Pete Souza, former White House photographer and Boston University alumnus, accused President Donald Trump of faking a control room photo of the assassination of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a prominent leader of the Islamic State in Syria, on Sunday.
Souza pointed out in a tweet that the time the camera data shows the picture being taken is “17:05:24,” or 5:05 p.m., but the raid was reportedly carried out at 3:30 p.m. This is not to mention the many undone wires on the table and questionably forced posture of the men in the picture.
The picture was an obvious attempt to recreate Souza’s 2011 picture of the White House control room when President Barack Obama directed the murder of Osama bin Laden, the leader of terrorist group al-Qaeda and thought to be the mastermind behind the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
If the photo were staged as Souza claims, this would only be one more embarrassment for Trump to add to his collection, but comes in an unfortunate context.
Especially if it is fake, this is a pathetic move by the Trump administration to poorly imitate a respectable presidency. He has politicized the death of a leader that tortured and killed the very people he abandoned just two weeks ago.
Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria seriously intensified the conflict in the area and allowed extremist groups, including ISIS, to become more active. The move made this raid against al-Bagdadi even more difficult and the operation had to be rushed, according to The New York Times.
Yet Trump continues to take credit for the mission, despite discrediting Obama’s role in bin Laden’s assassination in 2011 with a series of tweets. He is publicizing and politicizing an event that may be insignificant for many.
Bin Laden’s death was symbolic as a form of closure for the American public that had collectively experienced a tragedy on Sept. 11 ten years earlier. Al-Baghdadi, although a prominent terrorist, does not hold the same weight as the raid on bin Laden and Trump’s seemingly staged picture does not capture the same emotions as Souza’s.
This should have been another somber success in the fight against the expansion of terrorism as the Obama administration’s operation was, but instead Trump made it a publicity stunt.
Trump made several disturbing comments regarding the assassination in a press conference on Sunday, saying al-Baghdadi “died like a dog, he died like a coward. He was whimpering, screaming and crying.”
He even referred to witnessing the scene of the terrorist killing himself and three of his children as “watching a movie” and claimed he warned the world about Osama bin Laden before the attacks on Sept. 11.
Trump continues to strip the presidency of its legitimacy through his ridiculous and disrespectful antics. It should come as no surprise that he attempted to recreate a legacy of the Obama administration that he once criticized and will get away with it.