A Congress to Be Proud of

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent address to a joint session of Congress was an outstanding personal success. Fifty-seven times the Congress applauded including 25 standing ovations. How sweet it was! No doubt some members were more perfunctory in their applause or slow to rise to their feet for those numerous standing ovations. In this particular Congress it isn’t politically healthy to be seen behaving too different from the masses. The atmosphere surely was something to behold, as if Winston Churchill, George Washington, Mother Theresa, and Nelson Mandela were personified in the person of the speaker. Here spoke the leader of a country with a national product comparable to that of Italy, supported consistently by legislation and political action on the part of his hosts. These include billions of dollars in monetary largess, sophisticated weaponry transfers often without cost and consistent political cover in a generally Israel-hostile United Nations. Israel must be a very special friend to be worthy of so much support and adoration. All the same, was there not one among 535 senators and representatives willing to speak out and question certain constructs of this almost mass hysteria? Perhaps scenes of this nature are the costs of a democracy?

Are our representatives so lacking in recent historical perspective? Congress surely is suffering from some form of mass dementia. Have members no recollections of the 1967 attack on the USS Liberty, an American naval ship operating off the Gaza coastline monitoring the Egyptian-Israeli war? The attackers were Israeli military aircraft and naval torpedo boats. The attack lasted nearly two hours and killed 34 Americans while wounding scores more. Mistakes are part of warfare and it might be that none of the Israeli pilots flying as low as 200 feet above water saw the oversize American flag(s). But Israeli aircraft had been shadowing the Liberty for six consecutive hours prior to the attack. Perhaps the pilots were not properly trained in flag recognition? Perhaps the torpedo boat commanders also lacked training in flag recognition? More awkward to explain was the concerted and lengthy effort by the torpedo boats and planes to destroy all life saving apparatus aboard the Liberty during and after a torpedo struck the ship?

Life rafts and life boats all were targeted almost as if witnesses to the unprovoked attack might later prove embarrassing.

On the other hand, if these attacks were accidental as claimed by the Israeli Government, why have American investigators consistently been denied access to the pilots and boat commanders or to review communications between attackers and headquarters? This is strange behavior on the part of our special friend and trusted ally. More telling, is this not strange collective behavior by members of Congress who seem confused in recognizing just what country they are elected in and whose citizens they are paid to represent. Surely sailors killed during that 1967 unprovoked attack on the Liberty warrant congressional investigations and less applause for the leader of the country responsible for the killings. Can one imagine applause and standing ovations for the Japanese Prime Minister speaking to a joint session of Congress and denying events that occurred at Pearl Harbor?

William Stanley is a retired geography professor, University of South Carolina, and Korean War marine veteran. Read other articles by William.