Back in 2011, when word spread across the news media that Osama bin Laden had finally been brought to justice, I remember a friend (a fellow Republican) turning to me and saying, “Obama’s going to get credit for this, isn’t he?”
My answer to that friend was, “So?”
I wasn’t interested in the political fallout. I was just glad that the leader of Al-Qaeda — the man primarily responsible for the deaths of thousands of people on 9/11 — had answered for his crimes, and was no longer around to take more innocent lives. It was a great day for America, regardless of one’s political leanings.
I did understand where my friend was coming from, however. As I wrote in a piece in 2012, where I defended Obama’s use of a campaign video bragging up his leadership role in the successful raid on the Bin Laden compound, there was some glaring irony tied to that part of the president’s legacy:
It was the controversial intelligence and interrogation techniques put in place by the Bush administration that ultimately led the CIA to Bin Laden. These were the very techniques that Obama adamantly condemned while he ran for the presidency. For nearly four years, the Obama administration has routinely blamed the poor state of the country on a situation he inherited from Bush. Yet, he’s now running on one of the very few successes he’s enjoyed as president – one that came to fruition from policies he also inherited from Bush.
Still, I made it clear that, in addition to our military and intelligence agencies, Obama absolutely deserved credit…even if any other president in that same position would have made the same call. I also had no problem with Obama touting his leadership on the matter. After all, if the operation at that Pakistani compound (which came with undeniable military and diplomatic risks) had failed, Obama would have received full blame for the failure.
I feel the same way about this week’s successful operation that took out ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It was a great day for America, and everyone involved deserves credit for the neutralization of this murderer, torturer, and rapist.
This includes our troops who bravely carried out the operation. It also includes Kurdish officials who reportedly provided most of the intel for the operation, and continued doing so even after Trump’s surprise withdrawal announcement that opened up the Syrian Kurds to a deadly Turkish offensive. Notably, that same move by our president reportedly complicated the jobs of the C.I.A and Pentagon as well, forcing them to speed up their planning of the raid before they would lose their ability to make calls from the ground. So those organizations certainly deserve a lot of credit for still pulling it off. And lastly, Trump deserves credit for making the call to launch the raid.
But because we live in hyper-partisan times, and because this was a political (not just a strategic) win for our president, some folks took a stunningly different view of the situation — one that included framing the newly deceased terrorist as an individual with some notably redeeming qualities.
No, I’m not joking.
The Washington Post’s obituary for al-Baghdadi was given this headline: “Austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State dies at 48.”
Austere religious scholar? This made me want to go back and check if the Post headlined Charles Manson’s obituary with “Renowned singer-songwriter.”
Speaking of the Washington Post, one of their columnists, Max Boot (who has renounced just about every political position he held prior to the Trump era), was so bothered by Trump’s description of al-Baghdadi’s final seconds, that he felt compelled to laud the terrorist’s courage:
Now, to be fair, Boot’s first sentence had some validity. President Trump routinely uses similar verbiage (depicting made-up behavior) in an attempt to emasculate even his domestic political opponents. For Trump to extend such imagery to a dead terrorist leader isn’t particularly surprising, especially considering that it’s been common practice over the years, spanning different administrations, to demoralize America’s enemies in this fashion.
For example, some may recall that under Obama, John Brennan falsely claimed that Osama bin Laden had tried to use one of his wives as a human shield during the Pakistan raid.
Boot went off the rails, however, when he channeled his frustration with Trump’s fabrications into a defense of the terrorist leader. “Whimpering and crying” or not, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself and three children to avoid his own capture. I’m not sure which definition of courage Boot thought that met.
No one’s under any obligation to give credit to Trump, of course — just like Trump wasn’t under any obligation to give President Obama any credit for taking out Bin Laden:
Stop congratulating Obama for killing Bin Laden. The Navy Seals killed Bin Laden. #debate
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2012
You don’t even have to believe that Trump did something that any other president wouldn’t have, or that his foreign policy decisions, taken as a whole, have been sound (in my view, he’s made several mistakes).
But there are some things that should transcend politics. And if we can’t agree that dealing a major blow to a terrorist organization is unequivocally one of them, our country’s in worse shape than I thought.