It appears the Trump White House is afraid that its botched handling of the Yemen raid could become the next Benghazi! meme — Al Bayda! — although this Tea-Publican Congress shows little interest in investigating anything that the Trump administration does.
Margaret Hartman reports, U.S. Military Sources Claim Trump Approved Yemen Strike Without Enough Preparation:
New questions have emerged about what went wrong in the U.S. military raid against Al Qaeda in Yemen last weekend. Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, a Navy SEAL, was killed in the operation and three other U.S. service members were injured. Nawar Al-Awlaki, the 8-year-old daughter of American Al Qaeda leader Anwar Al-Awlaki, was also killed, and local reports say as many as 30 people died. The raid was the first operation approved by President Trump.
Earlier this week, a senior military official told NBC News that “almost everything went wrong” during the mission. The aim was to detain Yemeni tribal leaders working with Al Qaeda and gather phones and computers that could yield intelligence. But Navy SEALS found themselves in an intense 50-minute firefight, with Al Qaeda fighters using women and children as cover, and some of the women firing at the commandos.
Airstrikes were called in to take out the Al Qaeda fighters, and then two MV-22 Ospreys were sent in to extract the SEALs. One experienced a “hard landing,” injuring crew members, and the $75 million aircraft had to be destroyed by a precision-guided bomb to keep it from falling into enemy hands.
Now several military officials are suggesting that President Trump was to blame. Per Reuters:
U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support, or adequate backup preparations.
As a result, three officials said, the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced Al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists.
U.S. Central Command spokesman Colonel John Thomas responded, “CENTCOM asks for operations we believe have a good chance for success, and when we ask for authorization we certainly believe there is a chance of successful operations based on our planning.” He also noted, “Any operation where you are going to put operators on the ground has inherent risks.”
The Obama administration spent months planning the raid, but the New York Times reports that President Obama did not authorize the attack because the Pentagon wanted to conduct the attack on a moonless night, which wouldn’t happen again during his term.
One of the three officials told Reuters, “The decision was made … to leave it to the incoming administration, partly in the hope that more and better intelligence could be collected.”
The Times said Trump decided to approve the raid during a dinner attended by Defense Secretary James Mattis, Vice-President Mike Pence, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Top advisers Jared Kushner and Steven Bannon were also present.
Usually, a president goes down in the Situation Room, is presented with what they call a full package for the attack. There’s a legal assessment of the legal authorities under which they’re doing these. There’s a risk assessment to the commandos who would be doing it. There is a risk assessment of what could happen to civilians who are in the area.
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And it looks like President Trump got briefed on it, by and large, at a dinner, not in the Situation Room, not with legal advisers around. His secretary of defense, Jim Mattis, was there. Vice President Pence was there. Stephen Bannon, who has emerged as the newest member of the National Security Council, known really more for his political advice than military, was there.
So was his new national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who is a veteran of many of these.
But the discussion took place in a dinner situation. And he approved the raid at that dinner.
And I think one of the questions, given how many things have gone wrong, is, would it have been different if he had been in the Situation Room and perhaps had a different set of briefings?
The White House insists not. It’s hard to call this much of a success yet, because we don’t know what the value was of the information they were trying to exploit, which came mostly from computers and cell phones.
An attempt by the U.S. military to defend Donald Trump’s first covert military operation fell apart on Friday, when a video the Pentagon cited as “valuable intelligence” snatched during the raid transpired to be more than a decade old, and available on the internet. Video released by Pentagon to prove Donald Trump’s deadly Yemen raid was successful is a decade old and available online. “Human rights groups and members of congress called for an inquiry into the Yemen raid.”
Senator John McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the recent U.S. raid in Yemen a “failure” while speaking to reporters Tuesday. The comments came after a classified briefing on the operation. McCain Calls Yemen Raid a ‘Failure’.
White House press secretary “Baghdad Sean” Spicer on Wednesday said that the raid 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. 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.” McCain Spurns Spicer Call for Apology Over Yemen Raid Criticism:
Asked about McCain specifically, Spicer added on Wednesday: “I think anybody who undermines the success of that raid, owes an apology and disservice to the life of Chief Owens.”
[T]he Arizona Republican immediately rejected the idea.
“I don’t need to listen to that,” said McCain, a decorated Navy pilot who was held prisoner in Vietnam, after watching a video of Spicer’s rebuke Wednesday on a reporter’s phone. “My record speaks for itself.”
Well, this didn’t sit well with our Dear Leader. Donald Trump Hits McCain’s Yemen Raid Criticism:
President Donald Trump slammed Republican Sen. John McCain Thursday morning, complaining that the Arizona Republican was stepping over a line in criticizing a raid in Yemen that led to the deaths of an American service member and dozens of civilians.
“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,” the president wrote of the longtime senator and 2008 Republican nominee.
“Our hero Ryan died on a winning mission (according to General Mattis), not a ‘failure,'” he concluded, referring to Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, who died in the mission. “Time for the U.S. to get smart and start winning again!”
McCain first annoyed the White House on Tuesday when he told reporters following a classified briefing that the White House decision to go forward with the January mission – the first authorized by Trump – despite “significant opposition … was one of the aspects that made it – turned it into a failure.”
“When you lose a $75 million airplane and more importantly, American lives are lost and wounded, I don’t think you can call it a success,” he said.
The White House has said that the raid’s objective was to gather intelligence, and denied media reports that the goal was to capture or kill any specific al Qaeda leader. Along with Owens, numerous civilians, including children, were killed in the crossfire during the 50-minute fight. In response, Yemen has withdrawn permission for the U.S. to run Special Operations missions against suspected terrorist groups within their borders.
So how has McCain respond to our Dear Leader Donald Trump’s going to war with him over the Yemen raid? The Japan Times (oddly) reports, ‘Loser’ McCain relents under Trump tweet flak after calling deadly Yemen raid a ‘failure’:
[O]n Thursday, McCain was not eager to respond to Trump’s latest missives.
“I have my responsibilities on the Armed Services Committee and we just had a hearing where the general in charge of Afghanistan says we’re not winning. We’re in a stalemate. That’s where I’m focusing my efforts,” he said. “I just have to do my job.”
Well, Johnny, you are chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, are you not? You have the power to investigate this “failed” Yemen raid (your words) and get to the bottom of what went wrong. The question is, “are you all bark and no bite?” Do your job, Senator.