Peter Hounam was invited to speak at the 54th commemorative reunion for USS Liberty veterans, held on June 4 2021 in Pensacola, Florida:

Due to covid travel restrictions from the UK he was unable to attend the event as planned, so instead the above video speech was screened along with a zoom Q & A session:

– Full transcripts below –

 

 

Liberty Reunion – Pensacola, June 4, 2021 

 

 

A warm welcome from Scotland to all my Liberty friends. I am truly sorry not to be with you in person, but the pandemic has made it logistically difficult. In these peculiar circumstances I am grateful and honoured to be talking to you about the dreadful attack that happened on your ship. Sometimes I pinch myself, thinking how does it come about that a British journalist like me, based in Bonnie Scotland, is talking I hope knowledgeable about something your government and media should have dealt with decades long ago? 

I first got involved in late 1999 as part of a TV project but the twists and turns of the larger story surrounding this atrocity has on and off occupied me ever since. of high you are all It is the most complicated and devilish story I have ever had to unravel, and it is also the most far-reaching. I feel I am closer to the truth now than ever and have reached the point where a new expanded account needs to be published. The book is entitled Goliath’s Guilty Secret. The Goliath in question is not Israel, the perpetrators of the atrocity, but your country. The more I have delved the more what the Johnson administration got up to has become more and more discreditable.  

What happened to you guys on June 8, 1967 was a seminal moment in world history and yet the true story has been buried by your Government because what happened that day would be so shaming. For them and for the system they headed. You who are Liberty survivors would know little of this because you were part of just one cog.  

The truth is that only by a hair’s breadth did the world avoid a nuclear exchange between the two world superpowers and it would surely have led to a Third Word War. 

There is only he only way to start this story by focussing on a single, catastrophic military incident – the attempted obliteration of your state-of-the-art spyship. You and your nearly 300 shipmates were preordained to be sacrificial lambs. It is miracle only 34 of you died and it is understandable you guys have been ever since to nail the lies that the attack was a tragic accident.  

Soon after I started my investigation at the turn of the century, I took a different tack. Speaking to survivors and studying what document was available including Jim Ennes’s book and the often forgotten one by Anthony Pearson, I concluded the attack was deliberate. The task was then to find out why, and this is by far the most difficult bit.  

There is not enough time here to go into all the elements of what was going on but my book will flesh these out. I want to focus on my main findings starting with the attack on USS Liberty and the mission for which you were really assigned. 

Regarding the attack, what some you here today experienced must have been pre-planned. Orders must have been transmitted from different control rooms to two squadrons of Israeli planes, to three MTBs, which was a significant part of Israel’s navy, and to two helicopter gunships. And yet Israel successfully claimed it was a series of errors. 

How could it maintain it made such uncharacteristic mistakes and expect to be believed? My first conclusion was and is that that Israel, this tiny country, knew America was not able to dispute. It had as much to cover up as they did. 

As the afternoon wore on, there was feverish activity at military HQ in Tel Aviv. Not one but a string of bogus blunders was being secretly concocted by Israel to make the misidentification excuse appear as plausible as possible. 

Even so it wasn’t plausible, but Washington accepted it. A counterstrike on Haifa was blocked. A massive cover-up began. Inquiries were vetoed or manipulated. Thereby, Uncle Sam turned the other cheek. Thereby Israel got away with it.  

Although you were bullied into suppressing what you had seen and learned, you must have puzzled about why this Alice in Wonderland nightmare was playing out around you. And wondered why the cover-up had been ordered in such a manner that the death of your shipmates was rendered meaningless. 

And perhaps you wondered about other inexplicable happenings or non-happenings. 

For example, why had no help arrived after the Sixth Fleet had messaged that rescue was on the way. Why was the ship forced to maintain its position in the centre of the war zone without destroyer protection and after evidence that an attack might be planned? Were you meant to be sitting ducks as officers like George Golden believed? 

I dismiss the idea that it was a warning attack intended to drive Liberty out of the conflict zone. The evidence is overwhelming that it was a wilful, deliberate and, moreover, coordinated operation to sink the ship with all hands. That is why they used a deadly cocktail of napalm, rockets, cannon, and torpedoes. After that, came airborne commandos.  

