Kellyanne Conway cites ‘Bowling Green massacre’ that never happened to defend travel ban

Kellyanne Conway has taken “alternative facts” to a new level.

During a Thursday interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, the counselor to the president defended President Trump’s travel ban related to seven majority-Muslim countries. At one point, Conway made a reference to two Iraqi refugees whom she described as the masterminds behind “the Bowling Green Massacre.”

“Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered,” Conway said.

The Bowling Green Massacre didn’t get covered because it didn’t happen. There has never been a terrorist attack in Bowling Green, Ky., carried out by Iraqi refugees or anyone else.

Conway was likely referring to two Iraqi citizens living in Bowling Green who were arrested in 2011 and eventually sentenced to federal prison for attempting to send weapons and money to al-Qaeda in Iraq for the purpose of killing U.S. soldiers, according to a news release from the Department of Justice.

Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, 25, was sentenced to life in federal prison, and Waad Ramadan Alwan, 31 to 40 years in federal prison, followed by a life term of supervised release. Both men pleaded guilty to federal terrorism charges.

Both men admitted having taken part in attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, not in Bowling Green.

Here’s what the Justice Department said in Jan. 29, 2013 news release:
Hammadi and Alwan both admitted, in FBI interviews that followed waiver of their Miranda rights, to participation in the purported material support operations in Kentucky, and both provided the FBI details of their prior involvement in insurgent activities while living in Iraq. Both men believed their activities in Kentucky were supporting AQI. Alwan admitted participating in IED attacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq, and Hammadi admitted to participating in 10 to 11 IED attacks as well as shooting at a U.S. soldier in an observation tower.

Court documents filed in this case reveal that the Bowling Green office of the FBI’s Louisville Division initiated an investigation of Alwan in which they used a confidential human source (CHS). The CHS met with Alwan and recorded their meetings and conversations beginning in August 2010. The CHS represented to Alwan that he was working with a group to ship money and weapons to Mujahadeen in Iraq. From September 2010 through May 2011, Alwan participated in ten separate operations to send weapons and money that he believed were destined for terrorists in Iraq. Between October 2010 and January 2011, Alwan drew diagrams of multiple types of IEDs and instructed the CHS how to make them. In January 2011, Alwan recruited Hammadi, a fellow Iraqi national living in Bowling Green, to assist in these material support operations. Beginning in January 2011 and continuing until his arrest in late May 2011, Hammadi participated with Alwan in helping load money and weapons that he believed were destined for terrorists in Iraq.
Conway reiterated claims from Trump that his refugee policy is similar to “what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months.” Conway said it was “brand new information” to people that Obama enacted a “six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program.” Breitbart also reported earlier this week that “Obama suspended Iraq refugee program for six months over terrorism fears in 2011.”

As The Washington Post reported, this was not the case. Obama administration officials told The Post that there was never a point when Iraqi resettlement was stopped or banned. In the aftermath of the arrests of the two Iraqis living in Kentucky, the Obama administration imposed more extensive background checks on Iraqi refugees, and the new screening procedures created a dramatic slowdown in visa approvals.

State Department records show there was a significant drop in refugee arrivals from Iraq in 2011, The Post’s Glenn Kessler reported. There were 18,251 in 2010, 6,339 in 2011 and 16,369 in 2012. One news report said the “pace of visa approvals having slowed to a crawl,” indicating some were still being approved.

Conway’s interview was by no means the first time the arrests of the two Iraqis in Bowling Green have been politicized as support for blocking refugees from reaching the United States. In December 2015, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) released a dramatic campaign video ad featuring images and video footage of the two Iraqi nationals, while criticizing then-presidential rivals Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). In the 90-second-long ad, the faces of Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi are featured with pounding, dismal music, establishing that the men were “welcomed into America, given public housing, and public assistance — as refugees.”

After Conway’s comments, “Bowling Green Massacre” was the number-one topic trending on Twitter, and Conway’s interview prompted many to share memories of where they were “when the Bowling Green Massacre didn’t happen.”

