There’s an old saying in Tennessee—I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, ‘Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.
– George W. Bush
On April 21st, The Guardian reported that the leader of Dae’sh or Islamic State, was allegedly seriously injured in air-strikes which took place back on March 18th, in the region of al-Baaj. According to The Guardian article, “a source with connections to the terror group,” claimed that Baghdadi was no longer in command as a result of the severity of his injuries. As of May 1st, the Guardian went a step further, declaring al-Baghdadi has been (perhaps permenently) incapacitated.
The source may indeed be telling the truth, but there’s no way of confirming whether these reports are accurate. The responsible thing to do in this situation would be to get official confirmation or reliable evidence–but if there’s one thing corporate media is not it’s responsible. Several outlets immediately reported about the alleged injuries to Baghdadi and even began to speculate about the identity of his replacement.
We saw something similar last November and December, when Al-Jazeera reported that the leader of Dae’sh had been injured in a strike that killed one of his deputies. One of the sources they cited in the report was a worker at the Mosul morgue. The only strong evidence that seems to confirm Baghdadi’s injury in November, came weeks later, when a Twitter account supposedly connected to the Dae’sh spokesperson wished Baghdadi a speedy recovery. Again, we seem to take for granted the reporting done by what could be official Dae’sh propagandists or its Twitter fanboys.
The Pentagon has stated that it has no evidence of such injuries occurring and shot down the speculations, and the claims of al-Baghdadi’s demise seem to be contradicted by his apparent recent edict to have Syrian Dae’sh reinforce their Iraqi brethren. But the rumor persists nonetheless–in part as a result of ISIS itself.
Dae’sh has an interest in depicting itself as the recipient of divine intervention and blessing, which supposedly shields it from its enemies and their schemes to destroy it. Stories of the leader surviving coalition airstrikes, allows Dae’sh to make coalition forces look inept and incapable, by demonstrating that twice now the coalition has been unable to kill their “caliph.” Meanwhile, to the extent that al-Baghdadi is perceived to have twice suffered serious life-threatening injuries, but apparently continues to run the organization– this gives his recovery a miraculous quality. In other words, whether people believe al-Baghdadi narrowly escaped the attack, or whether they believe he was struck but survived–either way it is good for Dae’sh, reinforcing their narrative of divine protection.
And so while it may very well turn out that al-Baghdadi was indeed injured, and maybe even killed, media outlets should be more cautious in the way they report. This is true especially when using questionable sources, which may be speaking on behalf of a group characterized by its sophisticated propaganda apparatus–lest Western media be further co-opted by Dae’sh’s nefarious b.s. machine.
Moreover, it is important to realize that even were al-Baghdadi to fall, Dae’sh is ideologically and institutionally designed to not only survive, but thrive, in the event of their leader’s martyrdom. So if and when a report on the demise of the “caliph” actually proves true, there is no reason to think Dae’sh will follow him to oblivion anytime soon. In fact, their next leader may prove to be far more effective and dangerous.