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I IMAGINE that if Congress had established every June 8th to be known as USS LIBERTY Remembrance Day and if Israel had been just and merciful in 2004, '05, '06, '07, 08, '09, '10, '11 or even 2012 and allowed their Nuclear Whistle Blower the right to leave Israel, I would not have titled my fourth book, “Vanunu's WAIT for LIBERTY, Remembering the USS LIBERTY and My Life as a Candidate of Conscience for US HOUSE 2012”
But it is what it is; and it also has been dedicated to the crew, family, friends of the USS LIBERTY and to the career and spirit of Helen Thomas, and a few excerpts follow:
It has been said that if you are not crazy before you get to Jerusalem-you will go crazy there.
One crazy image that I committed to dreaming began during my first of seven trips to Jerusalem in 2005. I also vowed it aloud to Vanunu that I would write his saga UNTIL Israel allows its nuclear whistle blower the right to leave the state and “have a job, a home, a family” which is all he has wanted since he emerged from 18 years in a tomb sized cell on April 21, 2004.
The crazy dream to run for US HOUSE of Representatives came to me shortly after establishing the public service website, WeAreWideAwake.org, on July 22, 2005, which was three weeks after my first trip to both sides of The Wall in Israel Palestine.
Three months after publishing my third book, BEYOND NUCLEAR: Mordechai Vanunu's FREEDOM of SPEECH Trial and My Life as a Muckraker: 2005-2010, I announced my candidacy as a Citizen of Conscience for US HOUSE 2012, District 5, Fl. on YouTube. That was when the crazy idea to run for congress morphed into a desire to serve in the House.
What I learned on the campaign trail is that I will never be a politician, but I will continue to write with hope to provoke change for the better in the political realm.
The Republicans held their presidential convention in Tampa, which is ‘home’ to the largest population of homeless people in Florida. The Republicans cancelled the first day of their convention due to fear of Hurricane Isaac, so The Media had nothing else to do but turn out for the counter demonstration on August 28, 2012.
The Media and Police far outnumbered the few hundred diverse citizens for justice, peace and equal human rights who joined The March on The RNC. We were blessed with cloud cover and a few short drizzles before the sun broke out on the hurricane of We The People who hold "these truths to be self-evident: That all [people] are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights...that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among [people] deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; and, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the RIGHT of the people to ALTER or to ABOLISH it."
The day before I reported from the Ron Paul Rally and captured guitar legend Jimmy Vaughn doing "DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER" for my YouTube Channel as I recalled George Orwell's nightmare titled “1984.”
In Orwell's epic, Winston Smith played the role of the archetype of all threats to Big Brother; an individual with an open and free mind, independent thought, a memory of history and a voice of dissent who was willing to take bold action.
Orwell's Big Brother tortured all threats in order to get inside their head and then to brainwash them into accepting doublethink as truth.
I contend that today's Big Brother is an Industrial Media Congressional Military Security/Surveillance Complex, which as of this writing have not yet found the way to stop the free flow of info and independent thought streaming through the World Wide Web.
"Orwell demonstrates the illusion of the assumption that democracy can continue to exist in a world preparing for nuclear war. Leaders have only one aim, and that is power and power means to inflict unlimited pain and suffering to another human being. We spend a considerable part of our income and energy in building thermonuclear weapons, and close our minds to the fact that they might go off and destroy one third or one half of our population and that of the enemy. Another example of doublethink-from a Christian standpoint is the evil of killing any other. Can a minority of one be right?”
As a minority of one, I flew to Virginia in September to attend the 2012 LIBERTY Political Action Conference.
I was able to accomplish one of my missions when for the second time I personally handed the following questions to Congressman Ron Paul-via his body guard-the first time was to Ron Paul’s Deputy Press Secretary, James V. Barcia, just prior to the WE ARE THE FUTURE RALLY at the University of South Florida’s Sun Dome. But this time I also ‘gifted’ Dr. Paul with a copy of BEYOND NUCLEAR: Mordechai Vanunu's FREEDOM of SPEECH Trial and My Life as a Muckraker: 2005-2010 at a private reception for him during the 2012 LIBERTY Political Action Conference.
