An American Legion membership card fluttering down and landing softly on the blouse of an American Legion clerk results in the USS Liberty Veterans Association being BANNED from The American Legion National Convention FOREVER.
“You will not discuss the attack with anyone. Once the Court of Inquiry findings are released you will not contradict them. This order will remain in effect after you are discharged from the Navy. If you violate this order you will be prosecuted and will spend a considerable amount of time in a Federal Prison.”
This order was repeated every day at quarters while we were in drydock in Malta.
If anyone tells of witnessing the deliberate machine gunning of our life rafts in the water, he runs the risk of doing time in a Federal prison.
If anyone tells of witnessing the use of unmarked aircraft or of the jamming of our radios on both US Navy tactical and international maritime distress frequencies, he runs the risk of doing time in a Federal prison.
We cannot talk about this among ourselves. We cannot talk about this with our family. We cannot talk about this with any counselor. We cannot talk about this at a meeting of any veterans group we may become involved with. We cannot talk about this with our Congressional Delegation. We cannot talk about this at The American Legion National Convention.
We cannot talk about this with anyone.
If we do, we risk Federal prison.
But we defy the Federal Government and speak about the attack anywhere we can.
But now we cannot talk about it at The American Legion National Convention.
In an email to the USS Liberty Veterans Association, Kevin J. Bartlett, J.D., National Judge Advocate of The American Legion (and US Navy Veteran) writes:
“I understand that your organization would like to submit an application for a booth at The American Legion National Convention in August.
“The USS Liberty Association is not allowed to rent a booth at national conventions and have them staffed because one of your members committed assault and battery on one of our staff and was convicted of his crimes. In addition, members of your organization have attempted to set up in the national convention exhibit hall without renting a booth.
“The American Legion has a 100-year track record of helping veterans and their families. Unfortunately, we’ve had a long and unpleasant history with the USS Liberty Veterans Association, and we have chosen not to do business with them.”
The American Legion has known for decades the constraints we have had place on us. Do they care? No.
Instead of offering us the honor, support and compassion they routinely offer their members, they have chosen to take an relatively minor issue that was largely of their making, blow it all out of proportion, accuse someone they claim to be a USS Liberty survivor of trying to set up an unauthorized booth and ban us from their National Convention forever.
All without the opportunity of appealing their decision. And without any reference to their Constitution and bylaws or Resolution that allows them to take the action they did.
This action by the hired help of The American Legion National Headquarters wasn’t taken in a vacuum. The National Organization has a long record of trying to stifle USS Liberty survivors in our effort to tell the story of what happened on a US Navy ship. Given the tremendous support we have from the rank and file of The American Legion, it is clear that The American Legion National Headquarters is governing by fiat instead of by the rule of its membership as reflected in Resolutions initiated by its local posts.
An extensive and heavily footnoted telling of the history between The American Legion and the USS Liberty Veterans Association is available here. We are indebted to If Americans Knew for the effort they made to so expertly outline the history between the two veterans groups.
Legion bigwigs have torpedoed American Legion members’ resolutions supporting the Liberty; prevented dissemination of information about the attack; refused to allow a booth by the Liberty Veterans Association at its 2013 national convention; and privately attempted to convince the Veterans of Foreign Wars to similarly prohibit a Liberty booth at its national convention.
In 2002 the Washington DC Legion delegation introduced a resolution calling for an investigation of the attack to a foreign relations subcommittee at the national convention. This was the first step towards procuring an American Legion resolution.
I was present at this convention and witnessed most of what subsequently transpired. I had begun to investigate Israel-Palestine in fall 2000, a topic I had never previously studied. I was astonished at much of what I discovered, including the Israeli attack on the Liberty, which I had never heard about despite growing up in a military family.
When I heard that a resolution was going to be introduced at the national convention, I went with the delegation to observe what happened.
When the DC group introduced the resolution to the subcommittee, every American Legion delegate who addressed it spoke in favor of it. Delegate after delegate from diverse parts of America supported the resolution, and it was passed without objection.
The DC delegates were jubilant. When a resolution is passed at this level, they explained, it is virtually assured of adoption. Typically, the resolution is then rubber-stamped by the next committee, and passed along to the general membership, which then normally passes all such committee recommended resolutions by one simple voice vote.
This resolution, however, was to be different.
The next day, American Legion staff told the Convention Committee on Foreign Relations that there was no need for such a resolution since the Legion already had passed resolutions on the Liberty. The staff and chair neglected to state that not a single resolution on the USS Liberty was live, and that therefore it was both necessary and appropriate to pass this one.
This communication succeeded in killing the resolution. The main staff member for this committee had served in Israel; it is possible he is an Israeli citizen. The Committee chairman was Thomas Bock, of Colorado. Three years later Bock was American Legion National Commander.
That evening, back in D.C., Admiral Thomas Moorer (USN retired) heard about the scuttling of the resolution. Outraged, he wrote an open letter to the American Legion Commander requesting that the resolution be put before the general membership.
Admiral Moorer was chairman of an association of admirals and generals who want the US government to conduct a hearing on the USS Liberty. He was also the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — the highest ranking military officer in the U.S. military — and a retired 4-star admiral who was once in charge of both the Pacific and Atlantic fleets. He was a Naval aviator and World War II hero; the Navy’s Tomcat fighter jet was named after him.
