Monday, April 20, 2009

Lies about the "USS Liberty"

by Steven Plaut

In the middle of the Six Day War in 1967, an American naval vessel that had wandered into the war zone was mistakenly attacked by Israeli military planes. Israel apologized for the attack and paid compensation to the victims.

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Ever since, the attack on the USS Liberty has become a rallying cry for Neo-Nazis and anti-Semites from around the world. They claim that the attack was part of some nefarious Jewish cabal, whose purpose is never clear. The great irony is that the case of the USS Liberty is used as a bludgeon to bash Israel for an accidental friendly fire attack on American forces by many of the very same groups that applaud Bin Laden and cheer intentional Islamofascist terror attacks on Americans.

While numerous serious journalists have long put the story to rest, the best debunking of all of the conspiracist "theories" about the attack was that of Michael Oren in Azure in 2000. His arguments are too long to be reproduced here, and his piece should be read in full by anyone who wants to know the truth. Here is just one segment:

The incident began with the ill-conceived decision to send the Liberty to the crisis-torn Middle East, a mere half-mile beyond Egyptian waters, in an area not used by commercial shipping and which Nasser had declared off-limits to neutral vessels. The Americans did not accede to Chief of Staff Rabin’s request for the identification of all U.S. ships in the area or Ambassador Harman’s request for a strategic liaison between Israel and the Sixth Fleet. The Liberty’s dispatchers, meanwhile, overrode naval orders to keep the ship in Spain, and then failed to inform the U.S. attaché in Tel Aviv of its presence near the war zone. These mistakes were compounded by the navy’s communications system, which delayed by as much as two days orders to the Liberty to withdraw 100 miles from the coast.52 Even after it was hit, the Americans had difficulty locating the Liberty, the JCS placing it at “60-100 miles north of Egypt.” If neither Castle, nor CINCEUR, nor even the President of the United States could know where the Liberty was, it seems unreasonable to expect that the Israelis, in the thick of battle, should have been able to locate it.

The Israelis, too, committed their own share of fateful errors, as the Yerushalmi report points out: The erroneous reports of bombardment at El-Arish, the failure to replace the Liberty’s marker on the board after it had been cleared, the over-eagerness of naval commanders, and worst of all, Ensign Yifrah’s miscalculation of the ship’s speed…. All of these elements combined to create a tragic “friendly fire” incident of the kind that claimed the lives of at least fifty Israeli soldiers in the Six Day War, and caused 5,373 American casualties in Vietnam in 1967 alone.

An even better documented book debunking the "theories' of the conspiracists and Neo-Nazis is "The Liberty Incident: The 1967 Israeli Attack on the US Spy Ship," by Jay Cristol.

Nevertheless, anti-Semites of all stripes continue to use the 42 year old incident as a weapon against Israel. Even Neo-Stalinist Noam Chomsky, who adores Islamic terrorism, uses the Liberty incident to bash Israel. So do the Stalinist anti-Semites at the leftwing pro-jihad Counterpunch web site.

But curiously, these people have now been joined by Barry Chamish, the UFO "researcher" and inventor of the fictional "theory" about how Shimon Peres and the SHABAK were the real murderers of Yitzhak Rabin. Chamish has a long history of collaboration with Holocaust Denier organizations and web sites, and he is now proliferating a "theory" of the USS Liberty attack invented by Neo-Nazi organizations.

Here are some of Chamish's new "discoveries," taken from a Chamish web site. Chamish invents a claim that it was American President Johnson who ordered Israel to sink the ship:

'The issue of the Liberty has deeply poisoned the American relationship with Israel. It is a far greater thorn than Israelis understand because, in fact, Israel did try to kill every sailor on board The Liberty.... Admiral McCain was not covering for Israel, he was protecting Pres. Lyndon Johnson, who ordered Israel to attack the Liberty....Cutting to the chase, it wasn't Israel's idea. Israel still did the killing, and muffed the attack with an amateurish show of its military prowess, but it wasn't the leader of the hit squad. That's far better than being left in the lurch as the mafia's don....
"Of course Johnson gave the order. But he received his orders from higher up." "So the attack on The Liberty wasn't an Israeli decision?" I asked. "It was an American action forced on Israel," he answered....
We have the reason Moshe Dayan turned into Israel's top traitor of his day. As Chief-0f-Staff of the IDF, Dayan HAD to have given the order for his Air Force to sink the Liberty. Johnson may have given the actual command, the American navy did nothing to rescue the stricken ship, but Dayan had the blood of 37 American sailors on his hands and if he didn't play major league ball, he and Israel would be turned into friendless lepers.... There were endless debts to be paid, and America offered Israel $3.2 billion in annual aid to keep its mouth shut. But Israel bore the existential brunt of Dayan sinking close to the entire Egyptian navy, but accidentally keeping afloat one American ship too many."

Chamish has a long track record of inventing "theories" and "news" and imaginary nameless "witnesses." I used to think that his claim that Simon Wiesenthal was in fact a secret Nazi agent was just about the silliest thing he could invent. But his new fabrications about the USS Liberty may even make THAT look pale in comparison.

For more on the conspiracist sickness, see this.