In the wake of the Trump administration’s first counterterrorism mission, which reportedly killed 14 al-Qaeda fighters, one U.S. Navy SEAL, and an unknown number of civilians in Yemen, the president and his press secretary have set a remarkably steep standard for when the administration’s military actions can be criticized: If the action is against an enemy and involves sacrifice, it must be accepted as a success.
That message was underlined by a series of tweets sent Thursday morning by Donald Trump, who was responding to John McCain’s characterization of the raid as a “failure.” McCain, as the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is one of the congressional leaders charged with oversight of the American military. But the Republican senator “should not be talking about the success or failure of a mission to the media,” Trump wrote. “Only emboldens the enemy!”
“Our hero Ryan [Owens] died on a winning mission (according to General Mattis), not a ‘failure,’” he declared, in reference to the soldier who was killed and his defense secretary, James Mattis.
On Wednesday, Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, similarly insisted that the raid was an unqualified success. “I think anyone who would suggest it’s not a success does disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens” and should apologize, he told reporters. “He fought knowing what was at stake in that mission. And anybody who would suggest otherwise doesn’t fully appreciate how successful that mission was, what the information that they were able to retrieve was, and how that will help prevent future terrorist attacks.”