THE ATTACK ON THE USS LIBERTY
A few hours later more planes came. These were Israeli Mirage III fighters, armed with rockets and machine guns. As off-duty officers sunbathed on the deck, the fighters opened fire on the defenseless ship with rockets and machine guns. A few minutes later a second wave of planes streaked overhead, French-built Mystere jets, which not only pelted the ship with gunfire but also with napalm bomblets, coating the deck with the flaming jelly. By now, the Liberty was on fire and dozens were wounded and killed, excluding several of the ship’s top officers. As the Liberty listed in the choppy seas, its deck aflame, crew members dropped life rafts into the water and prepared to scuttle the ship. Given the number of wounded, this was going to be a dangerous operation. But it soon proved impossible, as the Israeli attack boats strafed the rafts with machine gun fire. No body was going to get out alive that way.
Flag clearly shown although Israelis claim they did not see itThat the attack happened in broad daylight, and that the ship was flying a large American flag and had its name painted in English in five-foot letters on the side seems to be of no consequence. The Court of Inquiry deep-sixed testimony and affidavits regarding the flag-Ennes had ordered: a crisp new one deployed early on the morning of the attack. The investigators buried intercepts of conversations between IDF pilots identifying the ship as flying an American flag. Retired Captain Ward Boston, who was the legal counsel to the Navy Court of Inquiry, told the publication that he and the Court?s president, the late Rear Admiral Isaac Kidd, always believed that Israeli forces knowingly attacked the Liberty. Israel attacked the USS Liberty using UNMARKED AIRCRAFT. This is the single fact which proves Israel knew exactly who they were attacking. Israel’s story is that they thought USS Liberty was an Egyptian ship and therefore a legitimate target of war. Were that true, there would be no reason to attack a supposedly Egyptian ship with unmarked aircraft. The only possible reason to use unmarked aircraft to attack the ship is that Israel knew it was an American ship and intended to sink it, then to blame the attack on Egypt. The top legal council to the official investigation who was in a position to know, agreed that Israel intended to sink the USS Liberty and blame Egypt for it, thus dragging the United States into a war on Israel’s behalf. This seems to be a common trick of Israel. Starting with the Lavon affair, through the USS Liberty, to the fake radio transmitter that tricked Reagan into attacking Libya, to potentially 9-11 itself, Israel’s game is to frame Arabs and set them up as targets for the United States.
The official US investigation is discredited. And with it, every claim of innocence for Israel that relied on the official investigation as a source. The real question facing the American people is why the US Government seemed, and continues to seem more concerned with protecting Israel after they are caught playing these dirty tricks, rather than defending their troops, and letting the people know just what happened to the USS Liberty. For example, the Liberty’s radio team tried to issue a distress call, but discovered the frequencies had been jammed by the Israeli planes with what one communications specialist called “a buzzsaw sound.” (NOTE: even testimony by the Liberty’s communications officers about the jamming of the ship’s radios was classified as “Top Secret.” The reason? It proved that Israel knew it was attacking an American ship. “Here was strong evidence that the attack was planned in advance and that our ship’s identity was known to the attackers, for it its practically impossible to jam the radio of a stranger, but this information was hushed up and no conclusions were drawn from it.) Finally, an open channel was found and the Liberty got out a message it was under attack to the USS America, the Sixth Fleet’s large aircraft carrier.
Two F-4s left the carrier to come to the Liberty’s aid. When word reached the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara became irate and ordered the jets to return. “Tell the Sixth Fleet to get those aircraft back immediately,” he barked. McNamara’s injunction was reiterated in saltier terms by Admiral David L. McDonald, the chief of Naval Operations: “You get those fucking airplanes back on deck, and you get them back down.” The planes turned around. And the attack on the Liberty continued. After the attack, as the wounded were being evacuated, an officer with the Office of Naval Intelligence instructed the men not to talk about their ordeal with the press. Within three weeks, the Navy put out the 700-page report, exonerating the Israelis, claiming the attack had been accidental and that the Israelis had pulled back as soon as they realized their mistake. Defense Secretary McNamara suggested the whole affair should be forgotten. “These errors do occur,” McNamara concluded.
Jim Ennes was a lieutenant on the bridge of the USS Liberty on the day of the attack, and is instrumental in leading the campaign for the truth to be made public. Ennes told IslamOnline that he believes the new testimony in the Navy Times gives greater credibility to their campaign, ‘especially as the Court of Inquiry is the only investigative body that talked to the crew.’ More proof has recently come to light from the Israeli side. A few years after Attack on the Liberty was originally published, Ennes got a call from Evan Toni, an Israeli pilot. Toni told Ennes that he had just read his book and wanted to tell him his story. Toni said that he was the pilot in the first Israeli Mirage fighter to reach the Liberty. He immediately recognized the ship to be a US Navy vessel. He radioed Israeli air command with this information and asked for instructions. Toni said he was ordered to “attack.” He refused and flew back to the air base at Ashdod. When he arrived he was summarily arrested for disobeying orders. A particularly damning report compiled by a CIA informant suggests that Israeli Defense minister Moshe Dayan personally ordered the attack and wanted it to proceed until the Liberty was sunk and all on board killed.
