Written by John D. Guandolo
On Sunday morning, President Trump announced the leader of the Islamic State (formerly ISIS), Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, was killed during a raid by U.S. forces.
In the midst of government statements, media reports, and talking heads commenting, UTT offers this perspective on the killing of al Baghdadi and lessons we can and should learn form it.
Three things seem relevant and of great necessity to discuss:
- How the decision was made to release Al Baghdadi from U.S. custody in 2004.
- Al Baghdadi’s understanding of Islam and why it was taught to Islamic State fighters.
- The strategic impact, if any, of his death.
Decision to Release Baghdadi
The U.S. military confirmed al Baghdadi was in U.S. custody for ten months in 2004 and then released. Why was al Baghdadi released? Like thousands of other jihadis, al Baghdadi was released because U.S. officials thought he was not “significant.” Despite information al Baghdadi was involved with the Muslim Brotherhood as a young man, many officials believed he was “radicalized” during or after his imprisonment.
U.S. officials making decisions on which prisoners to keep in custody and which prisoners to release had, and still have, no understanding of sharia and how it drives jihadis on the battlefield. This makes it very difficult to discern which prisoners truly constitute a long-term threat and which ones do not.
Baghdadi’s Understanding of Islam
President Trump’s comments Sunday morning on the actions of the Islamic State raise the question, “Where did al Baghdadi and his soldiers learn the war-fighting methods and punishments they inflicted on those they encountered and fought?”
Mr. Trump said the following:
“But they (ISIS) killed many, many Americans. Their murder of Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig, and Kayla Mueller, were especially heinous. The shocking publicized murder of a Jordanian pilot…he was burned alive in a cage for all to see. On execution of Christians in Libya and Egypt, as well as the genocidal mass murder of Yazidis, rank ISIS among the most depraved organizations in the history of our world.”
Why did the Islamic State set a Jordanian pilot on fire? Where did Islamic State fighters learn to crucify and behead people? Where did Islamic State fighters learn to whip people publicly or amputate their hands for stealing?
The Islamic State holds daily classes on the Koran, hadith, tafsir, and matters of sharia in the combat zones when they were not engaged in combat. They published magazines, videos, and online articles detailing why they do what they do. The Islamic State consistently states they do what they do because it is a command from Allah to wage war against non-muslims until sharia is the law of the land on the planet.
It should be noted that it is a capital crime in Islam, under the Law of Apostasy, for muslims to teach other muslims anything about Islam that is incorrect.
UTT agrees with the President that the actions of the Islamic State/ISIS are “depraved,” however, UTT has not found any Islamic State/ISIS teachings which contradict the authoritative core teachings in Islam from widely used and universally accepted Islamic sources.
The example of the Jordanian pilot who was burned alive serves as an excellent example. Two of the four schools of sunni Islamic jurisprudence – the Shafi and Maliki schools – agree those found guilty of killing muslims without right under sharia “should be killed with a weapon which is similar to the weapon he used in his crime and in the same mode of his execution of it.” [Hudud: Islamic Criminal Law, Sidahmad, Malaysia, 1993, pg 221]
The Jordanian pilot bombed people, and bombs kill people in a number of ways including via fire. Therefore, setting him on fire was a lawful action in Islam.
Al Baghdadi did not make up his war-fighting methodology. He simply followed the example of Islam’s “beautiful pattern of conduct” (Koran 33:21) for all muslims for all times – Mohammad – who beheaded people and participated in/condoned killing those who mocked him, torture, sex slavery, and all other kinds of actions we see/saw from the Islamic State.
The fact Americans are shocked when Islamic leaders and Islamic armies wage war the way Islam commands is quite perplexing. It reveals a lack of understanding of the threat – Islam and its doctrine.
The Strategic Impact of al Baghdadi’s Death
What is the strategic impact of killing Islamic State leader al Baghdadi?
Currently, the United States has not identified the enemy in this 18 year old war in which it is engaged. Therefore, it is, as a practical matter, impossible to develop a coherent strategy for victory in this war if the enemy and the enemy’s doctrine are not clearly defined.
So while killing the leader of an evil, dangerous and destructive designated Foreign Terrorist Organization is a good thing, it likely will not have any significant strategic impact in the broader Islamic Movement across the globe.
When the American national security apparatus decides to acknowledge the enemy and its doctrine, America’s ability to win the war will increase exponentially.