Everyone—from congressmen like John McCain to news pundits at CNN and Fox—have made known their disappointment at the results of the Yemen raid, which took place weeks ago and resulted in the deaths of almost two dozen civilians and one Navy SEAL, Ryan Owens.
Critics have laid the blame of what many see as a failed raid squarely at the feet of newly inaugurated President Donald Trump, while some others have tied in former President Obama, as it was initially planned under the previous administration. One thing is for certain: There was plenty that went horribly wrong.
According to reports by SOFREP and later by CNN and NPR, the chief of AQAP, Qassim al-Rimi, was the ultimate target of the raid, as was the gathering of intelligence to further limit terror attacks by AQAP in the region. This operation was indeed planned under the Obama administration for months in late 2016, and it was approved. However, it was ultimately delayed under the Obama administration, with officials citing “operations issues” as the reason for the delay.
Five days after President-elect Trump became President Trump, he was made aware of the operation by the former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. During a dinner at his residence with some key aides, including son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump gave his approval of the operation to top military advisors, including Mad Dog Mattis and General Dunford. Trump’s inaugural foray into the world of secret ops was a “go,” and the unraveling quickly followed.
Flying on specially equipped CV-22 Ospreys, a team of Navy SEALs and a group of UAE special forces operators were inserted into the area while armed drones provided covering support and eyes and ears for command and control. Unfortunately, they were discovered, and a ferocious firefight ensued, eventually killing one of our elite commandos, Chief Petty Officer Ryan Owens, as well as 23 civilians—largely women and children. Included in the civilian death toll was the last surviving child of the well-known (and long-dead) terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki. In addition, during the battle, an $80 million Osprey was lost, and to top it all off, al-Rimi was not among the dead. What was accomplished was the death of several high-level AQAP personnel, and the team was able to secure a large cache of intel. However, for many, the loss of Chief Owens and the death of all those civilians was too large a toll to pay for what was achieved.
Almost immediately, the web and media outlets were alive with scathing criticisms directed at the new administration. Despite this, the White House labeled the raid as a success, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer calling it “highly successful” even though the intended target, al-Raymi, was not captured or killed, and what’s worse, has now been found showboating on the internet, calling our new president the “fool in the White House.”
Then, after almost a week of debates about the successes and missteps of the raid, GOP Senator and war hero John McCain called the raid a “failure,” and was immediately chastised by President Trump via Twitter, who said his comments “only emboldened the enemy.”
These operators are the most highly trained individuals on the planet, but even the most extensively planned operations are not foolproof, and shit happens when the boots hit the ground. The only thing that is certain is the uncertainty of how the operation will unfold. Regardless of whether Americans realize it or not, the Global War on Terror is anything but won, and in war, people die. Innocents die. Al-Qaeda and ISIS and the dozens of other extremist shit-head organizations out there often use innocents as shields, knowing full well the hesitation it may cause Western soldiers and that this increases the possibility of wounding or killing them—killing men like Chief Owen.
We don’t know the exact details, just the outcome. From an outsider’s perspective, 23 civilians lost is a hard pill to swallow, no doubt about it. However, what about the countless innocents many of us have seen massacred in the streets of Ramadi or the alleys of Baghdad by these animals? Where was their outrage then? As a combat medic, I saw and worked on dozens of kids and women who were caught up in a suicide bombing or caught in the crossfire as the enemy bore down on us, using them as shields, the cowards. Yet I saw no protests or outrage with the exception of that of my brothers and sisters who witnessed it along with me.
The Yemen raid wasn’t a total success. In fact, perhaps it was even a disaster. Fine, I’ll grant them that. Trump, too, may not have been as informed as he should have been. Perhaps a continuing delay may have been a better choice. But all this comes from the benefit of hindsight, which is always 20/20.
I must agree with Trump as it relates to McCain: Publicly calling each other out is the wrong play now. A show of unity, strength, and determination to learn and get it right the next time, and then the next time, is far more productive. We need to stop looking at each other as though we are the enemy. The enemy is ISIS and al-Qaeda, not the GOP or the Dems. The evil is them, not the political differences that separate us. The sooner we can come together on at least this, the more effective our efforts will be against them. A country divided against itself cannot stand. We must find our unity again, whatever it takes, as the stakes are at their highest.
Featured image courtesy of Japan Today