Weinstein remembered for dedication to others

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Warren-WeinsteinWarren Weinstein, the 73-year-old Rockville man accidentally killed during a United States counterterrorism drone strike on an al-Qaeda compound, was admired and loved by coworkers and family.

“Dr. Warren Weinstein was not only a world-renowned development expert, but was a wonderful father and human being,” said Kevin Murphy, president of JE Austin Associates Inc.


Weinstein, a former official of the Peace Corps and the U.S. Agency for International Development, worked in Pakistan for the Arlington-based government contractor to promote economic development. He was kidnapped in 2011.

He was killed  — 1,251 days after his capture — during a Jan. 15 drone strike on the building where he was being held by the terrorist group al-Qaeda. Also killed was Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national who had been held since 2012.

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“Warren worked on projects to improve Pakistan’s exports, small business development and agriculture, in full concurrence with the government of Pakistan. Warren’s tireless dedication to the country was reflected in his calls at all hours of the day or night during the time he spent managing these projects. The world has lost a wonderful human being and we have lost a close friend and colleague,” he said in a statement.

Weinstein’s daughter, Alisa, in a July 1, 2014 blog in The Hill, wrote, “My father is a good man who dedicated his life to helping others.” Her father called or Skyped with the family every day prior to his abduction by gunpoint from his home in Pakistan.


She also wrote of her father’s health: “He is an elderly man in poor health, suffering from heart disease, asthma and high blood pressure.”

President Barack Obama addressed the nation April 23, saying, “As president and as commander in chief, I take full responsibility” for the counterintelligence attack which targeted an al-Qaeda compound. “I profoundly regret what happened.”

Obama noted that “Warren’s work benefited people across faiths. Meanwhile al-Qaeda boasted to the world that it held Warren, citing his Jewish faith.”

It took some time for the government to determine that two hostages had been in the targeted building at the time of the strike. It also took time to determine who the hostages were, according to the White House.

Obama made his announcement one day after speaking with Weinstein’s wife, Elaine.

She issued a statement, saying her family is “devastated by the news and the knowledge that my husband will never safely return home. We were so hopeful that those in the U.S. and Pakistani governments with the power to take action and secure his release would have done everything possible to do so, and there are no words to do justice to the disappointment and heartbreak we are going through.”

Peter Marathas Jr. was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana in the early 1980s at the time Weinstein was director of the Peace Corps in Togo. Marathas often visited Weinstein’s home as “Togo was a land of bounty” compared to Ghana.

“He was brilliant and witty, a real Renaissance man,” Marathas said of Weinstein. “At one point he was talking to me in English, giving instructions to the gardener in French and talking to someone in the phone” in yet another language.

Marathas, of Massachusetts, also recalled in an email to Washington Jewish Week that Weinstein “opened his home to four 24-year-olds who were a long way from home — not because he had to but because he wanted to. He had huge heart and a world view that most today could learn from.”

Saddened to learn Weinstein’s fate, Marathas said, “His death to me represents so many failures. It is tragic that this man who devoted his life to his country and to those less fortunate in the world should be killed as result of the viciousness of barbarians and policies of incompetents.”

Debby Prigal, of Washington, also volunteered in Ghana and visited Weinstein and his family. “He was a wonderful man. He and his family were just wonderful people,” she said. She recalled entering Weinstein’s home one time, only to hear “Sunrise, Sunset” playing on a phonograph.

“Warren’s ordeal is over. It must have been absolutely miserable,” Prigal said, adding she hoped people blame the terrorists, and not the American government, for Weinstein’s death.

Elaine Weinstein agreed. “But those who took Warren captive over three years ago bear ultimate responsibility. I can assure you that he would still be alive and well if they had allowed him to return home after his time abroad working to help the people of Pakistan,” she said in a statement.

Rep. John Delaney, a Democrat who represents the congressional district in which Weinstein lived, called his death “devastating, a tragic event that we must never forget. Warren was a beloved husband, father and grandfather.”

Delaney, who never met Weinstein, but was in contact with his family throughout his imprisonment, called him “a gentle and loving man who dedicated his career to building a better world. We need more Warren Weinsteins in the world.”

That his own government caused his death is “a sobering national security and government failure,” Delaney said. “I feel like his country failed him in his greatest time of need.” Delany is calling for the government to create a new position, that of hostage czar.

The czar would lead a committee on hostage recovery and sit on the National Security Council. The job would be to coordinate work among agencies, serve as the point of contact for families and ensure that all foreign allies and non-governmental organizations are being utilized to rescue hostages.

Also expressing condolences were the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Weinstein was “a loving husband, father, and grandfather who willingly left the comforts of his home to help the Pakistani people build a better life for themselves. He was the embodiment of our Jewish values of tikkun olam, repairing the world.”

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) praised Weinstein’s dedication “to improving the conditions of others all around the world,” and said in a prepared statement, “His humanitarian service, and that of Mr. Lo Porto, stands in stark and shining contrast to the depravity of their captors.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) called Weinstein’s death “a tragic loss, and it just points out the reasons why we are so actively engaged against extremists.” He said the kidnapping shows the United States “has to do more work protecting our foreign aid workers.”

The last time Weinstein was heard from was in December 2013 in a videotaped plea for the Obama administration to negotiate for his release.

[email protected]
@SuzannePollak

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