Representative Elijah Cummings Stands Tall for the USS Liberty Vets

1186749352 By Sidney O. Smith III


First an admission.  “Elijah” has always ranked very, very high on my list of favorite names.  Unlike Freud and according to tradition, Elijah reconciles father with son and mother with daughter.  And as some unique Americans, the Satmar Rabbis, will tell you, the appearance of Elijah portends very good things to come, much like watching the sun breaking through and then rising above the ocean on a beautiful early morning.  


So Elijah comes across as the anti-Freud and let’s face it, at least a few of the intelligentsia, among others, tend to view as a guru Sigmund and his (perhaps misunderstood) mantra of you too can think like an angry 4 year-old all your life. And while I am not graced with either theological virtues or insights, much less the life that such would entail, I am inclined to prefer Elijah and his approach to that of Freud. 



And let’s not forget Mahalia Jackson’s song, Elijah Rock.  For those not initiated — and methinks there are a few on the left, right  and center — go ahead and listen to the song.  And read all the lyrics too because the First Lady of Gospel music may have a royal message just for you.


Elijah Rock shout shout
Elijah Rock comin' up Lord
Elijah Rock shout shout
Elijah Rock comin' up Lord


So, in that light, U.S. Representative Elijah E. Cummings from Maryland just rocked my secular bones, like a “shout, shout” from heaven.  On June 8, 2009, Representative Elijah E. Cummings stood before Congress and spoke words that deserve not only the title of “honorable” but also uttered words that history should celebrate as moral courage par excellence. 


Representative Elijah Cummings did what few others in Congress have dared to do, although many have been called.  He publicly honored the USS Liberty vets and their families.  Oh Lord, Halleluyah!  Unlike others, who will only venture such consolations “off the record” and at a whisper below sotto voce, Representative Cummings stood before Congress and, in a loud and clear voice, placed on our nation’s record healing words of justice and for all to judge, including, if one has a religious imagination, all those Liberty vets buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  Read the entire tribute in the Congressional Record (thanks to John Gidusko — Liberty vet survivor) or, at a minimum, at least consider his following words that should and will ring for all eternity.


Despite the continuing efforts to uncover the real truths about the attack, Martin Luther King Jr., said it best– “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” Although no amount of time can ever erase the memories of that tragic event or bring back those who perished, it is my hope that the wounds of their loved ones have begun to heal.


Elijah Rock!


But with Representative Cummings’ speech now part of the historical record, questions arise and do they ever.  One may ask, “Is Senator Webb born fighting for the USS Liberty?”  Perhaps it would be worthwhile to ask that very question to Liberty vet survivor Bryce Lockwood, particularly after you read the 2007 Chicago Tribune article titled, “New Revelations in attack on American Spy Ship”.  Here is a quote from the article:


Bryce Lockwood, Marine staff sergeant, Russian-language expert, recipient of the Silver Star for heroism, ordained Baptist minister, is shouting into the phone.

"I'm angry! I'm seething with anger! Forty years, and I'm seething with anger!"


Can you blame this outstanding US Marine and man of faith for grappling with such rage?  42 years and counting…and nothing.   Absolutely nothing. As Representative Cummings suggested in his tribute to the Liberty vets, MLK Jr. said it best. The “appalling silence of the good people”. 


And, in regard to that good man and genuine war hero, Senator Jim Webb, the following is an indisputable fact: James Webb graduated from Georgetown law school in 1975.  He, therefore, was the equivalent of an officer of the court when he became US Secretary of the Navy — a position he held from May 1, 1987 until February 23, 1988. 


And just prior to Jim Webb assuming the office of Secretary of the Navy,  the Navy Law Review published  in Vol. 36 (1986) an article titled, A Juridical Examination of the Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty  by Lt. Commander Walter Jacobsen, JAG.  The entire law review article is worth a read but, if nothing else, just remember that the abstract summary states that “the author concludes that the attack was not supportable in international law and recommends a thorough, public investigation into the attack by the United States Congress.


