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.
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.