Friday, February 24, 2017

Commander who organized bin Laden raid says Trump’s anti-media comments are the 'greatest threat to democracy'

Via The Washington Post:
William H. McRaven, a retired four-star admiral and former Navy SEAL, defended journalists this week, calling President Trump’s denunciation of the media as “the enemy of the American people” the “greatest threat to democracy” he’s seen in his lifetime.

That’s coming from a man who’s seen major threats to democracy.

McRaven, who was commander of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command, organized and oversaw the highly risky operation that killed Osama bin Laden almost six years ago. The admiral from Texas had tapped a special unit of Navy SEALs to carry out the May 2011 raid on the elusive terrorist’s hideout, a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Two days after making those remarks, McRaven had this to say on his blog on the University of Texas website:
In my sixty years, most of the serious threats to our nation have come from the outside: the Cold War, the Vietnam War, terrorism and the wars that followed. While at times, these external pressures encouraged some within our government to adopt a barricade mentality – hiding information from the public, acting secretly outside the bounds of the law, and encouraging behavior that had an extralegal feel to it – never has the government openly challenged the idea of a free press.

Each of us in government swears an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States." The first amendment to that constitution assures freedom of speech and of the press.

The news media have not always been kind to me. However, I can tell you – as someone who has been to 90 countries and spoken to the press in almost all of them – the United States has the finest press corps in the world, bar none.
But what makes journalism so essential to our democracy is that – when done right – it holds all of us accountable, to our country, to its ideals, and to each other. As an Admiral, and now as a Chancellor, I haven’t always enjoyed being asked tough questions. But being held accountable by the press has only made me and the organizations I lead better.

Just as it has made America better.

My message to our aspiring journalists, and journalists everywhere: We need you more than ever.

In 2014 McRaven delivered an extraordinary commencement speech at the University of Texas.

He ended his speech with this advice for the graduates:
Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone.

Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often. But if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up — if you do these things, then the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today.

And what started here will indeed have changed the world — for the better.


Washington Post, May 4, 2011: Adm. William McRaven: The terrorist hunter on whose shoulders Osama bin Laden raid rested

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