Bill Bonner

"Monday is the day set aside by the US federal government for us to remember our war dead. Here at the Diary of a Rogue Economist, we always do as we are told. So, today, we will turn our thoughts back to Vicksburg, Mississippi... which gave the country enough corpses to remember... and from where we've just returned.

We were born south of the Mason-Dixon line. More importantly, we were born south of Pratt Street in Baltimore, giving us Southern tendencies from the start. Even as a child, we felt a sentimental attachment to the Old South and a romantic softness for the underdog. We rooted for General Lee at Gettysburg and General Jackson at the Wilderness. We wanted to sign up for Jeb Stuart's cavalry, but we were a century too late.

The Mason-Dixon line is the official boundary separating North from South. It runs between Maryland and Pennsylvania. But the real dividing line- in terms of attitudes, culture and topography- runs right through the heart of Baltimore. North of Pratt Street, the land rises under hills of granite. It was settled by Germans, mainly- farmers who raised cattle and wheat, traders who used their Baltimore clippers to move goods all over the world and entrepreneurs who built factories on the upland rivers. South of Pratt Street, the land immediately flattens into tidewater. There... stretching all the way from the sidewalk to Florida in the south and to the Appalachians in the west... the land is rich, mostly level and good for tobacco and cotton. It is also warmer... and more suitable for slave labor. The English and Scotch-Irish settlers who built their houses in Maryland in the late 17th century (my ancestors included) were used to slavery. They knew they would have to give it up some day, but they didn't want the Yankees to tell them when.

We wondered: Does Memorial Day apply south of Pratt Street... that is, to the people the Union Army tried to kill? To be more precise, does it apply to those who fought for the Confederacy against the United States of America? If not, we will have to stop remembering half of our ancestors- those who fought under Lee and Jackson.

We consulted the Wikipedia for guidance: "Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end."

There you have it. As we try to grill our hamburgers to perfection, we can remember all our ancestors- even those from south of Pratt Street. Years ago, our grandmother recalled: "Yes... Uncles Rufus and Zacharia McCeney used to live here. My grandmother told me about them. She raised me. I never knew my mother; she died when I was still a baby. Rufus and Zacharia were her uncles. I never met them. My grandmother, Mary Agnes McCeney, told me they left the farm and never came back. They rode with Jeb Stuart's cavalry in the Army of Virginia. Presumed dead. But who knows?"

And now, with the permission of the federales, we wonder if Rufus or Zacharia made his way join poor General John Pemberton in the defense of Vicksburg. It was a lost cause from the get-go. By March 1863, "Fighting Joe" Johnston, commander of the Southern forces in the West, had already given it up for lost. Vicksburg couldn't be resupplied. The Yankees controlled the river... and the overland routes. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, he recommended to Pemberton that he take his army and skedaddle. Vicksburg would be lost. But at least the army would be saved. But Pemberton was either stubborn or stupid. He stayed put with his army. He gave the worms plenty of meat; nearly 10,000 of his soldiers were planted there.

Many Southerners remember the Siege of Vicksburg as heroic. It is said the city didn't forget what had been done to it until 1910- when it first permitted public festivities for the Fourth of July. And now, 154 years later, it flies the Stars and Stripes every day of the year.

One of the features of a successful empire is it is able to build on its successes and turn its victims into loyal supporters. The Romans brought in soldiers from all over the Empire. The English followed the same program. First, they conquered Scotland- making the Scots the backbone of the British Army. Later, the Irish- another conquered people- were easily enlisted, partly because they had so few other career options. (The British prevented Irish Catholics from owning land.) Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Indians, Malaysians- all served the British cause.

The Yankees did the same thing. After the Southern states were conquered, their young men became the most enthusiastic soldiers in the Union Army. Later, the Union signed up Hispanics from Texas and Navajos from the reservations in Arizona. Today, New Yorkers may have doubts about signing up for military service, but among middle-class Southerners, it is a family tradition. They have served their conquerors for generations.

