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The USS LIBERTY Incident


Evan Burton
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This thread is started as an offshoot of another thread. Pertinent portions of posts in the other thread have been quoted here.

Some background.

The USS LIBERTY was a converted cargo ship used by the US Navy in the electronic intelligence gathering role. On 8 JUN 67, three days after the start of the Six Day War, the vessel was attacked by Israeli aircraft and surface vessels. About 34 people were killed on the LIBERTY.

Israel claimed that it was a case of mistaken identity, but others believe it was a deliberate attack.

Some sources for background reading:

The Wikipedia article

The USS LIBERTY memorial association website

The USN website with images of the USS LIBERTY

I mentioned the USS Liberty as another striking example of western mass media double standards. True, the incident predated the 21 Century WoT.

Yet the falure of the US media on that occasion to speak up for US forces viciously attacked by another nation will stand for all time as the quintessence of Zionist bias in the US media.

On another thread, the question has been posed: "who controlled the US media in 1963?"

The case of the USS Liberty provides a partial answer.

They were the kind of people who, just a few years later, could impose an effective news blackout concerning a murderous Israeli attack on a US naval vessel.

One problem with the belief the Israeli’s knowingly attacked an American ship is that I have yet to see a realistic motive proposed for them having done so.
There was no reason to believe the Israelis would intentionally attack their most important ally and benefactor one of the few countries that would sell them weapons and one of the two most powerful nations on earth. Even now 40 years later I still haven’t heard any realistic motive for them to have done so.
Was the mass media misled by US and Israeli Government officials who deliberately lied? I'm sure that happened to some extent. But the US mass media also showed no enthusiasm for digging beneath the official story and uncovering the truth.

No protests from the media, for example, that the US Navy blocked all testimony about Israeli actions.

In the words of James M. Ennes Jr, the lieutenant on the bridge of the USS Liberty on the day of the attack, discussing the Liberty attack in 1993:

Instead of determining whether the attack was deliberate, the Navy blocked all testimony about Israeli actions. No survivor was permitted to describe the close in machine-gun fire that continued for 40 minutes after Israel claims all firing stopped. No survivor was allowed to talk about the life rafts the Israeli torpedo men machine-gunned in the water. No survivor was permitted to challenge defects and fabrications in Israel's story. Even my eyewitness testimony as officer-of-the deck was withheld from the official record. No evidence of Israeli culpability was "found" because no such testimony was allowed. To survivors, this was not an investigation. It was a cover-up.

Public exposure of what really took place when the USS Liberty was attacked was a slow process. It occurred in spite of - not because of - the US mass media.

Intimidation by the Israel Lobby also played a role in the cover-up.

To support Liberty survivors in their quest for justice was not a great career step for US politicians.

See this story, for example:

Adlai Stevenson supported USS Liberty

Senator Adlai Stevenson III in 1980, his last year as a United States Senator from Illinois, invited Jim Ennes to his Senate office for a private, two hour meeting to discuss the USS Liberty attack and cover-up. Following the private meeting, Ennes was invited back the next day to discuss the attack with members of Stevenson's staff, along with members of the staff of Senator Barry Goldwater and members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

In that meeting, staff members told Ennes that they found his story convincing, but that they would recommend to both senators that they not pursue an investigation because an investigation would only antagonize Israeli interests while "nothing good could come of it."

Goldwater accepted that staff recommendation. Stevenson did not. Instead, Stevenson called a news conference in which he announced that he was convinced that the attack was deliberate and that the survivors deserved an investigation. He would, he said, spend the remaining few weeks of his Senate term attempting to arrange for an inquiry.

Almost immediately, the government of Israel contacted the White House and offered to settle the outstanding $40-million damage claims for $6-million -- an amount equal to one dollar for each Jewish victim of the Holocaust.

Vice President Walter Mondale quickly agreed to that offer just before Christmas while Congress and President Carter were on vacation. The Department of State followed immediately with a press release, reported on the front page of the New York Times, which announced, "The book is now closed on the USS Liberty." Indeed, from that point on, it was impossible to generate any congressional interest in the Liberty at all. Senator Stevenson's staff told me later that they felt the settlement was directly related to Senator Stevenson's announced plan to hold an inquiry, and was engineered to block forever any inquiry plans.

Israel did subsequently pay $6-million in three annual installments of $2-million each. Secretary of State Dean Rusk said later that he considered the payments meaningless, as Congress merely increased the annual Israeli allotment by that amount.

