|Gulf War Volume 4, Number 33 August 15, 1990
USN AIRMEN MAY AVENGE STARK's 37 MURDERED CREWMEN
The 1987 attack on the USS Stark was deliberate - not that anyone believes otherwise.
That year The Wednesday Report launched a lengthy investigation into developments in the Persian Gulf, in particular, the effectiveness of weapons involved in the USS Stark incident, weapons, in fact, similar to those being fitted to Canada's Tribal-class destroyers under the TRUMP programme. On October 7, 1987, a TWR article, "Lessons From The Persian Gulf" was published which in turn led to a forty-five million dollar lawsuit filed against The Wednesday Report's Micheal O'Brien by gun manufacturer OTO-Melara of Italy. The court action prompted a subsequently more intense investigation to uncover additional details (a $45 million libel suit can bring a journalist closer to a story than you might ever imagine). In all, the wide-ranging research turned up a number of parallel stories. One of them was the account of the attack itself.
In the dark of night on May 17, 1987, an Iraqi pilot flying an Iraqi Air Force Dassault-Breguet Mirage F1 launched two anti-shipping AM-39 Exocet missiles at the unsuspecting crew of the frigate, USS Stark. As a direct result of the raid, thirty-seven sailors were killed and twenty-one of Stark's crew were injured - many of whom had just months before visited Toronto, Ontario where we had befriended a few at our favourite `watering hole' on the main floor of the Maclean Hunter building on Bay Street.
From Baghdad came an official apology and declaration that the offending pilot had mistaken the USS Stark for an Iranian oil tanker. A dumbfounded U.S. administration in Washington hungrily lapped up the explanation and continued to focus its anger on Iran. The Iranian hostage-taking incident had generated a deep hatred for the Iranians within the U.S. resulting in considerable American patronage for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq conflict. It served no purpose to retaliate against Iraq, America's preset agenda was anti-Iran.
All through that summer and into the fall, The Wednesday Report was hearing rumours -and more than rumours, boastful claims by laughing Iraqis - of luxuriant rewards paid to the pilot of the Mirage by the government of Saddam Hussein. Reliable sources itemized a cash award which they say included a 1987 Mercedes-Benz; a (quick) furlough of luxuriant proportions; a military commendation; and promotion to a higher rank.
U.S. naval airmen who fly the 270 aircraft from U.S. carriers - USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, USS Independence, USS Saratoga and USS John F. Kennedy, either in the Gulf region, presently enroute, or soon to depart the U.S. - are surely eager. In fact it is likely that the best money aboard Independence is bet on its flyers being the first to see action. Iraqi aircraft too close to the fleet, or nearing U.S. naval aircraft patrols, will be blown out of the sky by itchy-trigger-fingered young men who would only be cheered at home for having avenged the thirty-seven Americans who were slain treacherously by Saddam Hussein in 1987.