Lt. Commander Jacobsen’s conclusion is consistent with the recurring VFW Resolution that calls for the same.  And it is safe to say that the Navy Law Review and the VFW come across as rock solid America, meaning E Pluribus Unum, and, therefore, hardly bastions of extremism.


While Jim Webb was Secretary of the Navy, he knew or should have known about the Liberty incident.  So as an officer of the court, he, arguably, was obligated to take a stand on whether or not probable cause exists for a Congressional investigation as well as a hearing that focuses exclusively on the attack.  Yet…nothing from this good man, Jim Webb.


And if you check the table of contents of Senator Webb’s latest book, A Time to Fight: Reclaiming a Fair and Just America, the USS Liberty incident apparently is not on his political radar, at least at the time of writing. So here’s hoping Senator Webb will reconsider and maybe add to his latest work an epilogue, perhaps titled something like, “Reborn Fighting for the USS Liberty”.  


After all, as Representative Cummings has proven, promoting the cause of the USS Liberty is one way to reclaim a fair and just America, no?  Besides, it is never too late to take a stand.  And we all know Senator Webb is as qualified as any elected official to bring closure for the Liberty vets and their families.    (Probably an apology to the Liberty vets would help, though).  


The appalling silence of the good people. Why-oh-why hasn’t the Jewish American “left” stood up for the Liberty vets?  Or, perhaps, more optimistically, when-oh-when will the “left”, such as Ms. Katrina van Heuvel, stand tall for the Liberty vets.  I mean, it has only been 42 plus years and no word yet.  Nothing.  Nada.  No doubt, this appalling silence of the good people is not only a mystery but also a total travesty to a tradition that prides itself, and rightly so, on “justice for all”.


So what gives with the Jewish American left? Do slaughtered NSA and USN personnel, of all races and walks of life, not qualify for the left’s “justice for all”?  Does the Liberty incident lack cachet?  Does promoting the cause of justice for the Liberty vets not score high enough to include on a resumé and may, darn it, even hurt that long-term goal of working on Wall Street?


It is difficult to fathom the appalling silence of the Jewish American left on the USS Liberty incident, particularly when one realizes that continuing the repression of the attack, in all likelihood, will increase the probability of a backlash and even lead to a rise of anti-Semitism in the United States. Such a repression of this injustice may even place pressure on what I have described as the Touro Covenant— a secular covenant from 1790 that gave birth to the uniquely American experience in which Jew and Gentile (by that, I mean any non-Jew) have shared much more than just a contractual relationship but, instead, a friendship and even a kinship.  


Stated a bit differently, because of the Touro Covenant, all in all, the American experience has been a good ride for all of us.  So, as the thinking goes, the Touro Covenant must survive the attack on the USS Liberty.  Ergo, Jewish Americans who stand up and state, publicly, whether or not probable cause exists for a Congressional investigation into the Liberty attack will help the Touro Covenant stay intact. 


And note the legal standard of proof here: it simply is one of probable cause, not even the higher standards of clear and convincing or beyond a reasonable doubt, because no one knows the ultimate truth. But, that said, one aspect is irrefutable: the Liberty vets were denied their (de facto) day in court via a Congressional hearing — the only time in US history where a navy ship was attacked and such a hearing never took place.


And we also know beyond a reasonable doubt that Liberty vet survivor and Jewish American “Rocky” Sturman is part of the Touro Covenant.  Over twenty years ago, and at about the same time when James Webb became Secretary of the Navy, Rocky Sturman, who, I have been told, has worn a Star of David when interviewed, placed on the record his views of the attack on the USS Liberty.   Here are his words: “Please keep in mind that an investigation is warranted because of the years of research….”


Yet the appalling silence of the good people continues.  The silence is bizarre.  Perhaps a few of the Jewish American left, even the morally courageous who are on the cutting edge, such as Phil Weiss, are too imbued with Freud to take up for those such as the Liberty vets.   After all, the Liberty vets and their families, as evidenced by their serving in the US military, are part of a tradition of our founding fathers that goes back to George Washington — the man who, along with Moses Seixas, gave us the Touro Synagogue letters.  


