The Attack On the USS Liberty

Book Review of The Attack on the USS Liberty: The Untold Story of Israel’s Deadly 1967 Attack on a US Spy Ship by James Scott

This is a five star book which anyone with an interest in the intersection of foreign policy/domestic politics/military force will find worth reading. It is a serious book on a serious subject: the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. The author, James Scott, is an award-winning journalist from my home state of South Carolina and was a Nieman fellow at Harvard University in 2006/07.

I had no idea what that was so I looked it up on Wikipedia. Executive summary: if you are one hell of a journalist, you are selected to go Harvard and spend a year in a self-designed study program and they pay the freight through the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. I met James at the South Carolina Book Fest when we spoke on the same panel.

He did meticulous research for his book, including filing suit against the US Government for records they had suppressed. I make particular note that this is an examination of the attack based solely on verifiable facts from official records and interviews with surviving crew as well as several military men in Israel who were part of that attack. This isn’t an anti-Semitic screed of any sort nor would I review such a book.

James Scott’s father was a young Ensign aboard the Liberty but rather than detract, this animates the narrative because of the personal correspondence James was privy to. If he is trying to tell his father’s story or vindicate his father in some way, that isn’t evident.

There are many impressive things about this book but the most impressive to me is this: Mr. Scott does not speculate on what people were thinking or why the Israelis attacked the Liberty or who ordered it because these facts are simply not available. The attack wasn’t a mistake. Someone ordered that it be done. The ship was torpedoed by Israeli patrol boats, and repeatedly strafed by Israeli air force jets. The ship itself was flying its colors the entire time and, like all warships in peacetime, had its identification numbers painted in large letters on the hull. The Israelis knew this was an American ship.

As a journalist, Mr. Scott presents only those facts he could correlate from several reputable sources. This is refreshing.

I can say that what made me the most angry was not the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. It was how our government treated the officers and crew. The details are in the book so I won’t go through them. Suffice it to say that we as a nation make lots of promises to the young men and women who join the armed forces and if they are seriously injured and disabled, the government treats them like beggars.

The expose in the Washington Post last year of the neglect of our wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital simply confirms that this practice continues.

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

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