A Dangerous Friend

Real rage is pretty rare.  If you have witnessed it you won’t forget it.

I don’t even remember what set him off, this friend and fellow worker of mine.  He had a stressful job.  It was in quality-assurance, a job that put him in the middle, in between strong pressure to keep production going and his responsibility to maintain the quality of the product.  Whatever set him off that afternoon, it wasn’t the problem but the reaction that I recall so vividly.

He hurled something.  He yelled.  His face was contorted with rage.  It was the visage of someone I hardly knew.  Everyone in the room backed off, instantly and instinctively, recognizing that this was no ordinary reaction.  We left him alone in the office, glaring, steaming.  He returned to work the next day and continued as though nothing had happened.  I never forgot it.

You can’t reason with rage, only try to isolate it and give it time to cool.  It is an instinctive fight-or-flight reaction to perceived danger or conflict that comes straight from some primitive part of the brain.  It is a self-defense mechanism.

What made me reflect on the rage of self-defense was the Israeli raid on the boats and ships trying to break the Gaza blockade.  I am not implying that the government raid by Israeli military personnel was other than a planned mission, although it may well have been a surprise for them to meet violent resistance rather than passive.  After all, the vessels were non-military.  No, I am implying that Israel feels its back is against the wall, surrounded by enemies on all sides as it has been for all these years.  I am suggesting that a nation in full defensive mode may, like people, act in ways quite out of the ordinary.

Already there are two distinct stories about what happened.  In one version, the Israeli’s shot first and asked questions after.  In the other version, the opposite.  The truth may never be known because the sources on both sides have cause for bias.  But, I write this to urge you, thoughtful reader, to avoid confirmation bias regarding the Palestinians, a people whom we have little reason to befriend or trust.

The heavily damaged USS Liberty the day after the attack.

If Israel is bending the facts this would not be the first occasion of likely Israeli dissemblance.  There was another occasion of such and when I looked it up I discovered that even more evidence has surfaced about it since I last studied it.  It is the USS Liberty Incident (LINK HERE), a true tale that might strain the credulity of even Tom Clancy.

It happened 43 years ago next week, and if you haven’t heard of the Liberty Incident, it involves a nation with its back to the wall, paranoid (with reason) and in full defensive mode, a secret US spy ship, an attack on an ally, a ballistic-missile submarine, a courageous crew and captain, dead US sailors, politicians directing military operations, a potential for World War III, and about as many disparate opinions and secrets as the Watergate scandal.  If you read it, please don’t miss the end.  It just gets weirder all the way through.

Like Pearl Harbor, the USS Liberty Incident deserves to be remembered.

About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Democratic.
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