We remember the dead. What do we think of them? We wonder. We remember both sides of the War Between the States equally. But if both sides were equal, what was the point? You may as well have died for one side as for the other. It seems hardly worth dying for a cause that didn't matter. One side wanted to tell the other side how to run its affairs. But the other side was running its affairs in an abominable way. One side held black people in slavery. The other side wanted to boss around white people. We're all going to die, but neither cause seems worth advancing the schedule.

And what do the dead think of us? Those 10,000 boys at Vicksburg. Uncle Rufus and Uncle Zacharia. What would they think of their descendants? At least they were fighting in a real war. At least they had a cause that they thought was worth fighting for... and at least they died at the hands of the enemy or from disease while waiting for the enemy to kill them.

Today's soldiers are more likely to die by suicide than to be felled by disease or by an enemy. Our soldiers' most lethal enemies are themselves.

Our ancestors. They must pity us."

"If Your Happiness Depends On Someone Else..."

"If your happiness depends on someone else, 
then I guess you do have a problem."
- Richard Bach, "Illusions"

Musical Interlude: Big Brother And The Holding Company, “Heartache People”

Big Brother And The Holding Company, “Heartache People”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“A jewel of the southern sky, the Great Carina Nebula, also known as NGC 3372, spans over 300 light-years, one of our galaxy's largest star forming regions. Like the smaller, more northerly Great Orion Nebula, the Carina Nebula is easily visible to the unaided eye, though at a distance of 7,500 light-years it is some 5 times farther away. This gorgeous telescopic close-up reveals remarkable details of the region's central glowing filaments of interstellar gas and obscuring cosmic dust clouds. The field of view is over 50 light-years across. 
Click image for larger size.
The Carina Nebula is home to young, extremely massive stars, including the stars of open cluster Trumpler 14 (below and right of center) and the still enigmatic variable Eta Carinae, a star with well over 100 times the mass of the Sun. Eta Carinae is the brightest star, seen here just above the dusty Keyhole Nebula (NGC 3324). While Eta Carinae itself maybe on the verge of a supernova explosion, X-ray images indicate that the Great Carina Nebula has been a veritable supernova factory.”

The Poet: Octavio Paz, “Brotherhood"


"I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out."

- Octavio Paz


“Every time you wake up ask yourself, ‘What good things am I going to do today?’ 
Remember that when the sun goes down at sunset, it will take a part of your life with it.”
 - Native American proverb.

"The Loss Of Two Men"

"The Loss Of Two Men"

"I am just going to let this speak for itself. It is a beautiful, heart breaking piece written by Andy Alt, about his father, who died by his own hand when Andy was just eight years old...

“For every joke he tells, there is a sadness. Each sadness buried by one joke. Once he thought the joke transformed the sadness, but the joke merely blanketed the sadness to comfort it.

It’s said that tears clean one’s eyes. If the the dam broke from all of the tears from his sadness - crying an ocean over the loss of his father, the loss of his childhood, the loss of what-could-have-been-but-never-will-be, what he never knew, what he’ll never know, feelings he’s never felt, feelings he’ll never feel, a father he can never know, nor the father who can ever know his son, a father who can never be proud of his son, a son who can never be proud of his father, a voice he’ll never hear, a father who will never hear the voice of his son, the son who can never have his father, the father who can never have his son, the life that never was, a life that never included a father, the life of a father that isn’t - if the tears for all these were shed, he could throw away his glasses and have perfect vision. And the tears would wash over his soul and clean the taint of blood and terror. All emotions, love, hope, happiness, sadness, fear, and many others, would be uncovered and laid out - existing, coexisting peacefully upon the cool sheets of time and the future.

A trickle of these tears were shed this night, for the death of a father over two decades past, and the death of a son over two decades past, each only happening yesterday. As the tears fall he could for a moment sense and feel what the father felt at the time of his death, and then the son shed even more tears for the pain which the father felt at the moment the father’s finger was upon the trigger. The son could almost feel the father’s presence, and the son reached out his hand, but there was no hand to take it. He told the father that he missed and loved him, and that he knew the father missed and loved him as well.

And I realized that I do indeed have a father, but he is dead. Some of the sadness now uncovered, the tears dry, the ink falls from my pen, and I see that I’ve written about the loss of two men.”

