US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has broken his silence after failing to disclose that he was hospitalized as the country grapples with the national security situation in Ukraine and the Middle East.
In a rare public statement since his hospitalization on December 22, he spoke out as the United States fired bombs at Iranian-backed targets across Yemen.
“In light of illegal, dangerous and destabilizing Iran-backed Houthi attacks on U.S. and international shipping and commercial vessels from many countries lawfully transiting the Red Sea, the United States and United Kingdom militaries, with the support of Australia, today attacked Bahrain “, Canada and the Netherlands carried out attacks against military targets in Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen,” he said in a statement.
“This action aims to disrupt and weaken the Houthis’ ability to endanger seafarers and jeopardize global trade on one of the world’s most critical waterways.” “Today’s Coalition action sends a clear message to the Houthis that “They will face further costs if they do not stop their illegal attacks,” Austin added.
Austin pointed to the Houthis' “more than two dozen attacks” since November 19 and the need for a coalition to maintain the rules-based international order.
“We will not hesitate to defend our armed forces, the global economy and the free flow of legitimate commerce on one of the world’s vital waterways.”
Austin was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Dec. 22 following a diagnosis of prostate cancer after “consultation with his medical team.”
He then underwent a “minimally invasive surgical procedure called a prostatectomy to treat and cure prostate cancer,” the hospital said in a statement. His cancer was “diagnosed early and his prognosis is excellent,” the statement said.
But on January 1, he suffered complications that required an ambulance to take him back to the hospital. His complications included “nausea with severe stomach, leg and hip pain.”
The early diagnosis was a urinary tract infection, but further tests revealed fluid had built up in 70-year-old Austin's stomach, affecting the function of his small intestine.
The infection was treated through a tube inserted through the nose and extending into the stomach. It has been resolved, the statement said, and Austin “continues to make progress.”
He “never lost consciousness and never underwent general anesthesia,” the statement said, although Austin did undergo anesthesia for the Dec. 22 surgery.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks was granted Austin's authority at the time, but did not tell her why.
Ministry of Defense handout photo showing an RAF Typhoon FGR4 taking off from RAF Akrotiri to carry out attacks on military targets in Yemen
I have lost confidence in Secretary Lloyd Austin's leadership of the Department of Defense due to a lack of transparency about his recent medical treatment and its impact on the continuity of the chain of command.
— Congressman Chris Deluzio (@RepDeluzio) January 10, 2024
President Joe Biden was not informed until Tuesday that Austin had cancer.
Pentagon officials also did not tell the White House for four days that Austin had returned to the hospital on January 1 after experiencing severe pain. He was taken there by ambulance.
A Pentagon official blamed the communications blackout on “a mistake because people were out of the office.”
Austin's chief of staff, Kelly Magsamen, had the flu and public affairs chief Chris Meagher was at doctor's appointments with his pregnant wife, who gave birth to their first child on Friday.
Joe Biden announced airstrikes against the Middle Eastern country on Thursday evening, with missiles coming from planes, destroyers and submarines. The attacks come in response to weeks of Houthi-led bombings of ships in the Red Sea amid the conflict between Israel and Gaza.
US officials had warned that the Houthi attack on non-military vessels in the Red Sea would have “consequences”.
Explosions were reported in Sana'a, Hodeidah governorate, Saada and Dhamar, Houthi officials confirmed. It is unclear how extensive the damage or injuries are.
According to NBC, fighter jets, Navy destroyers, submarines and Tomahawk cruise missiles were used in the attack.
The USA and Great Britain as well as Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands took part in the attack.
“These targeted attacks send a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to threaten freedom of navigation on one of the world’s most critical trade routes,” Biden said.
“I will not hesitate to take further action as necessary to protect our people and the free flow of international trade.”
US and UK forces have “successfully” carried out targeted attacks in Yemen that targeted the Houthi ships in the Red Sea
The bombing came Thursday evening after the Houthis blocked another shipping route in the Gulf of Aden. This was the latest in a series of attacks on ships in the region in recent months. Pictured: Houthi military helicopter flies over the cargo ship Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea in November.
Before the attack, terrorists in the region had warned of possible retaliation against US military targets if the bombing continued.
Shortly after the attack, unconfirmed reports of attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq began flooding social media.
The bombing came after the US military said the Houthis on Thursday carried out their 27th attack on shipping since November 19, firing an anti-ship missile at international shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden.
The US military strikes are the country's first in Yemen since 2016. President Biden said they were ordered in response to “unprecedented” attacks on maritime vessels.
“More than 50 nations have been affected by 27 attacks on international merchant shipping.” “Crews from more than 20 countries have been threatened or taken hostage in piracy,” Biden said.
“More than 2,000 ships have been forced to reroute thousands of miles to avoid the Red Sea – potentially causing weeks of delays in product deliveries.” And on January 9, the Houthis launched their largest attack yet – directly against American ships.”
He then added: “Last week, together with 13 allies and partners, we issued an unequivocal warning that the Houthi rebels would face the consequences if their attacks did not stop.” And yesterday the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution saying in which he called for Houthi attacks on commercial and commercial vessels.
However, he was criticized by members of his own party for failing to speak to Congress before ordering the attacks.
“The President must come to Congress before he launches an attack against the Houthis in Yemen and embroils us in another Middle East conflict.” “This is Article I of the Constitution,” Rep. Ro Khanna said in a post on X.
“I will work for that regardless of whether a Democrat or a Republican is in the White House.”
A Royal Air Force Typhoon aircraft takes off to join the US-led coalition in carrying out airstrikes against military targets in Yemen. On Thursday evening, four Royal Air Force Typhoons took off from Royal Air Force Akrotiri to carry out attacks on military targets in Yemen
The Yemen-based Houthis have fired rockets, drones and missiles north toward Israel, disrupting shipping in the Red Sea
US Air Force reconnaissance aircraft were spotted over Saudi Arabia on Thursday evening in advance of the attacks
Armed protesters take part in a rally in solidarity with Gaza in the rebel-held Yemeni capital Sanaa. Antony Blinken warned of “consequences” if the rebels do not stop attacking ships in the Red Sea and called on Iran to end its support for the rebels
Houthi official Abdul Qader al-Mortada condemned the recent allied attacks as “American-Zionist-British aggression” in a post on X.
The vice president of the Houthi media authority Nasr Aldeen Amer also promised that the Houthis would not back down.
“A brutal aggression against our country, for which they [the attackers] “We will absolutely and without hesitation pay, and we will not back down from our position in support of the Palestinian people, no matter what the cost,” he said.
The rebels say their attacks are aimed at stopping Israel's war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. But their goals become more and more random.
The Yemeni rebels are supported by Iran. Since Hamas' attack on Israel on October 7, they have increased attacks on international shipping in what they say is an act of solidarity with the Palestinians.
Various shipping companies have stopped operations and are instead taking the longer journey around Africa.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken had previously warned of “consequences” if the Houthis did not stop attacking ships in the Red Sea and called on Iran to end its support for the rebels.