Bryant Jordan: Demand answers about the Liberty incident

BBC documentary “Dead in the water” 

IN THE PAST YEAR, Congress has been busy defending the reputations of American service members.

Republicans pushed for a resolution condemning the now famous “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?” ad. Democrats opened up a front against Rush Limbaugh after he asserted that some of those who criticize the Iraq war were actually “phony soldiers.”

Meaningless antics.

If senators and representatives want to take up an issue that has insulted service members and their families, they can look at the Liberty, an American spy ship that was strafed, napalmed and torpedoed by Israeli air and naval forces on June 8, 1967, as it sailed in international waters [during the Six-Day War between Israel on one side and Egypt, Jordan and Syria on the other]. Thirty-four American men died in the incident; at least 173 were wounded.

For 40 years politicians have dodged this issue by relying on the Naval Court of Inquiry report that concluded that it was all a mistake. But that report never held much water. It ignored most of the testimony of the survivors. The last drop turned to vapor more than five years ago when its legal adviser, retired Capt. Ward Boston, told me the court’s work was a sham to cover up the truth.

Since then I found copies of Navy telegrams to the Liberty deads’ next-of-kin, in which the Navy had labeled the incident an accident even before the court convened. Anyone who knows — or can even imagine — military policy on death notification will find this more than strange.

More recently, reporter John Crewdson, in the Chicago Tribune, reported that the National Security Agency intercepts of the Israeli pilots’ communications during the attack left no doubt that Israel knew that it was attacking an American ship. Crewdson, relying on recently declassified NSA records and interviews with people with first-hand knowledge of the intercepts, tells a story that backs up the survivors’ long-dismissed claims.

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