The father of Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed during a U.S. military raid in Yemen in January, says he refused to meet with President Trump and is calling for an investigation into his son’s death. When President Trump made his way to Dover Air Force Base to pay his respects to the returning body of Ryan Owens, Bill Owens refused to meet with the president. Bill Owens stated “My conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him.” The SEALs’ widow Carryn Owens met with Trump instead. The Yakla raid on the Yemeni village left 25 civilians dead, including nine children under the age of 13.
Owens, 36, was a Virginia-based Navy SEAL from Peoria, Illinois and was killed during the controversial nighttime raid. The married, father of three-joined the Navy in 1998 and joined the Navy Seals in 2002. Owens was twice awarded the Bronze Star medal with V for valor in combat.
During President Trump’s first speech to Congress, he honored Navy SEAL Ryan Owens and referred to the raid as being “highly successful.” Owens’s widow, Carryn Owens, fought back tears as Trump called her late husband a “warrior and a hero.”
The raid took place in central Yemen on Jan. 29th and was Trump’s first counter terrorism operation after taking office. Administration and Defense Department officials have praised the operation for gathering intelligence from documents and electronic devices in the house, and for killing at least a dozen combatants including Abdulrauf al Dhahab, a leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
The aftermath of the raid has been controversial with some lawmakers, pundits and news reports being highly critical of its’ “so-called” success. The raid has been called an intelligence-gathering operation but it quickly turned into a lengthy firefight that killed Owens and potentially dozens of civilians, wounded three American soldiers, and destroyed a $70 million Osprey. Critics have also questioned the quality of the intelligence gathered.
Senator John McCain has called the operation “a failure” because the terrorists were allegedly tipped off in advance. The Trump administration has emphasized that a trove of intelligence was gathered but various news reports, citing anonymous administration officials, have produced inconsistent reports about the quality of the intelligence gathered. There hasn’t been an official investigation or report on the operation yet, so how the event actually played out and the value of the intelligence gathered is not completely clear.
The administration was initially hesitant to confirm reports from local witnesses that Yemeni civilians were killed in the firefight. On February 1st, U.S. Central Command announced that “regrettably, civilian noncombatants were killed” and “casualties may include children.”
The Pentagon has opened at least three investigations into the Yemen raid. The Pentagon is “following standard procedures for reviews into the death of a service member, the deaths of civilians and the destruction of hardware.”