Jordan’s King Abdullah’s on the warpath

King Abdullah II of Jordan.

From the Fox News website, Feb. 4, 2015: "Jordan's King Abdullah, himself a former general, angrily vowed to pursue ISIS until his military runs 'out of fuel and bullets,' in a closed door meeting with U.S. lawmakers that followed the release Wednesday of a grisly video showing a captured Jordanian airman being burned alive in a cage by the terrorist army.

"The pledge preceded the hanging of two Al Qaeda terrorists early Wednesday in Jordan, a swift response to the video that could be a mere harbinger of coming retribution from the Arab kingdom in the wake of the sadistic slaughter. King Abdullah's words were echoed by military leaders, who vowed an 'earth-shaking response, proportionate to the magnitude of the tragedy of all Jordanians.' But it was the words of their visibly shaken king, who commanded his nation's special forces before assuming the throne in 1999, that could foreshadow what's in store for the black-clad terrorist army whose atrocities have shocked the civilized world.

"''He said there is going to be retribution like ISIS hasn't seen,' said Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., R-Calif., a Marine Corps veteran of two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, who was in the meeting with the king. 'He mentioned "Unforgiven," and he mentioned Clint Eastwood, and he actually quoted a part of the movie.'"

HERE IS A LITTLE-KNOWN back-story about our ally Jordan - and, particularly, its current monarch. Although I was not on hand almost 30 years ago to observe these unusual events in and around Athens, Ohio, I am certain they happened.

Before the death of his father, King Hussein, Prince Abdullah II of Jordan was a hard-core military man. Educated in the UK, at the Sandhurst military academy, and having a junior officer's commission in the British Army, he became the commander of Jordan's elite special-ops unit: the 999, I think it was called. One of the unit's responsibilities was as palace guard. Jordan was home to a million Palestinians who reportedly weren't considered particularly loyal subjects at that time (if you get my drift).

Hold that thought.

After I got out of the U.S. Army in 1988, I moved to Athens where I attended journalism graduate school at Ohio University. It didn't take long until I was training, at an accelerated basic level (despite my taekwondo-karate-military hand-to-hand background), in a martial system - not just a "martial art" - called "Bando." It originated in Burma, which is well documented. Its basis was hard-style kickboxing not unlike the muay thai of neighboring Thailand. As my fate would have it, the chief instructor and original "importer" of this system to the USA was an OU professor of interpersonal communication, Maung Gyi, Ph.D. Athens and OU at that time were home-central for his national organization, the American Bando Association.

I advanced fairly quickly in the bruising training and in the ABA organization; my ability to get Gyi-approved articles published in national martial-arts magazines (three, to be exact) was an asset. He was charismatic, of keen intellect, and a tough instructor. (His older male relatives had fought alongside British troops in Burma in WWII.) In the 1960s, he independently was ranked in the martial-arts world alongside Bruce Lee. Gyi was scary good.

The professor had American students (mostly on the East Coast) whose close association dated back to the mid- or late '60s. By the mid-1980s, some of these men were in positions of responsibility in the U.S. government. Around 1986, while I still was in the Army (an airborne-Ranger-qualified Russian linguist stationed in West Germany) and hadn't yet even heard of Gyi or this scary stuff called Bando, some of his most senior and trusted students - one, a Secret Service agent - came in contact with some of Prince Abdullah's people. It seemed the prince wanted to upgrade the close-combat skills of his Unit 999 and, in particular, those of its in-house guards protecting Jordan's royal family. As I later understood the story, these special guards couldn't carry firearms in the presence of the king or queen. They at most could carry bladed weapons.

The American Bando Association's trademark weapon was (and I believe still is) the kukri. It is the forward-curving, almost boomerang-shaped, short sword carried by the famed Gurkha soldiers who long have served with distinction in the British Army. (OK - dots connecting now?)

At some point, perhaps around 1986-87, Prince Abdullah and a few of his best soldiers journeyed to the Athens area to secretly train out in the Appalachian woods with Dr. Gyi and a few of his hand-picked senior students. The prince and his guys especially wanted to learn how to use the kukri - well enough to kill with it, too, not just to wave around and cut air (which often is the case with martial-arts weapons training in America). This short sword is a formidable in-close weapon (with its own system of precise techniques) that would scare the crap out of any Palestinians - or anybody else - who might try to get past the perimeter defense to harm the royal family.

After this southeast Ohio training, a few months went by and the Jordanian government brought Dr. Gyi and a number of his senior students to Jordan to train the rest of the 999 unit. I wasn't around for any of this, of course, but I later conversed at length with several men (including my Bando instructor, known locally as "Mr. D" in Athens) who had participated firsthand. I also saw photos - one, of the prince in military fatigues and beret - and read one or two local newspaper clippings from when the prince's comings and goings leaked out.

That was then; this is now.

Is King Abdullah - several pounds heavier and no longer sporting a commando beret - really going to track down and exterminate the Daesh (ISIS) barbarians who torched one of his F-16 pilots for the world to see? I think so. In fact, those Daesh punks probably have pissed off the wrong Westernized Arab warrior-nobleman.

Editor's note: Martin Kufus, who attended graduate school in OU's Scripps College of Journalism in the late 1980s, is now a technical editor (contractor) for the U.S. Army Research Laboratory on White Sands Missile Range near Los Cruces, New Mexico.

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