Tuesday was the 43rd anniversary of an event that many want to see vanish down the Memory Hole. On June 8, 1967, Israeli airmen and sailors killed 33 American sailors and one civilian during their attack on the USS Liberty, and wounded another 171 American sailors. Even though the Secretary of State, the CIA Director, and many at the National Security Agency all believed the Israeli attack on the Liberty was deliberate, not a mistake—a view confirmed, according to a 2007 Chicago Tribune article, by several former American military and intelligence personnel who had access to NSA intercepts of communications to the Israeli pilots attacking the Liberty—Israel paid no political price. Indeed, Washington ordered the recall of planes sent by the USS America to defend the Liberty, and none of the citations awarded the survivors of the Liberty, including the Medal of Honor won by her captain, even mentioned the identity of the nation that attacked the ship. Needless to say, none of the neocon outlets abuzz with outrage over criticism of Israel’s interception of the Gaza flotilla mentioned this anniversary. Nor did the mainstream media. It was an anniversary ignored, just as the survivors of the attack have all too often been treated as pariahs by their own government.
This year’s anniversary did bring confirmation, though, that it is still considered detrimental to a career in Washington to remember the Liberty.
Political blogger Steve Clemons highlighted a piece by Charles Ebinger, an analyst at the Brookings Institute, that mentioned the Liberty. Clemons also noted the reaction of a friend, “wondering when . . . Ebinger will be spending time with Helen Thomas.” The fact that politicians feel the need to suppress any interest in the fate of Americans killed by a foreign power is yet another reminder that the American national interest too often is not the paramount consideration in the setting of American foreign policy.