Dead in the Water
36th Anniversary of the Attack on the USS Liberty
by Mike Ewens
June 7th, 2003

"If it was an accident, it was the best planned accident I've ever seen."
- USS Liberty Survivor

The repurcusions of American foreign policy affect not only third world nations and the American taxpayer, but also the American servicemen at the front lines. One unforgettable example of the latter involved the crew of the USS Liberty. On June 8th, 1967 the unarmed Liberty was attacked off the coast of Sinai. The attacker wasn't America's Cold War nemesis the U.S.S.R., it was an ally: the State of Israel.

After nearly a dozen flybys by the Israeli air force, the sailors were content to assume the Israelis knew the ship was non-hostile. Soon after the flybys, however, three unmarked planes began to strafe the deck and communication systems of the Liberty. This was followed by a volley of rockets. The Liberty unarmed, all the sailors could do was vainly attempt to avoid the onslaught. The air attack had not sunk the Liberty nor harmed its engines. Hence, torpedo boats soon approached the ship. Ripping a hole in the hull of the Liberty, the three boats machine gunned the engine boiler and life rafts in an apparent attempt to sink the boat and kill all aboard. Despite the destruction of most of the communication systems, the crew was able to erect an antenna and send out an SOS.

An American fleet of battleships and an aircraft carrier were nearly five hundred miles away. Upon receiving the SOS, a call was made for two American fighters, armed with nuclear weapons, to bomb Cairo, Egypt, the supposed attacker of the Liberty. Minutes before the fighters were ready to drop their weapons, a recall was ordered straight from the Secretary of Defense. When America finally discovered Israel was responsible, further American retaliation was directly called off by President Johnson. Uncertainty about Israel's motives remained....

Israel claimed, and continues to claim, that the attack was a case of mistaken identity. Apparently, the ship looked similar to an Egyptian vessel, one quarter the size of the Liberty. Also, the Israelis claim that they forgot the Liberty - who they tagged as friendly earlier in the day - was still off the coast of Egypt.

After the attack and the return of the sailors to America, the cover-up at home began. Rather than delve into the myriad of events and evidence, I will merely suggest that you see the BBC documentary. It covers how the administration, media and navy downplayed and even ignored the events on that fateful day, suggesting a concerted effort at a cover-up. The documentary left me convinced that far from an accident, the attack on the Liberty was planned perhaps months in advance.

Today, the word "hero" is thrown around all too easily. However, the 34 men who died that day deserve such a title. They were pawns in an aggressive foreign policy of both the United States and Israel, unaware that their deaths were crucial to the malicious ends of those in power.

I recommend that the interested reader purchase the BBC video, and decide for themselves whether the attack on the Liberty was truly an "accident."


Purchase the BBC Documentary and the complementary BBC web page.

Below is a listing of the USS Liberty resources on the web:

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Mike Ewens is an economics and mathematics major at Washington University in St. Louis, Student Coordinator of Antiwar.com and president of Students for a Libertarian Society. See his archives here.

 

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