Wednesday, October 10, 2007


"President Johnson is not going to go to war or embarrass an American ally over a few sailors."

I've had occasion in the past to praise McClatchy's Middle East reporters, including Leila Fadel, Hannah Allam, and Dion Nissenbaum; somehow, McClatchy just ends up with the best reporters in the corporate press, all of whom maintain very interesting blogs (the latest entry on Allam's blog provides a fascinating first-hand view of Blackwater contractors).

All by way of prelude to an article I discovered by way of Nissenbaum's blog - an extensive report from the Chicago Tribune on the Israeli sinking of the U.S.S. Liberty in 1967. The article appeared more than a week ago, but appears to have attracted little attention. I won't attempt to summarize the extensive evidence presented in it; instead I'll just make a few observations.

The title of this post comes from a quote from Robert McNamara, then Secretary of Defense. 34 Americans died in that attack, but what I didn't know before reading this article was that only 8 of them were killed in the strafing attack by the Israeli jets. The remaining 26 were killed much later in an attack by three Israeli torpedo boats.

And what happened in the interim? Two squadrons of Navy bombers were launched by the American 6th Fleet, squadrons who probably could have prevented the torpedo attack, but they were called back by order of McNamara, allowing the attack to procede. The Israelis weren't embarrassed. 26 sailors (somewhat more than "a few") died, and nearly 200 more wounded (some permanently), in what is now clear was no case of "mistaken identity," but a deliberate attack.

Why stop here? There's more...

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