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Myths about the 1967 Israeli "Preemptive Strike"
History in the Making: State Rules on the 1967 Arab-Israeli War
Broadcast Live on
The United States, the Middle East, and the 1967 Arab-Israeli War
Monday, January 12, 2004 9:00 AM
Loy Henderson Auditorium and Delegates' Lounge - US Dept. of State
Panel #1 War, Intelligence, and the USS Liberty
Dr. Marc Susser, Historian, US Department of State
Dr. David Robarge, CIA History Staff
Hon Jay Cristol, US Bankruptcy Court, S. District of Florida
James Bamford, retired journalist, author of "Body of Secrets"
Dr. Michael Oren, Shalem Center, Jerusalem
The US Department of State panel discussion opening the two day
conference on the 1967 Arab-Israeli war brought little clarity or unanimity about one of
many tragic outcomes of the war, the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. Although the
State Department opened the session declaring that the Israeli attack which killed 34
Americans and wounded 170 was an accident, two hours of panel presentations brought
acrimonious debate and counter charges of cover-ups. The question and answer session
took an Orwellian turn as moderator Marc Susser shouted down speeches from the floor by
USS Liberty survivors, pleading, "we're trying to have an academic discussion!"
The heated argument called for clarification. How valuable is an official history
based on what James Bamford called "opinions" with no formal investigation as
thorough as the USS Cole? Why does the conflict about the USS Liberty continue to
steam ahead, nearly four decades after the attack? What does it reveal about US
interests and the feelings Americans have about the US-Israeli relationship? IRmep
attempted to find out.
Marc Susser, Historian, State Department: Do you have a question?
IRmep: It seems as though the Liberty is really serving here as a
metaphor. Some kind of proxy battle in which for Israelis abroad and in the US it is
a symbol of perhaps US unfairness or even anti-Semitism to even raise this question. For Americans it
reflects this growing discomfort of the Israeli-US relation, and kind of the fact that in
the US, the founding Father, George Washington didn't want us to have any 'passionate
attachments' to foreign countries like we've grown to have.
I'd like to ask the panel in general whether you think this is a proxy battle, and whether
the Liberty is really the issue.
Marc Susser: Any Volunteers? Just a brief answer...
Jay Cristol: I think that the answer is that certainly there are people
who are on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict who are arguing this issue, and sadly I
think that's unfortunate from a historian's point of view, because we're here to find
history. If there is any new evidence out there that anybody has send it to me and I'll
incorporate it in my work. If I find proof going in a different direction, I'll gladly
disclose it. But I think that unfortunately people who have their own agendas keep this
thing alive and keep torturing the survivors, like poor Joe Lantini, who, if after these
years he wants to believe that that the attack was intentional, if that gives him comfort.
Bless him. Let him so believe. But I suggest that if you are interested in the history,
look at the facts and make your own decision.
Note: George Orwell correctly identified what is at stake in defining 'official
histories'. "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the
the past". Public and academic participation in this conference derailed an
official attempt to lay to rest a range of controversies related to the 1967 war.
Official historians take note: only by involving and listening to scholars with no
compromising political or economic interests can we approach history and policy as honest
researchers. In the US, less genuine attempts are ultimately doomed to