The Daily "Near You?"

Ridgewood, New York, USA. Thanks for stopping by!

Memorial Day: "Vietnam POW/MIA's Deliberately Sacrificed: The Evidence"

"Vietnam POW/MIA's Deliberately Sacrificed: The Evidence"
by Ron Utz, Sydney Schanberg

"If Sydney Schanberg’s claims about the fate of American POW/MIAs are indeed correct, they reveal the lethal consequences of America’s overweening national pride. After all, his history is a simple one. Following the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the Vietnamese refused to return their French POWs unless Paris agreed to pay financial compensation for the war. The French leaders paid the money and got their men back. Similarly, the Vietnamese refused to return their American POWs unless the U.S. government agreed to pay reparations. Nixon signed a document promising to do exactly that, but the Vietnamese, being cautious, kept many of the POWs back until the money was delivered. Then Congress refused to authorize the funds because “America doesn’t lose wars.” Nixon and later U.S. leaders never acknowledged the fate of these captives lest the American people become outraged. And as the years and decades went by, and various schemes to ransom or rescue the POWs were considered and rejected, their continued existence became a major liability to numerous powerful political figures, whose reputations would have been destroyed if any of the prisoners ever returned and told his story to the American people. So none of them ever came home.

In a private briefing in 1992, high-level CIA officials told me that as the years passed and the ransom never came, it became more and more difficult for either government to admit that it knew from the start about the unacknowledged prisoners. Those prisoners had not only become useless as bargaining chips but also posed a risk to Hanoi’s desire to be accepted into the international community. The CIA officials said their intelligence indicated strongly that the remaining men - those who had not died from illness or hard labor or torture - were eventually executed.

One thing about the POW story is clear: if American prisoners were dishonored by being written off and left to die, that’s something the American public ought to know about.

10 Key Pieces of Evidence That Men Were Left Behind:

1. In Paris, where the Vietnam peace treaty was negotiated, the United States asked Hanoi for the list of American prisoners to be returned, fearing that Hanoi would hold some prisoners back. The North Vietnamese refused, saying they would produce the list only after the treaty was signed. Nixon agreed with Kissinger that they had no leverage left, and Kissinger signed the accord on Jan. 27, 1973 without the prisoner list. When Hanoi produced its list of 591 prisoners the next day, U.S. intelligence agencies expressed shock at the low number. Their number was hundreds higher. The New York Times published a long, page-one story on Feb. 2, 1973 about the discrepancy, especially raising questions about the number of prisoners held in Laos, only nine of whom were being returned. The headline read, in part, “Laos POW List Shows 9 from U.S. - Document Disappointing to Washington as 311 Were Believed Missing.” And the story, by John Finney, said that other Washington officials “believe the number of prisoners [in Laos] is probably substantially higher.” The paper never followed up with any serious investigative reporting - nor did any other mainstream news organization.

 Two Defense secretaries who served during the Vietnam War testified to the Senate POW committee in September 1992 that prisoners were not returned. James Schlesinger and Melvin Laird, both speaking at a public session and under oath, said they based their conclusions on strong intelligence data—letters, eyewitness reports, even direct radio contacts. Under questioning, Schlesinger chose his words carefully, understanding clearly the volatility of the issue: “I think that as of now that I can come to no other conclusion... some were left behind.” This ran counter to what President Nixon told the public in a nationally televised speech on March 29, 1973, when the repatriation of the 591 was in motion: “Tonight,” Nixon said, “the day we have all worked and prayed for has finally come. For the first time in 12 years, no American military forces are in Vietnam. All our American POWs are on their way home.” Documents unearthed since then show that aides had already briefed Nixon about the contrary evidence.

Schlesinger was asked by the Senate committee for his explanation of why President Nixon would have made such a statement when he knew Hanoi was still holding prisoners. He replied, “One must assume that we had concluded that the bargaining position of the United States was quite weak. We were anxious to get our troops out and we were not going to roil the waters.” This testimony struck me as a bombshell. The New York Times appropriately reported it on page one but again there was no sustained follow-up by the Times or any other major paper or national news outlet.

