President Donald Trump made his first address to a joint session of Congress earlier this week. It was lauded by media organisations around the world as his first true “Presidential” moment. Trump’s tribute to fallen Navy Seal, William “Ryan” Owens, managed to garner the bipartisan support for Trump that had so far eluded him.
“We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of 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 our great General [Jim] Mattis just now 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 enemy.”
Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity. Thank you.”
CNN’s Van Jones, a longtime critic of Trump, called it “one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics”. Jones declared that Trump “became President of the United States in that moment, period”. Washington Times’ Dave Boyer praised it as “the most riveting piece of political theatre”. Closer to home, The Australian’s John Lyons concluded that the speech was simply “brilliant”, one “as good as any delivered by Bill Clinton or Barack Obama”.
But they couldn’t be more wrong.
There was, and continues to remain, nothing Presidential about Donald Trump’s manner of dealing with the fateful Yemen raid. Donald Trump deserves no praise for his handling of his first ever military mission.
The Yemeni raid was given the green light by Trump in his first week of office, and carried out in early February. The plan was to kill a number of prominent Al Qaeda terrorists and help to dismantle the terrorist network and halt its spread in the Middle East.
The mission went horribly wrong, however, after the troops’ cover was blown and a series of pre-prepared plans failed. Although 14 Al Qaeda terrorists were killed in the battle, so too were 25 innocent civilians.
Nine of those killed were all children under the age of 12. One of them, Asma Fahad Ali al Ameri, was only three months old. Another was eight-year-old Nawar Anwar Al-Awlaqi, whose 16-year-old brother was also killed by a drone strike authorized by President Barack Obama in 2011.
Nawar bled to death for two hours.
According to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the first casualty of the night was not a terrorist, but an 11-year-old boy, Ahmed Abdelilah Ahmed al Dahab. Ahmed asked the American soldiers who they were, and was shot in response.
Eight women were also killed, one of them heavily pregnant.
In the days following the attack, Trump hit back at criticisms of the botched mission over Twitter – some from within his own party – claiming that the mission was a “win” for America.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also celebrated the mission as “absolutely a success”, despite the wasteful loss of civilian life. “It achieved the purpose it was going to get – save the loss of life that we suffered and the injuries that occurred,” he said.
In a move that may very well become characteristic of the Trump Administration, the White House refused to offer an apology or explanation for the deaths of the children and women, nor to launch an investigation into the particulars of the raid. Instead, the US Central Command issued a statement in which they “concluded regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed in the midst of a firefight”.
To accept the failure of the mission and initiate an investigation into its particulars would have been a mark of true Presidential leadership and duty; but to ignore the deaths of innocent civilians, and to maintain a dogged persistence to call it an overwhelming success in the face of contrary evidence, is the work of a negligent man who does not know what it means to lead, and lead well.
To recognise the sacrifice of a fallen US soldier, but to ignore the wrongful deaths of innocent children, is not Presidential. It is, put bluntly, deeply immoral.