The younger Owens, 36, was shot in a counterattack by al-Qaeda militants as he and other members of an elite military team entered a remote village in Yemen’s Bayda governate.
“Just five days into his presidency, Trump ordered Ryan’s SEAL team into Yemen, not in the situation room with all the intelligence assembled, but sitting across a dinner table from Steve Bannon,” Owens said, referring to the former White House adviser and campaign strategist, in the 84-second online ad, which was paid for by a PAC linked to the progressive veterans’ group VoteVets.
“There was no vital interest at play, just Donald Trump playing big man going to war,” Owens said.
The ill-fated raid came under scrutiny not just because of the SEAL’s death but also because of the way it came together. Officials said that Trump and the White House short-circuited the typical process for approving such high-risk operations, with Trump granting authorization for the operation at a dinner meeting with military leaders and other senior administration officials.
A number of Yemeni civilians were also killed in the operation.
“Donald Trump demeaned my son’s sacrifice to play to the crowd,” Owens continued, appearing to refer to Trump’s remarks about his son’s death during the 2017 State of the Union a month later. In an emotionally charged scene, the president highlighted Ryan Owens’ widow, Carryn, who cried as she stood next to the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump in the balcony during the televised address.
William Owens has previously criticized Trump, who is seeking reelection in the Nov. 3 presidential election, and the decision-making surrounding the operation in Yemen.
The ad also showed a clip of late Sen. John McCain saying the operation, contrary to Trump’s depiction, had not been a success.
The raid, in which U.S. troops were joined by counterparts from the United Arab Emirates, resulted in injuries to other service members and the destruction of a damaged MV-22, a $75 million aircraft.
Trump later appeared to blame military leaders for the problems with the operation, saying that generals had “lost Ryan.”
Owens also referred to Trump’s skepticism about recent reports that Russia may have paid bounties to the Taliban on American service members’ lives in Afghanistan. He cited the high number of Americans who have died during the coronavirus pandemic.
“They and Ryan have one thing in common: It didn’t have to be but for Donald Trump,” he said. “Don’t trust Donald Trump with your kid’s life or your own.”
In a response to the ad provided by the Trump campaign, Scott O’Grady, co-chairman of Veterans for Trump, disagreed with Owens, calling the president a “stalwart leader and supporter of our nation’s military and veterans.” Under the leadership of Trump’s Democratic rival, former vice president Joe Biden, “these national heroes were always a second thought,” O’Grady said in a statement.