Dear RON PAUL,
Will you support the grass roots initiative that is seeking to establish every June 8th as USS LIBERTY REMEMBRANCE DAY?
In April 1999, thirty-six members of the US House of Representatives signed a letter calling for Israel’s Nuclear Whistle Blowers release from prison because they believed "we have a duty to stand up for men and women like Mordechai Vanunu who dare to articulate a brighter vision for humanity."
Were you one of the 36?
Thank you for any reply, Eileen Fleming
Founder of WeAreWideAwake.org
Candidate for US HOUSE, D. 5, Fl.
The evening before at a private meeting with Senators Mike Lee [R-UT], Jim DeMint [R-SC] and Rand Paul [R-KY] and witnessed by at least thirty others, I asked the three Senators if they would support establishing every June 8th as USS LIBERTY REMEMBRANCE DAY? Senator Lee maintained silence, Senator Paul gave me what I suppose was his 'politically correct' advice that I should not focus on old news and Senator DeMint admitted he was stumped and couldn’t respond. As of this writing NOT ONE of those politicians has uttered a single public word about the USS LIBERTY or Israel’s WMD, and thus my imagination fueled by conscience calls me to write all about it...
One reason I ran for Congress is because I live in a very conservative area but I am liberal, “If by a liberal you mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reaction, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties, -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what you mean by a liberal, then I’m proud to say I’m a liberal.”- John F. Kennedy
I also am a fiscal conservative, meaning I live within my means. I also believe that to whom much is given-much more is required and knowledge brings responsibility.
The ABC affiliate in Orlando, offered all the local 2012 candidates for federal office three minutes of television time. I used mine to say that if I were elected, I would write a House Resolution to end federal regulations on cannabis and allow the states the right to legalize [or not] and reap all the profits from cultivation to dissemination of cannabis:
I also said I would write a House Resolution to establish every June 8th as USS LIBERTY Remembrance Day because the LBJ Administration failed to support those troops that Israel attacked aboard America’s premier spy ship as it navigated in international waters during The Six Day War, killed 34, wounded over 170 men and 45 years later these troops still call for justice.
I quoted George Washington’s warning from his farewell address to, "Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all...and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave...a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils."
On October 13, 2007, I met my first LIBERTY survivor, then President of the USS LIBERTY Veterans Association, Petty Officer Phillip F. Tourney. We both spoke at the "No More Wars for Israel Conference" in Irvine, California. When Tourney said, "It was God that kept us afloat" I knew I would do more than just listen to him.
On June 8, 1967, Lieutenant Richard F. Kiepfer, was the lone medical doctor on board the spy ship, the USS LIBERTY, who “with complete disregard for his own personal safety, exposed himself to overwhelmingly accurate rocket and machine gun fire…administered first aid…treated [171 wounded] men for pain, shock…[and] conducted a major surgical operation” [Silver Star Medal Commendation].
Six weeks after boarding the LIBERTY, fifteen minutes into the attack and while operating on a sailor to control his bleeding, Dr. Kiepfer received eleven shrapnel wounds into his abdomen, a gun shot to his leg, burns and a broken knee cap. He remained on his feet and caring for the crew for the next twenty-eight hours and their spirits ever since.
In December 2007, I visited with 70 year old Dr. Kiepfer, a Catholic born and bred in Brooklyn, in his Texas home where the deer ignore the corn put out by his neighbors, for Dr. Kiepfer provides prime feed in his front yard. Obese raccoons dine on a daily feast of dog food and multiple cats eat better than mine, in his back yard. Friends, who check on the doctor daily, set the food out, for Dr. Kiepfer could no longer do what he once did.
A Master Bridge player while still in his teens, Dr. Kiepfer today continues to play the cards he has been dealt in life with aplomb and grace. In 1973 he nearly died in a plane crash after parachuting atop of Georgia pecan trees that ended his surgical career and the use of his right hand and arm.