In other words, the Liberty vets have stood for the flag of our fathers, so to speak, and this flag includes the ensign that flew from the USS Liberty on that clear day the Israelis attacked this essentially unarmed ship while steaming in international waters.  But, with the flag of our fathers in mind, check out what Weiss wrote back on March 24, 2009:  “Admittedly, in midlife, oedipal energies ebbing, I find investigative journalism wearying and predictable….”


Admittedly, indeed.   Freud, again, among the NY left.


No one on this planet will defend Phil Weiss more than I.  When you look at Weiss’ work while in Gaza, he potentially is America’s next Dr. Robert Coles. No one more richly deserves a Pulitzer and certainly history will praise his work, so all Americans should spread the word about his website, Mondoweiss.  Suffice it to say if anyone is part of the Touro Covenant and the underlying spirit of E Pluribus Unum, it is Phil Weiss as well as his colleagues. But when I read those words,  the only thought that came to my mind was….“Say what now? Geez…Weiss is his fifties, for God’s sakes.  At least consider the defensive realism of Stephen Walt, including his approach of honor thy father.”   In other words, less Woody Allen, please.  


And more Elijah, as in Representative Elijah E. Cummings’ heroic stance made on behalf of the USS Liberty vets and in the name of  American justice. 


And more Elijah Rock too.  



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14 Responses to Representative Elijah Cummings Stands Tall for the USS Liberty Vets

  1. SD says:

    BBC documentary on the Liberty
    During the Six-Day War, Israel attacked and nearly sank the USS Liberty belonging to its closest ally, the USA. Thirty-four American servicemen were killed in the two-hour assault by Israeli warplanes and torpedo boats.
    BBC Four Investigative Report:
    Dead in the Water
    Broadcast Saturday 17 May 2003
    Video Runtime 69 Minutes
    Link to Video at Google Video
    In memory of the dead, the wounded and their families.
    Would that the state would be as loyal to them as they were to the state.

  2. Larry Kart says:

    “So Elijah comes across as the anti-Freud and let’s face it, at least a few of the intelligentsia, among others, tend to view as a guru Sigmund and his (perhaps misunderstood) mantra of you too can think like an angry 4 year-old all your life.”
    Totally misunderstood. Shortly before the breach between Freud and Jung occurred, the two men were to be present at a psychoanalytic conference in Geneva where Freud was to read an important new paper, which he had sent to Jung in Zurich so the latter could read it in advance. When Jung arrived in Geneva, he shamefacedly admitted that he forgotten to bring Freud’s paper, that it was back in Zurich. Freud was furious, and some of his inner circle made the point that perhaps he ought not to be, because Jung’s failure to bring the paper was, after all, an “unconscious slip.” To which Freud thunderously replied: “A gentleman would not have such an unconscious!”

  3. Hannah K. O'Luthon says:

    The Liberty “incident” is one of the most corrosive betrayals not of the Touro covenant, but rather of the basic covenant between the people of the United States and their elected officials. The left in general has been scandalously absent in pursuing the guilty both in and out of the U.S. government. Israel has, at least, the excuse of realpolitik, however misbegotten and wrongheaded it may be. American politicians instead have only the excuse of “electoral pressures” to justify their deafening silence, which, in the absence of better information, seem to lie somewhere in the murky zone between perfidy and treason. There has been a great deal of disinformation spread with regard to the circumstances of the attack, including cynical innuendo and distraction. (For example, who knows whether the story of the sinking of the Israeli sub Dakar by U.S. forces
    is to be taken seriously. If so it might explain the prevailing reticence, but we lack the reliable sources and documents necessary to judge these allegations.) It seems that none of this can be the subject of a sustained national debate or investigation, despite the obvious gravity of the matters, all the more so with regard to the continuing bi-partisan cover-up. This facts of the matter are such that anyone with a modicum of curiosity and intellectual honesty will quickly come to the side of the Liberty crew, and yet no national discourse is allowed to flourish. Very likely Representative Cummings has signed his political death-warrant, as did Reps. Paul Findley and Pete McCloskey and Sen. Adlai Stevenson when they touched this third rail. Here the duplicity and omerta’ of the political class is transparently obvious, and the recognition of that duplicity and omerta’ serves to fuel all manner of more conjectural hypotheses. This breaking of the bond of trust which underlies a functioning democracy is the wider legacy of the Liberty affair, in its way no less deeply tragic than the bloody
    massacre at its source.

