The White House is using the death of a Navy SEAL last month during a raid in Yemen to avoid an investigation into that raid, the slain service member’s father said in an interview with the Miami Herald that was published Sunday.
Thirty-six-year-old Ryan Owens was killed late last month during an intelligence-gathering raid targeting a terrorist group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in Yemen. In addition to Owens, the operation left several civilians, possibly including children, dead.
Owens’ death was the first known military casualty of President Donald Trump’s administration, and the president personally traveled to Dover Air Force Base to greet the slain SEAL’s remains as they arrived back in the U.S. The White House has billed the Yemen raid as “a huge success,” a characterization that prompted Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to criticize the Trump administration for celebrating an operation that resulted in the death of a U.S. service member.
The president responded by suggesting that “Sen. McCain should not be talking about the success or failure of a mission to the media. Only emboldens the enemy! He’s been losing so long he doesn’t know how to win anymore.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer followed by telling reporters that “I think anybody who undermines the success of that [raid] owes an apology and [does] a disservice to the life of Chief Owens.”
“Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation,” the SEAL’s father, Bill Owens, told the Herald. “I want an investigation. … The government owes my son an investigation.”
On Sunday, Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested that Trump could be open to an investigation.
“I haven’t had the chance to speak with him directly about that, but I would imagine that he would be supportive of that,” she said on ABC News’ “This Week.”
Upset by Trump’s very public feuding with and treatment of a Gold Star family during his campaign last year, Bill Owens told the Herald that he refused to meet with Trump when the president came to Dover Air Force Base. Instead, the president met with other members of the family while the Bill Owens and his wife sat in another room.
The White House has said publicly that the Yemen raid was originally planned under the administration of former President Barack Obama and carried out by the Trump administration only because of a desire to conduct it on a moonless night that would not occur until after the president was sworn in. But Bill Owens questioned why the Trump administration opted to carry out such a mission that represented a clear departure from past U.S. policies in Yemen.
“Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration? Why? For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?”