The majority Americans who follow politics or have logged into social media at some time during the last week are now likely aware of the basic details surrounding the raid conducted by US Navy SEALs on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. As the first mission authorized by President Trump during which American forces suffered a fatal causality, it has drawn criticism ranging from balanced and measured to typically hysteric.
The New York Times was quick to roll out blame for Trump’s decision making process, drawing a picture of a bumbling President rushing to play General who throws his toy soldiers around the map with child-like incompetence. With an elite American soldier killed, and a growing number of civilian deaths, the New York Times cited an unsuccessful December 2014 raid by DEVGRU (formally known as SEAL Team 6) tasked with freeing a captured journalist as an example that the military, and President Trump, should have known better than to launch a raid into Yemen.
It is within this context of criticism, not limited to the media, that a military convoy of armored humvees was spotted on a highway in Kentucky– certainly not a rare event in an area so well populated by members of the military –but this was different.
Defiantly flying from the rear of one humvee was a flag from Trump’s presidential campaign. Debate soon flared with a military spokesperson quick to comment on the unauthorized nature of the flag’s display:
Reached by email, Lt. Jacqui Maxwell, a spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare Group Two, released a statement confirming that the vehicles captured on video and cameras were based in Fort Knox, Ky., and were driven by members of an East Coast Naval Special Warfare unit. At the time, she noted, the convoy was traveling between two military training areas. “Department of Defense and Navy regulations prescribe flags and pennants that may be displayed as well as the manner of display,” the statement said. “The flag shown in the video was unauthorized. A command inquiry into this matter has been initiated.” Source: Washington Post.
Indivisible Kentucky, a newly created self-labeled “progressive” group, offered the strongest condemnation of the display, claiming it indicative of “fascist” posturing, speculating that Trump had his own private militia.
Authorized or not, debate and outrage over the display of the flag misses the point.
Considered within the chronological context of events, with the loss of their brother-in-arms still weighing upon them and forced to remain politically and operationally silent as the media and public condemned, blamed, and mocked their President’s handling of a raid in which their elite group fought, it likewise may be viewed as a quiet protest; a display of pride in their mission, an approval of their President, and willingness to continue the fight. It’s an unauthorized middle finger to the petty politics and notion of division in a country that bickers and blames while America’s fighting men and women, like Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, return again and again to the fight on their country’s behalf.
The controversy points the chasm dividing the life experience and understanding of the world between the general public and America’s warriors for whom ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other terror groups are not simply names of bad guys scanned past in the glow of a computer monitor and early morning coffee.