  4. PirateLaddie says:

    I don’t know how to approach pieces like this. Surely Brother Smith is right on target, the USS Liberty atrocity is a key milestone on the path of US service to Israeli interests. Forty years plus in the Wilderness of Denial has done nothing but further poison the remaining wells of amity between our peoples. And yet, and yet, I find his “rah rah” tone and his unwillingness to call an entrenching tool “a bloody f*#king shovel” disconcerting.
    The signs of the times, the scent of greasy ashes on the wind, do not bode well for the Zionists. Maybe it’s time to bid our brothers of an older Book “Godspeed” and turn to rebuilding our own financial and foreign policy houses.

  5. Medicine Man says:

    The Liberty incident is a shocking one. I have always wondered why the American people, who are so respectful of their military, would tolerate such an outrage. Has the incident itself simply been flushed down the memory hole? Vanished from public consciousness?
    The only question I have regarding the discussion is why commentators seem so ready to take the political left to task for not pursuing this. Is it because the incident happened on LBJ’s watch? Or because there is simply no expectation that the political right would be interested in seeking redress? At its heart, the attack on the Liberty is a national sovereignty issue; not really something that I view through a partisan prism. Am I missing something?

  6. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Quick correction: USN vet John Giduski emailed me to let me know he is a Liberty supporter, not a survivor.
    You are exactly right re: Hounam‘s documentary. So for those interested in the USS Liberty incident, I too recommend the BBC Documentary “Dead in the Water”.
    And it is available for free viewing via Google video. Here is a link:
    The documentary is well-produced and full of great information as well as memorable quotes. Richard Helms, in essence, says, “Go ask MacNamara”. And of course from the GOI side the constant refrain, “The Liberty should not have been there”. Sounds like an admission to me.
    I usually tell people to just watch the first couple of minutes and then decide if it is worth the entire hour.
    That said, I am not one to subscribe totally to the Operation Cyanide theory.
    HK O’L and Pirate
    Just my opinion, but if Senator Webb this afternoon held a news conference and stated that probable cause exists for a Congressional hearing, then game over — the Liberty vets win and American justice is served.
    Former Senator Adlai Stevenson III did such around 1980 and we never heard from him again on the political stage. But it is a different time, and besides, Senator Webb is an officer of the court.
    Doesn’t an office of the court believe in the famous quote of “let justice be done and the heavens fall.”? And as Webb titled his last book, “A Time to Fight: Reclaiming a fair and just America.”
    One aspect of the Liberty incident I should note. And this aspect is repeated all over the internet and in several books as well, although I am yet to verify and have tried. But the following is repeated time and time again.
    “On December 17, 1987, the [Liberty incident] issue was officially closed by the two governments through an exchange of diplomatic notes”.
    Well…Senator Webb was Secretary of the Navy on December 17, 1987.
    But, again, I can’t verify and I have tried, and I wonder if it is not suppose to be 1980. That said, Senator Webb could clear the confusion up very quickly.
    And even if such did occur while he was Secretary of the Navy, he could still recommend a hearing. A time to fight, no?
    Larry K.
    My main concern, in this essay, is try to increase awareness of one our nation’s greatest injustices, at least from what I can tell from the evidence so far. Jung, Freud, a mixture of the two. It doesn’t matter to me. If it will help increase awareness, I will throw in Otto Rank too.
    But your words are well taken. I am no expert on the Freud-Jung debate nor their competing views of what is the “royal” road to the unconscious. And psychology is not too high on my list of interests right now.
    Anti-Freud may have been too strong a term as unquestionably, he left mankind with some valuable insights (although I recently learned from another commentator that Freud may have relied on others more that admitted). And, if I remember correctly, Freud tired to take out Moses, so I reckon he would have tried take out Ellijah too and, as admitted in the first paragraph, I have been always partial to that name, although I don’t lead a religious life in any sort of way. Just respect a few who do.
    Also, one aim of this essay is to try to get word out to any Mahalia Jackson fans (and there are a lot) who stumble upon this essay to take a look at the USS Liberty incident via SST.
    Plus, as the Mahalia Jackson fans will see, Col. Lang’s military tradition out of VMI, more than any other, has stood tall for the Liberty vets. No other tradition even comes close, certainly not McCain’s tradition out of Annapolis. It is what it is. And the final chapter of history should judge the same, imo.