Moorer had long been outraged at the cover-up on the Liberty attack. In a 1997 memo, he called it a “wanton, sneak attack,” writing: “What is so chilling and cold-blooded, of course, is that they could kill as many Americans as they did in confidence that Washington would cooperate in quelling any public outcry.” Many of the crewmembers, Moorer wrote, were from “small country towns, probably a lot like Eufaula, Alabama, where I grew up, and they represent the basic core of America …. “
One has only to look to their reference to the USS Liberty in their Leadership FAQ to learn that they have chosen to support a Revisionist version of the attack instead of one supported by evidence and facts.
What is The American Legion doing about the USS Liberty tragedy?
The tragic mistaken identity attack by Israelis on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967 provoked a great deal of controversy among surviving members of the crew and family members. Though residual anger and suspicions remain, the incident was the subject of ten US investigations and three by the Israelis. In the American investigations, the full weight of the US Government allowed access to all of the relevant security information. Though some accusations were made suggesting the reports sought to hide facts or protect Israel, no credible evidence for these charges has been produced at the US Government level.
The Foreign Relations Convention Committee of The American Legion reviewed the action taken by OSD and Congress on this incident and they voted to reject Resolution 235 submitted by the Department of District of Columbia at the 84th Annual National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, August 2002.
This position is a gross misrepresentation of the evidence currently available – a fact that we have made The American Legion aware of but they are obviously not interested in acknowledging.
In the first place, there is no “controversy among surviving members of the crew and family members.”
Second, the incident was NOT “the subject of ten US investigations and three by the Israelis.” Prove that for yourself by emailing your Congressional Delegation and ask them to send you a copy of the Congressional investigation of the attack. They won’t be able to send you one because it doesn’t exist.
Third, Congress hasn’t taken any action on this “incident” so what the Foreign Relations Convention Committee reviewed is in question. A question The American Legion refuses to (i.e., cannot) answer.
Why would the leaders of a Federally chartered veterans association claiming a mission “To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America,” “To foster and perpetuate a one hundred percent Americanism,” and “To make right the master of might” ban a group of American veterans who are the victims of War Crimes committed by our “best ally and only friend in the Middle East” from attending any American Legion National Convention forever?
Did I just answer my own question?
Are the leaders of The American Legion afraid that their members will learn about the War Crimes Israel committed during the attack and are blowing up this relatively minor event to prevent our relating the history of the attack during their National Convention?
This unilateral action by The American Legion was not taken in a vacuum. The American Legion and the USS Liberty Veterans Association have a long history. That history, in our opinion, shows a concerted, illegal and borderline treasonous effort by The American Legion National Organization to deny its members the right of hearing first-hand accounts of the attack on the USS Liberty.
To be perfectly clear, no one is denying the seriousness of a charge of assault and battery. Nobody is denying the fact that a USS Liberty survivor was convicted of assault and battery on a staff member of The American Legion.
What happened that resulted in the assault and battery being committed? It all takes place as we were attempting to register at the 2012 National Convention.
Due to a communications error on our part, our delegation intending to staff our booth at the 2012 American Legion National Convention was unaware that payment for that booth and information about the requisite insurance had not been submitted to The American Legion prior to their arrival.
Upon learning that the payment had not been made, our representatives inquired if payment could be made while they were there.
Instead of responding to the inquiry, the registration desk called their security personnel who asked that our delegation be removed from the premises. The security personnel were obviously expert in intimidation – which was in full flower during the one-sided confrontation.
Having survived not only the attack and the US government’s disinterest in investigating that attack, but the history the USS Liberty Veterans Association has had with the higher-ups of The American Legion, one of our representatives out of frustration, took out his American Legion membership card and flicked it to no one in particular. He just wanted to be rid of it.
As luck would have it, it landed softly on the blouse of one of the ladies manning the registration desk. So soft that I doubt she felt a thing.
The American Legion called the police and had our representative arrested for assault and battery. He was taken to jail and released after receiving a court date.
When the date arrived to face the judge, our guy showed but The American Legion victim was nowhere to be found.
No doubt out of embarrassment that the very people The American Legion was established to help were being treated so poorly.
Which brings up the question, “What is the purpose of The American Legion” and why in the past 52+ years has The American Legion treated the survivors of the USS Liberty as an exception to that purpose?
Why has The American Legion National Organization shown more concern for the forces who attacked the USS Liberty than it has for their own countrymen?
Why has The American Legion National Organization felt it so important to stifle USS Liberty survivors that they have acted illegally to do so?
Let me suggest some reasons:
- We were attacked by Israel.
- We have insisted that The American Legion live up to its obligations as described in the Preamble to their Constitution.
- We were attacked by Israel.
- We have highlighted the hypocrisy of The American Legion in allowing its 1967 Resolution 508 to be ignored and unimplemented until it is finally rescinded in the 1990’s.
- We were attacked by Israel.
- During the many times we were allowed to purchase a booth at The American Legion’s National Convention we were welcomed with enthusiasm and support by the general membership of The American Legion.
- We were attacked by Israel.
- At their 2018 National Convention, the membership of The American Legion ignored the recommendation of The American Legion’s leaders and approved a resolution calling on the Congress of the United States to investigate the attack on our ship.
- We were attacked by Israel.
If you find the actions of The American Legion National Organization as disconcerting as we do, we urge you to submit two resolutions through your Post.
If nothing else, it will educate you on what The American Legion National Organization feels about the USS Liberty and USS Liberty resolutions.