After a Newsweek story exposed the gist of what really happened on that day in the Mediterranean, an enraged Admiral McCain placed all the sailors under a gag order. When one sailor told an officer that he was having problems living with the cover-up, he was told: “Forget about it, that’s an order.” The Navy went to bizarre lengths to keep the crew of the Liberty from telling what they knew. When gag orders didn’t work, they threatened sanctions. Ennes tells of the confinement and interrogation of two Liberty sailors that sounds like something right out of the CIA’s MK-Ultra program. “In an incredible abuse of authority, military officers held two young Liberty sailors against their will in a locked and heavily guarded psychiatric ward of the base hospital,” Ennes writes. “For days these men were drugged and questioned about their recollections of the attack by a ‘therapist’ who admitted to being untrained in either psychiatry or psychology. At one point, they avoided electroshock only by bolting from the room and demanding to see the commanding officer.” Upon coming home, the veterans who tried to tell of their ordeal were harassed relentlessly. They were branded as drunks, bigots, liars and frauds. Often, it turns out, these slurs were leaked by the Pentagon. And, of course, they were also painted as anti-Semites.
Why did Israel Bomb an Ally? Survivors and researchers give two possible explanations as to why Israel would knowingly bomb a staunch and valuable ally. The first is that the Israelis may have feared that American officers on the ship had intelligence on the imminent Israeli invasion of the Golan Heights. Many people believe that it is no coincidence that the American ship was only 13 miles away from Al Arish, at a time when Israel is believed to have been executing hundreds of Egyptian prisoners of war. A war crime officially denied by Israel, but in the past decade Israeli and American media have both acknowledged that the executions took place. The irony was that there were no Hebrew speakers aboard the ship. The USS Liberty crew was mandated to spy on old enemies: the Russians, not their ally Israel. Whatever the reason, a growing number of people in the US and abroad are accepting the view that Israel bombed the ship intentionally to annihilate any incriminating evidence of their role in the 1967 war.
The second explanation is even more ominous: that Israel bombed the Liberty to bring about an American attack on their old nemisis, Egypt, in retaliation. American Servicemen claim that a nuclear attack on Cairo was only narrowly averted. On the TV documentary, ?Dead in the Water,? US servicemen testify on camera that nuclear-armed planes were sent to attack Cairo on receipt of the news in Washington. The US authorities falsely assumed that it was an Egyptian attack on the Liberty, and thus officials ordered immediate retaliation. Of course, for this plan to work, the Liberty had to be destroyed and its crew killed. The planes were recalled when it was realized that the attacker was actually the Israeli forces. The sources in the film are a crew-member from the aircraft carrier USS America who saw the planes launched; a US Navy radio operator who heard the radio traffic about them being launched which he is certain was referring to nuclear-armed aircraft; and the account given by a Liberty survivor of a conversation at the time with the commander of the Sixth Fleet carriers in which he (the admiral) describes what happened, producer Chris Mitchell told IslamOnline. The radio operator states on camera that he heard US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara personally give the orders. A couple of other witnesses talked to program makers off camera. When interviewed by the team, McNamara denied the charges. Said Mitchell, ?I certainly think people in Cairo might like to know how close they came to being incinerated by a US nuclear bomb.?
The Pentagon lied to the public about the attack on the Liberty from the very beginning. In a decision personally approved by the loathsome McNamara, the Pentagon denied to the press that the Liberty was an intelligence ship, referring to it instead as a Technical Research ship, as if it were little more than a military version of Jacques Cousteau’s Calypso. The military press corps on the USS America, where most of the wounded sailors had been taken, were placed under extreme restrictions. All of the stories filed from the carrier were first routed through the Pentagon for security clearance, objectionable material was removed with barely a bleat of protest from the reporters or their publications.
The bigger question is why the US government would participate so enthusiastically in the cover-up of a war crime against its own sailors. Through most of the 1960s, the US congress had imposed a ban on the sale of arms to Israel. But at the time of the Liberty attack, the Pentagon (and its allies in the White House and on the Hill) were seeking to have this proscription overturned. The top brass certainly knew that any evidence of a deliberate attack on a US Navy ship by the IDF would scuttle their plans. So they hushed it up. In January 1968, the arms embargo on Israel was lifted and the sale of American weapons began to flow. By 1971, Israel was buying $600 million of American-made weapons a year. Two years later the purchases topped $3 billion. Almost overnight, Israel had become the largest buyer of US-made arms and aircraft.
Perversely, the IDF’s strike on the Liberty served to weld the US and Israel together, in a kind of bizzare political and military embrace. Now, every time the IDF attacks villages in Gaza and the West Bank with F-16s and Apache helicopters, the Palestinians quite rightly see the bloody assaults as a joint operation, with the Pentagon as a hidden partner. Thus, does the legacy of the Liberty, and The International War Machine, roll on.