Kellyanne Conway referred to the "Bowling Green massacre" in an interview CREDIT: EPA

'Bowling Green massacre': Kellyanne Conway mocked for using 'alternative fact' in justifying Trump's travel ban

Kellyanne Conway, a senior advisor to Donald Trump, was widely mocked on Thursday for referring to a "Bowling Green massacre" in a TV interview, prompting questions of whether this was another "alternative fact" .

Ms Conway mentioned the supposed attack while defending the president's immigration executive order to temporarily suspend travel from seven majority-Muslim nations.

“I bet it’s brand new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee programme after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalised and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre,” Ms Conway said in an interview with MSNBC.
“Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.”

It is believed she was referring to two Iraqis in Bowling Green, Kentucky, who were convicted of terrorist activities after killing US soldiers in 2011.  However, the incident happened in Iraq.

Mohanad Shareef Hammadi and Waad Ramadan Alwan were sentenced to life for using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against American soldiers.

The incident led to Barack Obama ordering a fresh screening of roughly 57,000 Iraqis refugees who had entered the country and tougher checks for those coming in the future. The move slowed the refugee process down considerably, however it was not an outright ban, as claimed by Mr Trump and his advisers.

"There was no ban on Iraqis in 2011," Ben Rhodes, one of Mr Obama’s top foreign policy aides, tweeted earlier this week. "Anyone pushing that line is hiding behind a lie because they can't defend the EO (executive order)."

Ms Conway raised eyebrows last month when she defended the White House's claims about the size of the inauguration crowd, saying there were "alternative facts". 

In the days after she used the term, sales of George Orwell's "1984" soared as comparisons were made between the Trump administration and the classic dystopian tale of a society in which facts are distorted and suppressed in a cloud of "newspeak".

Social media users were quick to poke fun at Ms Conway after her latest remarks. "Kellyanne Conway's comment about the #BowlingGreenMassacre was disrespectful to all who died that day, myself included," one Twitter user wrote.

Another wrote: "Where were you the day it didn't happen? #NeverRemember #BowlingGreenMassacre."

What on Earth is the 'Bowling Green massacre?'

Viewers who tuned into Chris Matthews' Thursday night interview with Kellyanne Conway on MSNBC might have walked away confused by one specific reference made by the Trump adviser -- a reference to an act of violence that she said had taken place right here in the Tri-State, but not been covered because of media bias in favor of then-President Obama.

The Bowling Green massacre.

The massacre surfaced in Conway's defense of President Trump's controversial executive order limiting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries and suspending the United States' Syrian refugee program. Conway said that the Obama administration had temporarily suspending the Iraqi refugee program after the Bowling Green massacre, but major news outlets had not covered either the suspension or the massacre itself.

“I bet it’s brand new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqi refugees came here to this country, were radicalized and were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre,” Conway said. “Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered."

Tri-State residents, especially those living in Kentucky, might have responded to this claim with some confusion -- how could we not have heard about this? Even in the absence of mainstream news coverage, word travels, right? They weren't the only ones: More than 60,000 tweets about the incident were posted Thursday night, some of them equally bewildered. Why hadn't this event been covered?

There’s a simple answer:

It didn’t get covered because it didn’t happen.

Bowling Green, Kentucky, was in 2011 the site of an incident that caused the Obama administration to review its vetting procedures and, in the process, pause approvals of new Iraqi refugees for six months, according to The Mirror. However, no one ever died.

Conway’s reference most closely matches the case of Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, two Iraqi refugees who were arrested in 2011 and charged with attempting to aid al-Qaida by sending money and weapons from Bowling Green to Iraq. Neither the money nor the weapons ever reached foreign shores, the Associated Press reported, because they were intercepted by an FBI investigation into the two men’s activities.

Federal authorities said that Alwan had "boasted of constructing and using IEDs against Humvees and Bradley vehicles" and that his fingerprints had been matched to an improvised explosive device found in Iraq.

However, neither man was linked to attacks or planned attacks within the United States. Both eventually pleaded guilty to terror charges -- Hammadi was sentenced to life in prison, and Alwan was sentenced to 40 years followed by lifetime supervised release, according to the Department of Justice.

Proponents of stronger checks on incoming refugees and immigrants might have an effective cautionary tale on their side in Bowling Green. However, claiming that a massacre took place there is untrue.

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