  7. Ron says:

    If the people in this great nation only knew the suffering that has been imposed on the survivors of the USS Liberty the cries for justice would ring around the world. Those of us who survived can only hope and pray that the American people will vindicate us because we have only told the truth as we saw it. How can this be so wrong when there are so many of that era who were in charge that agree with us? Congressman Elijah Cummings is my hero.
    A survivor

  8. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Re: NY lefties. In part because I greatly respect Weiss’ and companies’ work, I simply am trying to rattle the NY lefty cage, because if they did jump on board and bust a move on the Liberty, then we would see groundbreaking developments. Guaranteed.
    That said, I do find it absolutely fascinating that many of the assumptions that arise out of the Satmar worldview are leading to much more accurate analysis on developments in the ME, imo. And Satmar has voiced the same warning for decades and decades, long before Ms. Katrina van Heuvel arrived on the scene.
    I need to think about it, but Satmar’s analytical assumptions may lead to the same conclusions as those of George Marshall back 1948 or so. Now that’s American.
    Also, it is indisputable that Col. Lang’s military tradition out of VMI stood tall for the USS Liberty vets long before Weiss and even Stephen Walt. And most certainly long before Webb’s tradition out of Annapolis, which continues to confound me. And this VMI tradition on the USS Liberty should be memorialized,imo.
    In other words, credit where credit is due. Besides I am not sure there is a left and right anymore. As Weiss once wrote, we live in a time of “ideological disarray”. Stated a bit differently, it a time that War Eagle Raimondo –certainly no lefty — has called “bizarro.”

  9. Patrick Lang says:

    I am disappointed in the lack of response or action on the part of Senator Webb. I expected more from a US Marine officer. pl

  10. PirateLaddie says:

    I too am disappointed in the inattention paid the issue by Senator Webb. There’s all kinds of reasons he shouldn’t get involved, but the pursuit of justice and national honor are not among them.
    Regarding the Zionist cant “well, they shouldn’t have been there, should they?” Three points: international waters are not a free fire zone; you stand with your friends, not against them; and couldn’t this argument have been made about the Jews of central and eastern Europe as the Nazi divisions swept eastward?

  11. different clue says:

    Elijah Cummings is a very senior member of the Black Caucus. Will the rest
    of the Black Caucus (and the Black political, social, and service organizations in general) stand by and let Elijah Cummings be death-warranted?
    No doubt AIPAC will try to find and fund a primary challenger in Rep. Cummings’s next election. And they will try funding his Republican opponent to the max as well. And the Republicans will sense an overall opportunity here and invest Republican Party money they would otherwise not have invested; both in a primary challenger and in Cummings’s Republican opponent.
    The J Street Project could be useful to the limit of its small and newly forming abilities if it were to make ready a counter-AIPAC money machine to enable Cummings to drown his primary challenger(s) and his Republican opponent in floods of counter-AIPAC money. If any J Street Projectors are reading this, perhaps they can take that idea back to headquarters. I doubt J Street has access to AIPAC volumes of money but if they
    start preparing now; they could be first-with-the-most
    in the crucial first days; especially if they ask Cummings whether he would like them to co-ordinate their activities with his (and his other supporters’) own.
    I wonder how many people under 45-or-so years old even know there even ever was a ship called the Liberty? They can’t decide what to think about it until they know it exists to be thought about. If they don’t know, how does one make them know? Speeches on the record by senior Representatives like Elijah Cummings are a first step towards getting middle-aged-and-younger members of the general public to even know about the Liberty.
    (By the way, my understanding of Freud is that we need to know the 4 year old child is there in order to learn how the 4 year old child thinks. The reason to find out how the 4 year old child thinks is to figure out how to get the child back in the child seat and put our adult hands on the wheel. I don’t
    think Freud meant to find and celebrate the child-in-mind and put it at the controls).

