The story of the ‘Liberty’
Dear Editor:Much is being written these days about the 40-year occupation of Palestine by Israel and the 1967 war which made this possible. We are also getting a more accurate account of what really happened in 1967 thanks to the “new historians of Israel” such as Benny Morris and Tom Segev. One thing has become clear is that we have been mightily mislead by the press and the TV news for some time.One event, well underreported, has been the attempted sinking by Israel of the U.S. Naval vessel Liberty. This ship, sent by the NSA and under orders from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was to eavesdrop electronically upon the preparations for war by Israel and Egypt. This vessel, a veteran of WWII and Korea, had been outfitted as an electronic spy ship, complete with radio operators, technical communications experts, translators, multiple antennas and capable of monitoring “line-of-sight” voice transmissions. Meanwhile, Liberty was steaming toward the coast at 17 knots, not having received five messages suggesting he stand clear. On June 7,1967, the Israelis pre-emptively launched planes against the Egyptian airfields, completely destroying its air capabilities. Tanks had followed in and attacked Syria and Jordan. The ship by this time, being very close in, was able to hear voice transmissions and learned that the Israeli Army had systematically executed 1,000 Egyptian prisoners-of-war in cold blood and a number of Indian U.N. peacekeepers.All the while, protestations of having been attacked by the Arabs were being communicated worldwide, Abba Eban going so far as to accuse the Soviets of the attack in concurrence with Egypt, and asking the U.S. to go up against Russia on their behalf. After numerous flights over the Liberty at very close range, and after an Israeli naval liaison officer had identified the ship as a U.S. spy ship to his naval headquarters, Israeli planes and high-speed motor torpedo boats pounded our ship with napalm, cannon fire and torpedoes, machine gunning lifeboats for the entire day. Liberty, listing badly to starboard, with 32 dead and many wounded, sent frantic messages to two U.S. carriers in the area for help. This command launched planes for a rescue mission, but Washington refused to give permission on the grounds that President Johnson “did not want to embarrass our friends” after Israel asked us to “quietly bury the incident.” The press ignored it; survivors were threatened with courts martial, and their families with prison, if any of these facts were ever spoken about.The excuse used by the Israeli government that “mistake” was made in identifying the vessel not as a U.S. naval vessel is impossible to believe. Having been a naval officer at sea and later on oil tankers, I have stood enough watches on the bridge of ships to know that if the Israelis want me to believe that they couldn’t identify the ship correctly they must be unusually ignorant or think that we are unusually gullible.The disgusting and servile conduct exhibited by our government in this matter and continues to act, is something we must all bear with shame.Richard B. VeitCarbondale
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