Adlai Stevenson later ran for Governor of Illinois. He was strongly opposed by Israeli and Jewish interests. He lost. Many feel it was his support for the Liberty that cost him the election. Many also feel it was Stevenson's experience with the Liberty that has intimidated other Members of Congress who might otherwise support the survivors.

Stevenson lost to James R. Thompson, the incumbent; it is very uncommon for the incumbent to loose reelection barring some extenuating circumstances. Thompson it seems was very popular serving from 1977 – 1991 longer than anyone else. He won his first term by 1.3 million votes, 65 – 35 % the biggest margin in “over a century”, was reelected in 1978 with 60% of the vote, he got 60% of the vote again in 1986 (also against Stevenson) in 1982 however Thompson won the closest election in state history 1/7 % (5074 out of 3.7 million votes) ahead of Stevenson and this was possibly due to fraud. Illinois elected Republican governors in 7 consecutive elections from 1976 – 1998, they elected a Democrat in 2002, for the first time in 30 years, largely because the Republican incumbent who was not running for reelection had been indicted on bribery charges

So the big bad Israel lobby

1) caused Thompson to get 10 – 15% LESS in 1982 than he did in the other three lections and his party to come closer to loosing than any other election between 1972 and 1992

2) didn’t prevent Stevenson from getting the nomination of the Democratic party (the party in which presumably they were strongest in during the 80’s). Stevenson in fact got 100% of the primary vote in 1982 thus presumably he was unopposed (Thompson though.

http://www.lib.niu.edu/ipo/1976/ii761205.html

http://genealogytrails.com/ill/governors.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adlai_Stevens...olitical_career

http://www.unc.edu/~beyle/Expenditures/1982.doc

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/ti...amp;match=exact

http://www.lib.niu.edu/ipo/1991/ii910317.html

Apologies if I have snipped too much out of anyone's posts.

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You've done a fine job as moderator, as usual, Evan. Thanks.

It seems to me the matter to dispense with initially is whether anyone on the forum wishes to argue that the attack on the USS Liberty was an accident.

If so, that should be discussed.

If not, I suggest we move to speculation about motive...

I also have a personal theory about great courage that has yet to be acknowledged which relates to the Liberty incident. I'll roll it out when we come to discuss possible motives for a deliberate attack.

If there is to be a detailed debate about what happened and whether the Israeli attack could have been an accidental mistake, perhaps people with first hand recollections of the event (notably USS Liberty survivors) could be asked to participate?

Edited by Sid Walker
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Well, I'll start off.

A claim has been made that the Israelis mistook the LIBERTY for the Egyptian EL QUSEIR. IMO, they are similar. I could certainly understand aircraft confusing the two. When it comes to the surface vessels, though, I wonder if they saw the pennant number painted on the hull? They may have thought this to be deception, but I wonder. The LIBERTY was much larger, too. Easy mistake to make from the air, but less understandable from a surface combatant.

I can certainly understand the US saying that there were no US vessels in the area at the time. It was true when they said it, and they probably wouldn't want to let the Israelis know they had an AGI in the area.

But there is the fact that the vessel was identified as the LIBERTY on the morning of the attack (source: Wikipedia article).

I can't remember where I read it, but there was also a mention that the fighter cover from a US carrier was stood down after the LIBERTY had called they were under attack.

To me, it certainly has all the elements of a 'blue-on-blue' mistake, but there are still aspects I would like to see explored further.

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You've done a fine job as moderator, as usual, Evan. Thanks.

It seems to me the matter to dispense with initially is whether anyone on the forum wishes to argue that the attack on the USS Liberty was an accident.

I agree on both counts.

The innocent mistake lobby--of which Len might be the only member--could provide some amusing contradictions.

Frankly, the USS Liberty Memorial Website provides the whole picture. The Presidents Advisory Board and the major brass of the US defense establishment didn't think it was an accident. The site--hours of fascinating reading for those with the time--leaves one with little doubt that the attack was deliberate.

The innocent mistake argument sometimes revolves around the notion that there was miscommunication within certain elements of the IDF, hence it was all an innocent mistake. Conclusion (d) from Clifford's memo to LBJ, from the Memorial site states:

"The best interpretation from available facts is that there is gross and inexcusable failures in the command and control of subordinate Israeli naval and air elements.

One element of the Israeli Air Force knew the location and identification of the Liberty around 9am and did not launch an attack.

Yet, hours later apparently a different IDF element made the decision to attack the same vessel that earlier flights had identified and refrained from attacking".

