It’s proving rather difficult for some in the political world to assign credit where it’s due on the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Sunday morning, the White House confirmed that al-Baghdadi, one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, was killed in a daring raid by United States Special Forces — an operation that has been weeks in planning. In a press conference, President Donald Trump spoke about al-Baghdadi’s final moments, and hammered home that his administration had made capturing or eliminating al-Baghdadi a top priority.
“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 world is a much safer place.”
Defense Department officials echoed Trump on the importance of killing al-Baghdadi, particularly the significance to the Islamic State, which has been occupying border towns in Syria, scrounging for supplies and prominence, after being driven from Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper called the loss of al-Baghdadi a “major blow” to ISIS.
But not everyone was as enthusiastic about the demise of a major terrorist leader, whose network once operated in at least 30 countries and who may have been responsible for the death, torture, and enslavement of thousands. Leftists — and, in particular, members of the media and officials from the Obama Administration — were rather clipped in their praise.
It took mere minutes for leftists to connect the al-Baghdadi raid to an international Russia-driven conspiracy designed to keep Donald Trump in power.
OK I get it now. Trump gave Syria to Assad and Putin, and they threw Trump the Baghdadi bone. https://t.co/Xof37MW1xw
— Devin Duke (@sirDukeDevin) October 27, 2019
CNBC’s John Harwood was quick to downplay the significance of al-Baghdadi’s death, suggesting that Americans won’t be interested in the demise of a major terrorist leader because they don’t know al-Baghdadi by name (even though it’s unlikely Americans have somehow missed out in ISIS).
it’s great that Baghdadi is gone. credit to the skill and bravery of US special forces
it’s very unlikely to influence public opinion much since
a) most Americans don’t know who he was
b) Trump has claimed over and over that he had already obliterated ISIS
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) October 27, 2019
MSNBC host Alex Witt wondered whether the demise of al-Baghdadi will be the resurrection of al-Baghdadi’s terrorist empire: “It might it also incite rage from those who followed him as if there was a lack of respect shown to him, and then, you know, get their blood boiling, if you will.”
Thankfully, at least for leftists, such a major strategic victory in the global war on terror was no reason to take their eye off the ball.
It’s an accomplishment by US special forces Baghdadi is dead. Full stop.
Trump will still be impeached.
— Steven Beschloss (@StevenBeschloss) October 27, 2019
Obama Administration National Security director James Clapper was the first Obama-era official to actively downplay the victory, claiming on CNN’s “State of the Union” that al-Baghdadi’s death was immaterial because ISIS is bigger than one man.
“What is going to be interesting is the extent to which this negatively affects ISIS or does it galvanize ISIS, the remnants of ISIS, which still survives as an ideology and has franchises in other places besides Syria,” Clapper told host Jake Tapper.
“ISIS is more than just Baghdadi, as important as he was. 14,000 to 18,000 fighters yet remaining and the franchise are branches in other places — notably, Afghanistan where of course we still have forces. ISIS did participate in losing leadership,” he continued. “So they decentralized and groomed people to assume the role. Now, I don’t know that they have anybody would have the symbolic importance of Bagdadi, but I don’t think we can say at this point that we can stop worrying about ISIS.”
The most popular criticism, though, seemed to be reserved for Trump’s Sunday morning presser, where the president gave a sometimes-gory blow-by-blow of the operation to locate and kill al-Baghdadi, and seemed to take particular glee in the fact that al-Baghdadi killed himself with a suicide vest in an escape tunnel while running scared from the American military.
That’s just not how we’re supposed to treat terrorists, Obama Advisor Sam Vinograd told CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”
The intelligence community played a key role in the successful raid against Baghdadi, but the President's engagement with the media post-op indicates he may not be listening to them after the raid's conclusion.
High risk period — more with @brianstelter @ReliableSources pic.twitter.com/0VJpGfihdn
— Sam Vinograd (@sam_vinograd) October 27, 2019
And then there’s Obama’s Joint Chiefs Vice Chair James Winnefeld, who pre-emptively blamed Trump for whatever spate of radical Islamic violence comes next: “If you look back at the bin Laden raid, we treated his body with respect that is due under Islam,” he told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Regardless, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi remains dead.