Geopolitics

Brazil's Coup, John McCain And An Aircraft Carrier Scrapped For A Penny

A quick farewell to the USS Forrestal, after its symbolic link to the Brazilian military coup and a part of John McCain's eventful biography.

USS Forrestal CV-59, supercarrier no more
USS Forrestal CV-59, supercarrier no more
Fabiano Maisonnave

SAO PAULO — The singular symbol of the United States' support of the 1964 coup in Brazil, the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CVA-59), is about to be scrapped. In October, the U.S. Navy paid $0.01 to the company All Star Metals to dismantle it, an operation that will take 18 months.

The Forrestal was the biggest "supercarrier" in the world, and the first to support jet aircraft, when it was christened in 1954. Ten years later, on March 31, it still owned that title when it was sent to support the military upheaval against Brazilian President João Goulart, which wound up installing 21 years of military rule.

This month, it will be towed from Philadelphia to Brownsville, Texas, where 150 workers will transform the 325-meter-long ship into scrap metal for recycling.

The carrier had been already decommissioned in 1993. The Navy was prepared to donate it so it could be transformed into a museum, but nobody showed any interest. In 2003, the Forrestal, named after former Secretary of the Navy and the first U.S. Secretary of Defense James Forrestal, was removed from donation hold and designated to be sent to the junkyard. Only last year did the Navy secure an agreement.

Fire aboard the USS Forrestal on July 29, 1967 off Vietnam — Photo: PH2 Mason, USN

A McCain link

According to the company that will take care of scrapping it, the price tag of $0.01 corresponds to the estimated proceeds that will be obtained from the sale of the recycled scrap metal.

With a capacity of 3,500 crew members, the Forrestal was part of the fleet sent to Brazil in 1964 — which included six destroyers, one helicopter carrier and four oil tankers. The operation was called "Brother Sam."

In his book The Shamed Dictatorship, Elio Gaspari explains that the fleet, approved by American President Lyndon Johnson, was headed towards Santos, a town in the region of São Paulo: "The American government was ready to intervene openly in the Brazilian crisis in case a civil war had broken out."

As João Goulart resigned promptly — almost without opposing any resistance — the fleet turned back before reaching Brazilian waters. The U.S."s involvement was not revealed until the 1970s by journalist Marcos Sá Corrêa, after he found documents on the issue in President Johnson's library.

In the United States however, USS Forrestal is more famous for a fire that killed 134 men in 1967 in Vietnam. One of the survivors was none other than future U.S. Senator and presidential candidate John McCain.

40th memorial anniversary of the USS Forrestal fire in 2007 — Photo: U.S. Navy/David Danals

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