Photograph by Donna Cleveland
Dear Mr. President,
Within a week after you assumed office, you ordered a raid in Yemen that went, by almost all accounts, horribly wrong. According to news sources, it ended up in the death of Ryan Owens, a U.S. Navy Seal, while six other U.S. service members were wounded. At least 25 civilians were also killed — including nine children under the age of 13, one of them an 8-year old American girl. NBC news has reported that no significant intelligence was recovered from the raid, and Republican Senator John McCain labeled it a failure.
The raid had been initially drawn up under the Obama administration, but had been shelved because officials had decided executing it would only increase tensions in the region. And yet, within five days of your inauguration, you gave the mission the green light.
For a month, you and your mouthpieces have colored the raid a success and disputed that no actionable intelligence was gotten. Your administration has browbeat critics, shaming them as anti-patriots who besmirch the memory of Chief Petty Officer Owens by criticizing the operation or calling it a waste, regardless of the death and injury for little, if any, tactical benefit.
But then, this weekend, Ryan Owen’s father began to vocalize his own views on the raid that killed his son. He revealed he was too upset to meet you at the airport for the return of his boy’s remains. He is now demanding an investigation into the mission. And today, in the face of those demands, you did what you do best, it seems.
“This was a mission that was started before I got here,” you began, the “they” being the Obama officials who had scrapped the raid. “This was something they wanted to do,” you said, lying. “They came to 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.”
That last “they” in your comment is not the Obama officials. It is the military. You, the Commander-in-Chief of the entire armed forces, blamed your “respected generals” for a mission you recklessly green-lighted, then claimed was an overwhelming success, and now disown as you turn tail, again, and run.
No one who has followed you even a little is surprised by any of this, Mr. President. It is, sadly, your M.O. You act thoughtlessly, brashly claim unqualified success, foment nationalistic forces in doing so, and then, when the veil is removed and the whole thing is seen to be a flimsy mess, you point the finger someplace else and scream, “You’re fired.”
The problem is that the stakes here are higher than ratings for your cheesy TV show. The stakes here were the deaths of 26 human beings, many of them children, and another six people wounded.
Mr. President, you are showing yourself to be a coward and a fool. Presidents across history have lived up to Harry Truman’s little desk-top sign: “The Buck Stops Here.” You are failing miserably at following in that mold. The time has passed where casting blame will suffice. Be an adult. Be a leader. Be a president to this nation.