On Tuesday, at his first address to a joint session of Congress, Donald Trump honored the widow of Ryan Owens, the marine killed in a January mission in Yemen. "We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens," Trump began. "Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero." That's quite the tribute, no one can deny that. But earlier that same day, Trump tried to pass the blame of Owens' death onto the military generals. So did Trump order the Yemen raid?
In an interview that aired on Fox News hours before his speech, Trump attempted to evade blame on the failed Yemen raid because it “was started before I got here." Trump said, "This was something that was, you know, just — they wanted to do... And they came to see me and they explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected."
Trump went on to pointblank say, "And they lost Ryan."
However, the bottom line is that Trump approved the mission during a dinner meeting on Jan. 25, as reported by the Washington Post. According to that report, Trump's approval for the Yemen operation came over dinner with the likes of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr.
NBC News reported that to convince Trump, the military leaders told him that this was something that the Obama administration wouldn't have been "bold enough" to try.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also tried to pass some of the blame onto the Obama administration. "Not only was it a very, very thought-out process by this administration, and it started back on November 7th in terms of — clearly, well before that, but it was moved forward by Centcom on November 7th," Spicer said at press conference in February. It is ironic that Spicer played up the Obama administration's role when Trump was allegedly convinced to approve the mission by saying Obama wouldn't do it.
10/So, in a nutshell, Trump and his team owns the process and the ultimate decision--and the consequences.— Colin Kahl (@ColinKahl) February 2, 2017
While the planning did begin back in November, but that doesn't mean Obama would have approved. Colin Kahl, a former member of Obama's national security team and current professor at Georgetown University, tweeted that "in a nutshell, Trump and his team owns the process and the ultimate decision--and the consequences."
All the praise Trump is getting for the Owens widow moment ignores the fact that Trump-the CIC-blamed his generals for her husband's death.— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) March 1, 2017
It was just a matter of hours between Trump proclaiming, "They lost Ryan," and then honoring Owens' widow. To me, the former undermines the latter, and it is cynical and troublesome because ultimately Trump approved the mission.
Even Owens' father, Bill, has taken issue with Trump's bluster too, and wouldn't meet with the president when the body was returned. "Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation," Bill Owens told the Miami Herald. "I want an investigation. … The government owes my son an investigation."
To truly honor Owens' family, the government certainly should conduct one.