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Rep. Lieu: The White House Lying & Stifling Dissent on Yemen Raid is Step Toward Authoritarianism

StoryFebruary 15, 2017
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Ted Lieu

Democratic congressmember from California. He’s a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Trump’s White House has warned journalists and lawmakers against criticizing a botched raid by U.S. commandos on a Yemeni village last month that left 25 civilians and one U.S. soldier dead. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports the January 28 assault killed nine children under the age of 13, with five other children wounded. William "Ryan" Owens, a veteran member of SEAL Team 6, also died during the raid. The White House continues to claim the raid was a success. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has said that anyone who criticizes the raid should apologize to Owens’s family. For more, we speak with California Democratic Congressmember Ted Lieu.


TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to also ask you about Yemen, Congressman. The White House has warned journalists and lawmakers against criticizing a botched raid by U.S. commandos on a Yemeni village last month that left 25 civilians and one U.S. soldier dead, a Navy SEAL. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports the January 28th assault killed nine children under the age of 13, with five other children wounded. Among those critical of the raid was Arizona Republican Senator John McCain.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: When you lose a $75 million airplane, and, more importantly, American lives are—a life is lost, and wounded, I don’t believe that you can call it a success.

AMY GOODMAN: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer lashed out at Senator McCain and at journalists for criticizing President Trump’s decision to order the raid.

PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER: It’s absolutely a success. And I think anyone who would suggest it’s not a success does disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens. He fought knowing what was at stake in that mission. And anybody who would suggest otherwise doesn’t fully appreciate how successful that mission was, what the information that they were able to retrieve was and how that will help prevent future terrorist attacks.

KRISTEN WELKER: But even Senator John McCain—

PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER: I understand that. I think my statement is very clear on that, Kristen. I think anybody who undermines the success of that rage [sic] owes an apology and a disservice to the life of Chief Owens.

AMY GOODMAN: Spicer’s comments came as the United Nations appealed for $2.1 billion in emergency aid for Yemen. The U.N. warns 12 million people face the threat of famine, brought on by the U.S.-supported, Saudi-led war and naval blockade. Congressman Ted Lieu, you have requested a Pentagon briefing on the raid. Do you call it a spectacular success, as the White House has?

REP. TED LIEU: Having served on active duty, I am deeply offended by the comments coming from the White House by a president that has never served in the military and is now attacking people simply because people are raising issues about a military raid. What makes the American military so great is we learn from our mistakes. And what we want to do is learn what happened, not stifle dissent. And that’s why I’ve concluded Donald Trump is a danger to the republic. He is stifling dissent. He is attacking institutions of democracy, such as the free press, such as the judiciary. This is what leads us down to road to authoritarianism.

And specifically in Yemen, his White House press secretary said that it was a success by all standards. That is simply a lie. We lost a $75 million plane. We lost an American hero. Nine children were killed. That is not a success by all standards. We need to find out more about what happened with this raid. And we do know that the Reuters news agency reported that Donald Trump ordered the raid without adequate intelligence and without adequate ground support or adequate backup preparations. We need to find out what happened, not have dissent stifled.

AMY GOODMAN: And the comment that anyone who questions this raid in any way has to apologize to the Owens family, because—because he died there, and that it is unpatriotic to do so?

REP. TED LIEU: Chief Owens is an American hero. And I believe one of the best ways to honor Chief Owens is to find out what happened in the raid and how the U.S. military can do better. That’s how the United States military has always operated. That’s how we should continue to operate. We need to learn, not to stifle dissent.

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