Why does the US mainstream media continue to participate in the government's cover up of Israel's attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967?
The US downing of an Iranian commercial airliner in 1988, killing 290 civilians, is not the only story that our mainstream media have chosen to forget. In his recent FPJ piece (“The ‘Forgotten’ US Shootdown of Iranian Airline Flight 655”), publisher and editor Jeremy R.Hammond notes that “in the rare instances when the media do mention it, to this day they tend to maintain official US government falsehoods about what occurred and otherwise omit relevant details that would inform Americans about what really happened.”
The same can be said of the media’s treatment of Israel’s 1967 attack on the USS Liberty, which killed 34 American sailors and injured 174 more. A search of the New York Times archive reveals only two brief entries for the topic “USS Liberty.”
A June 14, 1967 report of an LBJ press conference [six days after the attack] includes the following Q & A:
“Do you have any more facts you can release on the attack on the USS Liberty? A. “No, I think you know about as much about it as we do.”
Another article on June 5, 1982 refers to the attack and Israel’s apology, adding only that some survivors refuse to accept the official explanation of “mistake.”
What could have inspired the virtual press boycott of such a major story involving American casualties?
Believing that the 50th anniversary of the attack deserved appropriate remembrance, I emailed the following letter to editors of the New York Times, Washington Post and Guardian, US on June 5-6:
“To the Editor,
June 8th marks the 50th anniversary of the brazen and deliberate attack by Israel on the USS Liberty, a lightly armed intelligence-gathering ship in international waters off the coast of Egypt.
On that afternoon during the Six Day War in 1967 waves of Israeli jets attacked the Liberty without warning. A subsequent barrage from three torpedo boats nearly sank the ship, while the two attacks killed 34 American sailors and injured 174 others.
According to Paul Craig Roberts of the Institute for Political Economy, who interviewed survivors and government officials, President Lyndon B. Johnson not only aborted an American rescue mission, but also ordered a cover-up of the whole affair. He reportedly said he “wasn’t going to embarrass an ally.”
Notwithstanding the damning conclusions of the Moorer Commission in 2003, no subsequent US administration has dared break an apparent vow of silence.
It’s time to honor both Liberty’s victims and remaining survivors. It’s time to tell the American people what happened on that day and why.”
None of those leading US journals included my letter above in their pages. In a June 27 email to Times Middle East correspondent Ben Hubbard, I noted that the 50th anniversary of the Israeli attacks on the USS Liberty had passed without recognition and “wondered why there was then and continuing to now no coverage by the major media.” I never received a response.
Just as the Hammond piece broke the web of silence around the downing of the Iranian airliner, the regional Cape Cod Times newspaper fearlessly published my letter quoted above. A few days later the CCT included my second letter inviting readers who still regard the attack as an innocent mistake to view the online videos and survivor interviews.
However, the purpose of this article is not to recount details of the attack or the differing interpretations it has generated. Interested readers can find examples of both in the more than a dozen books on the subject available on Amazon and in survivor-narrated videos available on the Internet.
Rather, our purpose is to ask why the mainstream media continues to participate in a continuing official cover-up.
While the New York Times and other American newspapers slept through the Liberty’s 50th anniversary and survivor events, the Israeli journal Haaretz on July11 cited a CIA document, still partly censored, that relates a conversation between an Israeli pilot and the Israeli Defense Force war room prior to the attack. The material language appears in article’s title: “‘But Sir, It’s an American Ship.’ Never Mind, Hit Her! When Israel Attacked USS Liberty.” That Haaretz published this story a week ago shows that the topic remains current fifty years on.
The above cited FPJ article observes that “the lack of mention of the [Iranian shootdown] …illustrates an institutionalized bias in the media.” By failing to report on the Liberty affair and subsequent investigations, the New York Times and other mainstream journals have committed a similar sin of omission.