Trump highlights botched Yemen raid to applause.

If Trump Wants to Honor William Owens, He Should Take Responsibility for the Botched Mission That Killed Him

If Trump Wants to Honor William Owens, He Should Take Responsibility for the Botched Mission That Killed Him

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Feb. 28 2017 10:33 PM

Trump’s Tribute to a Slain Navy SEAL Was Crassly Manipulative

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WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 28: Widow of Fallen Navy Seal, Senior Chief William Owens, Carryn Owens and first lady Melania Trump attend a joint session of the U.S. Congress with U.S. President Donald Trump on February 28, 2017 in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Trump's first address to Congress focused on national security, tax and regulatory reform, the economy, and healthcare. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Donald Trump made the odd decision in Tuesday night’s address to Congress to highlight the botched raid in Yemen in late January that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL as well as a number of civilians:

We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens. Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero—battling against terrorism and securing our nation.
I just spoke to our great Gen. Mattis just now, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, “Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.” Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity. Thank you.
And Ryan is looking down right now, you know that, and he’s very happy because I think he just broke a record. For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom—we will never forget Ryan.
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The very long applause for the crying Carryn Owens was moving—and led Trump to ad-lib this weird line, referring to the extended clapping:

Ryan is looking down right now, you know that, and he is very happy because I think he just broke a record.

It’s all about the ratings!

In addition to that weird note, a few other things about the moment rang false.

Trump cited Defense Secretary James Mattis to defend the proposition that the operation resulted in valuable intelligence, even after the Pentagon blew its credibility on this issue by posting a 10-year-old video that it mistakenly said had been seized in the raid. Other officials have said the raid produced no significant intelligence data at all.

The mention in the speech also comes after the commander-in-chief brazenly passed the buck to his military commanders in an interview with Fox & Friends on Tuesday morning, saying, “this was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something that was, you know, just they wanted to do. And they came to see me and they explained what they wanted to do. My generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe, and they lost Ryan.”

Trump got to point to Owens’ wife in the chamber tonight, but the commando’s father has very publicly refused to meet with the president. William Owens has called for an investigation into the decision to launch the raid and has told administration officials who are reluctant to look into the matter, “Don’t hide behind my son’s death.”

No such luck.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and author of the forthcoming book, Invisible Countries.