Is Help on the Way?
USS Liberty veteran and author, Jim Ennes, observes, “The attack on the USS Liberty remains the only major maritime incident in all US history that has not been publicly investigated by the United States Congress.”
There was a US aircraft carrier within ten minutes’ flight time of the scene of the attack. Why didn’t they intervene immediately? Planes actually did take off, but they were ordered back to the carrier on direct orders from the highest level in Washington . There is only one plausible explanation for such questionable orders. Someone in Washington wanted to give the Israeli attackers time to finish off the USS Liberty and its crew. It would not be untoward to suggest that it was that same highest-level authority who organized the subsequent coverup.
One thing is clear, if the Israeli attack was intentional and planned to sink the USS Liberty and kill every mother’s son on board, and if the US government engineered a conscientious coverup of the facts of the event, we are looking at the gravest American debacle and cloaking operation since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November of 1963. And there are aspects of the USS Liberty case that arguably make it even more outrageous. The Kennedy killing was–allegedly–the work of a single deranged gunman, followed by a proper Congressional investigation presided over by the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court.
But the events surrounding the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967 and their subsequent top-level coverup implicate both the Israeli and United States governments. This is a sole case in the annals of US Naval history and a blatant injustice to the American dead, wounded and the rest of the survivors. USS Liberty veteran and author, Jim Ennes, observes, “The attack on the USS Liberty remains the only major maritime incident in all US history that has not been publicly investigated by the United States Congress.”
“It Helps to Show That We’re Peaceful”
This scene, recorded by Jim Ennes in his book, shows just how innocently the Liberty entered the Israeli abattoir on the day of the attack:
At about 10:30 we received another visit from the flying boxcar,
now more curious and coming closer. Watching the airplane through
binoculars, I told the quartermaster to call the captain by telephone
to inform him of the visit. The airplane paralleled our course to
starboard, turning left in front of the ship in a pattern that was now
becoming routine. Another left turn and he appeared on our port
side. Again I checked our flag, found it flying freely as usual, and
noted that the relative wind was still from dead ahead and of sufficient
speed to display the colors clearly.
“Well, they certainly know who we are by now, don’t they?” said
Captain McGonagle, who had come to the bridge quickly in response
to the telephone call. “It’s good that they are checking us out this
carefully. This way there won’t be any mistakes. Early this
afternoon they’ll probably come out by boat to give us a closer look. “It’s
good that we have sunbathers on deck,” added McGonagle. “It helps to
show that we’re peaceful.”
The Israeli Navy and Air Force Could Not Sink the Liberty
This betrayal, I submit, set the all-time low mark in American military, diplomatic, and presidential history.
Ironically, the combined efforts of Israeli air force jets employing rockets, fragmentation bombs, and napalm; and navy torpedo boats were unable to sink the old repurposed Worldl War II Victory ship. The torpedo boats launched five torpedoes, four of which missed their target, though the fifth blasted a 40-foot breach in the Liberty’s hull and converted 25 of her crew members into a mass of bloody collateral damage. But they did not succeed in sinking the ageing, repurposed World War II Victory ship, the crew of which managed to maintain it afloat as palpable evidence of Israel’s cynical betrayal of their American ally.
After the attack and the removal of the dead and wounded, the Liberty limped under its own power to a drydock in Malta where the ship was given a cosmetic going over so that, from the outside, it looked as if nothing had happened to it. When it arrived back at it’s home port, observers had no reason to suspect that it had come under any attack. Shortly afterwards the Liberty was decomissioned and junked.
If the Israeli assault was an exercise in unalloyed evil, the United States’ response might be considered even worse. The US government’s coverup, spearheaded by President Lyndon Johnson personally, turned the country’s back on 294 Americans who had been strafed, napalmed, machine gunned, and torpedoed in the line of duty, with 34 of them killed and 174 wounded. His priority was to excuse and cloak the worst offense in American maritime history, with complete indifference to the crew members of the Liberty, who had lost limbs and lives in a gratuitous attack by a trusted ally. Is there any cogent explanation for the President’s ghoulish procedure?
Beware the Help from the Lobby
Research since the events has distilled a credible explanation: The Israeli government threatened President Johnson with turning loose the powerful US Israel lobby–the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)–and their affilliates across the country. Their power, even in those days, was such that their campaign donations could profoundly influence US elections. And Johnson was coming up to the 1968 re-election campaign. The prima facie evidence indicates that the president felt his re-election hinged on the support of the Israel lobby in the US. He opted, of course, for re-election. His choice to stay in office entailed betraying the honor of 294 hard suffering Americans and of the United States itself, though setbacks in the Vietnam War later convinced him to abandon his campaign for re-election. This betrayal, I submit, set the all-time low mark in American military, diplomatic, and presidential history.
Only one ship approached the Liberty to offer help. Here’s Ennes’ account:
On the bridge, men continued to scan the sky and to search the
horizon for American ships or airplanes. No American forces were
sighted. The first sighting was not American, but Russian. Soviet
guided missile destroyer 626/4 arrived after midnight-hours ahead
of Martin’s forces-to send a flashing-light message in English.
DO YOU NEED HELP? asked the Russian.
NO, THANK YOU, the conning officer replied.
I WILL STAND BY IN CASE YOU NEED ME, the Russian answered.
Thus the Soviet skipper remained near Liberty to wait with her
for the arrival of American ships.
While the Liberty survivors were gathering the body parts of their mates and stowing them in plastic bags for shipment home, the US-Israeli partnership went sailing blithely on as if nothing had happened. In fact, in the public perception, thanks to a near-perfect coverup, nothing had happened. Bad things can occur by accident in war. Everybody knows that except the Liberty’s surviving crew members. They lived that apocalyptic day, perceived its intentionality first hand, and endured the horror of the attack–and will continue to endure it–till their dying days. Their survivors’ association (www.usslibertysurvivors.org) continues to struggle to keep the Liberty’s story alive and to insist upon a proper congressional investigation but, after half a century, there’s not much hope left.
“Friendly Betrayal” Is Like “Friendly Fire”
We have learned what was lost on that clear, sunny day in 1967. Besides an ageing Victory ship and 34 members of its crew, America lost its international reputation for honesty, trust, and simple decency, though it gained fame for the lowest form of state cynicism. More recent history has shown that the gruesome mechanisms that carried the day in 1967 have been substantially reinforced since 1967. The US Israeli lobby is all powerful in the US Congress and the White House today. This is from the NY Times, July 23, 2019:
WASHINGTON — The House…on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan resolution condemning the boycott-Israel movement as one that “promotes principles of collective guilt, mass punishment and group isolation, which are destructive of prospects for progress towards peace.” The 398-to-17 vote, with five members voting present, came after a debate that was equally lopsided; no one in either party spoke against the measure.
In an ironic reflection of the “USS Liberty Incident,” President Donald Trump still depends upon AIPAC & Co. to secure his re-election in 2020.
As for the state of Israel, it enjoys its far-right Likud government and its perennial president Netanyahu. It remains the darling of American subsidies, mainly for military materiel. The Israelis are still freely grabbing Palestinian land and casting a lustful eye on Iran. According to MiddleEastMonitor.com, they have made common cause with the Saudis in the devastation of Yemen. In short, it’s bloody business as usual, and the remaining survivors of the Liberty will soon be gone and forgotten, buried under a heavy load of “friendly” betrayal.
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