On October 27, President Trump announced that U.S. Special Forces, at his behest, carried out a heroic raid in northern Syria that resulted in the death of one of the most savage terrorist leaders to date. As U.S. troops closed in, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS, detonated his suicide vest taking three of his presumed-children with him. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Trump announced that the U.S. had also taken out al-Baghdadi's likely successor, Abu Hasan al-Muhajir.
At The Quintessential Centrist, we have often been critical of our Commander in Chief. His judgment is often lacking; his behavior, unbecoming and sometimes downright embarrassing. However, the aforementioned events deserve the heartiest of applause.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Since ISIS declared its caliphate in 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi commandeered over at least 140 terrorist attacks in nearly 30 countries in addition to those carried out daily in Iraq and Syria. He was as vicious as he was dangerous. Notorious for brutally torturing his victims, including fellow Muslims, al-Baghdadi was responsible for the genocide of Yazidis and Christians. His cruelty included forcing these groups into sexual slavery. He ordered mass beheadings of many others including foreign journalists and aid workers from the U.S., the U.K. and Japan. He burned a Jordanian pilot alive in a cage. The list goes on.
The ISIS leader's reign of terror extended to Western targets inspiring the Paris, Nice, Orlando and Manchester terror attacks to name but a few. He inspired countless smaller, yet equally horrific lone-wolf attacks globally in the forms of shootings, slashings and car ramming incidents. Al-Baghdadi left hundreds of thousands of Yazidis, Christians, and Muslims a “heads” he wins “tails” they lose choice: join him and his barbaric comrades or flee their respective homelands and become refugees.
The point cannot be overstated: the world has much to rejoice at the demise of al-Baghdadi. Unfortunately, the authoritative Washington Post chose to eulogize the barbaric terrorist with a headline that read: “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State, dies at 48.”
As if Mr. Baghdadi were merely a university professor and dean of a famous seminary who just happened to succumb to a long battle with cancer. The "obituary" went on to read that "when al-Baghdadi first rose as a leader of ISIS, he was a relatively unheard of 'austere religious scholar with wire-frame glasses and no known aptitude for fighting and killing.’"
Was al-Baghdadi on his way to Mecca, minding his own business, thinking about a growing pile of PhD dissertations on his desk waiting to be reviewed when, out of the blue, he was inexplicably inspired by genocidal maniacs of yore and decided a career change was in order?
The Post's headline, not to mention the article itself, was so outrageous that it prompted immediate backlash. Mainstream, reputable outlets like the Wall Street Journal called it "appalling" while pundits made mockery of The Post by sharing their own, satirical headlines of past madmen like Hitler, and Chairman Mao.
On Twitter, Republican Congressman Steve Scalise stated: “Every day The Washington Post uses harsher words against @realDonaldTrump than they do in writing about one of the world’s most evil terrorists. Yet we’re supposed to take them at face value. Let that sink in."
We most definitely do not agree with Rep. Scalise on many points. We also believe The Washington Post often engages in quality journalism, pens many quality articles, has a legitimate beef with and is often correct in critiquing Trump. But specifically as regards to this point, we believe Mr. Scalise was correct.
The Post issued an apology, which we acknowledge: “Regarding our al-Baghdadi obituary, the headline should never have read that way and we changed it quickly.” But the headline was changed to something undeservedly milquetoast: "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, extremist leader of Islamic State, dies at 48."
Furthermore, rather than decry the carnage leveled at the hands of an ISIS madman, The Post followed their eulogy of al-Baghdadi with an opinion piece by left-wing pundit Max Boot entitled: "Al-Baghdadi's death could have been Trump's finest hour. He messed it up anyway."
In the column, Boot disparaged President Trump for claiming that al-Baghdadi died like a "coward" and questioned the credibility of Trump's description that the terror-leader was whimpering and crying before his last moments on earth. Boot wrote:
"A president who has never heard a shot fired in anger reveled in Baghdadi's last moments, even claiming 'he died like a coward...whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.' Trump could not possibly have heard 'whimpering and crying' on the overhead imagery because there was no audio...The assertion that Baghdadi died as a coward was, in any case, contradicted by the fact that rather than be captured, he blew himself up."
Excuse us x2?
Let us try and follow this twisted logic: Donald Trump "messed up" because he insulted the leader of a genocidal death cult? And Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is not a coward for blowing himself and three children up because in accordance with his warped interpretation of Islam, he died a martyr?
Max Boot, who also serves as a CNN analyst, tweeted the same assertion before deleting it, again, after receiving backlash for insinuating al-Baghdadi was no coward.
Boot is correct in his assertion that without an audio feed, one cannot definitively know which grunts or utterances emanated from al-Baghdadi as he ran down a darkened tunnel with three small children intending to blow himself, and them, up. And Trump, per norm, probably did take creative license in his description of the murderer's last moments. Let us be clear, we do not agree with Trump’s tendency to embellish the truth and often, lie. But specific to this event, Trump’s commentary does not detract from this monumental achievement for America and the world.
Mr. Trump's mocking, disparaging description of al-Baghdadi's last moments, whether true or not, were very likely for effect. The president's words were probably intended for the remnants of ISIS and other terror-aficionados who might have been listening to his address. Perhaps to shame as well as humiliate them. And to have them believe that their great and fearless leader was no better than a terrified animal in the end. It is demoralizing. And that is language a terrorist does understand. Of course, we wish that Mr. Trump reserved this type of verbiage for events such as these, not everyday conversation.
Final Food For Thought
The original title for the corresponding Washington Post's article was: "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Islamic State’s 'terrorist-in-chief,' dies at 48." We cannot help but wonder given the bizarre bent of The Post's coverage on al-Baghdadi and its long-contentious relationship with the president if "terrorist-in-chief" was meant as a jab at America's current "Commander in Chief." Nevertheless when it came time to acknowledge who Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s was in life while covering his death, The Washington Post editorial board should be ashamed of itself. The world is safer today because al-Baghdadi (and his heir apparent) are gone.
We at TQC have been openly critical of President Trump when warranted. But it is imperative to be fair. President Trump was correct for showing moral clarity and authority in his decisive choice to take out the ISIS commander and his second-in-command. Our intelligence community did an excellent job pinpointing with such accuracy, al-Baghdadi's whereabouts. Our Special Forces deserve unabashed praise for flawlessly delivering on their mandate without the collateral damage of American or allied causalities. That is what The Washington Post, and all media outlets should have focused on.