Apparently unique among Western allies, the IDF contained these amorphous, unidentifiable 'elements', some of whom may act, ostensibly not requiring formal authority, at any time. As a way of avoiding responsibility, it's a first class strategy.

The NAMES of who comprised the rogue element are never disclosed to my knowledge. I think the rogue element knew in advance that any response from the US President regarding the attack would be mild at best. They played a major role in getting LBJ into the White House so they knew they owned him.

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Mark,

A question raised by Len still drives home to me: why? Drive it away, etc, by all means, but attack it? It doesn't seem to make sense (although there are aspects which certainly suggest someone, somewhere, is not telling the entire truth about the matter).

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Mark,

A question raised by Len still drives home to me: why? Drive it away, etc, by all means, but attack it? It doesn't seem to make sense (although there are aspects which certainly suggest someone, somewhere, is not telling the entire truth about the matter).

Hiw to explain the the strafing of lifeboats? (whether the vessel was believed to be American or not)

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Mark,

A question raised by Len still drives home to me: why? Drive it away, etc, by all means, but attack it? It doesn't seem to make sense (although there are aspects which certainly suggest someone, somewhere, is not telling the entire truth about the matter).

Possibly to bring the Sixth Fleet into the war on their behalf. The war was in progress at the time, with the final outcome unknown. This plan would require as few survivors as possible in order for Israel to place the blame elsewhere.

The other possibility is unrestrained hubris on the part of the 'element' which ordered the attack. Maybe they thought the President would show more loyalty to Israel than to the US. I think they were right.

"I will not embarrass our friends" was reportedly LBJ's response.

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Mark,

A question raised by Len still drives home to me: why? Drive it away, etc, by all means, but attack it? It doesn't seem to make sense (although there are aspects which certainly suggest someone, somewhere, is not telling the entire truth about the matter).

Hiw to explain the the strafing of lifeboats? (whether the vessel was believed to be American or not)

My understanding (and please correct me if I am wrong) is that this is disputed.

If it did occur, and under any circumstances, I could appreciate why it might happen but would still object to it.

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Possibly to bring the Sixth Fleet into the war on their behalf. The war was in progress at the time, with the final outcome unknown. This plan would require as few survivors as possible in order for Israel to place the blame elsewhere.

Possible, but I think unlikely. If this were the objective, then a far more effective strike would have been organised - using aircraft and surface vessels that would have been unmistakably non-Israeli. The Mirage III aircraft used in the initial strike were definitely linked to Israeli origin. Instead, they would have limited the strike to Mystere IVs, which might have been mistaken for MiGs.

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I remember reading the theory that the attack was a false flag operation, with Egypt to be blamed for the attack to bring the U.S. into the war. That's a plausible motive, though I don't know if there was any indication that the Israeli aircraft were disguised to look like Egyptian.

I also remember reading that Johnson ordered U.S. fighters on their way to aid the Liberty during the attack to turn around and come back.

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I also remember reading that Johnson ordered U.S. fighters on their way to aid the Liberty during the attack to turn around and come back.

I also remember reading that somewhere - but I can't think where it was (though I haven't tried to find it as yet).

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Mark,

A question raised by Len still drives home to me: why? Drive it away, etc, by all means, but attack it? It doesn't seem to make sense (although there are aspects which certainly suggest someone, somewhere, is not telling the entire truth about the matter).

Hiw to explain the the strafing of lifeboats? (whether the vessel was believed to be American or not)

My understanding (and please correct me if I am wrong) is that this is disputed.

If it did occur, and under any circumstances, I could appreciate why it might happen but would still object to it.

This is from A Report: War Crimes Committed Against U.S. Military Personnel, June 8, 1967, Submitted to the Secretary of the Army in his capacity as Executive Agent for the Secretary of Defense, June 8, 2005.

Survivors report that the torpedo boat crews swept the decks of USS Liberty with continuous machine gun fire, targeting communications equipment and any crewmembers who ventured above decks.[22]Damage control firefighters, who had already risked their lives merely by appearing on deck, had to abandon their efforts because their fire hoses had been shredded by machine gun fire.[23]

Survivors also report that the torpedo boat crews fired on the inflated life boats launched by the crew after the captain gave the order "prepare to abandon ship."[24] This order had to be rescinded because the crew was unable to stand on the main deck without being fired upon and the life rafts were destroyed as they were launched.[25]

The footnotes refer to the testimony of two surviving US sailors.

