Whenever anyone utters the phrase "day of infamy", it is natural to first think of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor December 7th, 1941. While subsequent postwar research shows that provocative American behavior towards Japan may have contributed to the sequence of events, and that the Roosevelt Administration did not make a satisfactory effort in notifying Pearl Harbor command authorities in a timely fashion, Japan's action, while understandable, was still inexcusable, and so is still credited with firing the first "official" shot in the war between that nation and America.
However, June 8th, 1967, was also a day of infamy. While significantly lesser in impact thanks to outright media suppression initially and the fact that it did not lead to a world war, it was no less infamous. June 8th is the 39th anniversary of the deliberate and perfidious Israeli attack on the U.S. Navy ship USS Liberty (shown after the attack, above left). This attack on a combat support ship assigned to the Suez Canal solely to monitor the Six-Day War resulted in 34 American sailors killed and 171 wounded. A balanced account of this attack was written by Reverdy S. Fishel and published in the Fall 1995 (Vol 8, No. 3) issue of the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence is currently archived on Jeff Rense's website. Here is an excerpt describing the actual attack and the immediate aftermath.
The U.S. Government had posted the USS Liberty off the coast of Gaza, in international waters, to monitor developments in the region during the Six-Day War. (The Liberty's mission will be discussed in detail below.) At dawn 8 June, Israeli aircraft began reconnoitering the ship, some flying so close that the pilots could clearly be seen, and as low as masthead height, obviously photographing it. This extensive observation lasted seven hours and involved eight separate observations, at about 0600, 0900, 1000, 1030, 1100, and 1130, 1200 and 1215 p.m. U.S. intercept stations twice overheard Israeli pilots reporting that the ship was American. The visibility conditions were perfect; the ship's American flag was flying free and clear in a good breeze.
At 1400 a well coordinated attack by jet aircraft and torpedo boats began. Jets hammered the virtually unarmed ship with cannon and rockets, and napalmed it. Its forward machineguns were wiped out in the first firing pass, and whatever transmitting antennas survived that pass were disabled by the second. Nine minutes into the attack, crewmen jury-rigged a transmitter to an antenna. But the radiomen discovered that four out of five of the ship's radio frequencies, including the international distress frequency, were being jammed. Ironically, the only time Liberty could transmit was while the jets were firing their missiles. A frantic cry for help was sent to the Sixth Fleet, only 400 miles away and off Crete; despite the Israeli jamming, the Liberty's plea for assistance was received. The patchwork transmitting arrangement ceased functioning soon afterward.
Torpedo boats soon arrived and continued the attack, firing five torpedoes, with one hitting and killing 25 men. They then leisurely circled the defenseless ship for 40 minutes, pumping hundreds of 40mm, 20mm, and 50cal. rounds at wounded men on deck, stretcher bearers and fire fighters. Thinking the ship was about to sink, the crew threw life rafts over the side; the attackers machinegunned those too. With increased radio activity from the U.S. Sixth Fleet indicating an impending U.S. response (many of the Fleet's messages bore "Flash" precedence), the Israelis suddenly contacted the U.S. embassy and informed it of this "accident." It was probably the longest "accidental" attack in the history of naval warfare - an hour and 15 minutes.
Two separate flights of jets from the carriers America and Saratoga were recalled by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the first flight probably because Washington was not absolutely certain of the attackers' identity and was leery of starting a war with the Russians if they were the guilty party. The second flight was recalled after receipt of the Israeli explanation.
MORE EVIDENCE OF GUILT
In addition to the above-mentioned circumstances which show that Israel's attack was deliberate the lengthy and careful surveillance, the radio jamming, etc. numerous other details belie Israel's professed innocence. They include: * The Israelis initially claimed they had "mistaken" the Liberty for the Egyptian ship El Quseir. But the El Quseir was only 40 percent the size of Liberty (4000 vs. 10,400 tons). The El Quseir was an old, rusted-out horse transport that bore about as much resemblance to the Liberty as a rusty VW does to a new Cadillac. The Liberty was arrayed with numerous specialized antennas, and an ultramodern (for 1967) 16 foot microwave dish, a device possessed by no other ship in the world except her sister ship Belmont. She bore standard U.S. Navy markings, which included a freshly painted 10 foot high hull number, and "Liberty" on the stern.
* The radio jamming is by itself damning evidence that the assailants knew exactly whom they were attacking. Such jamming requires intimate advance knowledge of the target being jammed, obtained by extended monitoring of its signals. And this was selective jamming; it struck Liberty's frequencies and no others.
Afterward, in one of their ever changing explanations, the Israelis claimed to have learned the ship's identity when they heard its distress signals. But the attack continued for sixty six minutes after the first distress signal, which the Israelis had jammed, was sent. Had this particular Israeli claim been true, they would have recalled the torpedo boats before they even reached the ship.
* The Israelis claimed that the ship's U.S. flag hung limp because there was no wind. Later, when presented with the fact that the flag had been perfectly visible, they claimed that they thought that the ship was an enemy vessel flying false colors. The extended radio monitoring, exposing considerable advance investigation of Liberty's communication facilities, refutes this claim.
