Anyone who has spent any time in Washington and who has been reasonably engaged in watching the fiasco playing out there might agree that the most powerful foreign lobby is that of Israel, backed up as it is by a vast domestic network that exists to protect and nourish the Jewish state. Indeed, it is the domestic element of the lobby that gives it strength, supported as it is by extravagantly well-funded think tanks and a media that is Jewish dominated when it comes to developments in the Middle East. The power of what I prefer to call the Jewish lobby is also manifest down to state and local levels, where efforts to peacefully boycott Israel due to its war crimes and crimes against humanity have been punished and even criminalized in more than thirty states. In several states, including Virginia, special trade arrangements are designed to benefit Israeli companies at the expense of local residents and taxpayers.
Given all of that, it should be no surprise that Israel consistently gets a pass on its aberrant behavior, even when it acts directly against US interests or kills Americans. Recall, for example, how when General David Petraeus rashly observed in 2010 that Israeli intransigence in advancing its own interests complicated relations with Arab states and could cost American lives in the Middle East, he was quickly forced to recant. And more recently an Israeli sniper murdered Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh without any consequences coming from the Joe Biden White House or from the Tony Blinken-led State Department. Biden has declared himself a Zionist and Blinken is Jewish.
But one of the most horrific Israeli outrages directed against Americans remains little known and hidden from view by the media and the political elite. Last week, on Wednesday June 8th there was a commemorative gathering at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia that was unreported in the mainstream media. It was the annual day of remembrance for the dwindling group of survivors of the USS Liberty, which was attacked by Israel fifty-five years ago. The moving service included the ringing of a ship’s bell for each one of the thirty-four American sailors, Marines and civilians that were killed in the deliberate false flag attack that sought to sink the intelligence gathering ship and kill all its crew. The surviving crewmembers as well as friends and supporters come together annually, bound by their commitment to keeping alive the story of the Liberty in hopes that someday the United States government will have the courage to acknowledge what actually happened on that fateful day.
In truth the attack more than half a century ago on the USS Liberty by Israeli warplanes and torpedo boats on June 8, 1967, has virtually faded from memory, with a younger generation completely unaware that a United States naval vessel was once deliberately attacked and nearly sunk by America’s “greatest friend and ally” Israel. The attack was followed by a cover-up that demonstrated clearly that at least one president of the United States even back fifty-five years ago valued his relationship with the state of Israel above his loyalty to his own country.
It was in truth the worst attack ever carried out on a US Naval vessel in peace time. In addition to the death toll, 171 more of the crew were wounded in the two-hour assault, which was clearly intended to destroy the intelligence gathering ship operating in international waters collecting information on the ongoing Six Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The Israelis, whose planes had their Star of David markings covered up, attacked the ship repeatedly from the air and with gunboats from the sea. They sought to sink the ship, blaming Egypt, so the United States would respond by attacking Israel’s Arab enemies.
A Liberty survivor Joe Meadors recalls how “No Member of Congress has ever attended our annual memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery on the anniversary of the attack. We are condemned as ‘anti-Semitic’ and ‘bigots’ simply because we have been asking that the attack on the USS Liberty be treated the same as every other attack on a US Navy ship since the end of WWII. All we have is ourselves. Not Congress. Not the Navy. Not the DoD. Just ourselves. We need a place where we are welcome. We need our reunions.”
Indeed, the incredible courage and determination of the surviving crew was the only thing that kept the Liberty from sinking. The ship’s commanding officer Captain William McGonagle was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic role in keeping the ship afloat, though a cowardly and venal President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who may have connived with the Israelis to attack the ship, broke with tradition and refused to hold the medal ceremony in the White House, also declining to award it personally, delegating that task to the Secretary of the Navy in a closed to the public presentation held only reluctantly at the Washington Navy Yard. The additional medals given to other crew members in the aftermath of the attack made the USS Liberty the most decorated ship in the history of the United States Navy.
The cover-up of the attack began immediately, to include concealing the White House’s actual recall of fighter planes launched by the Sixth Fleet to assist the under-attack Liberty. The Liberty crew was subsequently sworn to secrecy over the incident, as were the Naval dockyard workers in Malta and even the men of the USS Davis, which had assisted the badly damaged Liberty to port. A hastily convened and conducted court of inquiry headed by Admiral John McCain acted under orders from Washington to declare the attack a case of mistaken identity. The inquiry’s senior legal counsel Captain Ward Boston, who subsequently declared the attack to be a “deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew,” also described how “President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered him to conclude that the attack was a case of ‘mistaken identity’ despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.” The court’s findings were rewritten and sections relating to Israeli war crimes, to include the machine gunning of life rafts, were excised. Following in his father’s footsteps, Senator John McCain of Arizona subsequently used his position on the Senate Armed Services Committee to effectively block any reconvening of a board of inquiry to reexamine the evidence. Most of the documents relating to the Liberty incident have never been released to the public in spite of the 55 years that have passed since the attack took place.
