Former top Navy SEAL who oversaw the Osama bin Laden raid says the US is ‘under attack from the president’

Former US Navy Adm. William McRaven in 2014.

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Former US Navy Adm. William McRaven in 2014.
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Staff Sgt. Sean Harp/Defense Department

  • The retired US Navy Adm. William McRaven, a Navy SEAL who oversaw the raid that took out al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, gave a bleak assessment of President Donald Trump and alleged the commander in chief was gutting the country of the “nation’s principles.”
  • In his fiercest condemnation against the president yet, McRaven recounted in a New York Times opinion column a military ceremony he recently attended at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he reflected upon the thousands of US service members who marched on the parade field before him.
  • McRaven pointed out what he said were examples of the US neglecting its duty to be the “the protectors of the less fortunate” – including Trump’s recent decision to withdraw troops from Syria as Turkish-backed militants wage war against the once US-backed Kurdish militia.
  • McRaven added that Trump “is wrong” to think empathy is “unimportant” or shows “weakness.”
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The retired US Navy Adm. William McRaven, a Navy SEAL who oversaw the raid that took out al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, gave a bleak assessment of President Donald Trump and alleged the commander in chief was gutting the country of the “nation’s principles.”

In his fiercest condemnation of the president yet, McRaven recounted in a New York Times opinion column, titled “Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President,” a military ceremony he recently attended at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he reflected upon the thousands of US service members who marched on the parade field before him.

“For everyone who ever served in uniform, or in the intelligence community, for those diplomats who voice the nation’s principles, for the first responders, for the tellers of truth and the millions of American citizens who were raised believing in American values – you would have seen your reflection in the faces of those we honored last week,” McRaven wrote.

But “beneath the outward sense of hope and duty,” McRaven wrote that “there was an underlying current of frustration, humiliation, anger and fear.”

Read more: ‘You have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children’: Navy SEAL who oversaw the Osama bin Laden raid rebukes Trump

President Donald Trump.

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President Donald Trump.
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Alex Wong/Getty Images

McRaven said that despite the apolitical nature of various military branches, intelligence agencies, and public-service organizations, the people employed by these groups had witnessed “the assaults on our institutions” under the Trump administration.

“They have seen our leaders stand beside despots and strongmen, preferring their government narrative to our own,” McRaven wrote. “They have seen us abandon our allies and have heard the shouts of betrayal from the battlefield. As I stood on the parade field at Fort Bragg, one retired four-star general, grabbed my arm, shook me and shouted, ‘I don’t like the Democrats, but Trump is destroying the Republic!'”

“Those words echoed with me throughout the week,” McRaven added.

McRaven pointed out what he said were examples of the US neglecting its duty to be the “the protectors of the less fortunate” – including Trump’s recent decision to withdraw troops from Syria as Turkish-backed militants wage assaults against the once US-backed Kurdish militia.

Trump’s decision for a withdrawal drew bipartisan condemnation, with many lawmakers alleging the US was abandoning its allies against ISIS. About 11,000 Kurds died during the anti-ISIS campaign, and the abrupt decision for the US to leave the region caught lawmakers and US military officials by surprise.

“If our promises are meaningless, how will our allies ever trust us? If we can’t have faith in our nation’s principles, why would the men and women of this nation join the military,” McRaven said in his column. “And if they don’t join, who will protect us? If we are not the champions of the good and the right, then who will follow us? And if no one follows us – where will the world end up?”

Read more: Navy SEAL officer who oversaw the Bin Laden raid suggests Trump could learn about ‘integrity’ from Obama and Bush

James Mattis and McRaven in March 2013.

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James Mattis and McRaven in March 2013.
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REUTERS/Gary Cameron

McRaven added that Trump “is wrong” to think empathy is “unimportant” or shows “weakness.”

“These are the virtues that have sustained this nation for the past 243 years,” McRaven said. “If we hope to continue to lead the world and inspire a new generation of young men and women to our cause, then we must embrace these values now more than ever.”

McRaven previously suggested Trump’s presidency was hindering the country’s values. The retired commander of the US Joint Special Operations Command conveyed a similar sentiment in another opinion column published by The Washington Post in 2018. In the column, McRaven rebuked Trump’s decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, who had previously criticized the president.

“A good leader sets the example for others to follow,” McRaven said in The Post. “A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself.”

“Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities,” McRaven added. “Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.”

Following the comments, Trump fired back at the retired admiral and characterized him as a “Hillary Clinton fan” and an “Obama backer.”

“Wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that, wouldn’t it have been nice,” Trump said to Fox News anchor Christopher Wallace in November.

McRaven retired from the Navy in 2014 after 36 years of service. He became chancellor of the University of Texas’ school system in 2015. Two years later, McRaven announced he would leave the school, citing health concerns. He is the author of several bestselling leadership books, including “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … And Maybe the World.”