Washington Post columnist Max Boot on Monday suggested ISIS founder and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did not die like a “coward” as President Trump described on Sunday, arguing that the president’s assertion is “contradicted by the fact that rather than be captured, he blew himself up.”
Boot, who is both a Post columnist and CNN analyst, wrote in a column on Monday that Trump turned al-Baghdadi’s death into another “risible spectacle.”
As detailed in the column, Boot is demonstratively bothered by Trump’s admission of withholding news of the raid from key Congressional leaders – such as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) – due to a fear of leaks. He asserted that Trump made a mistake by “divulging operational details of the raid that horrified national security professionals” and argued that the president’s detailed statement on the terrorist’s final moments was largely embellished.
Boot also took issue with Trump’s characterization of al-Baghdadi “dying like a coward.” The notorious Never Trumper concluded that the president’s assessment is “contradicted by the fact that rather than be captured, he blew himself up,” implying that his suicide was, somehow, an act of bravery.
A president who has never heard a shot fired in anger reveled in Baghdadi’s last moments, even claiming “he died like a coward … whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.” Trump could not possibly have heard “whimpering and crying” on the overhead imagery because there was no audio, and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pointedly refused to confirm those details. The assertion that Baghdadi died as a coward was, in any case, contradicted by the fact that rather than be captured, he blew himself up.
As the president detailed, al-Baghdadi ran into a cave along with three children and detonated his suicide vest, killing himself along with the children after finding himself entrapped by U.S. forces.
As Trump detailed:
The U.S. personnel were incredible. I got to watch much of it. No personnel were lost in the operation, while a large number of Baghdadi’s fighters and companions were killed with him. He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way. The compound had been cleared by this time, with people either surrendering or being shot and killed.
Eleven young children were moved out of the house uninjured. The only ones remaining were Baghdadi in the tunnel, and he had dragged three of his young children with him. They were led to certain death. He reached the end of the tunnel, as our dogs chased him down. He ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children. His body was mutilated by the blast, the tunnel had caved in on it in addition, but test results gave certain, immediate and totally positive identification it was him.
The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread — terrified of the American forces bearing down on him. We were in the compound for approximately two hours, and after the mission was accomplished, we took highly sensitive material and information from the raid, much having to do with ISIS, origins, future plans, things that we very much want.
Boot’s column would not be the only controversial piece to come out of the Post in recent days. The paper came under heavy scrutiny on Sunday after announcing al-Baghdadi’s death with a title reading, “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, austere religious scholar at the helm of Islamic State, dies at 48”:
Enemy of the people??? With headlines like this and the fact that the @washingtonpost and others in the MSM have harsher criticism for The President of The United States than they do for the leader of ISIS, a known serial rapist and murderer, you really have to start to wonder!!! pic.twitter.com/JH448bCA7Y
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) October 27, 2019
Every day The Washington Post uses harsher words against @realDonaldTrump than they do in writing about one of the world’s most evil terrorists. Yet we’re supposed to take them at face value. Let that sink in. pic.twitter.com/iIWVqI4N8B
— Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) October 27, 2019
I have no words. https://t.co/4zH9Ji0Smy
— Stephanie Grisham (@PressSec) October 27, 2019
al-Baghdadi described as “Austere religious scholar” instead of “terrorist” in Washpo Obituary headline. pic.twitter.com/3fTxBMInLo
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) October 27, 2019
The title now reads, “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, extremist leader of Islamic State, dies at 48.”
“Post correspondents have spent years in Iraq and Syria documenting ISIS savagery, often at great personal risk,” Post spokeswoman Kristine Coratti Kelly, said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, a headline written in haste to portray the origins of al-Baghdadi and ISIS didn’t communicate that brutality. The headline was promptly changed,” she added.
She also responded to criticisms on Twitter.
“Regarding our al-Baghdadi obituary, the headline should never have read that way and we changed it quickly,” she wrote:
Regarding our al-Baghdadi obituary, the headline should never have read that way and we changed it quickly.
— Kristine Coratti Kelly (@kriscoratti) October 27, 2019