Iowa veterans honor 45th anniversary of USS Liberty attack

BY ERIC LIGHTNER | JUNE 08, 2012 6:30 AM

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Forty-five years after the attack on the USS Liberty by Israeli forces, many still have questions about why it was allowed to happen and who was responsible.

The University of Iowa Veterans Association, working with the Veterans for Peace, will host a community remembrance at noon today on the Pentacrest to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the attack on the USS Liberty by Israeli forces during the Six-Day War.

"[The purpose of the event] is first and foremost to honor those who died in the event and help out the survivors of the attack," said Ed Flaherty, the Iowa Veterans for Peace coordinator.

In the Six-Day War, Israel won a key victory against Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. The USS Liberty was sent by the United States to spy on the communications of all warring parties. The attack resulted in the deaths of 34 American Navy servicemen and a civilian, and the attack remains controversial today.

UI history Professor Stephen Vlastos said it's unlikely all questions surrounding the USS Liberty attack will ever be answered.

"Because of the U.S./Israeli alliance, it is unlikely that an inquiry would be objective," he said when asked about the possibility of a Congressional inquiry into the event.

This, Vlastos points out, is another example of the double standard by which the United States treats most of its allies.

While Israeli and U.S. government officials both maintain the attack was simply the result of a breakdown in communication between the Israeli forces and the U.S. Navy, former U.S. Rep. Paul Findley, R-Ill., maintains the attack was deliberate.

"The Israeli government almost succeeded in destroying an American Navy ship and blaming the attack on the Arab governments," he said.

He said he believes the attack was an attempt by Israeli forces to solidify its alliance with the United States and to draw the United States into the Six-Day War.

Flaherty said there was more to the story than the government narrative. He said the Iowa chapter wrote to the office of Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, in December 2011 asking for an official Congressional investigation to the attacks that occurred 45 years ago.

Flaherty said Loebsack's office contacted the Navy, which in turn sent Loebsack a copy of declassified documents from the investigation into the incident labeling it as an accident. The congressman sent the documents to the Iowa Veterans for Peace.

"At this point, the request for a Congressional investigation — let's call it a long shot," Flaherty said. He hopes the observance will remind the public of the injustices of war, he said.

Kenneth "Mike" Schaley, a Cedar Rapids native who served on the USS Liberty during the attack, will attend the event and speaking about the attack.

The official mission of the Veterans for Peace is to speak out against war, but Flaherty and UI Veterans Association officials acknowledge that this isn't necessarily a stance shared by all veterans.

"The University of Iowa Veterans Association is neither a pro-war or antiwar organization, but we feel that this an important event in history, so we decided to sponsor the event," said John Mikelson, coordinator of the UI Veterans Center.

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