[sixties-l] Re: sixties-l-Attack on the Liberty-60s Seminal Event

From: Jeffrey Blankfort (jab@tucradio.org)
Date: 11/14/00

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    Given the confluence of the recent attack on the USS Cole, the
    escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and last weekend's
    celebration of Veterans' Day, I think it is appropriate to recall one of
    the seminal events of the Sixties that has generally been either
    ignored, buried or dismissed by historians of the period.
    I am referring to the attack on the intelligence gathering ship, the USS
    Liberty by the Israeli airforce during the Six-Day War in June, 1967,
    which is briefly described in the inner book jacket written by one of
    the ship's officers, James Ennes, Jr, "The Assault on the Liberty,"
    (Random House, 1979):
    "In June 1967, jet aircraft and motor torpedo boats of Israel brutally
    assaulted an American naval vessel, the USS Liberty, in international
    waters off the Sinai Peninsula in the Mediterranean Sea.  The attack was
    preceded by more than six hours of intense low-level surveillance by
    Israeli photo-reconnaissance aircraft, which buzzed the intelligence
    ship 13 times, sometimes flying as low as 200 feet directly overhead.
    "The carefully orchestrated assault that followed was initiated by
    high-performance jet aircraft, was followed by slower and more
    maneuverable jets carrying napalm, and was finally turned over to lethal
    torpedo boats, which blasted a 40-foot hole in the ship's side.
    "The attack lasted more than two hours--killing 34 Americans and
    wounding 171 others--and inflicted 821 rocket and machine-gun holes in
    the ship.  And when the Liberty stubbornly remained afloat despite her
    damage, Israeli forces machine-gunned her life rafts and sent
    troop-carrying helicopters in to finish the job.
    "At this point, with Sixth Fleet rescue aircraft finally en route, the
    government of Israel apologized and the attacking forces suddenly
    withdrew.  Only then did the identity of the assailants become known. "
    "Details of the attack were hushed up in both countries. Israel claimed
    that her forces mistook the Liberty for an Egyptian ship, and our
    government quietly accepted that excuse despite evidence to the
    contrary.  Then our government downplayed the intensity of the
    surveillance and the severity of the attack, and imposed a news blackout
    on the story to keep the story under control.  The official version is
    that the Liberty was reconnoitered only three times and then only from a
    great distance.  The American people were told that the air attack
    lasted only five minutes and that it was followed by a single torpedo
    and offer of assistance."
    In the foreword to the book, former Admiral Thomas Moorer,  wrote that
    "the ship was clearly identified...by a very large US flag.  The weather
    was calm and the visibility was excellent....[T]o this day, the American
    public does not know why the attack took place and who was involved
    overall... The US Sixth Fleet, positioned nearby, received a distress
    call from the USS Liberty and one carrier dispatched a squadron to go to
    the defense of the disabled ship.  Before the aircraft reached the
    Liberty, they received orders from Washington directing their return to
    the ship.  Who issued such orders? So far, no one knows.  In the US all
    the information available to the US government indicating those who
    participated in controlling this operation from Washington, together
    with the exact orders transmitted to the Mediterranean fleet, has never
    been made public."
    That was written in 1979.  The story us still under wraps.  When a
    library named after the USS Liberty was proposed in Wisconsin some years
    back, its proponents were accused of being anti-Semitic.
    Why did Israel attack the Liberty?  According to a book on Israeli
    intelligence, written from a pro-Israel perspective with the alleged
    cooperation with its intelligence services, the Israelis had learned
    that through the Liberty's listening devices, the US had learned that
    the Israelis had intercepted Egyptian radio communications to Syria and
    Jordan, and had resent new messages encouraging them to attack Israel.
    According to this theory, a US State Dept. representative reported this
    to an Israeli diplomat in Washington, warning him about Israel using
    this pretext to expand the war.
    Whether or not this explanation is true is of considerable importance,
    but it is alleged.  The attack and the details are beyond dispute and
    are the point of my posting.
    Had the US military retaliated against in a comparable fashion, as it
    was clearly entitled to do under international law, we probably would
    not be facing the problems in the region that we are facing today.
    The US government and Pres. Lyndon Johnson literally let the Israelis
    get away with murder.  And not just get away, but in fact, they were
    rewarded. Up until the Six-Day war, France had been the main supplier of
    weapons to Israel and US economic aid was relatively small, certainly
    compared with what they get today.
    But when De Gaulle objected to Israel's plans to go to war against
    Egypt, and refused to release a shipment of French-made patrol boats,
    and the Israelis cleverly found a way to get them anyway, France cut off
    all assistance, and the US took over.  So instead of punishing Israel in
    some fashion or another, the US became a far greater benefactor to
    Israel than it has been before.
    What was the message?  Israel can do anything it likes and to whom.  The
    US will stand by and protect it.  To make sure that relationship remains
    unchanged, the pro-Israel lobby, which was in its swaddling clothes,
    relatively speaking, became one of the most important players in
    Washington and a major donor to influential members of Congress of both
    parties. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, both parties strongly
    supported Israel whose forced killed close to 20,000 Lebanese and
    Palestinian civilians, making Iraq's invasion of Kuwait (340 Kuwaitis
    killed) a garden party by comparison.
    The situation is such that while a member of Congress can stand up on
    the floor and criticize the policies of the US, or of some foreign
    country or another, to publicly challenge Israel has proved to be a
    career-ending decision for a number of politicians who have been so
    The left, such as it is, has allowed this situation to exist
    unchallenged, accusing critics of the pro-Israel lobby of being
    anti-Semitic or of provoking anti-Semitism.
    And so today, we have Israel, on the point of transferring yet more
    Palestinians out of their villages, invoking collective punishment--a
    long-standing public policy of Israel--in its usual cruel manner,
    attacking villages with helicopter gunships, just resupplied by their
    latest White House lackey, and not a single member of Congress has stood
    up to criticize Israel and call for a halt to the shipment of
    war-fighting military equipment, which by law, is prohibited for use
    against civilian populations.
    And it all began that June day when Israel attacked the Liberty and got
    away with it.
    Jeff Blankfort

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