Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

USS Liberty Revisited: New Information, Still No Investigation

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

USS Liberty Revisited: New Information, Still No Investigation

Article excerpt

June 8 marks 23 years of America's cover-up of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. Washington Report readers know the story well: a deliberate daylight attack by Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats that nearly sank the ship and killed 34 and injured 171 men, incriminating reports by survivors, a falsified account by Israel, and a stubborn refusal by the American government to review the evidence or to resolve the discrepancies. Survivors have worked ever since to persuade our government to listen to their stories and review the evidence. So far they have been frustrated at every turn.

The typical congressional reaction is a letter asserting that the Liberty issue was thoroughly investigated in 1967 and that no incriminating evidence was found. The matter is closed, they say.

The past year brought more of the same, but also some striking progress, and equally striking evasions.

Two Remembrances

For example, the town of Grafton, Wisconsin remembered the USS Liberty in 1989 by building a $600,000 public library and naming it "The USS Liberty Memorial Public Library." The generous gesture was sadly marred by protests organized by spokesmen for Israel, who orchestrated angry editorials, hostile news stories, TV commentaries, and letters to editors complaining that any recognition of the attack on the Liberty was insulting to Israel. Picketers marched at the dedication ceremony, some carrying swastika posters, in an attempt to smear the name of the ship. The library's dedication ceremony became so controversial that local officials stationed an armed SWAT team on the roof to ward off trouble.

Similar protests occurred in Keene, New Hampshire, when a local college sponsored a USS Liberty discussion there. Letters of protest, mostly unsigned or signed with phony names and fictitious addresses, bombarded the area newspapers for months.

Among the most persistent arguments from Congress is that this event occurred too long ago to be investigated. Evidence and witnesses would be too difficult to find, they say -- blindly ignoring offers from survivors to provide all the evidence and witnesses they could possibly examine.

Which Came First, 1967 or 1942?

Yet 1989 was also the year that 92 members of Congress signed or otherwise supported a statement on behalf of a Wisconsin veteran of WWII who claims he was deprived of a Medal of Honor for heroics in 1942 -- more than twice as long ago. According to the veteran, he killed over 500 Japanese single-handedly.

"He was denied the Medal of Honor due to blatant anti-Semitic sentiment," the congressmen wrote in a letter to the Secretary of the Army. Senator Herbert Kohl (D-WI) wrote not one but six strongly worded letters all but demanding that the medal be issued.

In fact, however, the veteran's "evidence" was sparse, weak, contradictory, and said to have been partially forged. Others in his military unit said his story was untrue. Experts said his claimed exploits were impossible. But none of that prevented members of Congress from lining up in his support, and only a shortage of time prevented even more from trying to help. The veteran was even permitted to testify personally on his own behalf before the House Armed Services Committee -- a privilege Liberty survivors are still denied.

Eventually the Army persuaded the Congress that the veteran's claim was without merit. …

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