Words Matter

President Trump and Senator John McCain (R, Arizona) have never been friends.  This week the two renewed their feud over the characterization of the military operation in Yemen on January 29, resulting in the death of Chief Special Warfare Operator Willliam “Ryan” Owens.  Owens was the first military life lost under the Trump Administration.

Initially, White House press spokesman Sean Spicer praised the results of the military operation as a “successful raid” due to the intelligence information gathered, calling it a “huge success.”

Senator John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, disputed the White House’s claim and called the mission a “failure.” According to Politico.com, Senator McCain said “Every military operation has objectives.  And while many of the objectives in the Yemen raid were met, I would not describe any operation that results in the loss of American life a success.”  http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/yemen-raid-success-sean-spicer-234804

The story should have ended there, but the Trump Administration pushed back on Senator McCain Tuesday. Spicer said in his press briefing “I think anybody who undermines the success of that (raid) owes an apology and (does) a disservice to the life of Chief Owens.” http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/yemen-raid-success-sean-spicer-234804

After hearing the White House’s statements, Senator McCain, a former Vietnamese Prisoner of War, responded with a war story that claimed the moral high ground once and for all.  “Many years ago when I was imprisoned in North Vietnam there was an attempt to rescue POW’s.  Unfortunately, the prison had been evacuated but the brave men who took- risked their lives in an effort to rescue us prisoners of war were genuine American heroes.  Because the mission failed did not in any way diminish their courage and willingness to help their fellow Americans who were held captive.  Mr. Spicer should know that story.”  http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/yemen-raid-success-sean-spicer-234804

On the surface, this is a story about words.  It’s really a story about perception.  The Trump Administration suffered a military setback, resulting in the loss of an American life.  Rather than focus on the details of the mission, the Trump Administration wrapped themselves in the American patriotism of Chief Owens.  To dispute the success of the mission was to dispute the sacrifice Chief Owens made for his country.

One sentence from Senator McCain sums this war of words up: “Because the mission failed did not in any way diminish their courage and willingness to help their fellow Americans who were held captive.”  http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/yemen-raid-success-sean-spicer-234804  Americans can disagree with the characterization of a “successful” military mission without being unpatriotic.  Senator McCain proved words still matter.




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