There has been one independent investigation into the Liberty affair headed by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Thomas Moorer, but it had no legal standing. Its report was headed “Findings of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty, the Recall of Military Rescue Support Aircraft while the Ship was Under Attack, and the Subsequent Cover-up by the United States Government, CAPITOL HILL, WASHINGTON, D.C., OCTOBER 22, 2003.” It concluded that “That there is compelling evidence that Israel’s attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew; evidence of such intent is supported by statements from Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Undersecretary of State George Ball, former CIA director Richard Helms, former NSA directors Lieutenant General William Odom, USA (Ret.), Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, USN (Ret.), and Marshal Carter; former NSA deputy directors Oliver Kirby and Major General John Morrison, USAF (Ret.); and former Ambassador Dwight Porter, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon in 1967…”
More recently, the claim by apologists for the Jewish state that Israel acted in error or due to the fog of war, has been debunked by previously suppressed National Security Agency intercepts that included an Israeli pilot calling his flight controller and stating, in alarm, that they were about to attack what was clearly an American ship. The controller ordered him to continue his attack.
The faux court of inquiry and the medals awarded in secret were only the first steps in the cover-up, which has persisted to this day, orchestrated by politicians and a media that seem to place Israel’s interests ahead of those of the United States. Liberty survivors have been finding it difficult even to make their case in public. In early April 2016 a billboard that read “Help the USS Liberty Survivors – Attacked by Israel” was taken down in New Bedford Massachusetts. The billboard had been placed by the Honor Liberty Vets Organization and, as is normal practice, was paid for through a contractual arrangement that would require the billboard company to post the image for a fixed length of time. It was one of a number of billboards placed in different states. Inevitably, Israel’s well connected friends began to complain. One Jewish businessman threatened to take his business elsewhere, so the advertising company obligingly removed the billboard two weeks early.
After fifty-five years, the dwindling number of survivors of the Liberty are not looking for punishment or revenge. When asked, they will tell you that they only ask for accountability, that an impartial inquiry into the attack be convened and that the true story of what took place finally be revealed to the public.
That Congress is deaf to the pleas of the Liberty crew should surprise no one as the nation’s legislative body has been for years, as Pat Buchanan once put it, “Israeli occupied territory.” The Jewish Lobby’s ability to force Congress and even the presidency to submit to its will has been spelled out in some detail by critics, first by Paul Findley in They Dare to Speak Out, later by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in The Israel Lobby and in Alison Weir’s Against Our Better Judgment and most recently in Kirk Beattie’s excellent Congress and the Shaping of the Middle East.
Congressional willingness to protect Israel even when it is killing Americans is remarkable, but it is symptom of the legislative body’s inclination to go to bat for Israel reflexively, even when it is damaging to US interests and to the rights that American citizens are supposed to enjoy. To cite only one example of how ambitious politicians rally around to protect Israel, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is a former Navy officer who once served as a congressman for a district in Florida where several Liberty survivors were living. They recount how repeated attempts to meet with DeSantis to discuss a possible official inquiry were rejected, with the Congressman refusing to meet them. Even the veterans’ organization the American Legion walks in fear of Israel. It has refused to allow the USS Liberty Veterans Association to have a table or booth at its annual convention and has even banned any participation by the group at its meetings in perpetuity!
So, the treatment of the USS Liberty should surprise no one in a country whose governing class has been for decades doing the bidding of the powerful lobby of a tiny client state that has been nothing but trouble and expense for the United States of America. Will it ever end? As the Israel/Jewish Lobby currently controls the relevant parts of the federal government and much of the media, change is not likely to happen overnight, but there are some positive signs that the public is regarding Israel less favorably. As Israel is countering that trend by supporting legislation at federal and state levels declaring any group that criticizes Israel to be anti-Semitic, recounting the USS Liberty story could fall under that description and be declared a “hate crime” complete with civil and criminal penalties. One has to hope that the American people will finally wake up to realize that they are tired of the entire farce and decide to wash their hands of the Israel contrived narrative relating to the Middle East. Just imagine picking up the morning newspaper and not reading a front-page story about the warnings and threats coming from an Israeli Prime Minister or from Israeli mouthpieces named Biden, Schumer and Pelosi. That would be a quite remarkable development.
Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation (Federal ID Number #52-1739023) that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is [email protected].