Donald Trump suggested today that the botched military mission in Yemen, in which Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens died, was actually President Obama’s fault because “this was a mission that started before I got here.”
As Steve Benen notes over at the Maddow Blog, it’s bizarre to hear a commander-in-chief absolve himself of responsibility for a military operation that he authorized and oversaw.
Second, it’s flat-out untrue that the mission was approved by President Obama and then Trump simply implemented it. That’s another bizarre assertion. We’re to believe that Barack Obama okayed a mission that wasn’t to take place until Trump was president? And that Trump as president had no control over the mission? Pshaw. In fact, as Steve notes, Obama put the mission off expressly so that Trump could make the final decision:
That was directly contradicted by Colin Kahl, a deputy assistant to President Obama and National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden, who participated in that National Security Council meeting and explained that no such decision was made. On the contrary, officials expected the new administration to begin its own deliberative process to evaluate whether the operation should go ahead.
Trump instead approved the mission over dinner at the White House residence, alongside political adviser Steve Bannon. While the deadly raid was underway, the president did not go to the Situation Room and did not monitor the developments in real time.
It was Trump’s mission, and it went wildly wrong. Though the White House this week said they’re “very comfortable” with how the raid went, even though we lost a Navy SEAL and we didn’t get the terrorist target we wanted to bag. Here’s Sean Spicer on February 27:
As I mentioned before, I think you can’t ever say that when there’s, most importantly loss of life and people injured, that it’s 100 percent successful. But I think when you look at what the stated goal of that mission was, it was an information and intelligence-gathering mission and it achieved that — its objectives. … And so, we’re very comfortable with how the mission was executed and, you know, we’ll let the Department of Defense go through that review process and then see where that leads us.
What exactly is the White House comfortable with? A Navy SEAL and a young American girl died. We didn’t bag the terrorist mastermind we wanted to get. And, according to US officials, the raid yielded “no significant intelligence.” And if Trump is so “comfortable” with how the raid went, why is he now blaming it on Obama?
But back to Trump’s bizarre claim that he’s not responsible as president for a military mission launched on his authority under his watch. The conservative National Review tried to argue the following:
So, we’re to believe that a president and his top advisers go to war because the guy that held the job before him, who he doesn’t agree with on much anything, thought at some point it might be a good idea? How does that work exactly?
Donald Trump doesn’t understand the issues — be they military, health care, or anything else — nor does he seem to have the intellectual curiosity or rigor necessary to understanding the issue. But this incident shows something far worse. Donald Trump approved a military raid that he knew could have led to the deaths of Americans, and in fact did, and after the fact Trump doesn’t think he’s ultimately responsible?
Then who is?