Johnson's conduct toward Israel approached treason

Published: 1989-01-01

Iraq's attempted theft of krytrons, useful as nuclear triggering devices, is not unique. Four years ago Israel was reported to be obtaining krytrons illegally through a California company. Unlike the Iraqi operation, it wasn't front-page news in most of the country and was barely mentioned by network newscasts.

Israel has long since become a nuclear power, though the fact has never been officially acknowledged.

If the full story is ever told, a key figure will be an avowed opponent of nuclear proliferation: President Lyndon B. Johnson.

More than any other president, Mr. Johnson forged the lopsided "alliance" between the United States and Israel — a dangerous, liaison that has secured the U.S. only Arab enmity and Israeli ingratitude.

Thanks to his biographer Robert Care, the full truth of Mr. Johnson's ingrained deviousness and mendacity is finally becoming a matter of record.

But the last of Mr. Care's projected four volumes, which will cover the Johnson presidency, won't appear for several years. When it does, it should give full attention to two episodes in Mr. Johnson's furtive pro-Israel policy.

One is Mr. Johnson's suppression of intelligence reports that Israel had smuggled enriched uranium and classified nuclear-related documents out of the U.S.

According to the FBI and the Atomic Energy Commission, a Pennsylvania based American firm was the conduit of the theft. In concealing this from the public, Mr. Johnson may have been an accessory to treason..

The other episode was less grave in its potential consequences but, in a way, more shocking.

Mr. Johnson apparently ordered the cover-up of the 1967 Israeli attack on the unarmed American intelligence ship the USS Liberty. The Israeli assault killed 34 American sailors and wounded 171 others.

Israel has always insisted that the attack was a mistake, that in the heat of the Six-Day War the Liberty was confused with an Egyptian vessel.

The survivors' have always insisted that this is impossible. They contend that the Israelis must have known exactly what they were doing.

The attack occurred in broad daylight. The Liberty was clearly marked and flew a large American flag. The survivors say Israeli reconnaissance planes approached the ship before the attack and were over heard reporting to headquarters that the Liberty was an American ship. They say that the Israelis jammed the Liberty's radio signals for help, which they could not have done without somehow knowing the frequencies American ships used for that purpose.

The survivors also say the Israelis ignored the ship's frantic signals identifying itself as an American ship. The attack continued for nearly an hour. An Israeli gunboat, after torpedoing the Liberty's hull, drew close enough to machine-gun its inflatable life rafts — which its crew could hardly have done without noticing that they were firing on Americans.

Israel's conduct was bad enough. Capt. James Ennes, who saw 34 of his men killed that day, says that two Israelis involved have offered to testify that the attack was no mistake.

What is really shocking is the official American conduct. The incident was dismissed after a hasty four-day inquiry, Neither the survivors nor the two Israelis have ever been invited to testify.

Contrast this with the eight-month inquiry that followed the 1987 Iraqi attack on the USS Stark.

Even the Liberty's log report was altered by higher-ups, without consulting the eyewitnesses.

Worst of all, rescue planes from the aircraft carrier Saratoga, responding to the Liberty's pleas for help, were mysteriously called back while the Liberty was still under fire. "That act," says Captain Ennes, "probably cost 25 additional American lives."

Though several of his top aides insisted that the attack must have been intentional, Mr. Johnson quickly accepted the Israeli excuses and buried the affair. Never- has an American president so brazenly sacrificed American interests to a foreign power.

But why did he do it? That's the mystery. The solution might tell us a good dea1 about how American politics really works.

Joseph Sobran is a nationally syndicated columnist who now maintains a Website at

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): Joseph Sobran
Title: Johnson's conduct toward Israel approached treason
Published: 1989-01-01
First posted on CODOH: June 29, 1995, 7 p.m.
Last revision:
Comments: Joseph Sobran died on Sept. 30, 2010, aged 64. For an obituary see
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