News.com, June 8, 2014
the USS Liberty Crew Behind
By Ray McGovern
Justifying the swap of Taliban prisoners for Sgt. Bergdahl, President
Obama cited a principle of never leaving U.S. soldiers behind,
but that rule was violated in the shabby treatment of the USS
Liberty crew, attacked 47 years ago by Israeli warplanes, writes
ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.
On June 8,
1967, Israeli leaders learned they could deliberately attack a
U.S. Navy ship and try to send it, together with its entire crew,
to the bottom of the Mediterranean with impunity. Israeli
aircraft and torpedo boats attacked the USS Liberty, a state-of-the-art
intelligence collection platform sailing in international waters
off the Sinai, killing 34 of the 294 crew members and wounding
more than 170.
On the 47th
anniversary of that unprovoked attack lets be clear about
what happened: Israeli messages intercepted on June 8, 1967, leave
no doubt that sinking the USS Liberty was the mission assigned
to the attacking Israeli warplanes and torpedo boats as the Six-Day
War raged in the Middle East. Let me repeat: there is no doubt
none that the mission of the Israeli Defense Forces
(IDF) was to destroy the USS Liberty and kill its entire crew.
last week to the controversy of the swap of five Taliban prisoners
for Sgt. Bode Bergdahl, President Barack Obama claimed, The
U.S. has always had a pretty sacred rule: We dont leave
our men or women in uniform behind. The only exception,
he might have added, is when Israeli forces shoot them up; then
mums the word.
try explaining that pretty sacred rule to the USS
Liberty survivors. I know them well enough to sense the hollow
echo that Obamas claim will leave in their ears and
in the ears of the families of those who did not survive.
The crew of
the USS Liberty has been left behind, in a figurative
as well as a physical sense. There is no way to retrieve the bodies
of those washed out to sea through the large hole made by the
Israeli torpedo that hit the Liberty amidships, killing 26 of
There is a
way, however, to stop throwing salt in the survivors wounds,
as every U.S. president since Lyndon Johnson has done in acquiescing
to the false narrative that it was all a terrible case of mistaken
identity and confusion by Israeli command and control. That salt
burns especially on anniversaries of the tragedy, raising
troubling questions about the power of the Israel Lobby and the
Israeli government over U.S. politicians.
fear of the Israel Lobby and not wanting to offend the Israeli
government, U.S. officials including the Navy have refused to
come clean on what happened 47 years ago. The mainstream U.S.
media has been a willing partner in this failure to face the facts
and demand accountability.
example, is the text of an intercepted Israeli conversation, just
one of many pieces of hard, unambiguous evidence that the Israeli
attack was not a mistake:
to ground control: This is an American ship. Do you still
want us to attack?
Yes, follow orders.
But, sir, its an American ship I can see the
Never mind; hit it!
would have been able to glory in reporting mission accomplished,
ship sunk, all crew killed save for the bravery and surefootedness
of then-23 year-old Navy seaman Terry Halbardier, whose actions
spelled the difference between the murder of 34 of the crew and
the intended massacre of all 294.
skated across the Libertys slippery deck while it was being
strafed in order to connect a communications cable and enable
the Liberty to send out an SOS. The Israelis intercepted that
message and, out of fear of how the U.S. Sixth Fleet would respond,
immediately broke off the attack, returned to their bases, and
sent an oops message to Washington confessing to their
turned out, the Israelis didnt need to be so concerned.
When President Johnson learned that the USS America and USS Saratoga
had launched warplanes to do battle with the forces attacking
the Liberty, he told Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to call
Sixth Fleet commander Rear Admiral Lawrence Geiss and tell him
to order the warplanes to return immediately to their carriers.
to J.Q. Tony Hart, a chief petty officer who monitored
these conversations from a U.S. Navy communications relay station
in Morocco, Geiss shot back that one of his ships was under attack.
Tellingly, McNamara responded: President Johnson is not
going to go to war or embarrass an American ally over a few sailors.
Away With Murder
For the Israelis,
the tight U-turn by the U.S. warplanes over the Mediterranean
was proof positive that the Israeli government can literally get
away with murder, including killing U.S. servicemen, and that
Official Washington and its servile media could be counted upon
to cover up the deliberate nature of the attack.
a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Chicago Tribune, asked
McNamara about this many years later. McNamaras answer is
worth reading carefully; he said he had absolutely no recollection
of what I did that day, except that I have a memory
that I didnt know at the time what was going on.
written the most detailed and accurate account of the Israeli
attack on the Liberty; it appeared in the Chicago Tribune, and
also in the Baltimore Sun, on Oct. 2, 2007. Read it and youll
understand why Crewdson got no Pulitzer for his investigative
reporting on the Liberty. Instead, the Tribune laid him off in
November 2008 after 24 years.
the Liberty survivors have become friends of mine. I have listened
to their stories, as Crewdson did. When June 8 comes around each
year I remember them. And on special occasions, as when Terry
Halbardier was finally awarded the Silver Star for his bravery,
I write about them.
U.S. media has avoided the USS Liberty case like the plague. I
just checked the Washington Post and surprise, surprise
it has missed the opportunity for the 46th consecutive
year, to mention the Liberty anniversary.
On the few
occasions when the mainstream U.S. media outlets are forced to
address what happened, they blithely ignore the incredibly rich
array of hard evidence and still put out the false narrative of
the mistaken Israeli attack on the Liberty.
And they attempt
to conflate fact with speculation, asking why Israel would deliberately
attack a ship of the U.S. Navy. Why Tel Aviv wanted the Liberty
and its entire crew on the bottom of the Mediterranean remains
a matter of speculation, but there are plausible theories including
Israels determination to keep the details of its war plans
secret from everyone, including the U.S. government.
is no doubt that destroying the Liberty and its crew was the mission
assigned to Israels warplanes and torpedo boats. One Navy
Admiral with a conscience, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff (and before that Chief of Naval Operations) Thomas Moorer,
has broken ranks, so to speak. Moorer helped lead
an independent, blue-ribbon commission to investigate what happened
to the Liberty.
are among the commissions findings made public in October
attack, by a U.S. ally, was a deliberate attempt to destroy
an American ship and kill its entire crew
attack included the machine-gunning of stretcher-bearers and life
White House deliberately prevented the U.S. Navy from coming to
the defense of the [ship]
never before in naval history
has a rescue mission been cancelled when an American ship was
crew members were later threatened with court-martial, imprisonment,
or worse if they talked to anyone about what had happened
to them; and were abandoned by their own government.
Will the USS
Liberty survivors ever enjoy the opportunity to know and to tell
the real story with all its evil cruelties? Or will silence continue
to reign? In a different context, Russian dissident author Alexandr
Solzhenitzyn wrote this warning about what silence about evil
does to the foundations of justice:
silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign
of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will
rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish
nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial
old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from
beneath new generations. Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The
Obama, the crew of the USS Liberty has been left behind
for way too many years. Do the right thing by them. Face down
those who warn that you cannot risk Israels displeasure.
And add more substance to your rhetoric about our pretty
sacred rule that we do not leave anybody wearing the American
works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church
of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served as an Army
infantry and intelligence officer and then as a CIA analyst for
the next 27 years.
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