The father of the commando killed in a Special Operations raid in Yemen last month said in an interview published this weekend that he had refused to meet with President Trump on the day his son’s body was returned home, and criticized the White House over the mission, saying, “Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation.”
“The government owes my son an investigation,” the father, William Owens, told The Miami Herald, referring to Chief Petty Officer William Owens, 36, a member of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6.
The death of Chief Owens on Jan. 29, in the first Special Operations raid approved by Mr. Trump, came after a chain of miscues and misjudgments that plunged the elite commandos into a ferocious 50-minute firefight with Qaeda militants in a mountainous village in central Yemen. Three other Americans were wounded, and a $75 million aircraft was deliberately destroyed.
In a risky mission where almost everything that could go wrong did, the Pentagon has acknowledged that several civilians, including some children, were also killed. The dead included, by the account of relatives interviewed by human rights groups in Yemen, the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Qaeda leader who was killed in a targeted drone strike in 2011.[...]
But the comments by Mr. Owens, his first public remarks since his son’s death, cast a new spotlight on whether the mission’s risks — to the American commandos and to Yemeni civilians — had been considered fully enough by Mr. Trump and his top aides.[...]
“Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration? Why?” said Mr. Owens, who told The Herald that he had not voted for Mr. Trump. “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?”
The operation was the first known American-led ground mission in Yemen since December 2014, when members of SEAL Team 6 stormed a village in southern Yemen in an effort to free an American photojournalist held hostage by Al Qaeda. That raid ended with the kidnappers killing the journalist and a South African held with him.[...]
Shortly after the raid, Trump administration officials called the mission a success, saying that criticisms like those from Senator John McCain of Arizona, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who called the mission a failure, dishonored Chief Owens’s memory.[...]