 Over the years, the DIA received more than 1,600 first-hand sightings of live American prisoners and nearly 14,000 second-hand reports. Many witnesses interrogated by CIA or Pentagon intelligence agents were deemed “credible” in the agents’ reports. Some of the witnesses were given lie-detector tests and passed. Sources provided me with copies of these witness reports, which are impressive in their detail. A lot of the sightings described a secondary tier of prison camps many miles from Hanoi. Yet the DIA, after reviewing all these reports, concluded that they “do not constitute evidence” that men were alive.

 In the late 1970s and early 1980s, listening stations picked up messages in which Laotian military personnel spoke about moving American prisoners from one labor camp to another. These listening posts were manned by Thai communications officers trained by the National Security Agency (NSA), which monitors signals worldwide. The NSA teams had moved out after the fall of Saigon in 1975 and passed the job to the Thai allies. But when the Thais turned these messages over to Washington, the intelligence community ruled that since the intercepts were made by a “third party” - namely Thailand - they could not be regarded as authentic. That’s some Catch-22: the U.S. trained a third party to take over its role in monitoring signals about POWs, but because that third party did the monitoring, the messages weren’t valid.

Here, from CIA files, is an example that clearly exposes the farce. On Dec. 27, 1980, a Thai military signal team picked up a message saying that prisoners were being moved out of Attopeu (in southern Laos) by aircraft “at 1230 hours.” Three days later a message was sent from the CIA station in Bangkok to the CIA director’s office in Langley. It read, in part: “The prisoners are now in the valley in permanent location (a prison camp at Nhommarath in Central Laos). They were transferred from Attopeu to work in various places. POWs were formerly kept in caves and are very thin, dark and starving.” Apparently the prisoners were real. But the transmission was declared “invalid” by Washington because the information came from a “third party” and thus could not be deemed credible.

 A series of what appeared to be distress signals from Vietnam and Laos were captured by the government’s satellite system in the late 1980s and early ’90s. (Before that period, no search for such signals had been put in place.) Not a single one of these markings was ever deemed credible. To the layman’s eye, the satellite photos, some of which I’ve seen, show markings on the ground that are identical to the signals that American pilots had been specifically trained to use in their survival courses - such as certain letters, like X or K, drawn in a special way. Other markings were the secret four-digit authenticator numbers given to individual pilots. But time and again, the Pentagon, backed by the CIA, insisted that humans had not made these markings. What were they, then? “Shadows and vegetation,” the government said, insisting that the markings were merely normal topographical contours like saw-grass or rice-paddy divider walls. It was the automatic response - shadows and vegetation. On one occasion, a Pentagon photo expert refused to go along. It was a missing man’s name gouged into a field, he said, not trampled grass or paddy berms. His bosses responded by bringing in an outside contractor who found instead, yes, shadows and vegetation. This refrain led Bob Taylor, a highly regarded investigator on the Senate committee staff who had examined the photographic evidence, to comment to me: “If grass can spell out people’s names and secret digit codes, then I have a newfound respect for grass.”

 On Nov. 11, 1992, Dolores Alfond, the sister of missing airman Capt. Victor Apodaca and chair of the National Alliance of Families, an organization of relatives of POW/MIAs, testified at one of the Senate committee’s public hearings. She asked for information about data the government had gathered from electronic devices used in a classified program known as PAVE SPIKE. The devices were motion sensors, dropped by air, designed to pick up enemy troop movements. Shaped on one end like a spike with an electronic pod and antenna on top, they were designed to stick in the ground as they fell. Air Force planes would drop them along the Ho Chi Minh trail and other supply routes. The devices, though primarily sensors, also had rescue capabilities. Someone on the ground - a downed airman or a prisoner on a labor gang - could manually enter data into the sensor. All data were regularly collected electronically by U.S. planes flying overhead.

Alfond stated, without any challenge or contradiction by the committee, that in 1974, a year after the supposedly complete return of prisoners, the gathered data showed that a person or people had manually entered into the sensors - as U.S. pilots had been trained to do - no less than 20 authenticator numbers that corresponded exactly to the classified authenticator numbers of 20 U.S. POWs who were lost in Laos. Alfond added, according to the transcript, “This PAVE SPIKE intelligence is seamless, but the committee has not discussed it or released what it knows about PAVE SPIKE.”

