Crisis in the Gulf-Remember the Vincennes

Crisis in the Gulf--Remember the Vincennes

This, of course, is not the first crisis involving a dispute over ships entering Iran's territorial waters.

On July 3, 1988 a U.S. Navy Cruiser Vincennes shot down an Iran Air Flight 655, a commercial airbus, killing all 290 passengers and crew.
The U.S. first claimed that the Vincennes was in international waters at the time and had fired in self-defense, fearing that the civilian jet was in fact an Iranian F-14 Tomcat fighter. Since Iranians had earlier attacked the U.S. ships in the area, the Vincennes was justified in its action.

The Iranians claimed that the Vincennes was in Iranian waters and that Flight 655 in fact just taken off, was heading away from the Vincennes, and represented no conceivable threat to the American ship.

In public and before Congressional investigators, U.S. officials from Ronald Reagan through George H.W. Bush to Admiral William Crowe swore by that official account. A host of other officers and reems of impressive documents were used to support that claim.

Eventually, the U.S. did pay compensation to Iran...but never formally apologized.

In fact, the Iranians were right. And the U.S. government had engaged in a massive coverup to prevent the truth being known. The reason? To conceal the fact that the United States had been endgaged in a clandestine war, allied with Iraq against Iran.

The full extent of that deception was revealed in an excellent investigative report by John Barry of Newsweek and ABC's Frontline in July 1992. It's worth your time to read it.

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