Philip Weiss: The U.S.S. Liberty and the Culture of Impunity





[Philip Weiss runs the website Mondoweiss.]

The attack on the USS Liberty is one of the great enigmas of US-Israel relations. On June 8, 1967, in the middle of the Six-Day War, Israeli planes attacked an American spy ship, the Liberty, that was in international waters off the coast of Egypt, listening in on secret communications. The attacks appeared to be deliberate, involving numerous passes on a clearly-marked American boat, strafing and napalming. The attack killed 34 Americans and produced very little by way of investigation. It was deemed an accident from the start, although many American officials doubted this conclusion.

The following quotes are from the book, "The Attack on the Liberty: The Untold Story of Israel's Deadly Assault on a U.S. Spy Ship" (2009, Simon & Schuster), by James Scott, a longtime journalist living in South Carolina, whose father was an officer on the Liberty:

[With the Liberty] the United States had the capability to intercept and decipher VHF and UHF radio frequencies, common frequencies used for government and military communications...

In the case of the Liberty, the White House, afraid of offending Israel's domestic backers at a time when it needed support for its Vietnam policy, looked the other way....

Hints of disbelief did emerge, often from small newspapers outside the Beltway. Many puzzled over how Israel's exceptional military could make such a blunder...

[T]he overall lack of criticism of Israel baffled some senior government leaders. The dogged press corps consistently challenged the administration on its Vietnam policy and ambitious social programs. In the case of the Liberty, the press aimed most of its critical questions at the American government. Israel in contrast enjoyed a reprieve. Reporters soon adopted the phrase 'accidental attack,' a description that frustrated Pentagon officials, who felt it minimized the ferocity of the sustained assault that had killed or injured two out of every three men on board....



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