McCain attended that committee hearing specifically to confront Alfond because of her criticism of the panel’s work. He bellowed and berated her for quite a while. His face turning anger-pink, he accused her of “denigrating” his “patriotism.” The bullying had its effect - she began to cry. After a pause Alfond recovered and tried to respond to his scorching tirade, but McCain simply turned away and stormed out of the room. The PAVE SPIKE file has never been declassified. We still don’t know anything about those 20 POWs.

 As previously mentioned, in April 1993 in a Moscow archive, a researcher from Harvard, Stephen Morris, unearthed and made public the transcript of a briefing that General Tran Van Quang gave to the Hanoi politburo four months before the signing of the Paris peace accords in 1973. In the transcript, General Quang told the Hanoi politburo that 1,205 U.S. prisoners were being held. Quang said that many of the prisoners would be held back from Washington after the accords as bargaining chips for war reparations. General Quang’s report added: “This is a big number. Officially, until now, we published a list of only 368 prisoners of war. The rest we have not revealed. The government of the USA knows this well, but it does not know the exact number, and can only make guesses based on its losses. That is why we are keeping the number of prisoners of war secret, in accordance with the politburo’s instructions.” The report then went on to explain in clear and specific language that a large number would be kept back to ensure reparations.

The reaction to the document was immediate. After two decades of denying it had kept any prisoners, Hanoi responded to the revelation by calling the transcript a fabrication. Similarly, Washington - which had over the same two decades refused to recant Nixon’s declaration that all the prisoners had been returned - also shifted into denial mode. The Pentagon issued a statement saying the document “is replete with errors, omissions and propaganda that seriously damage its credibility,” and that the numbers were “inconsistent with our own accounting.”

Neither American nor Vietnamese officials offered any rationale for who would plant a forged document in the Soviet archives and why they would do so. Certainly neither Washington nor Moscow - closely allied with Hanoi - would have any motive, since the contents were embarrassing to all parties, and since both the United States and Vietnam had consistently denied the existence of unreturned prisoners. The Russian archivists simply said the document was “authentic.”

 In his 2002 book, "Inside Delta Force," retired Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Haney described how in 1981 his special forces unit, after rigorous training for a POW rescue mission, had the mission suddenly aborted, revived a year later, and again abruptly aborted. Haney writes that this abandonment of captured soldiers ate at him for years and left him disillusioned about his government’s vows to leave no men behind. “Years later, I spoke at length with a former highly placed member of the North Vietnamese diplomatic corps, and this person asked me point-blank: ‘Why did the Americans never attempt to recover their remaining POWs after the conclusion of the war?’” Haney writes. He continued, saying that he came to believe senior government officials had called off those missions in 1981 and 1982. (His account is on pages 314 to 321 of my paperback copy of the book.)

 There is also evidence that in the first months of Ronald Reagan’s presidency in 1981, the White House received a ransom proposal for a number of POWs being held by Hanoi in Indochina. The offer, which was passed to Washington from an official of a third country, was apparently discussed at a meeting in the Roosevelt Room attended by Reagan, Vice President Bush, CIA director William Casey, and National Security Adviser Richard Allen. Allen confirmed the offer in sworn testimony to the Senate POW committee on June 23, 1992.

Allen was allowed to testify behind closed doors and no information was released. But a San Diego Union-Tribune reporter, Robert Caldwell, obtained the portion relating to the ransom offer and reported on it. The ransom request was for $4 billion, Allen testified. He said he told Reagan that “it would be worth the president’s going along and let’s have the negotiation.” When his testimony appeared in the Union-Tribune, Allen quickly wrote a letter to the panel, this time not under oath, recanting the ransom story and claiming his memory had played tricks on him. His new version was that some POW activists had asked him about such an offer in a meeting that took place in 1986, when he was no longer in government. “It appears,” he said in the letter, “that there never was a 1981 meeting about the return of POW/MIAs for $4 billion.”