"As I laid there and looked at my arm and failed every test to move it, I knew then I would never operate again and began to think about what I could do in life to continue to be useful, and decided on nuclear medicine. The pilot landed a mile away from me, and was impaled on a forest of pine trees."
After twenty years in nuclear medicine he retired after suffering a heart attack and since then has suffered the loss of two wives, but not his sense of humor, which borders on the ribald. My weekend visit with Dr. Kiepfer in his home adorned with icons of St. Francis occurred only a week after his discharge from a rehabilitation center. He had spent the last six months recuperating from a below the knee amputation.
Retired Commander David Ed Lewis who had been the officer in charge of 195 men out of the total crew of 294 on the US LIBERTY, told me, "I know Doc has suffered more and complained less than anyone I know. Job didn't have much on Doc. He has always dedicated his life to others and has never asked anything in return from them."
The book of Job is a critique about the justice of God in light of suffering and finding meaning and value in that pain and not playing a blame game and I learned that Keipfer certainly qualifies.
I also had many questions for Dr. Kiepfer, and utmost was what was left out of the Court of Inquiry: such as how could the deck log which documents the hours during the attack be so neatly written and list all the dead and wounded in alphabetical order within the hours of noon to four PM but make no mention of the many Israeli over flights that occurred during the morning before the attack.
Dr. Kiepfer explained, "The deck log was not written during the attack. Captain McGonagle signed off on the Log and that makes it legal, but not authentic. McGonagle was concerned that he would be blamed for the LIBERTY being in troubled waters. I told him, 'Over my dead fucking body!'"
After the hellacious and unprovoked attack by Israel, they did indeed blame the victims.
"Israel did identify the ship six hours before the attack. Israel did know that the ship was American and admitted to our government that they knew the ship was American; Israel claims only that the attacking forces failed to get the word.
“Modern diplomacy simply does not permit one to embarrass a ‘friendly’ nation, even when that nation is caught red-handed with its torpedo in one's ship!
“McGonagle was tormented by the idea that he was somehow responsible for the agony his ship and crew suffered. One top level theory holds that someone in the Israeli armed forces ordered the LIBERTY sunk because he suspected that it had taken down messages showing that Israel started the fighting during the Six Day War.
“Typical of Israel's casual attitude toward the episode, an attitude which suggested from the beginning that it was really our fault for being there-in international waters-in the first place.
“Messages from Israel directly charged that a share of the blame was McGonagle's. The Shreveport Times suggested that our government was involved in a cover-up and that the attack itself may have been conducted to prevent the ship and the United States from detecting the pending invasion of Syria" which had been scheduled for June 8th but implemented on June 9th.
“McGonagle may have misremembered or may have not reported the over a dozen Israeli over flights that morning because he may have thought he should have abandoned our mission-which was to listen in on all communications. My opinion as a civilian is that the Court of Inquiry-which was to determine if the Navy were at fault- should have inquired why he didn't get the LIBERTY out of the area since we could see the smoke from Al Arish, in Gaza.
"I was the only Medical Corp officer to be appointed Officer of the Deck-that means I was in charge of everything on the ship when the Captain was off duty. I stood mid watch from midnight to 4 AM the night before the attack of June 8, 1967 and all was quiet. I always slept until 7:29 because breakfast ended at 7:30. Beginning at sunrise to 8 AM, the bridge reported a couple of propeller driven aircraft overhead and by noon several more. At lunch people were talking about all the Israeli over flights, but nobody was worried; they were our friends. Afterwards, as usual I went to the wardroom for coffee while the Corpsmen began the start of sick call and off duty officers pursued the national sport of sunbathing on the quarterdeck.
"Lieutenant George Golden and I were together when the attack began and we thought a steam line had ruptured when we heard the first explosion. We both headed off to our general quarters stations as the announcement sounded that we were under attack. I assumed it was perpetrated by the Arabs or Russians. Understand that nobody could identify Mirage fighter-bombers that travel at MACH One. IMAGINE as I say these words to you that the jets are a mile away, now they are overhead and now they are a mile away from us. That is how fast they travel.