Of course, Liberty was listening in to the war. And you had been hastily diverted from your mission off the coast of Africa ostensibly for that purpose. But in the Eastern Mediterranean there were multiple listening facilities in the area some American and some British. Uniquely, your vessel and you the crew had to be sunk with all hands. 

And why, if the intention was to sink the ship, was the attack suddenly stopped at the last moment before the coup de grace? There is an utterly plausible explanation:  that USS Liberty had miraculously managed to transmit an SOS on open circuits. The world now expected the Sixth Fleet to retaliate. Israel was about to be exposed as the aggressor. was on its way, they would know it was Israel. 

Another explanation, told to me by the head of the Israeli Navy was that he had intervened and story the attack from continuing. Whatever the truth, we most focus on what might have been intended. That Egypt was the being set-up for a reprisal attack because it was to be blamed as the evil force behind the sinking of your ship. And that America would conduct that reprisal attack. 

In other words, it was a Black Op’. The planes that first attacked Liberty were very painted black with no visible markings. Those Liberty crew dodging bullets on deck were unable to signal who these attackers were. Unmarked planes cannot be produced quickly in an emergency. This alone is evidence of premeditation: that this was planned as a deniable operation. 

Once all your ability to send out signals had been destroyed, the anonymity of the attack would not matter. But you did get out a signal and that was crucial. All the best laid plans of mice and men… it couldn’t be more appropriate! 

Some of you have testified that Israeli MTBs shot up your life-rafts and have concluded, quite correctly I’m certain, that this was to ensure there would be no survivors. It was of course a war crime. 

And, after the attack was called off, there was another war crime – the massive cover-up with Israel and America working to help one another bury the story and hide their guilty knowledge. There can be no doubt something scurrilous and cataclysmic threatened their standing. 

My conclusion is to accept the obvious – that a Black Op had gone wrong. You and your ship had stayed afloat foiling their objective to create a scenario whereby President Nasser of Egypt could be removed from power. 

Israel, in cahoots with the United States, were behind a false flag plot to engineer regime change. 

Those of you aboard Liberty were not just sitting ducks. Awful though it is to say it, you were cannon fodder. Valuable only as victims whose deaths were to be blamed on an influential Middle East country seen as a Communist stooge. 

My first book on this extraordinary piece of skulduggery, published in 2003 focussed on the secret plan called Operation Cyanide. That was the book’s title. I have now done a follow-up because I began to realise in the years since that there was much more to flesh out. The genesis of the entire Six Day War comes into the picture. There is also the issue what nearly happened – how the Middle East would have been shaped if Liberty had been blown to bits. 

Aboard your ship there were sealed orders regarding this plan, but nobody appeared to know what Operation Cyanide was. I now conclude your skipper, Captain McGonagle, knew a great deal and it is very sad he never talked candidly about it.  

Cyanide had been instituted a year before the attack. It was concocted by influential people in Israel and the US working in the shadows. It had White House approval via a cut-out mechanism call the 303 Committee. Once given that green light, the perpetrators close to Lyndon Johnson were granted all the high-tech military resources needed to unseat the Egyptian regime. Israel was America’s proxy until the time for America to join in. 

I know the substance of this from people who took part in the planning and execution of Operation Cyanide. In the second half of 1966, US military experts and intelligence operatives were soon billeted in Tel Aviv helping in preparations. There were two parts to the game plan: To ensure the war would succeed without a hitch. And to create a convincing excuse, a casus belli, so that the world would never realise it was a false flag operation. 

Nasser, the Egyptian leader, was a great help. He was prone to making hot-headed speeches and was easily provoked into making threats. But most historians now agree it was bluster because seventy percent of his forces were bogged down in a war in Yemen. As the Soviet Union told him, they had no chance of defeating the Israeli military machine. 

Therefore, he had to be characterised as a dangerous Communist collaborator, and a potential threat to the region if not the whole world. Remember, this was at the height of the Cold War and the reds under the bed era. Ending the Soviet scourge and its expansionist tendencies was what consumed Washington hawks like the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  

For LBJ there was another bonus. A resounding victory in the Middle East might help neutralise his failures in Vietnam and assist his campaign for a second term as President. 