But the episode didn’t end there. A Treasury agent on Secret Service duty in the White House, John Syphrit, came forward to say he had overheard part of the ransom conversation in the Roosevelt Room in 1981, when the offer was discussed by Reagan, Bush, Casey, Allen, and other cabinet officials. Syphrit, a veteran of the Vietnam War, told the committee he was willing to testify, but they would have to subpoena him. Treasury opposed his appearance, arguing that voluntary testimony would violate the trust between the Secret Service and those it protects. It was clear that coming in on his own could cost Syphrit his career. The committee voted 7 to 4 not to subpoena him.

In the committee’s final report, dated Jan. 13, 1993 (on page 284), the panel not only chastised Syphrit for his failure to testify without a subpoena (“The committee regrets that the Secret Service agent was unwilling ...”), but noted that since Allen had recanted his testimony about the Roosevelt Room briefing, Syphrit’s testimony would have been “at best, uncorroborated by the testimony of any other witness.” The committee omitted any mention that it had made a decision not to ask the other two surviving witnesses, Bush and Reagan, to give testimony under oath. (Casey had died.)

 In 1990, Col. Millard Peck, a decorated infantry veteran of Vietnam then working at the DIA as chief of the Asia Division for Current Intelligence, asked for the job of chief of the DIA’s Special Office for Prisoners of War and Missing in Action. His reason for seeking the transfer, which was not a promotion, was that he had heard from officials throughout the Pentagon that the POW/MIA office had been turned into a waste-disposal unit for getting rid of unwanted evidence about live prisoners - a “black hole,” these officials called it.

Peck explained all this in his telling resignation letter of Feb. 12, 1991, eight months after he had taken the job. He said he viewed it as “sort of a holy crusade” to restore the integrity of the office but was defeated by the Pentagon machine. The four-page, single-spaced letter was scathing, describing the putative search for missing men as “a cover-up.” Peck charged that, at its top echelons, the Pentagon had embraced a “mind-set to debunk” all evidence of prisoners left behind. “That national leaders continue to address the prisoner of war and missing in action issue as the ‘highest national priority,’ is a travesty,” he wrote. “The entire charade does not appear to be an honest effort, and may never have been. Practically all analysis is directed to finding fault with the source. Rarely has there been any effective, active follow through on any of the sightings, nor is there a responsive ‘action arm’ to routinely and aggressively pursue leads.”

“I became painfully aware,” his letter continued, “that I was not really in charge of my own office, but was merely a figurehead or whipping boy for a larger and totally Machiavellian group of players outside of DIA. I feel strongly that this issue is being manipulated and controlled at a higher level, not with the goal of resolving it, but more to obfuscate the question of live prisoners and give the illusion of progress through hyperactivity.” He named no names but said these players are “unscrupulous people in the Government or associated with the Government” who “have maintained their distance and remained hidden in the shadows, while using the [POW] Office as a ‘toxic waste dump’ to bury the whole ‘mess’ out of sight.” Peck added that “military officers who in some manner have ‘rocked the boat’ [have] quickly come to grief.”

Peck concluded, “From what I have witnessed, it appears that any soldier left in Vietnam, even inadvertently, was, in fact, abandoned years ago, and that the farce that is being played is no more than political legerdemain done with ‘smoke and mirrors’ to stall the issue until it dies a natural death.” The disillusioned colonel not only resigned but asked to be retired immediately from active military service. The press never followed up."

Memorial Day: "Lest We Forget: The USS Liberty"

"Lest We Forget: The USS Liberty"
by Paul Craig Roberts

"June 8, 1967 - the fourth day of the Six Day War between Israel and Egypt, Syria and Jordan - was a beautiful day in the Mediterranean. The USS Liberty was in international waters off the coast of Egypt. Israeli aircraft had flown over the USS Liberty in the morning and had reported that the ship was American. The crew, in close proximity to the war zone, was reassured by the presence of Israeli aircraft. But at 2:00 p.m. sailors sunbathing on the deck saw fighter jets coming at them in attack formation. Red flashes from the wings of the fighters were followed by explosions, blood and death. A beautiful afternoon suddenly became a nightmare. Who was attacking the USS Liberty and why? The attack on the Liberty was an attack on America.