"Fifteen minutes into the attack, while I was operating on a sailor and trying to control his bleeding, I was hit with eleven pieces of shrapnel into my abdomen. A rocket struck above the ceiling of sick bay and the light over my head and the operating table protected me; both acted as a life saver for me, otherwise I would have gotten hit in my shoulders, side and back. I was knocked against a wall and waves of red and white pain throbbed through me.
"I knew I had to finish with the guy on the table-if I walked away, I wouldn't have returned. All I could think about was keeping limbs attached to sailors. From the moment the attack began, I felt a greater presence within me that was physically holding me up. I thought it was the spirit of all the navy docs who had gone before me. I felt physically held up by my invisible assistants and with all that adrenalin coursing through me and some carefully titrated morphine that I self injected, I was able to do what I did.
"It was not until I finished that operation did I even examine myself. The fragments that penetrated me were so hot they cauterized my wounds. The pain was intense, but after applying surgical dressings to my wounds and putting on a life vest to control the bleeding I gave myself a shot of morphine and remained on my feet and working for the next twenty-eight hours.
"Just before the torpedo struck, I was summoned to the bridge and went through the mess decks from sickbay, where a number of wounded sailors were. Captain McGonagle was the only man still functioning there, the lookouts were dead, the helmsman-the guy at the steering wheel was dead and I saw the blown apart remains of our Navigator, Mr. Toth, two decks below me. All I could do was administer morphine to the still living and get them onto stretchers to evacuate them. I had two Corpsmen working with me and knew I needed more surrogates, for the wounded were shoulder to shoulder the full circumference of the passageway.
"While I was on the deck, I got hit by a fifty caliber machine gun bullet to my leg that came from the torpedo boats. I was bleeding into my shoes and not until the next day when I was able to lie down did the bleeding slow down. You know the story of the Incredible Hulk and mother's who lift cars off of their kids? When you are angry and hurt you can do amazing things.
"If you got one hundred people into my skin that day, probably all of them would have thrown up from the hell that erupted on the LIBERTY. Men were groaning and crying for their mothers, but it was just background noise for me. I was slip sliding as I crossed the bloody deck to get to the Captain who had been hit. McGonagle was leaning back in the Captain's chair, bleeding from many orifices; some natural and some new ones. I applied battle dressings, started an IV, gave him some morphine and sent an enlisted man to find as many officers as possible to come up to the Bridge and assist him and to watch him for shock. The Captain said, 'If I sit up, I pass out, but as long as I stay in this position, I am OK.'
"People I had eaten lunch with were dismembered all around me, burned, dead. To this day, every time I have a phone conversation with Phil Tourney, who held the light while I was operating on Blanchard, he tells me he can still see the look in my eyes.
"Everyone in the Navy hierarchy knew we were scapegoats and the Navy would have done anything to exact retribution, but the Navy never got the chance.
"In LBJ's mind we were just an average day's losses in Vietnam. I doubt Israel would have attacked without the knowledge or complicity of our State Departments willingness to sacrifice a few hundred sailors to have a 'stabilized' Middle East and all that oil. Our State Department's morality and ethics are just slightly below those of a Madame in a house of ill repute or a large-scale drug dealer.
"June 8, 1967 was like July 4th in hell without the ice cream. And yes, I agree that it was God that kept us afloat."
Ernest Gallo worked for the CIA for twenty-nine years after serving on the USS LIBERTY as a Second Class Petty Officer and Communications Technician. Ernie has also served as a President of the USS Liberty Veterans Association and is the founder of the Liberty Foundation. Ernie provided me with hard copies of written statements from LIBERTY survivors that I have not met along with his, and whom I have met…
A few photos and the back cover from “VANUNU’S WAIT for LIBERTY, Remembering the USS LIBERTY and My Life as a Candidate of Conscience for US HOUSE 2012”
The announcement of my run for congress and the cover of my third book, flashed in Times Square, New York City during a few rush hours in May 2012:
My view from a roof top in Bethlehem: