A reader made the point that the Liberty and Pueblo were not truly sister ships.
He’s right. I used the term in term to mean identical missions rather than length of keel, breadth of beam, numbers of crew, etc.
Another reader asked in a tone of truculent challenge why I described France “as a strong opponent” of Israel when it was arming Israel “to the teeth.”Alas, time does not stand still, (to match one banality with another), and while France had indeed armed Israel, after the 1956 Suez War, Charles DeGaulle had branded Israel the aggressor in that war, and abrogated 12 years of close French support of Israel, cancelling all arms sales to Israel. DeGaulle also delayed the pending shipment of 50 Mirage fighters to Israel, claiming that he had not known Dassault’s contract with Israel until the first field test of the Jericho I missile n 1967. DeGaulle fudged here, apparently, for French scientists continued to work on the Jericho for another year. (It was sometime n 1968 that Israel began turning out four to five nuclear warheads a year.)
(I would like to gently remind my truculent reader that yes, there are most certainly errors of fact to guard against, but there are also errors of tone.)
This same reader asks How is it that US could warn Nasser about an impending attack but that no one at any point thought to tell Americas $7 million a year asset, Hussein, that he was being fed wrong intel?
The Moscow report of May 13 alerting Cairo and Damascus of tn impending invasion on the 17th came through Saimi Sharaf, the KGB station chief in Cairo. It was not a fabrication but was simply inaccurate. I was sloppy. The question as to why we had not warmed Jordan in time has a simple answer. The United States HAD warned Jordan, just as it had Cairo, of the impending Israeli onslaught, but we did not discover that Israel was doctoring Jordan’s radio traffic in time to be effective. It was the Liberty, my sources say, that discovered that Israel’s design was to lure Jordan into the war and paid the heavy price of being savaged.
This reader also asked: -If Israeli threats of exposing America's covert activities had the US enough by the balls to stop them reacting to the murder of their own people, how is it that they continued to be trusted in further operations?
The answer is “the necessity of circumstance.” The Israeli rat line running up into the Soviet Union from Albania had given us the original copy of Khrushchev’s’s’s 1956 anti-Stalin speech and other superb intelligence, and t performed valuable assistance to U.S. covert. ops designed to sustain Solidarity in the early 19880s and later, to U.S. covert ops against Milosevic. . You get what you need wherever you find it and from anyone who has it.
Back street wars among Allies.
America Restructures the British Empire.
Allies are only allies, not friends. During talks between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill in August of 1941 when they were bickering over the Atlantic Charter, Churchill shook his finger at FDR and accused him of trying to break up the British Empire. This was correct. FDR hated the idea of “spheres of influence” or economic blocs and while Roosevelt could do little do curb Soviet expansion he had more success dismantling the British Empire, an area which was home to 540 million people and from which the Americans were excluded became the pound sterling was the medium of exchange there.
When the bankrupt Brits asked for a loan, (it was approved in a\January, 1946), America offered it with conditions – that “currency restrictions” in British trade areas be lifted, meaning that British markets would now be open to the U.S. dollar. There were bitter debates in the British Parliament and n one a RJG Boothby in the House of Commons begged America “not the sell the British Empire for a pack of cigarettes.” He argued against opening imperial markets to American goods and lost. The dollar entered the British Empire markets and it in key ways ceased to exist as an exclusive economic bloc.
This was done in the name of “free trade,” but as DeGaulle observed of us, “American cloaks its will to power in idealism.” That’s hard to beat – or refute.
In any case, the British Empire was effectively over and even in the early 1980s, in drinking with British diplomats, I endured many a red-faced diatribes about
America’s disgusting behavior in the case of the loan. Time had not soothed the resentment.
We Spy on Canada.
When I had my own intelligence newsletter, I found that the United States was intercepting and reading official Canadian cables. In spite of all the drivel about the U.K. being our closest ally, a State Department official told me long ago that Canada was our closest ally and that we had signed more secret treaties on defense and other matters with Canada than any other country in the world. In spite of that, we had to know any secrets it was withholding from us.
Did Britain or its Agents Kill U.S. Spies?
During World War II, Germany had no indigenous supply of industrial diamonds essential for aircraft instruments and crucial to conducting its war effort. The Germans were obtaining them via clandestine smuggling from Africa, and the U.S. Foreign Economic Administration began to investigate. The British, with their usual cunning, suggested a joint probe in order to compromise it, but they were rebuffed. In 1943, U.S. agents discovered the DeBeers Syndicate was a key actor in the plot. A crisis arose when an OSS agent named “Teton” discovered a smuggling scheme that implicated the Chief of Police in Leopoldville The major leakage of diamonds to Germany had its origin in the Congo. A British firm, Forininere, had in fact been the source or conduit for nearly a year’s supply of industrial diamonds for the Nazis.
When “Teton” traced the smuggling plot to the Leopoldville chief of police, he was soon arrested on trumped up charges. I don’t recall what happened to him, but in talks with Kermit Roosevelt, he indicated to me that OSS agents had been killed by unknown parties during this probe or others done in the region involving Angola or Mozambique. Whether the killings were a corporate hit by DeBeers or had an okay from the British government is uncertain.
A Couple of Points on the Yom Kippur War
The threat posed by Israel’s nuclear weapons by 1973 were destabilizing to any Middle East military balance. Not only did Israel have nuclear warheads for its missiles, it also had a nuclear artillery shell that was targeted on Damascus. Tel Aviv had also solved difficult problems of weapon miniaturization creating its first nuclear suitcase bomb.