  12. Larry Kart says:

    Can we agree on this before we go any further here: Sidney Smith’s “Tuoro Covenant” is his invention. That is, the exchange of letters between George Washington and Moses Seixas is real, but while the sentiments expressed on both sides are attractive, in no way is this a covenant in the sense that, say, the Geneva Convention is, i.e. “a formal agreement or promise of legal validity.” How could it be when neither party had the right to enter into such an agreement?
    The Washington-Seixas letters are CLOSE, in expressed sentiments at least, to being a covenant in this sense: “A mutual agreement between two or more people to do or refrain from doing certain acts.” But let’s not try to turn this interesting exchange of letters between Washington and a private citizen (however distinguished a citizen Seixas was) into something that has the force of law or of a treaty between nations, which seems to be what some here are trying to do (as when Smith writes above about helping “the Touro Covenant stay intact”).
    Just to be clear, I’m saying that reprehensible though the attack on the Liberty and the alleged continuing governmental coverup of the facts of that attack may be, what is the point of placing this under the template of a supposed 1790 covenant between Jewish and non-Jewish Americans that is either “intact” or has been and is being violated? Why do we need to cloak anger, however justified, in implied and invented legalisms?

  13. Fred says:

    Hannah K. O’Luthon, just why do you repeat a rumor that the US sank the Dakar? As a submariner I find it interesting that a refitted WWII diesel submarine has no rumors implying its sinking like the USS Squalus or the USS Scorpion or Thresher (both sister ships of one of the submarines I served on). I’ve never heard of any rumor like the one you posted. You also state “The left in general has been scandalously absent in pursuing the guilty both in and out of the U.S. government.” This is rather misleading or simply inaccurate unless you wish to restrict this comment solely to the IDF attack upon the USS Liberty.
    Congressman Cummings was re-elected for a seventh term with 79.5 percent of the vote; has nothing to fear over calling for an investigation of the attack upon the USS Liberty, he will probably gain influence as the power of AIPAC is begging to ebb. As to Pete McCloskey, you should read his rather scathing comments in his resignation from the Republican party, specifically “We accepted that one the duties of wealth was to pay a higher rate of income tax, and that the estates of the wealthy should contribute to the national treasury in reasonable measure.” … “In 1994, however, Newt Gingrich brought a new kind of Republicanism to power, … “The single cardinal principle of political science, that power corrupts, has come to apply not only to Republican leaders like Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney and John Doolittle, but to a succession of White House officials and appointees. The stench of Jack Abramoff has permeated much of the Washington Republican establishment.”

  14. Larry Kart says:

    Fred — Here is a link to an article that speculates that the U.S. sank the Dakar in retaliation for the attack on the Liberty:
    The speculation may be tendentious nonsense, but it does exist. Also, a former Israeli officer, Col. Michael Eldar, wrote a book titled “Dakar” that was seized and suppressed by the Israeli government soon after it was published in (I think) 1998 — the government claiming that Eldar had made use in the book of classified government documents. What those documents said one can’t of course tell at this point, but I get the sense that Eldar’s claim in the book was not that the Dakar was sunk by hostile action by the U.S. or anyone else but rather that the Israeli search for the missing sub was badly botched.

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