President Donald Trump’s first covert military action was a disaster by all accounts. One Navy SEAL, Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens lost his life in a ferocious firefight. Nawar “Nora” al-Alwaki, an eight-year-old American citizen, was shot in the neck and died. Fourteen more Yemeni civilians died at the hands of American commandos as the majority of Yakla village was obliterated. The commandos were forced to destroy a $75 million MV-22 Osprey after a rough landing.
Now, U.S. military officials are pointing fingers – and responsibility lies with President Trump. Our ignorant showboat of a President “approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations” according to Reuters. “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. One of the three U.S. officials said on-the-ground surveillance of the compound was ‘minimal, at best.‘”
It is also revealed that the proposed raid had been presented before ex-President Obama, who had refused to give the green light due to operational reasons – meaning he wasn’t comfortable with the level of tactical information available on the target and the defenses. It goes to show how seriously President Obama took every decision of this magnitude, and how cavalier Trump was with the lives of our servicemen and women.
Now one American soldier and fifteen Yemeni civilians are dead. Trump has lauded the mission as a “success,” but what have we really gained here? “Knowing that we killed an estimated 14 AQAP members and that we gathered an unbelievable amount of intelligence that will prevent the potential deaths or attacks on American soil – is something that I think most service members understand, that that’s why they joined the service.” said Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary.
While all soldiers do their duty knowing they may have to pay the highest cost, it is the moral duty of our commander-in-chief to send them into combat only when they have the highest chance of success and survival – and this debacle was a dereliction of that duty. The commandos made off with a laptop and some documents. We do not know what those documents hold, but the insinuation that they contained some kind of master plan to attack America by al-Qaeda groups in Yemen is far-fetched at best. While it may contain information useful to the coalition’s efforts in the region, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is far too busy battling both the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition for control of the Gulf nation to busy themselves with grandiose plots to strike across the ocean. The instability created by George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq and the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War has given al-Qaeda’s franchises – AQAP, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in North Africa and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS) in Syria – the opening they need to begin carving out their own Wahabbi enclaves among the ruins. Osama bin Laden’s dream of global jihad is no longer their motivating impetus.
Make no mistake. Donald Trump saw an opportunity to posture and to prove to the world that he is “strong” by blindly greenlighting a mission that was previously rejected without considering the variables at stake – and an American soldier died because of it. Children died because of it. The implications for the future are terrifying. We all knew Trump was unfit to be our Commander-in-Chief, and the first American has just paid for it with his life.
Let’s hope there won’t be any more.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.