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Impearls: 2007-05-13 Archive

Earthdate 2007-05-17

Saddam’s attack on the U.S.S. Stark 20 years ago

U.S.S. Stark listing after being struck by two Exocet missiles fired by Mirage F-1 jet fighter of Saddam Hussein’s (1987-05-17; Wikipedia)

Two months ago (and before) I mistakenly thought the date was March 17 rather than May 17 (silly me), but now the time has arrived:  the score years anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s assault on the American guided missile frigate the U.S.S. Stark, on earthdate 1987-05-17 (May 17, 1987), via an Iraqi (French-built) Mirage F-1 jet fighter, which put two (French) Exocet missiles into the unwary Stark — killing 37 American sailors, making it the largest “peacetime” disaster in U.S. Navy history up to that point.  The Stark had departed Bahrain in the southern Persian Gulf that morning and was then located well outside either the Iraqi or Iranian designated war zones.

It’s remarkable that the toll in American servicemen resulting from this single strike by Saddam’s air force constitutes almost a quarter of the price in Coalition lives (140 Americans along with 33 Brits) required a decade and a half later, over a period of 43 days, to overthrow Saddam’s whole murderous regime.  Given that extraordinarily light penalty for terminating his despotic tyranny, it’s astonishing that the West put up with all his shit (pardon my French) — but invasions (e.g., of Kuwait); scud rockets landing on barracks during Gulf War I (killing a hundred men and women Coalition soldiers at a whack); massacres of Shiites, Iranians, and Kurds; hundreds and hundreds of attacks on Coalition aircraft; the corruption of the UN from top to bottom via the “oil for fraud” program, the list goes on and on… — from Saddam for as long as they did.

Of course, Saddam claimed that his attack on the Starkwas an accident — or rather, that the ship lay within the declared war exclusion zone that he felt free to attack within — which, as the official investigation report on the incident reveals (pdf), was far (20 nautical miles) from being the truth.  Personally, I’ve always suspected that Saddam was already (or still) thumbing his nose at America and the West, despite his ongoing war with Iran — over the bodies of dozens of dead American servicemen.  (Now he’s history, his loathsome sons to boot — and speaking as one who has always opposed the death penalty, I shan’t express any regret over Saddam’s demise.)

It would be interesting indeed, now that translated reports from the Baathist days are emerging in the new Iraq, to see what the then official Iraqi government documents had to say about the matter of the Stark.  Beyond that, according to the Wikipedia article on the incident, the book The Great War For Civilisation by Robert Fisk states that the pilot of that jet aircraft is still alive.  As a member of the Iraqi military, the man is not a criminal — but it would be extremely interesting if he were to be interviewed by some enterprising blogger or reporter at some point, putting pertinent questions to him to evoke the true story of what occurred that day.

Meanwhile, when “antiwar” activists present their knee-jerk demand “When (or how) did Iraq attack us?” — expecting never — here’s an answer (one of many actually).

Outside view of damage to U.S.S. Stark after being struck by two Exocet missiles fired by Mirage F-1 jet fighter of Saddam Hussein’s (1987-05-17; NavSource)

Following are links to online pages/documents having to do with Saddam’s attack on the U.S.S. Stark.  See the Navy’s Damage Control Museum page for a good write-up as to what the inferno on the ship was like after the missile strikes.

Saddam Hussein declares his innermost feelings towards America and 9/11 (larger-than-life painting discovered by Coalition troops in one of Saddam's palaces on 2003-04-09)

UPDATE:  2007-05-23 00:00 UT:  Omar at Iraq the Model writes:

While Saddam had always had bad intentions toward America, I think the “mistake” theory isn't very unlikely.  I know what the air force was like, utter mess controlled by fear.  a 2nd cousin of mine was a jet pilot (he was shot down in 1988) and I recall that he once said that the last thing a pilot wnated to do was to return with his bombs and missiles under the wings of his jet because he’d be punished severly.  the punishment included military trial as a traitor, or at least dishonorable discharge for cowardice.

Pilots in many occassion had to drop the payload on simply anything outside Iraq's water and land if they couldn't find their targets for whatever reason.

Mohammed at the same site also writes, saying “Thanks for sharing this story with me, I do remember that day.”

UPDATE:  2007-07-10 18:00 UT:  Changed image hosting facility and re-hosted images after former site reported itself as being hacked and didn’t recover after a few days.

UPDATE:  2007-10-31 18:00 UT:  Changed image hosting facility again (to Flikr this time) after next host went down and stayed down for a few days.

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