It was a night in late January, like countless others in the War on Terror. American special forces were in harm’s way — this time in Yemen — preparing to assault a suspected al-Qaeda compound when they lost the element of surprise and found themselves facing a prepared and determined enemy. During the furious firefight that followed, al-Qaeda reportedly used civilians as human shields, women grabbed AK-47s and attacked U.S. troops, and the resulting battle destroyed most of a village. American forces killed more than a dozen militants and seized intelligence, but an American sailor died and multiple civilians were caught in the crossfire. At first blush, the story is relatively unremarkable — hardly the kind of incident that dominates the news. Americans have become inured to the steady casualties of war, and firefights happen all the time. Indeed, just days before the 2016 election, a similar incident broke out in Afghanistan, except on a larger scale. A joint U.S.-Afghan mission targeting Taliban leaders in Kunduz turned into a raging gun battle that left two American soldiers dead and killed 25 Taliban fighters and at least 30 civilians. In other words, just two months before the Yemen raid, the Obama administration fought a bloodier battle in Afghanistan, one that cost more American lives and likely killed more civilians than the Trump administration’s raid in Yemen. Yet the Yemen raid is the subject of raging controversy (now involving a series of tweets from the president himself), while only the smallest number of Americans are aware that the Afghanistan raid happened. Why the difference? The answer lies in the news cycles that are fast becoming routine in Donald Trump’s Washington. First, a news report makes an explosive claim against Trump. The claim is then debunked or modified by detailed additional reporting. That supplemental reporting doesn’t stop (or even slow) the administration and its enemies from becoming locked into a battle of mutually assured hyperbole, a war of words full of unsupportable and overbroad assertions. Lost is the actual substance of the debate, including the vital question of the success or failure of the mission, along with its impact on American enemies and allies. Let’s break the controversy down step by step, beginning after the shooting stopped.
To see attorney, and Army Reserve officer (Major), David French’s outstanding analysis, click on the text above. David received the Bronze Star for his service in Iraq. So..not your average attorney..