Politics

White House Fumes at Yemen Raid Critics

Trump blasts McCain for criticizing operation against al-Qaida, 'only emboldens the enemy'

The White House is pushing back against talk in the media and on Capitol Hill that the recent raid in Yemen was a failure.

The raid was carried out on Jan. 29 in Yemen, with the target being key officials of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

“They got 14 high-value targets … Everything didn’t go according to plan, but it’s war.”

One U.S. serviceman — Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, a Navy SEAL — was killed in the raid. And 23 civilians were reportedly killed in a surprise firefight that broke out as U.S. and Emirati troops approached the terrorist compound.

But because Owens was killed and an Osprey aircraft destroyed, White House press secretary Sean Spicer initially was cautious to robustly call the raid a success.

But Spicer noted the raid picked up valuable intelligence for use later, one of the main goals.

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Spicer has also become a bit emotional when speaking of the raid because of Owens’ death. Spicer himself rose to the rank of commander in the U.S. Navy, after obtaining his master’s degree from the Naval War College. For Trump, the emotional attachment is different. Owens was the first military casualty under the new commander-in-chief.

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Spicer’s caution in talking up the raid disappeared on Wednesday when critics began suggesting it was a failure.

Kicking off the criticism was Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. McCain is usually circumspect in his criticism of anti-terror efforts, but a glib statement on Wednesday angered the White House.

“While many of the objectives of the recent raid in Yemen were met, I would not describe any operation that results in the loss of American life as a success,” a statement from McCain read.

Soon, Trump weighed in with his own criticism via Twitter Thursday morning. He didn’t mince words.

“Sen. McCain should not be talking about the success or failure of a mission to the media,” Trump tweeted. “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!”

The raid itself was the product of two administrations. Planning began under President Obama. Trump signed off on the raid after being sworn in.

After Yemen reportedly pulled permission for ground raids on Wednesday — reports that the U.S. State Department denies — criticism of the raid began anew.

Spicer took questions about the raid at a press briefing on Wednesday, and seemed to suggest even McCain should apologize for his remarks.

“We owe [Owens] and his family a great debt for the information that we received during that raid,” said Spicer. “I think any suggestion otherwise is a disservice to his courageous life and the actions that he took. Full stop.”

Spicer was pressed about whether he would extend that remark to McCain.

“Anybody who undermines the success of that raid owes an apology, and [does] a disservice to the life of Chief Owens,” said Spicer.

Spicer said American lives will be saved because of the raid, and future terrorist actions will be thwarted.

McCain’s remarks will likely put him back on the defensive.

On Thursday morning, Taya Kyle, the widow of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, said McCain should apologize.

“[McCain] certainly could apologize to the family for saying it was a failure because that insinuates that his life was given for nothing and it wasn’t,” said Kyle, a Fox News contributor. “They got 14 high-value targets. That’s a big deal. These guys went in and risked their lives, and they were very successful. Did everything go well? No, everything didn’t go according to plan, but it’s war.”

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Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.

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