Perhaps a more sinister threat came from Israel’s discovery in the 1970s that the upper reaches of Israel’s defense community was infested with KGB moles who were relaying to Moscow all of the major Israeli nuclear weapons developments, some within a mere 12 hours. Detachment 515, one of the most secret in Israeli SIGINT outfits, had discovered the Soviet penetration.
Nasser died in 1970, succeeded by Anwar Sadat, but Israel continued its tradition of contempt for its Arab enemies and was surprised when on Oct. 6, Sadat moved his forces into the Sinai and Syria attacked the Golan, bolstered by 1600 tanks. Dayan and many Israeli leaders lost their nerve, talked of the “end of the Third Temple,” calling the country’s first nuclear alert.
A senior NATO source told me that a few days before the Jericho arming, Israel had “frantically” recalled its top nuclear scientist from a meeting in Brazil. On Oct. 9, Moscow warned Washington about the Israeli arming of its nuclear weapons. That same day, Kissinger began to assure Israel that its war losses would be made up. By Oct. 12, President Nixon had sent a message of warning to the Soviet Union under Article III of the so-called Accidental Warfare Agreement signed by both countries in September of 1971. Sometime in this period, a KH.-1 CIA satellite sent images of operational, completed Israeli missile launchers hidden in the side of a hill at Hirbat Zacheria. The photos also showed hallowed out nuclear bunkers and huge blast doors, with the launchers positioned in railway tracks. The missiles could be fired, the blast doors closed, then reopened to fire a second salvo, then shut the doors and wait out any response.
The Jericho warhead was developed at the Weizman Institute. I had a source, an American, who was walking in the Weizman Institute, when he saw an object in an alcove covered by a draped curtain. Not being shy, he went and turned the curtain back and saw a U.S. Army tactical nuclear warhead. This gentleman told me the warhead was 2 feet long, 22 inches in diameter, and weighed 226 pounds. I also had accounts of Israel attempting to develop its own version of the U.S, “Lance” missile which would have had a range of 70 miles and would have been able to destroy Cairo. I don’t know if different sources were describing the same thing. At any rate, by 1973, the CIA certainly knew all of this, they said.
It should be noted that the first Israeli nuclear alert was designed to pressure the US into a round the clock resupply of military goods to Israel which Kissinger was reluctant to provide. He wanted Israel to come out ahead in the war, “but bleed” as he told SecDef James Schlesinger. He wanted concessions before aid.
It pays to remember just how high the stakes were. After the 1967 War, the Soviet Union had added the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv, Beersheba, Asadod, Haifa were all added to the Soviet Target list. The world appeared to be trying to balance on a thread.
But by Oct. 14, thanks to a successful; Israeli counterattack on the Golan, the Israeli launchers were removed. But tension reignited when a second Egypt attack drew in fresh Soviet assistance – when Egypt’s Third Army appeared in danger of being surrounded, the Soviet leader Brezhnev said he would send Soviet troops s a blocking force to keep the Israelis from taking Cairo. Brezhnev alerted several airborne divisions, but it was a bluff. No matter – it scared the hell out of everybody. The U.S. went on alert in reply, and Israel responded by going on nuclear alert for a second time.
Things got worse when a U.S. Navy Task Force 157, operating off the Bosporus near Turkey, discovered the Soviets were sending ships from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean carrying nuclear material. Debate raged over whether the Soviets had loaded nudes o one ship, but then used another to travel to Egypt. Former senior CIA and DIA official I talked with back then disagreed violently as to wether the warheads reached Egypt. The DIA insisted to me that the warheads had arrived in Egypt and that special nets had been deployed to protect them. The CIA just as vehemently said there were no warheads. You choose.
“Confused ponderer””s account of the Oct. 9 Golda Meir meeting is good as far as it goes, but ignores juicy backstairs diplomacy, including a dramatic early morning meeting in the White House Map Room attended by Israeli Gen. Gur and an Israeli diplomat, Dinitz, along with Kissinger and his assistant Peter Rodman where the four tensely discussed the crisis.. Rodman is now decreased but was a dear friend and read accounts that I had compiled by means of dozens of phone calls. He was not a source on this. He merely corrected mistakes.
Regarding the Andrew Jackson, I feel like a rag being chewed on by starving dogs. I can only say that in 1979, I was a friend of Russell Warren Howe (we later did a syndicated column on the Middle East for Compass News Features) and I gave him what I had on the 1973 alert. Although we had different sources, we both got similar information about the Polaris sub. Mine came from serving senior U.S. Navy officials. Were they right? Had they read raw reports that were later corrected? A draft of something that later was tossed out? I have no idea. I know that I have written reflects accurately what I was told. I wrote what I did in good faith.
Perhaps the most ironic point rests on the fact that the Jericho I’s inertial guidance system was so erratic it wasn’t likely to have hit anything. By May of 1985 when I wrote two detailed accounts of the Jericho II,, the guidance system was vastly improved and was lethal, and yet publicly, the major U.S. press was still yattering about Israel “perhaps” having cukes. In fact it had around 140 of them.
When I wrote the 1985 story, my editor at McGraw-Hill waited for the sky to fall in the aftermath, but instead got a call from the Israeli Ambassador who told him to “Thank Mr. Sale for an excellent story.” I explained to my editor that the Social Democrats in Israel liked to the Arabs to know Tel Aviv had nukes, the Likud wanted them kept secret.
We end where we began.
The message here is clear Israel showed an almost reckless willingness to wage a nuclear war if the state had been in danger of losing to Egypt and Syria. Kissinger’s diplomacy strikes me as equally reckless. In any case, one of the effects of 1973 was a U.S. drift away from Israel and towards Egypt which resulted in the famous peace treaty during the Carter term.
I thank everyone taking the time to comment.