The Coming Storm - Avenge the USS Liberty (Part 1)
The Coming Storm - Avenge the USS Liberty (Part 2)
The Coming Storm - Avenge the USS Liberty (Part 3)
The Coming Storm - Avenge the USS Liberty (Part 4)
The Coming Storm - Avenge the USS Liberty (Part 5)
The Coming Storm - Avenge the USS Liberty (Part 6)
So Who's Afraid of the Israel Lobby?
By Ray McGovern
October 5, 2007
Virtually everyone: Republican, Democrat—Conservative, Liberal.
The fear factor is non-partisan, you might say, and palpable.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee brags that it is the
most influential foreign policy lobbying organization on Capitol Hill,
and has demonstrated that time and again, and not only on Capitol
Nowhere is the Lobby’s power more clearly demonstrated than in
its ability to suppress the awful truth that on June 8, 1967 during
the Six Day War:
--Israel deliberately attacked the intelligence collection ship USS
Liberty, in full awareness it was a U.S. Navy ship, and did its best to
sink it and leave no survivors;
--The Israelis would have succeeded had they not broken off the
attack upon learning, from an intercepted message, that the
commander of the U.S. 6th Fleet had launched carrier fighters to
the scene; and
--By that time, 34 of the Liberty’s crew had been killed and over
Scores of intelligence analysts and senior officials have known this
for years. That virtually all of them have kept a 40-year frightened
silence is testament to the widespread fear of touching this live wire.
Even more telling is the fact that the National Security Agency
destroyed voice tapes seen by many intelligence analysts, showing
beyond doubt that the Israelis knew exactly what they were doing.
But the truth will out—eventually. All it took in this case is for a
courageous journalist (of the endangered species kind) to listen to
the surviving crew and do a little basic research, not shrinking from
naming war crimes and not letting senior U.S. officials, from the
president on down off the hook for suppressing—even
destroying—unimpeachable evidence from intercepted Israeli
The mainstream media have now published an exposé based largely
on interviews with those most intimately involved.
A lengthy article by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter
John Crewdson appeared in the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore
Sun on Oct. 2 titled “New revelations in attack on American spy
ship.” [For the full story, click here.]
To the subtitle goes the prize for understatement of the year:
“Veterans, documents suggest U.S., Israel didn’t tell full story of
deadly 1967 incident.”
Better 40 years late than never, I suppose. Many of us have known
of the incident and cover-up for a very long time and have tried to
expose and discuss it for the lessons it holds for today.
It has proved far easier, though, to get a very pedestrian
Dog-Bites-Man article published than an article with the
importance and explosiveness of this damning story.
A Marine Stands Up
On the evening of Sept. 26, 2006, I gave a talk on Iraq to an
overflow crowd of 400 at National Avenue Church in Springfield,
A questioner asked what I thought of the study by John
Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of
Harvard titled “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.”
The study had originally been commissioned by The Atlantic
Monthly. When the draft arrived, however, shouts of “Leper!” were
heard at the Atlantic. The monthly wasted no time in saying
thanks-but-no-thanks, and the leper-study then wandered in search
of a home, finding none among American publishers.
Eventually the London Review of Books published it in March
I had read that piece carefully and found it an unusual act of
courage as well as scholarship. That’s what I told the questioner,
adding that I did have two problems with the study:
--First, it seemed to me the authors erred in attributing virtually all
the motivation for the U.S. attack on Iraq to the Israel Lobby and
the so-called “neo-conservatives” running our policy and armed
forces. Was Israel an important factor? Indeed. But of equal
importance, in my view, was the oil factor and what the Pentagon
now calls the “enduring” military bases in Iraq, which the White
House and Pentagon decided were needed for the U.S. to dominate
that part of the Middle East.
--Second, I was intrigued by the fact that Mearsheimer and Walt
made no mention of what I believe to be, if not the most telling, then
perhaps the most sensational proof of the power the Lobby knows it
can exert over our government and Congress. In sum, in June
1967, after deliberately using fighter-bombers and torpedo boats to
attack the USS Liberty for over two hours in an attempt to sink it
and kill its crew, and then getting the U.S. government, the Navy
and the Congress to cover up what happened, the Israeli
government learned that it could—literally—get away with murder.
I found myself looking out at 400 blank stares. The USS Liberty?
And so I asked how many in the audience had heard of the attack
on the Liberty on June 8, 1967. Three hands went up; I called on
the gentleman nearest me.
Ramrod straight he stood:
“Sir, Sergeant Bryce Lockwood, United States Marine Corps,
retired. I am a member of the USS Liberty crew, Sir.”
Catching my breath, I asked him if he would be willing to tell us
“Sir, I have not been able to do that. It is hard. But it has been
almost 40 years, and I would like to try this evening, Sir.”
You could hear a pin drop for the next 15 minutes, as Lockwood
gave us his personal account of what happened to him, his
colleagues and his ship on the afternoon of June 8, 1967.
He was a linguist assigned to collect communications intelligence
from the USS Liberty, which was among the ugliest—and most
easily identifiable—ships in the fleet with antennae springing out in
Lockwood told of the events of that fateful day, beginning with the
six-hour naval and air surveillance of the Liberty by the Israeli navy
and air force on the morning of June 8.
