Last week, President Trump sent a team of Navy SEALs to raid a compound in Yemen — with the aim of capturing or killing the head of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Qassim al-Rimi.
When the raid was over, al-Rimi was still alive, and on the lam — while one SEAL, 14 (alleged) Al Qaeda fighters, an 8-year-old American citizen, and an unconfirmed number of other civilians lay dead.
The SEALs did manage to collect some phones and computers, though the value of the information contained therein is not publicly known. Meanwhile, in light of the raid’s many civilian casualties, the Yemeni government is starting to rethink its support for U.S. ground operations on its soil.
Surveying these results, Arizona senator and prominent war enthusiast John McCain dubbed the mission a “failure.” Last week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer sounded inclined to agree, telling reporters, “I think it’s hard to ever say something was successful when you lose a life.”
But for Spicer, it’s gotten much easier to say such a thing in the days since.
“The action that was taken in Yemen was a huge success,” Spicer said at his press briefing Wednesday. “The life of Chief Ryan Owens was done in service to this country and we owe him and his family a great debt for the information that we received during that raid. I think any suggestion otherwise is a disservice to his courageous life and the actions that he just took. Full stop.”
Spicer did argue (without evidence) that the raid had saved the lives of American civilians (even as it killed an 8-year-old one). But a large part of his case for calling the raid a success seemed to be that Ryan Owens died during it — and, thus, to call it anything less would be to insult a dead American soldier.
“I think anybody who undermines the success of that [raid] owes an apology and [does] a disservice to the life of Chief Owens,” Spicer said.
You can’t call an American military endeavor a failure without insulting the soldiers who died pursuing it.
Donald Trump has always believed this.