Israel played along with this, but it was not obsessed with the dangers of Communism. It saw Nasser as a nuisance but one they could fend off if needs be. For them a war against Egypt was a useful means to an end – the main goal was territorial gain – annexing the West Bank including the Old City of Jerusalem which was under Jordanian control. 

Having the US onside was a key factor, to block Soviet interference and quell world criticism. And Israel knew it had to tread carefully with the State Department which would never approve of an invasion of Jordan where King Hussein was a useful ally of the US. It was therefore playing two sides against the middle. It was hugely risky but Israel was always taking such risks.  

When the Six Day War broke out on June 5, 1967, the Cyanide plan was complete. The latest American high-tech equipment and trained operators were in place. Vast amounts of arms had been supplied to Israel. The war would be a turkey shoot as Johnson’s security advisor later called it. 

But Israel and US were uneasy partners, with different motives and plenty of mutual suspicion. And into this dangerous cocktail sailed USS Liberty. By the time you arrived in position, Israel had conquered Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, but it had sneakily annexed the West Bank too. The unity of those behind Operation Cyanide began to unwind. A turning point came halfway through the Six Day War, when Moshe Dayan, Israel’s newly appointed defence minister, defied America’s fervent wishes. He refused to order his forces across the Suez Canal to capture the Egyptian capital and remove Nasser. 

If Nasser was to be deposed, your country now had to finish the job. 

With this in mind, I turn to what was happening elsewhere in the area while you were being attacked. One important player was very close to you. As many of you know, there was at a submerged US submarine silently stationed beneath you. The sole role of USS Andrew Jackson, equipped with Polaris missiles, was to act in the event of a nuclear war. The sub had followed you all the way from Spain.  

Your military leaders knew something mighty dangerous could erupt when USS Liberty reached its position close to the Egyptian coast. More on this shortly. 

Further west, the Sixth Fleet was also engaged in unusual activity. Instead of flying to your rescue, the news of the attack prompted the Fleet to mount a counterattack on Cairo. Nuclear-armed planes were despatched to bomb the Egyptian capital. They launched from USS America and the carrier catapult operator had this to tell me: “The thing that has always struck me (was) how close we probably were to World War Three. …I can remember wondering if I was ever going to see my father again, or my sister…” 

It is a chilling remark.  

The planes reached within two or three minutes of their target – meaning well inside Egyptian territory.  But then a panic-stricken Robert McNamara and his boss Lyndon Johnson issued a recall. Liberty had not been sunk with all hands. The attack could not be blamed on Nasser. Desperate measures had to be instituted to abort the overthrow of Egypt and of course cover it up. 

I now know that the nuclear strike was just part of the plan. Altogether 50 planes were despatched towards Egypt and after their recall every one had to counted back in. It is reminiscent of Dr Strangelove. Added to this, a powerful amphibious landing force heading at full speed to towards El Alamein west of the Nile Delta had to be turned round too. 

The mission was a fiasco. An outrage. It had to be completely obliterated from history.  

America’s role is therefore just as reprehensible as Israel’s, perhaps worse. This is why my new book will be called Goliath’s Guilty Secret.  

And there are yet more hair-raising stories to tell.  

For years, Israel had been completing its own development of the atomic bomb at Dimona in the southern Negev Desert. By the summer of 1967, the CIA had obtained intelligence that Israel was completing a useable nuclear device. As USS Liberty sped towards its designated position a few miles off the Egyptian coast, it was entering the possible fallout zone from around where it was to be deployed. 

And this device was nearly set off.  

Israeli bomb deployment teams were cockpit-ready to fly with the device to a target in Egypt in two helicopters. Their assignment was suicidal because the prototype had no timing mechanism. The team had to detonate the device by flicking a switch attached with a very long wire. Shades of Dr Strangelove again.  

One of the brave volunteers for this operation later said to me: “…I didn’t know what it would mean for me to lay on a mountain, 1.5km from a nuclear bomb. What happens? Am I going to burn immediately? Will I be thrown to the air? All sorts of things of this nature…” 

There is a bizarre subtext to this all-too-true story. Another witness has revealed that the Israeli Government did not trust their own military with custodianship of the weapon. A standoff occurred at a fort south of Tel Aviv where a government unit was confronted by an army contingent. Each wanted to take hold of the core of the bomb. It demonstrates fractious relationships within the Jewish State and internal battles the military were determined to win. 

