More on the attack on the Gaza aid flotilla

I have discussed in the past (see here and here) that all governments know the value right after a major event of controlling the message and getting their version of the story out first, especially if it is false.

The least effective way to do this is to actually own the media or practice overt censorship because then everyone sees propaganda for what it is. The most effective, as in the US, is have the aid of sycophantic major media that will self-censor and bias their reporting towards the point of view that puts their own country and government in the best light.

In other countries, where there is at least one major media outlet that may be willing to take a critical look, the government has to take quick steps after events that make the government look bad, like the murder this week by Israeli troops of peace activists on the aid flotilla. What Israel did was to immediately confine the people it captured on the boats, at last for a day or two, so that their version of events is suppressed while pro-Israel sources get to set the storyline. They did a similar clampdown during their assault on Gaza in 2008.

But as Glenn Greenwald points out, such a policy directly contradicts the ludicrous Israeli claim that they are the true victims in this incident:

Isn’t it strange how Plucky, Democratic Israel goes to such extreme lengths to prevent any media coverage of what they do, any journalistic interference with their propaganda machine, in light of the fact that — as always — They Did Absolutely Nothing Wrong? Is physically blocking the media from covering what happens the act of a government that is in the right? Thomas Jefferson answered that question quite some time ago:

Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues of truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is freedom of the press. It is therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.

Israel is now not only detaining the victims of its aggression, but also threatening to prosecute and imprison them. Israeli Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said yesterday: “All those who lifted a hand against a soldier will be punished to the full extent of the law.” So when Israel seizes ships in international waters and kills anyone who resists (and others standing near them), that is an act of noble, plucky self-defense. But those who fail to submit completely to this lawless and barbarous act of aggression are the Real Criminals who will be prosecuted and imprisoned “to the fullest extent of the law.” In other words, not only is Israel — which seized ships in international waters and killed civilians — the Real Victim, but the Real Criminals are those on the ship.

Former CIA intelligence analyst Ray McGovern adds some interesting background about the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty that I wrote about yesterday. He says that Israel had actually planned to kill off every single one of the US servicemen on the vessel and was only prevented from doing so because one sailor managed to get a distress message off to the US Sixth Fleet.

The Israelis later insisted that the strafing and torpedo attacks were accidents in the fog of war. However, U.S. intelligence intercepted Israeli conversations at the time showing the attacks were deliberate, and their nature and persistence showed clear intent to sink the Liberty and leave no survivors.

Israeli commandos clad in black were about to land from helicopters and finish off what remained of the Liberty crew when Seaman Terry Halbardier (later awarded the Silver Star) slid over the Liberty’s napalm-greased deck to jury-rig an antenna and get an SOS off to the Sixth Fleet.

Israeli forces intercepted the SOS and quickly broke off the attack. But 34 of the Liberty crew were killed and over 170 wounded.

To avoid exacerbating relations with Israel, the U.S. Navy was ordered to cover up the deliberate nature of the attack, and the surviving crew was threatened with imprisonment, if they so much as told their wives. When some of the crew later called for an independent investigation, they were hit with charges of anti-Semitism. (my emphasis)

There is a poignant link of that 1967 attack with this week’s attack on the aid flotilla:

One of the surviving crew of the USS Liberty, decorated Navy veteran Joe Meadors, was with the “Freedom Flotilla” when it was attacked on Sunday night. Meadors is past president of the USS Liberty Veterans Association. The State Department tells us that Joe Meadors survived this latest Israeli attack. At last word, he sits in an Israeli jail.

McGovern points out that Obama’s cowardliness and timidity towards Israel is only going to make things worse and increase that country’s reckless behavior as it accelerates its aggressive campaign of building settlements in the occupied territories and fomenting war fever against Iran.

As President, he has backed down at every significant moment when Netanyahu thumbed his nose at Obama or at Vice President Joe Biden.

Obama knew about the “Freedom Flotilla” and its plan to bring supplies to Gaza. And he had to be aware of Israel’s threats to attack the relief ships. But, like Uncle Remus’s B’rer Fox, Obama “don’t say nothin.’”

