As with pretty much everything in the current era, it started with a tweet.
The “something very big” was a report that American forces in Syria had located and eliminated ISIS leader and scourge of humanity, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It was reportedly a comprehensive operation involving helicopters, fighter jets and drones. Confirmation will take some time, but if this is true, one of our great goals in the war on terror has been achieved. (NBC News)
The world’s most wanted terrorist, Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was the target of a deadly U.S.-led raid in northwestern Syria, sources told NBC News early Sunday.
Forensic testing is underway, but officials believe al-Baghdadi is among the dead, the sources said.
A U.S. Special Ops mission targeted the ISIS leader near Barisha, Syria, overnight. The mission included helicopters, jets and U.S. drones, the sources said.
The U.S. fired from the air and then landed and gathered intelligence, the sources said. Several others were also killed in a convoy. There were no reports of U.S. casualties.
CNN has been saying that it “appears” that the terrorist boss detonated a suicide vest as American forces approached. Assuming that’s true, it could have been a case of refusing to be taken alive, fear of what would happen to him in confinement or… choice number three. While it’s a bit early on a Sunday to leap into the conspiracy theory pool, until there’s some really detailed DNA work done (more on that in a moment), people will be wondering whether that was really al-Baghdadi or a body double put in place to allow him to slip away again.
The President addressed the nation this morning describing the scene, much of which Trump apparently watched from the situation room. He claims that Baghdadi was chased into a dead-end tunnel, dragging three of his children with him. Trump described him as “crying and whimpering” all the way. Inside the tunnel he detonated his suicide vest, killing himself and his children in the process.
The President claims that immediate tests conducted on the scene confirmed the identity of the terrorist leader even though the body was badly damaged. I’m not sure if that means that they had facilities to run a DNA test on-site that quickly. (Surprising but not impossible, I suppose.) Or it may have been biometric scanning with the DNA testing to follow. But the President and, presumably, the military seem satisfied that we got him.
Of course, even assuming he’s really dead, this doesn’t spell the absolute end of ISIS or Islamic terrorism, but it would certainly serve as a blow to the morale of the remaining ISIS fighters and sympathizers. Critics may argue that we’ve only turned the ISIS leader into a martyr, but there wasn’t really an alternative. Keep in mind that this is the guy who brought the worst barbaric terrorism into the social media era. Prisoners being beheaded on livestreaming video, victims burned to death in cages suspended over fires… all in 1080p high-resolution video. His obvious intention was to shock and demoralize the world and for quite some time he clearly achieved those goals.
But as I was saying to a friend on social media this morning, the physical death of the terrorist leader probably isn’t the big story. Baghdadi’s dream died long before he did. He wanted a caliphate that could openly operate on the world stage like a normal country. And for a time, he had it. But now ISIS is long since broken, relegated to hiding in caves and fighting from the shadows. At this point, there is little difference between ISIS and AQ. Same tactics, same goals. Not to say they aren’t still dangerous, but the dream of the Caliphate is long gone.
Even while this should be a time to celebrate in the west, the inevitable politics were seeping in before the President even addressed the nation. On CNN, the hosts were debating with Brian Stelter as to whether or not President Trump would give credit to the military forces who took out al-Baghdadi or claim the victory himself. And Trump had set himself up for some criticism along those lines because of a tweet he sent out back in 2012 when OBL shuffled off the mortal coil.
Just as I wrote back in 2012, the job gets done by our military and special forces, but Obama deserved credit for authorizing the raid to begin with. The same goes for Trump, who allegedly gave this operation the green light a week ago.
Still, if we can manage to look past the politics, we’re still waking up to a pretty good day. One of the worst monsters on the planet has apparently been slain and we can chalk one up for the good guys.