With friends like these… By William Bowles

15 October 2003

‘The attack on the US mission in the occupied territories today (15/10/03) or something similar, may well be our 21st century Sarejevo. Indeed, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that today’s attack was a deliberate provocation by Israel designed to drag the US more directly into the conflict.’

This how I ended my last essay and statements by Bush immediately after the bombing are, to say the least, ominous. Could this be a prelude to a more direct military involvement by the US or at least give the green light to Sharon to finish the job he started in 1982 in Lebanon?

Unlike other attacks mounted by the various Palestinian groups, every single one has denied responsibility for the bomb that killed the three US security officials.

There is perhaps an historical parallel to the current situation, namely the attack on the USS Liberty, an NSA (National Security Agency) spy ship that during the opening days of the 1967 Arab/Israeli War took up a listening position 26 miles off the Eygptian coast near Gaza.

“[O]n June 8, 1967…Israel attacked the USS Liberty with aircraft and torpedo boats, killing 34 young men and wounding 171. The attack in international waters followed over nine hours of close surveillance. Israeli pilots circled the ship at low level 13 times on eight different occasions before attacking. Radio operators in Spain, Lebanon, Germany and aboard the ship itself all heard the pilots reporting to their headquarters that this was an American ship. They attacked anyway. And when the ship failed to sink, the Israeli government concocted an elaborate story to cover the crime.

There is no question that this attack on a U.S. Navy ship was deliberate. This was a coordinated effort involving air, sea, headquarters and commando forces attacking over a long period. It was not the “few rounds of misdirected fire” that Israel would have the world believe. Worse, the Israeli excuse is a gross and detailed fabrication that disagrees entirely with the eyewitness recollections of survivors. Key American leaders call the attack deliberate. More important, eyewitness participants from the Israeli side have told survivors that they knew they were attacking an American ship.”

James N Ennes Jnr, author of a book on the subject, “Assault on the Liberty “, was a lieutenant on the bridge of the USS Liberty on the day of the attack.

The Liberty, bristling with antennae, could eavesdrop on all electronic communications taking place in the region. It had real time communications with Washington and NSA headquarters. James Bamford’s book Body of Secrets revealed previously unknown information about the events of June 8.

“[U]nknown to Israel, a US Navy EC-121 intelligence aircraft was flying high overhead [of] the ‘Liberty,’ electronically recorded the attack. The US aircraft crew provides evidence that the Israeli pilots knew full well that they were attacking a US Navy ship flying the American flag.

Why did Israel try to sink a naval vessel of its benefactor and ally? Most likely because ‘Liberty’s’ intercepts flatly contradicted Israel’s claim, made at the war’s beginning on 5 June, that Egypt had attacked Israel, and that Israel’s massive air assault on three Arab nations was in retaliation. In fact, Israel began the war by a devastating, Pearl-Harbor style surprise attack that caught the Arabs in bed and destroyed their entire air forces.

Israel was also preparing to attack Syria to seize its strategic Golan Heights. Washington warned Israel not to invade Syria, which had remained inactive while Israel fought Egypt. Bamford says Israel’s offensive against Syria was abruptly postponed when ‘Liberty’ appeared off Sinai, then launched once it was knocked out of action. Israel’s claim that Syria had attacked it could have been disproved by ‘Liberty.’

Most significant, ‘Liberty’s’ intercepts may have shown that Israel seized upon sharply rising Arab-Israeli tensions in May-June 1967 to launch a long-planned war to invade and annex the West Bank, Jerusalem, Golan and Sinai.

Far more shocking was Washington’s response. Writes Bamford: ‘Despite the overwhelming evidence that Israel attacked the ship and killed American servicemen deliberately, the Johnson Administration and Congress covered up the entire incident.’

Nine minutes after the attack the US aircraft carrier USS Saratoga received a message from the Liberty, and three times fighters were launched but called back, twice by Robert McNamara, then Secretary of Defence and once by President Johnson.

(See also transcripts of radio conversations between the Israeli pilots and the ground that are available at the National Security Archives: http://www.nsa.gov/docs/efoia/released/liberty.html).

Even more ominous and relevant to the current situation is the exposure in the BBC documentary “Dead in the Water” about the attack on the Liberty, the fact that nuclear armed US Phantom jets were launched after the attack. The documentary suggested that the Israeli Mirage jets, which had their markings painted out, were supposed to be mistaken for Soviet fighters and that in response to the attack, the US would attack Egypt or even the Soviet Union itself with nuclear weapons. The jets were recalled only minutes from Cairo. The clear implication is that Israel was quite prepared to trigger WWIII. It is more than possible that the US were actively involved in the deceit as the BBC documentary also suggests, especially as every attempt to investigate the attack on the Liberty has been blocked by successive US governments for the 36 years since the incident.

“It is possible that in its last throes, it [Israel] will make true its threat vocalised by Prof van Crefeld of Hebrew University and go down by taking the world along, for Israeli nuclear weapons are trained, according to van Crefeld, at European capitals as well as on the neighbours. – Israel Shamir, ‘5 to Midnight

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