The Liberty was an intelligence ship. Its purpose was to monitor Soviet and Arab communications in order to warn both Israel and Washington should the Soviets enter the war on behalf of its Arab allies. The Liberty was armed only with four machine guns to repel boarders. Its request for a destroyer escort had been denied.

The assault on the Liberty is well documented. With no warning, the Liberty was attacked by successive waves of unmarked jets using cannon, rockets and napalm. The attacking jets jammed all of the US communications frequencies, an indication they knew the Liberty was an American ship.

The air attack failed to sink the Liberty. About 30 minutes into the attack three torpedo boats appeared flying the Star of David. The Israeli boats were not on a rescue mission. They attacked the Liberty with cannon, machine guns and torpedoes. One torpedo struck the Liberty mid-ship, instantly killing 25 Americans while flooding the lower decks. The Israeli torpedo boats destroyed the life rafts the Liberty launched when the crew prepared to abandon ship, sending the message there’d be no survivors.

At approximately 3:15 two French-built Israeli helicopters carrying armed Israeli troops appeared over the Liberty. Phil Tourney could see their faces only 50/60 feet away. He gave them the finger. Surviving crew members are convinced the Israelis were sent to board and kill all survivors.

The Israeli jets destroyed the Liberty’s communication antennas. While under attack from the jets, crew members strung lines that permitted the ship to send a call for help. The USS Saratoga and the USS America launched fighters to drive off the attacking aircraft, but the rescue mission was aborted by direct orders from Washington.

When the Liberty notified the Sixth Fleet it was again under attack, this time from surface ships, the Fleet commander ordered the carriers America and Saratoga to launch fighters to destroy or drive off the attackers. The order was unencrypted and picked up by Israel, which immediately called off its attack. The torpedo boats and the hovering helicopters sped away. Israel quickly notified Washington that it had mistakenly attacked an American ship, and the US fighters were recalled a second time.

The USS Liberty suffered 70% casualties, with 34 killed and 174 wounded. Although the expensive state of the art ship was kept afloat by the heroic crew, it later proved unsalvageable and was sold as scrap.

Why didn’t help come? No explanation has ever been given by the US government for Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and President Lyndon B. Johnson‘s orders for the Sixth Fleet to abort the rescue mission. Lt. Commander David Lewis of the Liberty told colleagues that Admiral L. R. Geis, commander of the Sixth Fleet carrier force, told him that when he challenged McNamara’s order to recall the rescue mission, LBJ came on the line and said he didn’t care if the ship sank, he wasn’t going to embarrass an ally. The communications officer handling the transmission has given the same account.

A BBC documentary on the Israeli raid reports confusion about the attacker’s identity almost resulted in a US assault on Egypt. Richard Parker, US political counsel in Cairo, confirms in the BBC documentary he received official communication an American retaliatory attack on Egypt was on its way.

The US government’s official position on the USS Liberty corresponds with Israel’s: The attack was unintentional and a result of Israeli blunders. This is the official position despite the fact that CIA Director Richard Helms, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Assistant Secretary of State Lucius Battle, and a long list of US Navy officers, government officials and Liberty survivors are on record saying the Israeli attack was intentional.

According to Helms, Battle and the minutes of a White House meeting, President Johnson believed the attack was intentional. Helms says LBJ was furious and complained when The New York Times buried the story on page 29, but that Johnson decided he had to publicly accept Israel’s explanation. “The political pressure was too much,” Helms said.

US communications personnel, intelligence analysts and ambassadors report having read US intercepts of Israeli orders to attack the Liberty. In one intercept an Israeli pilot reports that the Liberty is an American ship and asks for a repeat and clarification of his orders to attack an American ship. One Israeli who identified himself as one of the pilots later came to America and met with US Representative Pete McCloskey and Liberty survivors. The pilot said he had refused to participate in the attack when he saw it was an American ship. He was arrested upon returning to base.

