|The USS Liberty cover-up|
|10/08/2007 11:06:00 PM GMT|
| “The attack on the Liberty was pre-planned, perhaps from at least a year beforehand…”
By Amina Anderson
The 40th anniversary of the 1967 Middle East War brought back bad memories not just for Arabs, but also for many Americans.
On 8 June 1967, fighter planes and torpedo boats attacked the USS Liberty off the coast of Egypt. The surprise attack, which lasted about 40 minutes, killed 34 American servicemen, and wounded at least 173.
Surprisingly, the attack came from the U.S.‘s closest ally, Israel. It was the second-deadliest ambush against a U.S. warship since the end of World War II, surpassed only by the Iraqi Exocet missile attack on the USS Stark on May 17th, 1987, and marked the single greatest loss of life by the U.S. intelligence community.
(See video USS Liberty: Dead in the Water)
Several U.S. and Israeli investigations, and the declassification of thousands of pieces of information, didn’t reveal the truth. The findings concluded that the attack was a result of a mistake caused by confusion among the Israeli attackers about the identity of the USS Liberty. Israel blamed the incident on the fact that its air and naval forces mistakenly identified the USS Liberty as the Egyptian vessel El Quseir.
Israel apologised for the attack and paid nearly $13m in compensation. The case was officially closed between the U.S. and Israeli governments in December 1987.
But Liberty survivors and several top U.S. officials believe that the truth was covered up. They stress that the USS Liberty was more than twice as large as the El Quseir, and was clearly designated with Latin rather than Arabic letters and numbers.
Gary Brummett, a 21-year-old third class petty officer who was serving on board the USS Liberty, also believes that the attack was a war crime and that American and Israeli authorities were and are still covering up the incident. “I have more trouble with it today than when it happened because I know more of the facts about what was going on,” he told BBC. “There’s been an egregious wrong done here, there have been an extreme number of lies told to the American people and the American people do not know the truth about what happened.”
Israeli supporters insist that those who dismiss Israel’s claims simply want to criticize the Jewish state. On the other hand, skeptics believe that the attack was premeditated and that the truth has been covered up. Such beliefs were strengthened by a 2003 independent commission of inquiry which reported that the attack on the Liberty “remains the only serious naval incident that has never been thoroughly investigated by Congress”.
There are multiple theories regarding the real reason behind the deadly attack; the gravest incident in the history of U.S.-Israeli relations.
Among such theories is the possibility that Liberty, a $40m state-of-the-art surveillance ship, was eavesdropping on an Israeli massacre of Egyptian prisoners of war. But Israel claims that its troops didn’t kill Egyptian POWs, saying those who died at the time were 250 armed Palestinian fighters.
Another opinion suggests that Israel destroyed the American ship because it had learnt of secret Israeli plans to invade Syria’s Golan Heights two days later.
The USS Liberty memorial web site also suggests that Israel attacked the American vessel to prevent it from reporting a deliberate massacre of 14 Indian United Nations peacekeepers that took place in Gaza shortly before the Liberty attack.
One of the most bold theories was presented by Peter Hounam in his 2003 book “Operation Cyanide”. Hounam argues that the attack was probably planned a year earlier by U.S. and Israeli authorities.
“The attack on the Liberty was pre-planned, perhaps from at least a year beforehand,” Mr Hounam says. “The Liberty was sent into a very dangerous situation, where it was, in my view, placed in a position to be attacked”.
Mr Hounam believes that the motive was to sink the Liberty and kill everyone on board, but as the ship remained afloat the plan was cancelled and has been covered up ever since.
One of the most powerful assertions of a cover-up also came from retired U.S. Navy lawyer Capt Ward Boston, counsel to the Navy Court of Inquiry into the incident conducted just days after the attack. Capt. Boston asserts that the court’s original findings, which he signed, were changed afterwards by government lawyers. He also says that the president of the court, Rear Adm Isaac Kidd, told him he was ordered by U.S. President Lyndon Johnson and Defence Secretary Robert McNamara to conclude the attack was a case of mistaken identity.
With all the conflicting theories, the USS Liberty attack remains one of the most investigated yet unresolved cases in the history of wars. The families of the American servicemen killed in that attack may never know why their loved ones died!
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