* The Israelis claimed that the torpedo boats, after first sighting the ship, had called in the aircraft to attack after the ship refused to identify itself. This is an obvious lie, because the attack was clearly a preplanned and well coordinated one-two punch employing different branches of the Israeli Defense Forces. The jets were already intent on attacking the ship before the Liberty came into the torpedo boats' radar range. Directly contradicting themselves, the Israelis later claimed that their aircraft had called in the torpedo boats.
* The Israelis eventually admitted that before the attack, their commanders had compared reconnaissance photos of the Liberty with Jane's Fighting Ships. But they claimed that before the attack they twice telephoned the U.S. naval attache in Tel Aviv inquiring whether the Liberty was a U.S. ship and were told that there were no U.S. Navy ships in the area. They claimed that having received a negative reply, they decided that the ship had to be the El Quseir. However, the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, and later the naval attache, emphatically stated that no such inquiries were made. The Israelis not only knew the ship's nationality and that she was an "ELINT" ship; they also knew she was the Liberty herself.
* Immediately preceding the attack, an Israeli pilot recognized Liberty as a U.S. ship and radioed this information to IDF headquarters. He was instructed to attack anyway. This dialogue was intercepted at the U.S. embassy in Beirut. Former U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dwight Porter revealed the existence of this intercept in 1991.
* Finally, there is evidence, circumstantial but clear, of a relationship between the attack on the Liberty and a postponement of Israel's planned attack on the Golan Heights. The Golan attack was scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on 8 June; the Liberty was spotted by 6 a.m. or earlier; last minute orders delayed the Golan attack; the Liberty was put out of commission; and the Golan attack occurred shortly thereafter. The vaunted IDF made very few mistakes in that war.
After the attack Secretary of State Dean Rusk recommended a strong response, and Presidential Counselor Clark Clifford advised President Johnson to treat Israel in the same manner as the U.S. would treat the Soviets or the Arabs if they had committed the atrocity. The U.S. would certainly not have taken this insult in silence had the offender been any country but Israel. But President Johnson stoically accepted Israel's explanation. The Navy conducted a Court of Inquiry, which ignored and even suppressed testimony that the attack had been deliberate; it dealt only with the actions and performance of the Liberty crew. State Department legal advisor Carl Salans performed an assessment of Israel's official explanation; with only the Navy's highly incomplete and erroneous preliminary investigation to go on, he thoroughly discredited the Israeli Government's claims of innocent error. The logical next step was to confront the Israelis with his findings, but that was not done. The U.S. Government's inaction was completely out of keeping with the outrageousness of the attack.
What was Israel's motive for this act? The scheduling of the Israeli assault on the Golan Heights for 8 June was a move to defeat an intense effort in the United Nations to halt the war, a ceasefire having been scheduled for 9 June. Such pressure was also being applied by the U.S. Government. The IDF leaders were under pressure to acquire the Golan before the ceasefire was imposed, preferably without being labeled the aggressor (as in 1956 when Israel had colluded with Britain and France to attack Egypt). But with all the pressure to attack Syria, and after all the hurried preparations to do so, the Golan attack was suddenly called off within hours of its scheduled commencement. Why? Obviously, someone in the IDF leadership feared the Liberty might intercept some of the many signals then filling the air that would expose Israel's preparations for invasion. They might then be forced into a ceasefire before they conquered the coveted territory.
An Israeli apologetic version of this account can be found on both the Jewish Virtual Library website and the Anti-Defamation League website. While both sites admit that Israel "shares" some responsibility, they regurgitate the Israeli party line of "mistaken identity". With several American flags flying on the USS Liberty, and a radio message from an Israeli pilot clearly identifying it as an American ship, the "mistaken" identity seems very unmistakable to me. And to blame it on faulty American communications procedures - that's real chutzpah. While four messages from National Command Authorities to the USS Liberty advising the ship to back out of the area were not received, when the Israelis shot up the ship, they destroyed its communications capabilities in the process. And of course, the ADL characterizes disagreement with the Israeli version of events as "anti-Semitism". Contrast this with Iraq's reaction when they unintentionally hit the USS Stark during the Iran-Iraq War. Our so-called "mortal enemy", Saddam Hussein, accepted responsibility, apologized, and compensated us.
Analysis: Some might ask "What's the purpose in bringing this up again after 39 years?" One reason is that, because of mainstream media suppression, the American people need to know about this incident. While Israel markets itself as an "ally", there are times in which it's acted more like an adversary. The United Kingdom is also our ally - when's the last time the Brits launched a 75-minute attack on one of our ships? There's no denying the Israelis have been helpful at times - when they took Scud hits from Saddam in 1991, they stayed out. Too bad we didn't finish the job then - we could have spared the Iraqi people 12 more years of sanctions, 12 more years of Saddam, and 2,000+ American deaths. Perhaps we would still have the Murrah Building and the WTC Towers. Whenever we send American troops into harm's way, we must give them permission to WIN in advance! However, when we conveyed AWACS technology to the Israelis during the '90s, they turned it over to the Chicoms. The Israelis continue to do a brisk business with the Chicoms even to this day. Israelis are the only foreigners I know of who can get American citizenship without giving up their old citizenship. The bottom line - former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, himself a Jew, was absolutely right - nations don't have friends, only interests. It is the American government's job to guarantee America's existence first, last, and foremost, and quit putting the interests of foreigners ahead of our own concerns.
Additional Note: Also see the actual USS Liberty website for accounts by the actual survivors. Then decide for yourself who's right and who's wrong.
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