IntroductionThe Face of the Devil BY MICHAEL COLLINS PIPER Since 1948 there have been many crimes and conspiracies attributed or otherwise “connected” in some fashion to the state of Israel, ranging from the tragic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and on, even, to the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.
In truth, the list of allegations in this regard goes on and on. Israel, its military and its intelligence services have proven grist for much speculation, some of it certainly well founded, some of it downright ridiculous.
But there is one thing which is absolutely indisputable: on June 8, 1967, the military forces of the state of Israel launched a deliberate and unprovoked attack on a virtually unarmed American intelligence ship, the USS Liberty, as it sailed peacefully on a sunny day in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Sinai, as the Stars and Stripes flapped fully visible in the breeze.
Then, as now, supporters of Israel in the United States and around the world, and certainly Israel itself, would say that using the word “deliberate” to describe the attack on an ally is not just an error, but an outrage. They will acknowledge the attack was deliberate, but hasten to add that Israel believed it was an Egyptian freighter that, so they say, bore a striking resemblance to Liberty.
And there we come to the point of departure between those who believe the Israelis attacked Liberty knowing full well it was an American vessel, and those who say otherwise.
Although in recent years Americans have been told to “support our troops” in various military ventures in the Middle East, there is precisely one group of troops whom it is not politically correct to support, and that is those troops—those survivors of the USS Liberty—who say that Israel’s attack on them was indeed not only “deliberate,” but that Israel knew the vessel belonged to the Jewish state’s closest ally and patron, the United States.
There were 34 Americans killed that day by Israel, and more than 170 wounded. Some of the initial survivors later died due to complications arising from their injuries. Many spent difficult lives in the years that followed, and continue to spend, suffering from not only the trauma of the event, but also as a direct consequence of what they (correctly) believed was their abandonment by a government of the United States eager to brush this matter under the rug.
Their views were supported by the fact that many people in high places, ranging from then-CIA Director Richard Helms, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, presidential advisor Clark Clifford (himself a longtime advocate for Israel in official Washington), and even to President Lyndon Johnson himself—among many, many others—who agreed absolutely with Liberty’s survivors that the attack was carried out by Israel with full knowledge that it was an American ship they were so brutally firing upon, unleashing a hurricane of rockets, machine gun fire, napalm and torpedoes. Although The Spotlight closed its doors in 2001, the former editors of that newspaper, myself among them, set up a new independent weekly, American Free Press, and that publication has picked up the torch and continued to demand justice for the men of Liberty and for a full accounting—a full, public accounting, both by Israel and the United States.
And it should be added that, as the evidence suggests—ranging from a broad variety of sources—the intent of Israel (along with a certain number of apparent collaborators inside the American government itself) was to sink the ship, kill all aboard, and then blame the massacre on Egypt, laying the pretext for an American military retaliation on that Arab country with which Israel was then at war.
The survivors, as we shall see, were told to “shut up” and not talk about what had happened. They were separated and scattered to other ships. And for many years those brave men—many of them bearing grievous wounds—did remain silent. But then, like ice beginning to thaw, they began to talk, slowly, and that’s when the cover-up of Liberty started to break.
While the attack on the Liberty did receive some coverage in the mass media in the days and weeks following the tragedy, the truth is that the media largely adopted a stance in agreement with the “official” version of events, suggesting that the attack was just a “tragic mistake” taking place during a time of war.
It wasn’t until 1975 that a newly inaugurated weekly newspaper known as The Spotlight began publishing (over many years time) regular coverage of new developments surrounding increasing questions being raised by the survivors (and others) about the events of June 8, 1967, and the very real cover-up that followed. In fact, there were many prominent individuals who came forth, joining the chorus, asking for the truth to be told.
Now, in this volume, two talented writers—Victor Thorn and Mark Glenn—have joined forces with a host of Liberty survivors and others (high-ranking ex-diplomats and intelligence and military officers among them) to provide a remarkable overview of the story of Liberty and the outrageous conduct of the U.S. and Israeli governments that followed.
It’s not at any time a “nice” story, but a story which is nonetheless inspiring, for in these pages you will meet some very heroic people, both at the time and in years afterward, who have dared to speak out and confront very powerful forces determined to keep the facts about Liberty from ever reaching a wide national audience, as it should.
When the story of Liberty does come before enough people, it could prove to be the linchpin upon which very real reform of misguided U.S. policies in the Middle East—the ill-founded “special relationship” with the state of Israel—will finally come about.
The men of Liberty saw the face of the devil that day, but they remain insistent that the truth must be told. It’s our job to make sure the truth is known. This volume is one component in making that possible.
—MICHAEL COLLINS PIPER
September 16, 2009