Thursday, July 02, 2020

02-Jul-20: In Washington, calling the Hashemite Kingdom to account for the murders of Americans

The three murdered Green Berets. From left: Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEnroe, 30, of Tucson, Arizona. Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew C. Lewellen, 27, of Lawrence, Kansas with his parents. Staff Sgt. James F. (Jimmy) Moriarty, 27, of Kerrville, Texas
We began writing here nearly four years ago about the painful battle of three Gold Star families whose United States Army Special Forces sons (usually called Green Berets) were gunned down in cold blood on a Jordanian air base.

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Along the way, we have gotten to know the people behind the headlines. Their fineness and determination are striking. How surprising is this given how their sons turned out? Not very.

The three men were part of a larger group of Americans stationed at King Faisal Air Base, a Jordan military facility located at Al-Jafr in a remote south-eastern corner of the kingdom, roughly 300 km from the capital Amman. As a US military newspaper reported at the time:
The U.S. military typically maintains about 2,000 U.S. forces on the ground in Jordan to support training with the Jordanian military and operations against the Islamic State in neighboring Iraq and Syria.
Around noon on November 4, 2016, a Jordanian soldier standing guard at the gates to the base, wearing body armor and armed with a high-power rifle, shot the three of them dead at point blank range as they returned to their station from a day's operations. The Americans were traveling in unarmored vehicles, not wearing body armor, carrying only sidearms, and raising their hands in surrender as they called out in English and Arabic to the guard whom they evidently knew that they were friends, not hostile, not shooting. They were sitting ducks.

The Jordanian authorities quickly announced this was all one unfortunate misunderstanding and it appears the US government backed them up for a while. According to reports at the time, two of the elements of that "misunderstanding" were that the Americans' vehicle should have stopped and didn't. And that someone somewhere fired shots at something, causing the guard to do what he did.

Initial American media reports downplayed the circumstances. Here's how the New York Times reported it:
The Jordanian military said the trainers failed to stop as they approached a gate at the air base in the southern part of the country... A Jordanian military official, who declined to be identified discussing a matter that is now under investigation, said the trainers had tried to enter the base in a vehicle without heeding the orders of guards at the gate to stop... Jordanian officials said privately that initial indications suggested the shooting at the King Faisal air base near Al Jafr on Friday stemmed from some sort of confusion rather than deliberate targeting of the Americans. But American military officials had questions about this version of events. American soldiers certainly know to slow or stop at military base gates, whether in Jordan or anywhere else in the world. It was not clear whether the Americans who were killed were driving or being driven... Security experts in Washington and Amman were concerned that the shooting might reflect increasing radicalization in Jordan... [New York Times. November 4, 2016]
Then a security camera video clip was found, an astonishingly clear view of what actually happened. And the shooter, clearly a very simple man, was quickly convicted. The video was then made public (it's here) and most, though not all, of the Jordanian nonsense came to an end. 

Now to yesterday's news as reported by Associated Press (this is the Washington Post version). Please notice how the families have generously gotten behind our efforts to see Ahlam Tamimi who murdered our child, extradited to the US. We're extremely grateful to them for their invaluable backing:
Families of US troops slain in Jordan seek action
By Matthew Lee | AP
July 1, 2020 at 2:33 p.m. UTC

WASHINGTON — The families of three Special Forces troops slain by a Jordanian soldier at a military base in Jordan in 2016 are calling on Congress to suspend aid to the key U.S. Mideast partner until it extradites the killer.
The families are also joining an effort to press Jordan to extradite a woman convicted in Israel of a 2001 bombing that killed 15 people, including two Americans. In letters sent to lawmakers this week, the families say assistance to Jordan should be cut until Jordan addresses the cases.
The soldier, Marek al-Tuwayha, has already been convicted in Jordan and is serving life in prison for the murders, but the families say the sentence is inadequate because he will likely be released after 20 years. The woman convicted of the deadly attack on a pizzeria in Israel, Ahlam Aref Ahmad al-Tamimi, has lived freely in Jordan since she was released in a 2011 prisoner swap.
In their appeals to lawmakers, the families of the U.S. soldiers, Matthew Lewellen, of Missouri, Kevin McEnroe, of Arizona, and James Moriarty, of Texas, said Congress should withhold or reduce foreign aid to Jordan unless both cases are resolved.
The king of Jordan “should publicly apologize for the murders of their sons and explain why his country harbors a terrorist that killed Americans in the pizzeria bombing,” they said in a statement.
Jordan has rebuffed previous efforts to extradite al-Tamimi, citing double jeopardy considerations, but the Trump administration said recently it would consider withholding assistance as leverage to get Jordan to act on the matter and Jordan’s King Abdullah II has been told of the possibility, according to congressional aides.
“We support (al-Tamimi’s) extradition, along with a U.S. prosecution of the murderer of our sons,” said Moriarty’s father, James. “We also hope all of the families of Americans killed by Jordanians finally get some measure of justice. King Abdullah should remember this: We will not stop until we do.”
Al-Tuwayha is still in prison, and there are no known plans to release him. He has never apologized for the shooting at the King Faisal Air Base in November 2016, and his lawyer said there are no updates on the case. The lawyer, Subhi al-Mawwas, repeated al-Tuwayha’s claim in court that he opened fire because he thought the base was being attacked.
The U.S. has long been a major provider of aid to Jordan and, in early 2018, the administration signed a five-year, $6.4 billion aid agreement with the country that increased the annual amount of aid by $275 million to $1.3 billion.
Al-Tamimi is wanted by the U.S. on a charge of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against American nationals. The charge was filed under seal in 2013 and announced by the Justice Department four years later.
She was arrested by Israel weeks after the bombing and sentenced to 16 life terms but released in the 2011 Israel-Hamas prisoner swap and moved to Jordan. She has made frequent media appearances, expressing no remorse for the attack and saying she was pleased with the high death toll.
Among the victims of the attack was Malka Roth, a 15-year-old Israeli American girl, whose father, Arnold Roth, has led a campaign seeking al-Tamimi’s extradition.
Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan, contributed.
Our experience is that if you expect an appropriate and moral response, calling Jordan to account for murders done by its nationals is frustrating. But the pursuit of justice is a powerful incentive to keep working at it.

More power to the three Gold Star families.

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