My Word: Bury Baghdadi, not his crimes

Baghdadi’s death, while an important milestone, is unlikely to put an end to global jihad, just as Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist organization continued in different forms even after his death.

Jordanian protesters carry an effigy of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Amman in February 2015, following the video of the particularly gruesome killing of pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh. (photo credit: MUHAMMAD HAMED/REUTERS)
Jordanian protesters carry an effigy of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Amman in February 2015, following the video of the particularly gruesome killing of pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh.
There’s an art to writing concise, correct headlines. Somebody at The Washington Post has not mastered it.
Or more to the point, somebody tried to fix something that wasn’t broken and did a horrifying job. The initial title of The Washington Post’s obituary for the leader of ISIS read “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Islamic State’s ‘terrorist-in-chief,’ dies at 48.”
Taking the idea of not speaking ill of the dead way beyond the bounds of commonsense let alone decency, the paper changed that to “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, austere religious scholar at the helm of Islamic State, dies at 48.” The resulting social media storm forced the paper to switch to “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, extremist leader of Islamic State, dies at 48.”
For several hours, Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms went into a spin with similarly stunningly inappropriate fake obits, such as “Adolf Hitler, Austrian vegan activist and landscape painter, dies at 56” (David Burge), “Saddam Hussein, successful politician, oil baron and noted tough boss, dead at 69” (Canadian Senator Denise Batters) and “Osama bin Laden, spiritual leader and architect of lower Manhattan urban revitalization projects, dead at 54” John Noonan).
French journalist Anne-Elizabeth Moutet had fun with “Gaius Julius Caesar, 56, noted author and Egyptologist, dies surrounded by his friends.” And I, too, thought of Julius Caesar, albeit colored by William Shakespeare’s Mark Anthony: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones” The Washington Post and others came to praise Baghdadi rather than bury him. And while the parodies might be amusing, it’s not a laughing matter.
More than one “obituary” eulogized the ISIS leader who was evil personified.
The Washington Post tribute, written by Joby Warrick with a lot more respect that the arch-terrorist and tyrant deserved, referred to him as to him as “Mr. Baghdadi” and described him as having “helped transform his failing movement into one of the most notorious, vicious and – for a time – successful terrorist groups of modern times."
“The man who would become the founding leader of the world’s most brutal terrorist group spent his early adult years as an obscure academic, aiming for a quiet life as a professor of Islamic law. But the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 upended his plans and launched him on a course toward insurgency, prison and violent jihad.”
So now you know who’s responsible for the murderous rampages that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands. Apparently, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi would have remained an unknown religious teacher by the name of Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim al-Badri had the US not provoked him.
Maybe we should revisit who’s to blame for Osama bin Laden’s global terrorist assault.
In Bloomberg’s Politics section, a piece by Tarek El-Tablawy had the deceptively neutral headline, “Who Was Islamic State Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi?” Here, it was first duly noted that he “led a terrorist group that slaughtered thousands during a fearsome rise to power stopped only after an international military coalition was formed to bring it down.” But it went on to say that “Baghdadi, who transformed himself from a little-known teacher of Koranic recitation into the self-proclaimed ruler of an entity that covered swaths of Syria and Iraq, was killed along with a number of his followers, US President Donald Trump said.
His body was mutilated after he detonated a suicide vest while fleeing into a dead-end tunnel.”
Much was made of the way Trump delivered the announcement of the successful operation in which Baghdadi was literally hounded down by a US Army canine and died “like a dog, whimpering, crying and screaming all the way.” But it seems some people allow their hatred of Trump to override all else: If Trump was proud of the raid, then Baghdadi automatically became “the victim,” rather than the enemy.
THE MISSION, which was clearly the result of an intelligence coup combined with good planning, was named Operation Kayla, after Kayla Mueller, who was kidnapped by ISIS and reportedly handed over to Baghdadi as a sex slave. American officials naturally focused on ISIS’s crimes in beheading two US journalists – James Foley and Steven Sotloff (who also had Israeli citizenship and freelanced for the Jerusalem Post Group publication, The Jerusalem Report) – as well as the death in captivity of Mueller (described as an American humanitarian worker.) But of course ISIS is guilty of torturing and killing many more non-Americans.
Women were raped and enslaved; children separated from their families, boys turned into soldiers, girls “married” to jihadists; and men beheaded or crucified – only the “lucky” ones were shot outright. The footage of Jordanian pilot First Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh being burned alive in a cage is haunting. Despite its medieval way of life, ISIS as an organization used modern public relations techniques and spread its message via social media. (Maybe we should add “media savvy” to Baghdadi’s obit?) ISIS fanatics proudly showed the gruesome executions as a way of sowing fear – and also to recruit more members, many of them from the West, drawn by the promise of free sex and murderous mayhem under this distorted version of Islam.
The terrorist organization has killed Muslims – both Sunni and Shi’ite – and wiped out Christian, Kurdish and Yazidi and other minority communities across the Middle East while its affiliated organizations, such as Boko Haram, continue to slaughter Christians and others throughout Africa and Asia. It has carried out terror atrocities in major European cities as well as in North America.
Baghdadi’s death, while an important milestone, is unlikely to put an end to global jihad, just as Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist organization continued in different forms even after he was caught and killed by US forces.
Although Barack Obama presided over the operation in which bin Laden was eliminated, the former US president was among those who found it immensely hard to admit out loud that there is such a thing as jihad and Islamist terrorism. He infamously described the 2015 terror attack on the French HyperCacher kosher supermarket as “a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”
This line of thinking means terrorists are routinely referred to as “gunmen” and “assailants” without acknowledging the Islamist ideology that drives them. The fear of being accused of Islamophobia – or the drive to find a moral equivalency – arguably helped the spread of global jihad.
In 2015, at the National Prayer Breakfast, instead of unequivocally denouncing ISIS atrocities, Obama declared, “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ...”
THIS WEEK at the J Street conference in Washington a parade of leading Democrats turned US military aid to Israel into a campaign issue. As The Jerusalem Post’s Omri Nahmias reported, presidential wannabe Bernie Sanders went as far as saying, “I think it is fair to say that some of that $3.8b. should go right now into humanitarian aid in Gaza.”
Sanders certainly knows the meaning of “chutzpah.” But it’s more than a nerve to suggest that instead of helping Israel defend itself from the rockets and terror attacks coming from Gaza, it should be penalized and Gaza rewarded. The name Hamas is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement and its charter still calls for Israel’s destruction. If instead of investing in means of attacking Israel Hamas were to invest in building up its quasi-state, there wouldn’t be a humanitarian crisis there.
A world that can’t acknowledge Islamist terrorism is unable to fight it. We shouldn’t feel sorry for Baghdadi, we should feel sorry for his victims. The Washington Post did more than rewrite a headline, it tried to rewrite history. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was evil. He won’t be missed and he shouldn’t be lamented.