After the air attacks including thousand-pound bombs and napalm,
three sixty-ton torpedo boats lined up like a firing squad, pointing
their torpedo tubes at the Liberty’s starboard hull.
Lockwood had been ordered to throw the extremely sensitive
cryptological equipment overboard and had just walked beyond the
bulwark separating the NSA intelligence unit from the rest of the
ship when, he recalled, he sensed a large black object, a
tremendous explosion, and sheet of flame.
The torpedo had struck dead center in the NSA space.
The cold, oily water brought Lockwood back to consciousness.
Around him were 25 dead colleagues; but he heard moaning.
Three were still alive; one of Lockwood’s shipmates dragged one up
the hatch. Lockwood was able to lift the two others, one-by-one,
onto his shoulder and carry them up through the hatch.
This meant alternatively banging on the hatch for someone to open
it and swimming back to fish his shipmate out of the water lest he
float out to sea through the 39-foot hole made by the torpedo.
At that Lockwood stopped speaking. It was enough. Hard, very
hard—even after almost 40 years.
What Else We Know
John Crewdson’s meticulously documented article, together with
the 57 pages that James Bamford devotes to the incident in Body of
Secrets and recent confessions by those who played a role in the
cover-up, paint a picture that the surviving crew of the USS Liberty
can only find infuriating.
The evidence, from intercepted communications as well as
testimony, of Israeli deliberate intent is unimpeachable, even though
the Israelis continue to portray it as just a terrible mistake.
Crewdson refers to U.S. Navy Captain Ward Boston, who was the
Navy lawyer appointed as senior counsel to Admiral Isaac C. Kidd,
named by Admiral John S. McCain to “inquire into all the facts and
circumstances.” [Yes, the father of presidential hopeful, Sen. John
The fact that they were given only one week to gather evidence and
were forbidden to contact the Israelis screams out “cover-up.”
Captain Boston, now 84, signed a formal declaration on Jan. 8,
2004, in which he described himself as “outraged at the efforts of
the apologists for Israel in this country to claim that this attack was
a case of ‘mistaken identity.’” Boston continued:
“The evidence was clear. Both Admiral Kidd and I believed with
certainty that this attack...was a deliberate effort to sink an
American ship and murder its entire crew...Not only did the Israelis
attack the ship with napalm, gunfire, and missiles, Israeli torpedo
boats machine-gunned three lifeboats that had been launched in an
attempt by the crew to save the most seriously wounded—a war
crime...I know from personal conversations I had with Admiral
Kidd that 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
Why the Israelis decided to take the draconian measure to sink a
ship of the U.S. Navy is a subject of speculation.
One view is that the Israelis did not want the U.S. to find out they
were massing troops to seize the Golan Heights from Syria, and
wanted to deprive the U.S. of the opportunity to argue against such
James Bamford, in Body of Secrets, adduces evidence, including
reporting from an Israeli journalist eyewitness and an Israeli
military historian, of wholesale killing of Egyptian prisoners of war
at the coastal town of El Arish in the Sinai.
The Liberty was patrolling directly opposite El Arish in
international waters but within easy range to pick up intelligence on
what was going on there. And the Israelis were well aware.
As for the why, well, someone could at least approach the Israelis
involved and ask, no?
The important thing here is not to confuse what is known (the
deliberate nature of the Israeli attack) with the purpose behind it,
which remains a matter of speculation.
Bowing to intense pressure from the Navy, the White House agreed
to award the Liberty’s skipper, Captain William McGonagle, the
Medal of Honor....but not at the White House, and not by the
president (as is the custom).
Rather, the Secretary of the Navy gave the award at the
Washington Navy Yard on the banks of the acrid Anacostia River.
A naval officer involved in the awards ceremony told one of the
Liberty crew, “The government is pretty jumpy about Israel...the
State Department even asked the Israeli ambassador if his
government had any objections to McGonagle getting the medal.”
Adding insult to injury, those of the Liberty crew who survived well
enough to call for an independent investigation have been hit with
charges of, you guessed it, anti-Semitism.
Now that some of the truth has emerged more and more, others are
showing more courage in speaking out. In a recent e-mail, a former
CIA analyst-colleague shared:
“The chief of the analysts studying the Arab/Israeli region at the
time told me about the intercepted messages and said very flatly and
firmly that the pilots reported seeing the American flag and
repeated their requests for confirmation of the attack order. Whole
platoons of Americans saw those intercepts. If NSA now says they
do not exist, then someone ordered them destroyed.”
Leaving the destruction of evidence without investigation is an open
invitation to repetition in the future.
As for the larger picture, visiting Israel this past summer I was
constantly told that Egypt forced Israel into war in June 1967. This
does not square with the unguarded words of Menachem Begin in
1982, when he was Israel’s prime minister. Rather he admitted
“In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations
in the Sinai approaches do not prove that [Egyptian President]
Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with
ourselves. We decided to attack him.”
Israel had, in fact, prepared well militarily and mounted
provocations against its neighbors, in order to provoke a response
that could be used to justify an expansion of its borders.
Israel’s illegal 40-year control over and confiscation of land in the
occupied territories and U.S. enabling support (particularly the
one-sided support by the current U.S. administration) go a long way
toward explaining why it is that 1.3 billion Muslims “hate us.”
Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the
ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. He was a
CIA analyst for 27 years and is now on the Steering Committee of
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). He spent
some time in Israel and the West Bank this summer.