Andrew Bacevich, a retired colonel in the army, says Trump exploited Ryan Owens’s widow

Historians in the News
tags: Trump, Ryan Owens



Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University,  is the author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History, which has just been published by Random House. He is also editor of the book, The Short American Century (Harvard Univ. Press), and author of several others, including: Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country (American Empire Project);Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent WarThe New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by WarThe Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (American Empire Project), and The Long War: A New History of U.S. National Security Policy Since World War II.

… On this particular evening, Trump’s props included the widow of a deceased (and yet to be replaced) Supreme Court justice; a young woman bravely battling a dread disease and another who overcame enormous disadvantages to gain an education; four Americans who had lost family members to violence perpetrated by illegal immigrants; and the widow of the first US service member killed in action since Trump became commander in chief.

The emotional high point of the evening came when Trump paid tribute to the grieving widow Carryn Owens and to her deceased husband Ryan, a Navy SEAL killed during a raid in Yemen. A standing ovation ensued. For nearly two minutes, all attention focused on a tearful Carryn Owens. For a brief moment, her mourning became ours.

With their trademark prurience, the television networks milked that moment for all it was worth. So too did Trump himself, remarking, “Ryan is looking down right now, you know that, and he’s very happy because I think he just broke a record,” presumably for sustained applause during a presidential address. “Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom,” the president added in his own display of spurious emotion. For that, “we will never forget him.”

But we will, and for the most part already have. Certainly Trump and those around him have moved on. They have, for example, rejected demands by Ryan’s father for a formal investigation into the operation that took his son’s life. “Why,” William Owens has asked, “did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into [Trump’s] administration?” William Owens received no answer to his question. Nor did he attend the president’s address to Congress.

Yet the contrast between the respect shown for the grief-stricken widow and that shown for the grief-stricken father reveals something important about American politics today.

With near unanimity, we profess to hold the troops in high regard. We honor their service, as we rightly should. Yet there it stops, well short of even an approximation of accountability. Stupid missions and stupid wars continue without serious examination and almost without notice.

And so, accompanied by ostentatious displays of spurious emotion, presidents get away with what in other contexts would qualify as murder.




comments powered by Disqus