Father of Navy SEAL Killed in Botched Yemen Raid Refuses to Meet Trump
The outraged father of a US Navy SEAL killed during a botched raid against al-Qaeda in Yemen — in which dozens of civilians, including an 8-year-old American girl were also slain — refused to meet with President Donald Trump.
The Miami Herald reports William Owens, whose son William “Ryan” Owens, a married father of three, was the first US service member to die in combat after Donald Trump became president, said he refused to meet the president when the slain SEAL’s remains arrived stateside at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
“I’m sorry, I don’t want to see him,’’ Owens told the chaplain who informed him that Trump was en route from Washington, DC. “I told them I don’t want to meet the president.” The military veteran and retired Ft. Lauderdale, Florida police detective added he “didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him.”
“Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration?” Owens asked. “Why? For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?”
A senior Pentagon official told NBC News that the January raid, which involved a rare deployment of US boots on the ground in war-torn Yemen, was a disaster in which “almost everything went wrong.” An MV-22 Osprey made a hard landing, injuring several SEALs. The $75 million aircraft had to be destroyed. As many as 30 civilians were killed in an ensuing firefight with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants, including Nawar Al-Awlaki, an 8-year-old American girl whose father, the radical US-born Islamist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and brother, 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki — an innocent American civilian, were also killed in separate drone strikes ordered by former president Barack Obama.
Owens called the raid “stupid.” President Trump, who reportedly green-lighted the attack while dining with advisers instead of in the White House Situation Room, said it was “a very successful mission” that yielded “tremendous amounts of information,” according to his defense secretary, Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis. However, senior Pentagon officials told NBC News the raid uncovered no significant intelligence, contradicting the administration and other military officials. Amid growing criticism, Trump on Tuesday blamed his generals for Owens’ death. “This was something that was, you know, just — they wanted to do,” Trump said in an interview on Fox News. “And they came to see me and they explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected. And they lost Ryan.”
White House spokesman Sean Spicer has attempted to silence critics of the raid, saying on February 8 that the mission was “absolutely a success, and I think anyone who would suggest it’s not a success does disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens.” The administration’s attacks on critics, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a decorated Vietnam war veteran and longtime prisoner of war who Trump called a loser for criticizing the botched raid’s outcome, has infuriated Owens.
“Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation,” he told the Herald. “I want an investigation… The government owes my son an investigation.”
Administration spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday she believes Trump would support a probe of the raid. “I can’t imagine what this father is going through,” Sanders said. “His son is a true American hero, and we should forever been in his son’s debt.”
Trump doubled down on his assertion that the raid garnered valuable intelligence during his Tuesday evening address to a joint session of Congress, where Carryn Owens, widow of the slain SEAL, was the president’s special guest. “I just spoke to our great general Mattis just now, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, ‘Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemy,” said Trump.
Sources told CNN three military investigations of the raid have been launched — one probing the civilian deaths, another to examine the Osprey’s crash-landing and a third to review events leading to Owens’ death.