White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday that anyone critical of the raid in Yemen that left one American soldier and multiple civilians dead “does disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens.”
Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, a member of Navy SEAL Team 6, was killed in the January 29 raid. It was the first authorized commando raid by President Donald Trump.
“It’s absolutely a success and I think anyone who would suggest it’s not a success does disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens,” Spicer said.
“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 they were able to retrieve was and how that will be able to prevent future terror attacks.”
Due to the civilian casualties, Yemen will not allow the United States to have Special Operations ground missions in the country, the New York Times reported.
The U.S. captured intelligence in the attack, including laptops and cellphones. NBC News reported that the raid also was intended to capture or kill Qassim al-Rimi, the leader of al Qaeda Yemen.
“The action that was taken in Yemen was a huge success. American lives will be saved because of it. Future attacks will be prevented,” Spicer said during his press briefing Wednesday. “The life of Chief Ryan Owens was done in service to this country and we owe him and his family a great debt for the information that we received during that raid. ... I think any suggestion otherwise is a disservice to his courageous life and the actions that he took.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told reporters Tuesday that the mission was a “failure.” He received a classified briefing about the operation.
When pressed if he was talking about McCain, a former Navy pilot and POW in Vietnam, Spicer made it clear he was.
“Anybody who undermines the success of that raid owes an apology and a disservice to the life of Chief Owens,” Spicer said. “That’s my message to anybody who says that. Anybody. I don’t know how much clearer I can be.”
McCain said he would not apologize.
“I don’t need to listen to that,” McCain said, according to Bloomberg. “My record speaks for itself.”
Spicer previously said that any military mission that results in the loss of an American life is hard to be called a success.
“It is tough to ever use the word success when you know that someone has lost their life,” Spicer said on Feb. 2.
Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump was highly critical of the war in Iraq. More than 4,400 Americans were killed in the war and another 32,000 were wounded, according to several online resources.
“I tell the truth about Iraq. I say the war was a disaster. We spent $2 trillion. Lost thousands of lives, thousands of lives. We have wounded warriors all over the place. These guys have more courage than all of us put together. I have to tell you. All of us,” Trump said in South Carolina in February 2016. “And you know, I said we should have never been there. And you know, if (former President George W.) Bush is insulted, I don't care if he's insulted. It was a horrible mistake. We should have never been there. Somebody says, oh, that's not good to criticize? I say criticize? It's one of the worst decisions in the history of the country. We have totally destabilized the Middle East.”