By Shams Ghoneim
As we recently celebrated Memorial Day honoring all U.S. past and present veterans, we must never forget those officers and men of the USS Liberty.
On June 8, 1967, the unarmed U.S. Navy Intelligence ship USS Liberty dialing at less than 5 knots, was suddenly attacked without warning or prior contact in international waters by the air and naval forces of the state of Israel.
The USS Liberty was surveyed for more than nine hours by Israeli aircraft overflights and radar tracking before the unprovoked attack. It was an American ship, hence neutral during the June 1967 Israeli/ Arab war. It remained in International waters at all times on that fateful day. During the attack, the USS Liberty crew had difficulty contacting Sixth Fleet to request assistance because of intense communication jamming.
Out of 294 officers and men, including three civilians, 34 Americans were killed and 174 were wounded. The ship, a
$40 million state-of-the-art signals intelligence platform, was later declared unsalvageable and sold for scrap.
Survivors reported that Israeli torpedo boat crews swept the decks on the USS Liberty, any crew members above decks, and inflated lifeboats with continuous machine gun fire.
The defenseless crew had only themselves to rely upon and fought heroically to save themselves and their ship. They were later awarded collectively one Medal of Honor, 2 Navy Crosses, 11 Silver Stars, 20 Bronze Stars (With “V” device), nine Navy Commendation medals and four Purple Hearts. The USS Liberty was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
The Israeli investigation later concluded that the attack was an unfortunate accident and no one was ever reprimanded or held accountable. Even though the Johnson administration did not accept that result, it also, without reasonable explanation, never sought justice for the dead and injured Americans or pursed a thorough investigation of the attack.
Near universal consensus continues to be that the attack was made with full knowledge that the USS Liberty was a U.S. Navy ship.
In his capacity as assistant to the president, Clark Clifford Reported to Lyndon Johnson that claiming the USS Liberty was mistaken for the Egyptian supply ship El Quseir was unbelievable. The El Quseir had one-fourth the displacement of the Liberty, was 180 feet shorter and was very differently configured.
Virtually every knowledgeable American official except for Robert McNamara has been quoted on record that the attack was deliberate.
On June 8, 2005, the USS Liberty Veterans Association filed a formal report with the Department of Defense of war crimes committed against U.S. Military Personnel by elements of the Israeli military forces (see www.ussliberty.org/report/report.htm).
The ship’s survivors have been forbidden for more than 40 years to tell their story.
The United States is obligated by law and by international treaty to investigate all such reports by or against U.S. forces. Unfortunately, veterans and their supporters are still waiting for such investigation some 45 years later.
The USS Liberty website, its membership, supporters, and survivors are committed to uncover the truth while abhorring any racist and extreme positions taken by anti-Semites, Holocaust denials or others who seek to use this most tragic incident for their own purposes.
The Cedar Rapids commemoration event for the USS Liberty is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 8 at May’s Island in Cedar Rapids, followed by a dinner at 7 at the Cedar Rapids Muslim Center.
Shams Ghoneim of Iowa City is Coordinator, Muslim Public Affairs Council-Iowa Chapter. Comments:firstname.lastname@example.org.