DOVER: President Joe Biden on Friday joined the intensely emotional military ritual at a Delaware air base for the return of three US soldiers killed in Jordan by a drone attack blamed on an Iran-backed militia.
Biden, accompanied by First Lady Jill Biden, flew into Dover Air Force Base, for the event known as a “dignified transfer.”
Awaiting him and the families of the three slain soldiers was a grey C-5 military transport plane, which shipped back the bodies in flag-draped “transfer cases” – as the military calls the caskets used in transportation.
The secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin, and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, CQ Brown, were also attending — recognition of the importance, as well as relative rarity, of returning dead service members in the wake of US exits from major foreign conflicts.
William Rivers, Kennedy Sanders and Breonna Moffett, all from the southern state of Georgia, were killed in a drone strike on their remote US base in Jordan, near Syria, last Sunday.
The White House blames the Islamic Resistance in Iraq militia for the attack and Biden has announced he will order counter-strikes, without detailing the timing or the targets.
Although the United States is now free from its large-scale entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan, surging tensions in the Middle East, sparked by the Israel-Hamas war, threaten to drag US forces back into regional conflict.
These were the first US military deaths to hostile fire since the October 7 Hamas surprise attack on Israel that sparked a deadly Israeli assault on Gaza.
However, the US military and Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria periodically exchange fire, while Yemen’s Huthi rebels are near daily clashing with the US Navy ships or firing on international civilian shipping in the Red Sea.
Two SEALS – among the most elite special forces in the US military– died while trying to board and search a ship in January.
Biden, consoler-in-chief
Presidents are not obliged to attend dignified transfers, but Biden is under pressure to show his authority — and to reassure Americans — as he seeks reelection in November.
His likely Republican opponent, former president Donald Trump, has launched fierce attacks on Biden’s leadership, while another would-be challenger, Nikki Haley, accused Biden of dithering in his response.
“He had to wait for people to die to say, OK, maybe we need to do something. Are you kidding me?” she said.
Biden, whose life has been repeatedly marked by personal tragedy — including the deaths of his first wife and infant daughter in a 1972 car crash, and the death to cancer of his son Beau in 2015 — has often played the role of consoler-in-chief.
At the air base on Friday he was due to meet privately with the families of the dead soldiers. He also called them at their homes to offer his condolences.
“I know there is nothing anybody can say or do to ease the pain, I’ve been there,” Biden said in one call, recorded and shared by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper.





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