The Liberty flew the US flag. The ship’s markings, GTR-5, measured several feet in height on both sides of the bow. On the stern the ship was clearly marked USS LIBERTY. Mistaking the Liberty for an Egyptian ship, as Israel claims to have done, was impossible.

Tattered flags show ferocity of the attacks: The Israelis claim the Liberty flew no flag, but two US flags full of holes from the attack exist. When the first flag was shot down, crewmen replaced it with a flag 7-feet by 13-feet. This flag, with its battle scars, is on display at NSA headquarters at Ft. Mead, Maryland.

Admiral John S. McCain Jr., the father of the current US senator, ordered Admiral Isaac C. Kidd and Captain Ward Boston to hold a court of inquiry and to complete the investigation in only one week. In a signed affidavit Captain Boston said President Johnson ordered a cover-up and that he and Admiral Kidd were prevented from doing a real investigation. Liberty survivors were ordered never to speak to anyone about the event. Their silence was finally broken when Lt. Commander Jim Ennes published his book, Assault on the Liberty .

It is now established fact that the attack on the Liberty was intentional and was covered up by President Johnson and every administration since. There has never been a congressional investigation, nor has the testimony of the majority of survivors ever been officially taken. Moreover, testimony that conflicted with the cover-up was deleted from the official record.

Disgusted by the US government’s official stance discounting the survivors’ reports, Admiral Tom Moorer, retired Chief of Naval Operations and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, organized the Moorer Commission to make public the known facts about the attack and cover-up. The Commission consisted of Admiral Moorer, former Judge Advocate General of the US Navy Admiral Merlin Staring, Marine Corps General Raymond G. Davis and former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia James Akins.

The Commission’s Report concluded:

• “That there is compelling evidence that Israel’s attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew.

• “That fearing conflict with Israel, the White House deliberately prevented the US Navy from coming to the defense of USS Liberty by recalling Sixth Fleet military rescue support while the ship was under attack.

• “That surviving crew members were threatened with “court-martial, imprisonment or worse’ if they exposed the truth; and [the survivors] were abandoned by their own government.

• “That there has been an official cover-up without precedent in American naval history.

• “That a danger to our national security exists whenever our elected officials are willing to subordinate American interests to those of any foreign nation.”

Why did Israel attack the Liberty? Was something super secret going on that is so damaging it must be protected at all cost? Some experts believe Tel Aviv decided to sink the Liberty because the ship’s surveillance capability would discover Israel’s impending invasion and capture of Syria’s Golan Heights, an action opposed by Washington. Others believe Israel was concerned the Liberty would discover Israel’s massacre of hundreds of Egyptian POWs, a war crime contemporaneous with the attack on the US ship. Still others believe that Israel intended to blame the attack on Egypt in order to bring America into the war. It is known the US was providing Israel with reconnaissance and that there were joint US-Israeli covert operations against the Arabs that Washington was desperate to keep secret.

Survivors with whom I spoke said the attack was the easy part of the experience. The hard part has been living with 40 years of official cover-up and betrayal by the US government. One survivor said that he was asked to leave his Baptist church when he spoke about the Liberty, because the minister and fellow church-goers felt more loyalty to Israel than to a member of the congregation who had served his country. His church’s position was that if our government believed Israel, the survivors should also.

Survivor Phil Tourney said that “being forced to live with a cover-up is like being raped and no one will believe you.” Survivor Gary Brummett said he “feels like someone who has been locked up for 40 years on a wrongful conviction.” Until the US government acknowledges the truth of the attack, Brummett says the survivors are forced to live with the anger and dismay of being betrayed by the country they served.

Survivor Bryce Lockwood has been angry for 40 years. The torpedo that killed his shipmates, wrecked his ship and damaged his health was made in the USA. Survivor Ernie Gallo told me he “has been haunted for four decades” by the knowledge that his commander-in-chief recalled the US fighters that could have prevented most of the Liberty’s casualties.

Every American should be troubled by the fact that the President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense prevented the US Sixth Fleet from protecting a US Navy ship and its 294-man crew from foreign attack. They should also be troubled that the President ordered the Navy to determine the attack was unintentional. For more information, visit the USS Liberty site.”