On Thursday, Kellyanne Conway referred to “the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre” in an MSNBC appearance. As you probably know if you're reading this post, there never was a Bowling Green massacre; what Conway was (sort of) referring to was the 2011 arrest in Bowling Green, Kentucky, of two Iraqi men who were caught in an FBI sting operation trying to send money and weapons to al-Qaida in Iraq, the group that became ISIS. Both men admitted to having used IEDs against U.S. troops in Iraq before they were admitted to the U.S. as refugees. They were both sentenced to long prison terms.
1. “The masterminds behind the Bowling Green terrorists” wouldn’t have made sense.
2. Reports Monday show that Conway had actually referred to “the Bowling Green attack on our brave soldiers” in a Jan. 29 TMZ interview and to “the Bowling Green massacre” in a Cosmopolitan interview conducted the same day.
Said Conway to TMZ: “There were two Iraqis who came here, got radicalized, joined ISIS, and then were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green attack on our brave soldiers.” She told Cosmopolitan that “two Iraqi nationals came to this country, joined ISIS, traveled back to the Middle East to get trained and refine their terrorism skills, and come back here, and were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre of taking innocent soldiers’ lives away.”
Conway now has a few more problems:
1. Obviously the “Bowling Green massacre” was a (fake) data point that Conway was rolling out in a premeditated way, not an innocent slip of the tongue.
2. The U.S. government has never suggested that the men who were convicted traveled to the Middle East for training after having arrived here, and there does not appear to be evidence that they did so.
The somewhat mystifying thing is that what actually happened—two Iraqi refugees admitting they’d conducted terrorist attacks against U.S. soldiers before moving to the U.S. and attempting to support further attacks—was a failure of the refugee vetting process, even if the latter attacks were never in danger of coming to fruition, because they were invented for the purposes of a sting.
Of course, the story of two refugees becoming radicalized, popping over to the Middle East for some meetings with ISIS, and then re-entering the United States to plan and successfully carry out an attack against U.S. troops would have been a much bigger failure of the vetting process. So that’s what Conway went with.