Even by the standards of the Obama White House, this was too much.
Under questioning by reporters following the death this week of a U.S. Navy SEAL in an Islamic State group attack in Iraq, White House spokesman Josh Earnest tried to split hairs about whether the warrior died as part of a “combat mission” or simply “in combat.”
It’s a distinction that could matter only to this White House, where a certain Democrat president wants to maintain the fiction that there are no American “combat troops” in a nation where he supposedly ended our involvement in the fighting. It isn’t fooling anybody.
The facts of the matter, according to the Navy Times, are that Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Charlie Keating IV died of a bullet wound he suffered in a firefight with Islamic State killers on Tuesday morning in northern Iraq. At the time he was embedded with a Kurdish peshmerga militia group, helping coordinate the fight against the terrorists.
That would be enough for any decent presidency to acknowledge. But during a White House briefing Tuesday, Earnest went out of his way to try to convince a skeptical press corps — and a no-doubt sickened American public — that Keating’s death did not take place as part of a “combat mission.”
It’s like the Obama White House truly believes the awful finality of death is changed by the nomenclature a nonentity in Washington decides to assign it.
Earnest’s goal was obvious. Back in 2008, candidate Barack Obama campaigned on a pledge to end the Iraq war (remember that Nobel Peace Prize?). In 2011, he pulled American forces out of Iraq, essentially throwing away the victory former George W. Bush handed him.
In 2015 — confronted with the folly of his own decisions and the growing butchery of the Islamic State — Obama ordered special operations forces back into Iraq, but stressed that they were there to “advise and assist” the Iraqi forces and other opponents of the Islamic State.
That, to the Obama White House, is different from a “combat mission.”
“The mission that our men and women in Iraq have right now is different from the mission that our service members had during the 2003 invasion of Iraq,” Earnest said, according to CNS News.
“Their mission is a dangerous one, but it is predicated on building up the capacity of Iraqi forces to go and take the fight to ISIL.”
That, apparently, means that when an American soldier dies in combat in Iraq, on a mission ordered by the commander in chief of our armed forces, a “combat death” can’t be put on Barack Obama’s record. He didn’t order any combat missions, right? Hands clean, eh?
Soldiers’ lives aren’t like scores tallied up as part of a pitcher’s earned run average. The American people don’t make any word-play distinction when it comes to the deaths of soldiers whose duty places them in harm’s way.
Neither should the Obama White House, or its hair-splitting spokesman.
Social media users weren’t buying Earnest’s line for a minute.
pic.twitter.com/nX9Yu6lWmU WTH is the Josh Earnest doublespeak re: HERO KEATING'S death?This Seal died in COMBAT.He deserves RESPECT!PERIOD🇺🇸
— MaryRose Durbin (@sookie1_) May 4, 2016
— Melanie Lauren (@Sweetemmilyn) May 4, 2016
They weren’t the only Obama words coming back to haunt the White House.
— AMJ (@IrishRose23525) May 3, 2016
But this one sums up the reaction perfectly.
— Don Frazier (@Bandido33) May 4, 2016
Or respect for much of anything else — except its own image and legacy.