Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

December 21, 2012

STUMPTALK: Benghazi was not the first

CROSSVILLE — President Obama and his administration continue to receive deserved criticism for their handling of the Benghazi attack, but history shows that putting Americans in needless danger or leaving them to swing in the wind for political reasons is not new. Here are some of the more egregious examples from history:

In 1983, some smart people in the Reagan State Department thought it a good idea to make 240 Marines sitting duck targets for terrorists at the Beirut, Lebanon, airport. “Showing the flag” seems to be a recurrent theme in exercises like that. “A strong U.S. presence” was supposed to reassure U.S. allies in the region. Some reassurance: a truck bomb ended the lives of 243 Marines. At the time, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger and his close advisers in the DOD objected to positioning the Marines that way, but the striped pants crowd overruled them. The buck stopped with President Reagan, of course.

The 1968 North Korean attack on the USS Pueblo, killing one crewman, followed by the taking of the ship and the one year imprisonment of the Pueblo crew provides another example of Americans hazarded and unprotected for reasons not understandable to ordinary people. In that Cold War environment where “everyone knew” that everyone else was spying, things like this were not supposed to happen.   

Pueblo was a small, lightly armed (two fifty caliber machine guns) intelligence gathering, converted cargo ship designed to listen in on electronic communication from the communist Asian mainland. No one was supposed to mind, you see, because Soviet fishing trawlers did the same thing off the coast of the U.S. A spying quid pro quo was supposed to exist between Cold War opponents. North Korean officials didn’t get the memo.

Worse, American Naval forces could have assisted Pueblo but did not. Put this one on the Lyndon Johnson administration. Then after their release from the North Korean prison, when Commander Bucher and the Pueblo crew returned to California, no one from official Washington greeted them. California Governor Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, greeted the skipper and his crew at the California airport, but no one from the White House or the DOD. To add insult to injury, the Navy wanted to court martial Commander Bucher for dereliction of duty. To his credit, President Nixon stopped the court martial.

The most disgraceful example of official abandonment of Americans in danger and the appalling cover-up afterwards was the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty on the fourth day of the 1967 Arab Israeli War. The cover up, vigorously aided and abetted by the Israeli lobby and their handmaids in the U.S. government and the U.S. Congress, continues to anger and outrage Americans with firsthand knowledge of the event, that is, those Naval personnel on board Liberty during the attack. In fact, when they have tried to get the truth of the incident to the nation, they have been stonewalled by publishers and the media and called anti-Semites by the Israeli lobby.

Here’s what happened: As the Liberty, a World War II cargo ship which had been converted to carry sophisticated electronic intelligence gathering equipment, steamed slowly in international waters 14 miles from the Sinai Peninsula, waves of low-flying Israeli fighter bombers attacked the ship with rockets, napalm and cannon. The air attack lasted 20 minutes. Liberty was left afire, listing sharply. Eight crewmen had been killed and the captain seriously wounded. About a half an hour later, Israelis attacked again, this time with torpedo boats, killing 25 more Americans. In total, the Israeli attacks killed 34 Americans and wounded 171.

Claims of mistaken identity by Israeli officials were and continue to be lies, for Liberty carried a large American flag; furthermore, six hours before the afternoon attacks, Israeli recon aircraft had flown over the ship. They knew who they were attacking and did it anyway because they feared that actual intelligence would conflict with the official Israeli accounts of the events that precipitated the Six Day War.

For starkly immoral political reasons, President Lyndon Johnson’s administration covered up the true circumstances of the attack and, under the influence of the Israeli lobby, succeeding administrations have continued the cover up. Appeasing an influential American lobby was and has been more important than the lives of American sailors and Marines.

And by the way, going back to the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor one can see another example of Americans made sitting ducks by politicians. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Samuel Richardson advised President Roosevelt that stationing the fleet in Pearl Harbor was provocative. He therefore advised moving the fleet back to Long Beach, CA. For that, Roosevelt replaced him with Admiral Husband Kimmel, who, after the infamous attack, became a favorite political scapegoat.

And so on. I also suggest readers look at the impossible situation Major Robert Anderson faced at Fort Sumter prior to the War Between the States in 1861.

From time immemorial, leaders of powerful nations have shown little regard for the lives of their fighting men. Power warps their character, or maybe those who seek power have none to begin with.

• • •

Stumptalk is published weekly in the Crossville Chronicle. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. To contact Stumptalk, email coordinator Phil Billington at stumptalk@charter.net.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Lion and the Lamb: A promised land?

    Back in biblical times there was a group of people who believed that God had promised them a segment of land on this planet that would be theirs forever. Who could have known back then that this ancient promise and territorial justification would be used by their descendants today to claim the same segment of land?

    July 29, 2014

  • We the People: Bring back the American dream

    Our economy continues to expand. The stock market is at record levels, yet many ask why so many of us are struggling?  Barely half of us believe the American dream is attainable.

    July 29, 2014

  • Tidbits: Taking a low-tech break

    Feeling increasingly strangled by my electronic leash, with phone, text messages, email, social media and a variety of other forms of communication always at my side, I took the weekend off.

    July 28, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Governing before and after mass corruption

    Laws in America were originally written simply. Every citizen could read them quickly and understand their meaning. The founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution of the United States, none of which was longer than 4,500 words.

    July 28, 2014

  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Parade
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Renewed Violence Taking Toll on Gaza Residents 2 Americans Detained in North Korea Seek Help US Employers Add 209K Jobs, Rate 6.2 Pct House GOP Optimistic About New Border Bill Gaza Truce Unravels; Israel, Hamas Trade Blame Raw: Tunisia Closes Borders With Libya Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014