Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May/June 2005, pages 30-31

Special Report

USS Liberty: 38 Years and Counting

By James M. Ennes, Jr.

This battle-scarred flag flew during the Israeli air attack on the USS Liberty. When it was shot down, crewmembers quickly replaced it (Courtesy Cold War Museum).

THIRTY-EIGHT years have passed since Israeli aircraft and motor torpedo boats attacked and nearly sank the American intelligence ship USS Liberty near the Gaza Strip on June 8, 1967, the fourth day of the Six-Day War. Of a crew of 294, 34 died and 172 were wounded, making this one of the highest casualty rates in naval history. The Israeli government tells a story of the attack totally at odds with the physical evidence and the story told by the crew. Every survivor and nearly every government insider calls the attack deliberate. None of these considerations, however, has moved Congress to try to sort out the facts.

While Pueblo, Mayaguez, Stark, Cole and dozens of other less egregious tragedies at sea have consumed the attention of Congress for weeks, this event alone fails to trigger the slightest congressional interest.

Even though the legal counsel to the Navy Court of Inquiry calls the Court a sham, Congress remains unmoved.

The attitude is, “We don’t care that Americans were deliberately killed. We will not embarrass Israel.”

Contrary to claims of Israel and its supporters, the United States has never accepted the explanation or excuses offered by Israel. The official U.S. position is that the attack was “quite literally incomprehensible” and showed a “reckless disregard for human life.” Even Secretary of State Dean Rusk and heads of all the intelligence agencies have called the attack deliberate—but Congress remains unmoved and unconcerned.

Indeed, the evidence is overwhelming that the attack was planned and deliberate. Despite contrary assertions by our attackers and their supporters, nearly every serious researcher accepts as established fact that the attack was deliberate.

One exception briefly captured public attention in 2004. A U.S. State Department forum in January featured the release of radio transcripts between Israeli helicopters and their controllers taken after the shooting stopped. Because the pilots reported some confusion over the identity of the ship, the State Department spokesman argued that this supports the claim that the attack itself was an accident—ignoring earlier communications from the jet pilots who did know their target was American. Friends of Israel within the State Department arranged a forum on C-SPAN featuring two pro-Israel authors. Liberty supporters who attempted to speak were quickly and rudely silenced.

What is going on here?

Evidence that the attack was deliberate is overwhelming and continues to accumulate. In the past several months alone, three Air Force intelligence analysts have come forward to report that they saw transcripts of Israeli pilots being ordered by their controllers to attack what everyone knew to be an American ship. Others verify their accounts. Two of those men have signed sworn affidavits that are published on the Web site <www.ussliberty.org>, and others have provided statements to the press. Yet a determined cadre of Israel-firsters continue to deny the facts.

Liberty Denier Jay Cristol

Chief among the Liberty deniers is Florida bankruptcy magistrate Ahron Jay Cristol, who wrote a book defending the Israeli position. According to Cristol, 13 investigations have all found Israel to be without blame—a claim he repeats at every opportunity. It is totally false. Liberty survivors have for more than a year offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who can prove Cristol’s assertion. In fact, there has never been a single congressional investigation (see “Cristol Claim of 13 Investigations Into Israel’s Attack on USS Liberty a Travesty,” by Terence O’Keefe, December 2003 Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, p. 14). Yet the author continues to make the false allegation, and no one has claimed the reward.

Survivors have offered to debate the issue publicly with Mr. Cristol and have invited him to defend his position. He will not. But neither will he remove his indefensible false claim from his Web site.

Meanwhile, our story gains acceptance and credibility. USS Liberty memorials have been established in at least 50 locations. Among these, an important display at the National Cryptologic Museum near Fort Meade, Maryland, includes several Liberty artifacts, including the oversize Holiday Flag that flew during the torpedo boat attack.

Another flag that flew and was shot down during the Israeli attack recently was recovered and will soon be on permanent display at the new Cold War Museum near Washington. That flag, tattered and holed by shrapnel, illustrates this article.

A Google search for “USS Liberty” reveals over 60,000 mentions on hundreds of Web sites. Dozens of sites are devoted to telling the story; topping the list with over a million visits to the site is <www.ussliberty.org>, created by this writer. Close behind is <www.usslibertyinquiry.com>, which evaluates the evidence from a prosecutor’s viewpoint and provides an active discussion forum for those interested in discussing the attack and cover-up.

This is not a story that will go away. 


James Ennes was a lieutenant on the bridge of the ship during the attack and is author of Assault on the Liberty, available through the AET Book Club.

SIDEBAR

At the request of Roland C. “Monk” Delmotte, the County Commissioners of Tioga County, Pennsylvania, passed a resolution proclaiming June 8 as “Remember the USS Liberty Day.” The resolution was passed by the commissioners in 2004 and reintroduced and passed at their March 8, 2005 meeting.

Tioga County Commissioners
Resolution R-12-04
Remember The USS LIBERTY

Whereas the USS Liberty, AGTR5, a U.S. Navy intelligence gathering ship, was operating in international waters off the Sinai Peninsula on 8 June 1967 and;
Whereas the Israeli/Arab 6 day war was in progress and;
Whereas the USS Liberty was clearly marked and flying the American flag and;
Whereas Israeli military forces strafed, napalmed, and torpedoed the USS Liberty at will with only token resistance from the Liberty machine guns and;
Whereas the commanding officer, Captain William McGonagle, and the valiant crew attempted to save the ship from total destruction while awaiting U.S. Navy assistance and;
Whereas the fighter aircraft launched from the USS Enterprise to rescue the Liberty were recalled under orders from Washington and;
Whereas 34 non combatant men, military and civilian, lost their lives in the performance of their duty as well as 172 wounded and;
Whereas the Israeli government labeled this assault on a U.S. Navy ship as an “accident” and “mistaken identity” even though the Liberty was clearly marked with hull markings and flying the American flag in a stiff breeze and;
Whereas the U.S. Navy and National Security Agency intelligence chiefs familiar with this unprovoked attack by an “allied government” have stated unequivocally that Israeli forces had clearly identified the Liberty;
Therefore, be it resolved that the Tioga County Commissioners do hereby declare 8 June as “Remember the USS Liberty” day and order the flag at the Tioga County Courthouse and other County facilities to be flown at half mast in memory and support of the officers, crew, and their families.

Erick J.Coolidge
Mark Hamilton
M. Sue Vogler

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