President Trump on Tuesday blamed the military for the death of Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, a Navy SEAL who was killed in a Jan. 29 botched raid on Islamic terrorists in Yemen.
During an interview on “Fox ‘n’ Friends,” the commander-in-chief repeatedly said “they” — meaning the military — were at fault for the death of Owens, whose dad, Bill, refused to appear with Trump when his son’s body was returned to the US.
“This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do,” Trump said.
“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,” he added.
“This was something that they were looking at for a long time doing, and according to [Defense Secretary Jim] Mattis, it was a very successful mission. They got tremendous amounts of information.”
While Trump and White House spokesman Sean Spicer have repeatedly called the operation a roaring success, US officials told NBC News on Monday that the raid produced little if any useful information.
In addition to Owens, 25 civilians, including women and children, were killed, as were numerous terrorists. Four other Americans were wounded and a $70 million Bell transport helicopter was lost.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had also questioned whether the mission was a success — prompting a predictably vituperative Twitter-storm from the president.
“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, just look at the mess our country is in – bogged down in conflict all over the place. Our hero Ryan died on a winning mission (according to General Mattis), not a ‘failure.’ Time for the U.S. to get smart and start winning again!” Trump crowed in a series of three early-morning tweets on Feb. 9.
Presidents historically accept responsibility for their decisions, with President Harry Truman famously plopping a sign reading “The Buck Stops Here” on his desk in the Oval Office.
Presidents John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all adhered to that dictate when crises struck.
“I’m the president. And I’m always responsible,” Obama said after an attack on a US consulate in Benghazi in which four Americans, including the US ambassador, were murdered.