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US: The USS Liberty episode

Regarding the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, Hank Greely asked: "Why would Israel do that on the eve of the six day war? To prevent (or hinder) US eavesdropping on Israeli and Arab communications? To pretend that Arab planes had attacked the Liberty as a provocation? To try to anger their main ally as war loomed? I really am having a difficult time seeing a reasonable motive".

Ed Jajko explains: "The ship was not attacked on the eve of the war, but a couple of days into it, on 8 June 1967. The combined Arab air forces had already been destroyed, so there could have been no possibility of blaming the Arabs for the attack. (Some say that the Israelis were able to destroy the enemy air forces, mostly while they were still on the ground, only with the help of aerial photography and intelligence provided by Americans piloting Israeli planes.) The ship was there to eavesdrop on Israeli and Arab communications. Intelligence-gathering was the sole mission of the Liberty. While there are those who maintain, in the face of the evidence, that the attack was an unfortunate mistake, no one has revealed or been able to figure out the reason for the attack. Various reasons have been suggested, among them that the Israelis were planning their attack on Syria to take the Golan Heights and didn't want the Americans to know of their plans. Other, more sinister reasons have been suggested. The Liberty had no escort and no protection other than her relatively useless .50 caliber machine guns. She was sent into the war zone while the Sixth Fleet was kept well away. Those given to conspiracy theories have seen in this a US-Israeli conspiracy to ignite a wider war by offering up the Liberty. A British writer maintains that the US was on the point of going into the war on the Israeli side and that US naval airplanes were already prepared for a nuclear strike on Cairo. When I was in Cairo on the first two days of the war, before being transferred to Alexandria and being interned in a hotel until the end of the war, I heard announcements on the public loudspeakers that the US had indeed joined in the war on the Israeli side".

Ronald Hilton - 4/28/03