It’s been nearly two weeks since a deadly ambush in Niger claimed the lives for four American soldiers, and President Donald Trump finally acknowledged the attack at a press conference this afternoon.
“Why haven’t we heard anything from you so far about the soldiers that were killed in Niger, and what do you have to say about that?” asked a reporter.
“I’ve written them personal letters,” Trump said, presumably referring to the families of the servicemen killed. “They’ve been sent or they’re going out tonight. But they were written during the weekend.”
The attacks happened Oct. 4.
“I will at some point during the period of time call the parents and the families, because I have done that traditionally,” Trump added.
Well, no shit. That’s one of the responsibilities of being commander in chief. Trump also offered platitudes about how this was the hardest part of the job. So hard that for 12 days, he simply neglected to do it.
As CNN reports, the assault was the deadliest combat incident involving the U.S. military since Trump took office earlier this year.
The Pentagon has yet to provide a detailed account of what happened Oct. 4 in southwestern Niger. The ambush, carried out by 50 fighters affiliated with the Islamic State group, also resulted in the death of five Nigerian soldiers. Questions continue to swirl over the circumstances of the ambush.
CNN cited “half a dozen U.S. officials” reports that troops were left on the ground for nearly an hour before aid could reach them. Also troubling is that officials still don’t know how Sgt. La David Johnson, 25—whose body was recovered 48 hours after the attack—became separated from a 12-man Green Beret-led team.
The Army has identnified other soldiers killed in the ambush as Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright and Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson.
White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders did offer comment on the deaths on Oct. 5, a day after the attack, while taking a reporter’s question.
“The body of another U.S. soldier has just been discovered by local forces in Niger,” said the reporter, referring to La David Johnson. “[This] brings to four the total number of Green Berets that were killed on Wednesday in Niger. So far there’s been no response to this by the president, no tweet from the president, no statement from the president.”
“Obviously, anytime one of the members of our great military are injured, wounded or killed in action, that is certainly something that we take very seriously,” Huckabee Sanders said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with those individuals. We’re continuing to review and look into this. And as we have more details, we’ll certainly let you guys know.”
According to CBS Miami, Johnson’s family gathered in Miami Gardens Oct. 9 to remember the fallen soldier. Johnson leaves behind his pregnant wife, Myeshia, whom he had known since he was 6 years old, and two children.
“For him not to be with us anymore is just heartbreaking and devastating because I don’t know what I’m gonna do without him,” Myeshia Johnson told the news station. “He was everything to us.”
Of course, as Trump himself acknowledged, Johnson’s wife has yet to hear from the president under whose command Johnson was serving. While we can certainly debate how much help or consolation the dotard in chief can offer at this point, Trump’s flat, delayed comments Monday highlight one inescapable point: Myeshia Johnson and the rest of these soldiers’ families deserve better than this.