More and more people around the globe are seeing Obama as subservient to the Likud Lobby, perhaps not as enthusiastically as Bush was, but still unwilling to put action behind his occasional words of dissatisfaction. Important players in the Middle East, as well as increasingly assertive countries like Turkey and Brazil, conclude that the policies and behavior of Tel Aviv and Washington are virtually identical.

Right on cue, Washington is dutifully playing its assigned role in the cover-up that has already begun, which is to block any concerted international action against Israel:

The United States has blocked demands at the UN security council for an international inquiry into Israel’s assault on the Turkish ship carrying aid to Gaza that left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead.

A compromise statement instead calls for an impartial investigation which Washington indicated could be carried out by Israel.

The Americans also blocked criticism of Israel for violating international law by assaulting a ship in international waters in the security council statement proposed by Turkey, the Palestinians and Arab nations. (my emphasis)

Of course Obama thinks that Israel can conduct an impartial inquiry of its actions, just as I am sure he thinks that BP should conduct the impartial inquiry into the gulf oil disaster.

Ken Silverstein of Harper’s magazine outlines the predictable way that media coverage in the US will play out and the kinds of things that Israel’s reflexive apologists in the US will say, and concludes “Give it up, guys. When you starve and imprison the West Bank and Gaza, deny equal rights to your growing Arab population, repeatedly flout international law in launching military attacks that kill civilians, etc etc etc the word democracy either doesn’t apply or has no meaning.”

Whether it is the case that the US is Israel’s puppet or the other way around is becoming irrelevant. The US and Israel are seen by the rest of the world as conjoined twins engaged in lawlessness, and the inevitable consequence will be more attacks on the US by those harmed by Israeli actions and see the US as its patron and enabler. While this collusion may please those who want create the impression that the interests of the US and Israel are identical, it can only be of concern to those who care about peace and justice.

POST SCRIPT: Stephen Colbert nails the Sunday morning talk shows

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The latest atrocity by Israel

There is nothing that I can add to Glenn Greenwald’s description of Israel’s descent into becoming a brutal nation that ignores international law and just plain human decency, as it continues its strangling of the people of Gaza with their blockade. This blockade, imposed after the deadly assault on Gaza in December 2008, destroyed a lot of its infrastructure such as water and power supplies and hospitals, and the aid flotilla was trying to both ameliorate the awful conditions as well as draw attention to the plight of Gazans.

Of course the US government and Congress and major media in the US, enablers of Israel’s out-of-control belligerence, will downplay this appalling crime by giving huge amounts of coverage to the Israel government’s justifications for its appalling actions which will consist of claiming that they are the true victims. Watch how Obama and Clinton will dance around this issue, just after expressing anger at North Korea and threatening punishment for the sinking of a South Korea warship Cheonan that killed 46 sailors.

As Greenwald says, “Just ponder what we’d be hearing if Iran had raided a humanitarian ship in international waters and killed 15 or so civilians aboard.”

Recall how these same groups downplayed, covered up, and sent down the memory hole even the 1967 Israeli attack on an American warship the USS Liberty that killed 34 US servicemen and reduced that state-of-the-art intelligence gathering ship to scrap. This 2005 report, prepared on behalf of the survivors of the attack, gives with footnotes the details of what happened. Note that the Liberty was not equipped for fighting and so could not defend itself.

On June 8, 1967 while patrolling in international waters[2] in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, USS Liberty (AGTR-5) was savagely attacked without warning or justification by air and naval forces of the state of Israel.[3]

Of a crew of 294 officers and men[4] (including three civilians)[5], the ship suffered thirty four (34) killed in action and one hundred seventy three (173) wounded in action.[6] The ship itself, a Forty Million ($40,000,000) Dollar state of the art signals intelligence (SIGINT) platform, was so badly damaged that it never sailed on an operational mission again and was sold in 1970 for $101,666.66 as scrap[7] .

