Donald Trump, 2/28/17: “We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens. Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero — battling against terrorism and securing our Nation. I just spoke to General Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, ‘Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.’ Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity.”
NBCNews, 3/1/17: “The Pentagon says Navy SEALs scooped up laptops, hard drives and cell phones in last month’s Yemen raid, but multiple U.S. officials told NBC News that none of the intelligence gleaned from the operation so far has proven actionable or vital — contrary to what President Trump said in his speech to Congress Tuesday.”
Neither Owens’ heroism nor the sacrifice of his death are diminished by the success of the raid in which he died. But as I wrote earlier today, this spectacle from President Trump last night was transparently constructed in order to repurpose Owens’ widow’s palpable grief into a heat shield to ward any effort to question the wisdom of the raid or Investigate what happened and why.
Mattis will have to answer for himself if his public statement matches the real after action assessment. But it is noteworthy that Trump laundered his apparent deception through Mattis.
Military missions go wrong. It is always the President’s responsibility. But that doesn’t mean it’s the President’s fault. President Trump has displayed an uncanny refusal to take any responsibility for what happened in this raid, even going so far as to all but deny that he even authorized it. As he said yesterday morning: “This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do. They came to see me, they explained what they wanted to do ― the generals ― who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”
This is a moment when we’ll see how just how earnest the press is about holding the President to account. This ‘presidential’ moment was the most shameless kind of exploitation and it would seem a straight up lie.