Form participants who have recently spoken out, there is evidence American intelligence knew about this mad-cap plan which, because it was a last resort measure, the Israeli military had called Operation Samson. In the context of what we are discussing, we must consider whether this was another reason why USS Liberty was sent close to the proposed blast area or just a bizarre coincidence. 

Putting all these pieces of the puzzle together, it is no exaggeration to say we were close to World War Three that June. How close is revealed by a final story, equally spine-tingling. America’s Strategic Air Command, controlled from a huge underground nerve centre in Arizona, was drawn into the crisis. SAC’s role was single-purpose – to launch a nuclear blitzkrieg on Russia and China when the Cold War finally blew up. Its B52 nuclear bomber fleet were placed on high alert some time before the Liberty was hit, signalling that America had advance notice of what would happen and took the ultimate precautions. 

And the involvement of SAC suggests America and Israel may not have been the only countries involved in the events of June 8, 1967. SAC was hooked into NATO which was based in Europe. NATO was led by General Lemnitzer who was also in charge of US forces in Europe and the Mediterranean including the Sixth Fleet. Forces of most of the major European powers were NATO participants and thus tuned in to any nuclear threat. 

These countries must know something about the emergency including of course my own country, the United Kingdom. Now, I have learned this must have been the case. UK forces in Cyprus including Britain’s own nuclear defence shield based on the Vulcan bomber force aircraft were also on high alert to counter the danger of an imminent Soviet onslaught when a nuclear war was triggered by Israel’s actions.  

More than all the other countries tampering in Middle East affairs, Britain was in a perfect position to observe the ebb and flow of events using its extensive military facilities on Cyprus. That is another reason why it must have had advance knowledge. The Royal Airforce had a powerful listening station on top of Mount Olympus. And I have discovered a squadron of Lightning fighter bombers was cockpit ready 24 hours a day for the entire week of the war. For sure, Britain knew something mighty dangerous was about to explode. 

Further supporting evidence is that British intelligence agents and military experts were helping plan and promulgate Operation Cyanide in Israel. They were working with the Israelis from late 1966 onwards. Of course, Britain has vehemently denied it had the slightest involvement in the Six Day War. Facing economic ruin from oil embargos afterwards, Britain launched an urgent rebuttal campaign dubbed, The Big Lie. Uncomfortably, when documents were released to Parliament, it showed Vulcan bombers had been deployed in the region. 

We were fortunate that by then the war was off the front pages. 

This is such a complex story; it is understandable we are still searching for answers. But even after more than fifty years, it is vitally important we keep searching, not just from a historical perspective but because it still has a bearing on modern world problems, not least the Palestinian problem.  

I want to end with another story. In the early Sixties, a plan called Operation Northwoods was drawn up by the Pentagon to denigrate Soviet-backed Cuba, label Castro as an aggressor and thereby ‘justify’ an American invasion. Kennedy angrily turned that plan down. Indeed, he was horrified the Joint Chiefs should even bring it to his desk. 

The Northwoods plan proposed many provocations, but one is particularly relevant. It recommended that an American ship should be blown up in Havana harbour, and for this to be blamed on the Castro regime. It would be a pretext for launching an invasion and taking him out. Using nukes was not off the agenda.  

We must ask therefore whether the Liberty attack was modelled on these dirty tricks tactics. Kennedy removed the Chairman of the JCS. It was the General Lyman who went off to head NATO and American forces in Europe. Thus, the arch hawk and false flag champion, oversaw the Mediterranean region and Liberty’s fate in 1967. 

My new book will go into much greater detail on all these facets and many others, including activity in the White House and in the Israeli hierarchy. If anyone can help, however slight, please email me at [email protected]. I know there is a much greater sense of patriotism in the US than in my country, and that is reflected in your media. But, you have only to see what has been happening in Israel and Gaza in the last month to see that getting to the truth of the Six Day War is a humanitarian necessity even if shows up our countries to have acted improperly, perhaps even shamefully.  

Thanks for listening.  

 

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