Israel acknowledged the following facts without qualification:
a. USS Liberty was an American ship, hence a neutral vis-à-vis the June 1967 war between Israel and its Arab neighbors.[8]
b. USS Liberty remained in international waters at all times on June 8, 1967[9] .
c. The attacking Israeli forces never made a positive identification of the nationality of USS Liberty before unleashing deadly force in their attack on the ship.[10]

At approximately 0600 hours (all times local) on the morning of June 8, 1967 an Israeli maritime reconnaissance aircraft observer reported seeing “a US Navy cargo type ship,” just outside the coverage of the Israeli coastal radar defense net, bearing the hull markings “GTR-5″.[11] This report, made to Israeli naval HQ, was also forwarded immediately to the Israeli navy intelligence directorate.[12]

Throughout the remainder of the day prior to the attack, Israeli reconnaissance aircraft regularly flew out to USS Liberty’s position and orbited the ship before returning to their bases in Israel. A total of no fewer than eight (8) such flights were made.[13]

At approximately 1050 hours, the naval observer from the early morning reconnaissance flight arrived at Israeli air force HQ and sat down with the air-naval liaison officer there. The two officers consulted Janes’ Fighting Ships and learned that the ship reported earlier in the day was USS Liberty, a United States Navy technical research ship.[14]

From 0900 hours on June 8, 1967, until the time of the attack five hours later, USS Liberty maintained a speed of approximately five knots and a generally westerly-northwesterly course.[15]

At 1400 hours, while approximately 17 miles off the Gaza coast, USS Liberty’s crew observed three surface radar contacts closing with their position at high speed. A few moments later, the bridge radar crew observed high speed aircraft passing over the surface returns on the same heading.[16]

Within a few short moments, and without any warning, Israeli fighter aircraft launched a rocket attack on USS Liberty. The aircraft made repeated firing passes, attacking USS Liberty with rockets and their internal cannons. After the first flight of fighter aircraft had exhausted their ordnance, subsequent flights of Israeli fighter aircraft continued to prosecute the attack with rockets, cannon fire, and napalm. [17]

During the air attack, USS Liberty’s crew had difficulty contacting Sixth Fleet to request assistance due to intense communications jamming[18]

The initial targets on the ship were the command bridge, communications antennas, and the four .50 caliber machine guns, placed on the ship to repel boarders.[19]

After the Israeli fighter aircraft completed their attacks, three Israeli torpedo boats arrived and began a surface attack about 35 minutes after the start of the air attack. The torpedo boats launched a total of five torpedoes, one of which struck the side of USS Liberty, opposite the ship’s research spaces. [20] Twenty-six Americans in addition to the eight who had been killed in the earlier air attacks, were killed as a result of this explosion.

Following their torpedo attack, the torpedo boats moved up and down the length of the ship (both the port and starboard sides), continuing their attack, raking the ship with cannon and machine gun fire.[21] In Malta, crewmen were later assigned the task of counting all of the holes in the ship that were the size of a man’s hand or larger. They found a total of 861 such holes, in addition to “thousands” of .50 caliber machine gun holes.

Survivors report that the torpedo boat crews swept the decks of USS Liberty with continuous machine gun fire, targeting communications equipment and any crewmembers who ventured above decks.[22]

Damage control firefighters, who had already risked their lives merely by appearing on deck, had to abandon their efforts because their fire hoses had been shredded by machine gun fire.[23]

Survivors also report that the torpedo boat crews fired on the inflated life boats launched by the crew after the captain gave the order “prepare to abandon ship.”[24] This order had to be rescinded because the crew was unable to stand on the main deck without being fired upon and the life rafts were destroyed as they were launched.[25]

The defenseless crew, initially unable to report their plight or summon assistance and with only themselves to rely upon, fought heroically to save themselves and their ship. In recognition of their effort in this single action, they were ultimately awarded collectively one Medal of Honor, two Navy Crosses, eleven Silver Stars, twenty Bronze Stars (with “V” device), nine Navy Commendation Medals, and two hundred and four Purple Hearts. In addition, the ship was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

Many countries have been retaliated against and even invaded by the US for far less provocation, but this attack, so brazen and outrageous, did not provoke any serious reaction.

If such a deadly and unprovoked attack by Israel on a US ship did not result in any repercussions, should we be surprised that Israel takes the view that it can do anything it likes to anyone anywhere and that the US will support it?