He is seen as a “paper tiger” who threatens and insults without scaring anyone or achieving any of his objectives (in China, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Turkey, Afghanistan, the Middle East, etc.). Yet, only days after receiving a flood of reproach for withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria and leaving their Kurdish allies in the hands of that implacable Turk, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Donald Trump has just pulled off an extraordinary victory: the U.S. military — which he officially commands — located and eliminated Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the monstrous leader of the self-proclaimed Islamic State group, with its appalling, bloody trail.
It is a success that Europe recognizes and regrets being unable to share the credit for, but that the U.S. press, which is mostly sympathetic to the Democratic Party and therefore adversarial, is trying to minimize. That is undoubtedly a great injustice because, had it failed, Trump would have borne 100% of the blame. An allusive cartoon in an Israeli newspaper shows a man consoling a sobbing woman and asking her, “Why are you crying? Al-Baghdadi was a terrorist, a murderer. He was in favor of slavery and trafficked women and children. Why are you crying over his death?” She answers, “Because it makes Trump look good!” Such is the absurdity of fanatical politics.
But Trump doesn’t pay attention to his enemies. What seems to dictate all of his actions is his determination to take advantage of the moment for his electoral goals. True to his tactic of always antagonizing the people against the elite, he pitched his “show” with a tweet, alerting the public to anticipate the official announcement of important news, creating suspense. Later, he made the announcement in his own style, with a bounty of details about the operation and in violent, insulting language that was difficult for civilized Westerners to swallow in a discussion about someone’s death, however evil the person was. Trump characterized al-Baghdadi as a coward and loser, saying he died “like a dog;” and the president was criticized for the remarks. However, the (left leaning) French newspaper, Liberation, published the story on the front page with the headline: “Le Sherif flingue le Caliphe,” which, in Spanish would be “El Sherif mata (o más bien destortilla o pulveriza) al Califa” and in English “Sheriff Kills the Caliph (or more accurately, crushes or hammers). French media unanimously agreed with the headline, considering that it indicated Trump, as well as al-Baghdadi, and their respective followers are more or less extremists, obviously, who communicate in radical terms and understand each other.
Regarding the reference to a dog, in Arab countries dogs are seen as an impure. Calling someone a dog or son of a dog is the ultimate insult. So, Trump did not improvise when announcing al- Baghdadi’s death with insults, but chose his words knowingly, delivering his desired message. However, he later corrected himself, and sought to rehabilitate himself before the U.S. and Western public by characterizing the dog injured in the al-Baghdadi operation as “a beautiful dog.”
Now, the questions arise. The most confusing question concerns why Trump decided to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria while preparing for al-Baghdadi’s capture. Was this a plan to fool the terrorist and make him believe that the Americans were leaving the region and had forgotten him? Or, on the contrary, was the withdrawal a way of pushing and advancing the operation so that Americans could succeed before leaving, and count on help from the Russians, Turks, Kurds and Syrians who provided the necessary information and whom Trump publicly thanked? Time will tell.
Finally, we must ask ourselves if the world is safer after the demise of al-Baghdadi, as Trump assures us. Again, time will tell. But, there is room for doubt.
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