Double Standards and the Benefit of the Doubt

A page one story in the May 3 edition of the Fauquier Times (“Fauquier man seeks truth of attack on USS Liberty 50 years ago”) uncritically accepts as an established fact that the Israelis deliberately attacked the USS Liberty, an American intelligence-gathering vessel, on June 8, 1967, during the Six-Day War.

Responsible journalism would have required at least a pro-forma reference to 50 years of Israeli assertions that the attack was a mistake — that the Liberty was thought to be an Egyptian ship. This letter is not an attempt to rehash the facts of the case. Rather, it’s an exploration into double standards. Who gets the benefit of the doubt and who doesn’t?

I was in Vietnam on June 8, 1967, so I have no firsthand knowledge of the Liberty incident, but I know something of the chaos of war. On May 7, 1999, Bill Clinton bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, a building that was sitting in one place and not moving around the ocean. This was during a leisurely 78-day elective war against the Serbian people, who posed no threat to the United States, not a frantic struggle for survival against an enemy bent on your annihilation.

Accidental American bombings of Afghan and Yemeni civilians have become almost too numerous to mention, so I’ll note only four. On Oct. 3, 2015, the United States bombed the Kunduz Trauma Center in Afghanistan, run by Doctors Without Borders, killing 42 and wounding more than 30. Four days previously, the doctors had contacted U.S. military officials, reconfirming the precise location of the hospital. On July 6, 2008, the United States bombed a wedding procession in Deh Bala, Afghanistan, killing 47 civilians, 39 of them women and children, and wounding nine. On Nov. 3, 2008, a U.S. airstrike on a wedding party at Wech Baghtu, Afghanistan, killed 37 civilians along with a number of Taliban. And on Dec. 12, 2013, a U.S. drone strike on a wedding convoy in Yemen’s al-Baydah Province killed some 15 civilians (accounts differ) and wounded about 24 others.

Why is the world ready to believe that Americans currently operating with the latest technology make honest mistakes but resolutely insist that Israelis who operated a half-century ago with 1950s-era French technology could not possibly have made a mistake?

Louis Marano, The Plains