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Thoughts on al-Baghdadi Raid Thoughts on al-Baghdadi Raid
by George Cassidy Payne
2019-11-11 10:28:35
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Regarding the al-Baghdadi raid, President Trump spoke as if he was one of the soldiers in the tunnel. In his televised address from the White House, he stated that the ISIS leader was "whimpering and crying " before US commandos closed in. Trump described how al-Baghdadi "spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him." "He died like a dog. ...The world is now a much safer place," he added. 

Forget that The President went on to talk about the heroic actions of a military dog that day, more disturbing is that top defense officials who watched the raid alongside the President in the Situation Room have demurred when asked to corroborate the his description of Baghdadi's death. How exactly did President Trump come to know this information?  Did he actually hear and witness those events on camera or did those descriptions come from his active imagination? Was it reliable eyewitness testimony or political propaganda? If that question does not matter to Americans than al-Baghdadi has already won his war. Dead or alive, he has contributed to a world where Americans have stopped caring about the truth. 

alba01_400That said, I believe Trump had to pursue al-Baghdadi. This ISIS leader was not a hero and he did not deserve to die like one. He certainly did not deserve to leave a legacy that would inspire other radicals to carry on an inherently evil mission. But this can be true and we can still be careful not to celebrate death, make death into hyperbole, or tell lies about it. Death is a crime in its own right, and the killing of another human being always demands the greatest level of somberness that we can muster. The death of two innocent children at the hands of a deranged cleric is even more sobering. There is no cause for gloating and there is no reason to be happy. It is a cause for reflection and determination; it is a time to start fighting ISIS at every level that is available to our consciousness: educationally, socially, religiously, and yes, if necessary, militarily. But if we fight for merely the right to kill and the liberty to enjoy or ignore the death of our enemies (and their innocent victims), then we have already forfeited what is truly worth fighting for in the beginning. 

In the words of G.K. Chesterton, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”

As a nation, we can celebrate the values of freedom while also being free of the necessity to hate. We can also celebrate the bravery of soldiers, intelligence operators, and yes, our political leaders, without forfeiting our ability to have compassion for all victims of war and violence.


George Cassidy Payne is a SUNY Adjunct Professor of Philosophy and a social worker. He lives in Rochester, NY.

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