Guest Column: USS Liberty, Why Justice Now?

USS Liberty: Why Another Inquiry
Joe Meadors / October 10, 2017

[This is an updated version of an article that originally appeared in the USS Liberty Inquiry website]

The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were Treated and Appreciated by their Nation. – George Washington

Why put together a Court of Inquiry into something that happened more than fifty years ago? Why try to reopen something that was settled by the government more than five decades ago? Isn’t this just ancient history?

In fact, there have been no inquiries into the culpability for the Israeli attack. This isn’t a matter of conducting another inquiry, but rather conducting what would be the first inquiry ever made into the question of who was responsible for the attack on USS Liberty, and why?

There are many practical reasons for undertaking a complete examination of the Israeli attack on the U.S.S. Liberty, but there is one reason that stands out above all: Justice.

Under our system of government, as individual citizens we have foresworn our individual right to vengeance in return for society’s promise to act on our behalf when a crime is committed against us as individuals. If society fails to act, if society does not live up to its obligation to act on behalf of wronged individuals, then the social contract is broken. Justice is central to our social system. If we cannot depend on society to deliver justice, there is no incentive for individuals to refrain from extracting their own vengeance.

It is to be remembered that one of the primary reasons for the law’s existence, indeed the state’s existence, is that people are to be relieved of their need to strike out against those who have wronged them. Not to argue the rights or wrongs of it; it is entirely natural for an individual, when injured or harmed by another or others, to seek revenge and retribution. It is potentially harmful to the state if the state does not satisfy these needs, these urges. If the people are not satisfied, as history clearly shows, then the people take the law into their own hands; and, they will do so, quick enough, if they see that the law does not suit their purposes. To punish the criminal, in order to satisfy the urges of the victim for revenge and retribution is an expression of a very old law, which still finds expression in our existing law, lex talionis. The Mosaic Code of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” lurks behind most legal punishments.

On June 8, 1967 aircraft and ships of the Israeli Defense Forces attacked a United States Navy ship, USS Liberty. The Israeli attack killed 34 Americans and wounded over 171 more. While the human damage was by far the worst, the ship also suffered more than Twenty Million Dollars in damages.

It is undisputed that Liberty was in international waters at all times. It is undisputed that she was an American ship. It is undisputed that she offered no overt or covert military threat to anyone. It is undisputed that the attack was undertaken by the Israelis. It is undisputed that the Israelis never positively identified the Liberty as a ship belonging to a belligerent nation.

Contrary to these undisputed facts, the United States publicly accepted the Israeli claim that the attack was an accident and closed the matter without undertaking any sort of detailed inquiry. Claims have been made that there have been nine, or eleven, or thirteen “complete investigations” of the attack. In point of fact, there has never been even a single complete investigation of what happened.

Standing alone, the undisputed facts make a strong and persuasive case for murder. At a minimum, the United States owes the survivors of the attack and the families of the deceased an explanation as to why the Israeli claim that the attack was an accident, when the undisputed evidence clearly suggests otherwise, was accepted without an investigation.

That the United States government has classified the most critical and dispositive evidence, without explanation, speaks volumes as to their belief as to what really happened. If this were truly an accident, why would it be necessary to classify materials that would otherwise have been released to the public many years ago? If this were truly an accident, why has Congress refused to investigate, as they have done in all other attacks on U.S. ships in peacetime that resulted in significant loss of life?

Every member of the United States military must swear to the following Code of Conduct:

  • I am an American fighting in the forces that guard my country and our way of life, I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
  • I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.
  • I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.
  • If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
  • If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.
  • Should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies.
  • I will never forget that I am an American fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

While divine judgment is beyond the scope of this inquiry, we can and do charge the United States government with willfully refusing to honor its obligation to the survivors and the families of the dead.

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