Nel's New Day

June 8, 2017

50th Anniversary of Israeli Preemptive Strike against U.S.

Today, June 8, is USS Liberty Remembrance Day to commemorate a little-known event—the first and only time that a Middle East country attacked the United States. On that day, 50 years ago, Israel attacked the USS Liberty in international waters about 25 miles off the coast of the Sinai Peninsula. Flying the U.S. flag, the largely unarmed intelligence ship was monitoring communications between the USSR and Egypt to anticipate intervention in Israel’s Six Day War with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

Israeli planes and torpedo boats attacked this US Navy research ship, the USS Liberty in the Mediterranean Sea near the Sinai Peninsula 6/8. 

After observing the ship with radar tracking and hourly aircraft-over flights for more than nine hours, unmarked Israeli warplanes led an air attack followed by three Israeli torpedo boats. Of the 821 holes in the USS Liberty, a 40-foot one was in the hull. The hour-long attack included napalm munitions dropped on the decks and machine gun fire on stretcher-bearers and life rafts. Ultimately, Israelis killed 34 U.S. sailors and injured another 17. With transmission equipment destroyed and all but one of the six U.S. radio frequencies jammed, the ship sent one “mayday.” Although defensive aircraft was launched from a nearby carrier group, the White House recalled them. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara stated, “President Johnson is not going to go to war or embarrass an American ally over a few sailors.” Dean Rusk, U.S. Secretary of State, disagreed:

“I was never satisfied with the Israeli explanation. Their sustained attack to disable and sink Liberty precluded an assault by accident or some trigger-happy local commander. Through diplomatic channels we refused to accept their explanations. I didn’t believe them then, and I don’t believe them to this day. The attack was outrageous.”

Despite Israelis’ claim that they misidentified the vessel, the jamming of U.S. frequencies, testimony from survivors about low surveillance flyovers, and intercepted radio transmissions between the Israelis and Tel Aviv proved differently. One Israeli pilot who refused to attack was later court-martialed. According to CIA sources, Gen. Moshe Dayan, commander of Israeli forces during the Six Day War, had ordered the Liberty attacked and sunk.

Liberty survivors were threatened with court-martial if they told the truth, yet at least four of them have written books about the event. The U.S. government told the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, Adm. Thomas Moorer, not to investigate. After he retired, Moorer led a blue-ribbon, independent commission that included testimony from Capt. Ward Boston, the Navy’s chief military attorney in the original hearing. He confirmed that the original hearing into the attack had whitewashed the entire event.

Before Moorer died in 2004, he said, “I’ve never seen a President … stand up to Israel. … If the American people understood what a grip these people have on our government, they would rise up in arms.” Former U.S. Ambassador Edward Peck echoed Moorer when he described the federal government’s attitude toward Israel as “obsequious, unctuous subservience … at the cost of the lives and morale of our own service members and their families.”

Moorer’s commission concluded that “Israel’s attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew” and that “Israel committed acts of murder against American servicemen and an act of war against the United States.” It recommended the annual remembrance day to “commemorate the Liberty’s heroic crew; and to educate the American people of the danger to our national security inherent in any passionate attachment of our elected officials for any foreign nation.”

Many people in the U.S. think that Israelis fought the Six Day War to protect themselves from Egypt. Largely ignored is a statement from former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1982 that described Israel’s preemptive Six Day War in 1967, a war leading to the displacement of over one million Palestinians:

“In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that [Egyptian President] Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”

Lieutenant Commander David Lewis, the Liberty’s senior Naval Security Group officer stated:

“They took out all of our transmitting antennas, and shortly thereafter deposited napalm there on the deck. It appeared to me that it was the intent of the attacker to take out all communications and keep all people off deck so they couldn’t re-establish any sort of antennas or communication system. If it was an accident, it was the best planned accident I ever heard of. The only reason we got the SOS out was because my crazy troops were climbing the antenna string and long wire while they were being shot at.”

A BBC film, USS Liberty Dead in the Water, details the attack and argues that the attack was to keep the U.S. from knowing about the forthcoming attack in the Golan Heights, which would violate a cease-fire agreement. The 68-minute video is available here. More information is in an article by Ray McGovern, a CIA analyst in 1967,and a Wikipedia piece. Also interesting are an Intercept about the coverup and photographs from the USS Liberty.

The USS Liberty was attacked 50 years ago. Today, the man inaugurated on January 20, 2017, is instigating war with around the world. In the past week, he alienated Qatar by siding with Saudi Arabia and goaded Iran with the tweet to about the attack in Tehran by Iranians recruited by ISIS causing at least 17 dead and 52 wounded:

 “We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.”

The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, called the message “repugnant … as Iranians counter terror backed by US clients.” Weapons killing people in the Middle East come from the U.S., both those sold to Middle East countries and those the U.S. lost in Iraq,  including more than $1 billion worth of arms and other military equipment” channeled to Iraq under the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF).

Last month DDT worked on attacking North Korea, and the conflict has again reared its ugly head. North Korea keeps firing missiles, and the U.S. has two aircraft carriers within attacking distance of the country. Right now DDT likes China because they gave him copyrights and he thinks he needs them as protection against North Korea after he dumped NATO. But what happens if he loses his temper and goes after China?

At this time, DDT is at war with the press and the Department of Justice. He wants tens of billions more for the military and has turned all decisions over to the Pentagon that will “protect” the country with munitions. He no longer protects people in the U.S. from domestic terrorism if it is perpetrated by white supremacists. The U.S. is at the mercy of a twitch of his finger on a button that he may confuse with the button to order more Diet Coke. Our nation has developed a great fondness for preemptive attacks—like Israel. Congress is supposed to be able to stop the president from starting wars. But the U.S. has not had any wars since World War II; it merely has “conflicts,” that might be started without any congressional authorization. With Jared Kushner in trouble, white supremacist Steve Bannon is back in charge of the White House. In March 2016, he stated, “We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years.” The question is how long it will take for Republicans to understand how close the nation is to a nuclear war—if they ever do.

Or maybe DDT is just all fake news. The $110 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia doesn’t exist, his order to privatize the air traffic controllers is just an order to develop “principles.” There is no tax bill, and GOP congressional members hate his budget. A parliamentarian shot down the senate version of Trumpcare at a time when GOP senators are at each other’s throats. And Congress will be in session only 36 days during the next four months when the deadline comes for raising the debt ceiling—always an exciting process—and passing a budget to avoid a government shutdown. Maybe, like the past six years, the GOP won’t be able to do anything, and DDT will be tweeting about James Comey.

The world may be turning around. Today in Great Britain, people may have voted against the conservatives, Prime Minister Teresa May, and the large support for Brexit—leaving the European Union. May had called for a “snap” election seven weeks ago with the hopes of reinforcing her position. Now it appears that the Conservatives won’t have a majority in Parliament, and she may even lose her position. Here’s an early analysis. For more detail, The Guardian is running frequent updates.

[Thanks to Jack Dresser, national vice-chairman of the Veterans for Peace working group on Palestine and the Middle East and co-director of Al-Nakba Awareness Project in Eugene, for educating me about the USS Liberty Remembrance Day and its background.]

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