He’s been reported dead on multiple occasions before, but this time it appears to have stuck. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the putative caliph of the Islamic State, went to join his 72 virgins—or raisins, depending on how you interpret the relevant passages from the Koran—bringing an end to the search for who was probably the world’s most wanted terrorist.
As a nice little cherry on top of that news, ISIS mouthpiece Abu Hassan al-Muhajir was also killed in a separate raid, making it a very bad weekend for that group’s management—and a good one for President Donald Trump, who watched the action unfold from the White House Situation Room in real time. After the operation had concluded, and U.S. special forces had confirmed they had taken out their high-value target, he called a press conference to deliver the news, doing so in that inimitable way of his:
“Last night, the United States brought the world’s No. 1 terrorist leader to justice,” Trump announced at the White House, providing graphic details of al-Baghdadi’s final moments at the helm of the militant organization. “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead.”
As U.S. troops bore down on al-Baghdadi, he fled into a “dead-end” tunnel with three of his children, Trump said, and detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and the children. “He was a sick and depraved man, and now he’s gone,” Trump said. “He died like a dog, he died like a coward.”
The President went on to say that al-Baghdadi did not go down like a hero, but rather went out “crying” and “whimpering,” finally “screaming” before detonating a suicide bomb vest and killing himself—along with three of his own children, with whom he had attempted to flee (and probably used as human shields). Of course, this kind of language didn’t sit very well some of our betters in the DC establishment, who found their delicate sensibilities offended by the suggestion that a hardened rapist and murderer responsible for countless deaths and unspeakable torture might not be worthy of our respect. Emblematic of that response is Michael Morell, formerly of the CIA, who did a great job of cringing at how Trump handled the announcement:
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) October 27, 2019
News flash, Mike: most of the country doesn’t see it that way, and they’re not bothered in the least by Trump denigrating this nation’s enemies—particularly thugs like al-Baghdadi and his gang of psychopaths, who have bombed, burned and raped their way across the Middle East waging a campaign of terror the likes of which make the barbarian hordes look like a Disney revue by comparison. More than that, however, Morell also overlooks what Trump is trying do to here—and there’s a lot more to it than mere braggadocio.
Whether he understands it consciously or instinctively, Trump is doing the worst possible thing he could do to ISIS—and that is casting them as losers, whose leader killed himself as a final act of cowardice. In doing so, he’s creating a narrative in which would-be jihadists are discouraged from joining ISIS or remaining with the group, because who wants to pledge their allegiance to a lost, dead-end cause that everyone views as a joke? Now we can debate whether or not this tactic will prove successful in the long run—but there’s no question that it has paid off for Trump with his political rivals. Once he branded Jeb Bush as “low energy” in the 2016 primary, that was it for the GOP’s $100 million man. The same went for “Little Marco” Rubio. And who could forget “Crooked Hillary” Clinton? Not only did it win Trump the election, Clinton hasn’t been able to shake that moniker since.
By labeling Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi a coward, Trump is turning ISIS into the JV team that Barack Obama could only wish they were—or at least that’s what the President has in mind. The media, on the other hand, are so reflexively Orange Man Bad, they’ve resorted to defending an unrepentant killer and lamenting the language Trump uses to mark his passing. If they’re genuinely worried about emboldening ISIS, perhaps they should consider giving their usual pablum a rest.
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