I have no idea whether the accuracy of their accounts is disputed, or if the torpedo boat crews mistook life rafts for Eygptian warships. Perhaps the Israelis were using LSD at the time? It was the sixties, after all :blink:

However, unless someone comes forward to refute these veterans, I think we may take it that the attacks on life rafts actually took place - and that at least some of the attackers behaved as though they intended to sink the ship and kill ALL of its crew.

Edited by Sid Walker
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Possibly to bring the Sixth Fleet into the war on their behalf. The war was in progress at the time, with the final outcome unknown. This plan would require as few survivors as possible in order for Israel to place the blame elsewhere.

Possible, but I think unlikely. If this were the objective, then a far more effective strike would have been organised - using aircraft and surface vessels that would have been unmistakably non-Israeli. The Mirage III aircraft used in the initial strike were definitely linked to Israeli origin. Instead, they would have limited the strike to Mystere IVs, which might have been mistaken for MiGs.

There are other problems with this theory:

Why didn’t the Israeli’s attack at night when identification would have been more difficult. ? Or Better yet why not use their submarines, which would have made identification impossible? Why were the fighters (according to some sources) painted with the Star of David? The Israelis had captured about 8 MIG’s why weren’t they used? Why were the torpedo boats flying the Israeli flag? Why did they try to contact the Liberty? Why did they wait to fire upon the Liberty till (as the captain has admitted) till AFTER the Liberty had fired on them?

The biggest hole it that by June 8, day four of the “Six Day War”, the Israelis had already achieved most of their objectives:

They had captured the Gaza Strip, the Sinai and the West Bank; the Egyptians and Jordanians were in full retreat.

The air forces air airfields of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq had been destroyed, the Israelis had no need for American fighters or bombers.

They were positioned to take the Golan Heights which were inland, the Israelis had no use for additional warships.

They could have used additional ground forces but how would an “Egyptian” attack on American ship justify deploying ground forces against Syria in a different ‘theater’?

It is unlikely ground forces could have been deployed fast enough to make a difference.

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I also remember reading that Johnson ordered U.S. fighters on their way to aid the Liberty during the attack to turn around and come back.

I also remember reading that somewhere - but I can't think where it was (though I haven't tried to find it as yet).

Accounts I’ve read say they were carrying nuclear warheads (some say they had no conventional arms, but that doesn’t seem very likely) LBJ, or McNamara fearing a potential disaster order the planes to return

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Mark,

A question raised by Len still drives home to me: why? Drive it away, etc, by all means, but attack it? It doesn't seem to make sense (although there are aspects which certainly suggest someone, somewhere, is not telling the entire truth about the matter).

Hiw to explain the the strafing of lifeboats? (whether the vessel was believed to be American or not)

My understanding (and please correct me if I am wrong) is that this is disputed.

If it did occur, and under any circumstances, I could appreciate why it might happen but would still object to it.

This is from A Report: War Crimes Committed Against U.S. Military Personnel, June 8, 1967, Submitted to the Secretary of the Army in his capacity as Executive Agent for the Secretary of Defense, June 8, 2005.

Survivors report that the torpedo boat crews swept the decks of USS Liberty with continuous machine gun fire, targeting communications equipment and any crewmembers who ventured above decks.[22]Damage control firefighters, who had already risked their lives merely by appearing on deck, had to abandon their efforts because their fire hoses had been shredded by machine gun fire.[23]

Survivors also report that the torpedo boat crews fired on the inflated life boats launched by the crew after the captain gave the order "prepare to abandon ship."[24] This order had to be rescinded because the crew was unable to stand on the main deck without being fired upon and the life rafts were destroyed as they were launched.[25]

The footnotes refer to the testimony of two surviving US sailors.

I have no idea whether the accuracy of their accounts is disputed, or if the torpedo boat crews mistook life rafts for Eygptian warships. Perhaps the Israelis were using LSD at the time? It was the sixties, after all :blink:

However, unless someone comes forward to refute these veterans, I think we may take it that the attacks on life rafts actually took place - and that at least some of the attackers behaved as though they intended to sink the ship and kill ALL of its crew.

Its is also quite possible that the rather fragile lifeboats had been holed before being put in the water and in ‘fog of war’ the sailors thought they had been shot after. IIRC in Malta the crew counted dozens (or was it hundreds) of holes in the ship. Another possibility is that an Israeli gunner on his own or under orders from a superior fired on the life rafts without having orders to do so from land based commanders. Time permitting I will review the statements made by the sailors.

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