Do the overwhelming majority of Americans know that the leader of Isis was called Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi? Almost certainly not.
Will most of them approve of the decision to kill him in a raid by US special forces in northern Syria? Probably.
Will Joe Biden see his polls increase in stride? Almost certainly. Will this bump be big enough or last long enough to help Democrats in the midterm elections? Ahh. This is where the problem lies.
Some will, no doubt rightly, find it insipid to talk about poll numbers when the bodies of more than a dozen people killed in the raid, including six children and four women, have barely been found in the rubble of the three-storey building. building in the town of Atmeh, near the border with Turkey.
Biden said the US military took every precaution to avoid civilian casualties. But every American leader, political or military, makes such claims after these events, and often we learn later that the true civilian toll is far graver and there was little regard for “collateral damage.” “.
Biden announces that the leader of the Islamic State has been killed
What we do know for now is that Qurayshi, who took over as head of ISIS on October 31, 2019, just days after leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in an orderly raid by Donald Trump in the same area, marks the latest in a succession of US operations that have targeted the leader of terrorist organizations, or so-called “rogue states”.
“Thanks to the bravery of our troops, this horrible terrorist leader is no more,” Biden said Thursday morning.
He claimed Qurayshi was responsible for a recent prison raid in an attempt to free Islamic State fighters, as well as the genocide against the Yazidi people in Iraq in 2014.
He claimed that as was similarly said about Baghdadi, the ISIS leader set off a suicide bomb which killed him and several members of his family rather than surrender to the forces. Americans.
“In a final act of desperate cowardice, he chose to blow up the third floor instead of facing justice, taking several members of his own family with him.”
When George W Bush announced that the United States had captured Saddam Hussein in 2004, he saw his popularity rating jumped.
Similarly, Bill Clinton experienced a surge in numbers after ordering missile strikes against suspected al-Qaeda targets in Sudan and Afghanistan, one of which is believed to have narrowly missed Osama bin Laden.
Barack Obama saw his numbers jump by as many as nine points after ordering the raid in May 2011 that ultimately saw the al-Qaeda leader killed in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Even Jimmy Carter saw a small bump in his approval ratings after ordering what turned into a failed raid to rescue 52 American hostages in Iran in 1980, the rationale being that at least he was taking action.
Yet in each of these cases, as with the credit Americans gave Trump for the operation that resulted in Baghdadi’s death, such increases are rarely sustainable.
The White House said Vice President Kamala Harris and other senior members of his national security team monitored the raid via a live feed in the Situation Room and quickly released a photo of them in the act. do it.
A certain iconography has emerged around these photographs. The released image of the bin Laden raid showed Obama dressed in a windbreaker and polo shirt, as he had just returned to the White House on the afternoon of May 1, 2011, after playing golf at Joint Base Andrews.
He had done so, it seems, to avoid any questions as to why he had changed his typical Sunday routine.
The photograph also showed Biden, who had opposed the raid and was wearing a shirt but no jacket or tie, and Hillary Clinton with her mouth covered by her hand, she would later say to hide a gasp.
“The day I was in the crisis room monitoring the raid that brought Osama bin Laden to justice, he was welcoming The Celebrity ApprenticeClinton would say during her final debate with Trump in the 2016 presidential race.
In contrast, the image released by the White House in 2019 when Trump was president showed him dressed in a formal suit, looking directly at the camera. He, too, had just returned from the golf course, but wanted to send a message through his choice of clothing.
Vice President Mike Pence was dressed similarly, as were Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser. General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in military uniform.
In the most recent photo, Biden has opted for somewhere halfway — he’s wearing his tie, but not a jacket, as well as a mask. Harris and the others are similarly dressed formally and with masks.
Biden’s approval ratings began to plummet last August as the emergence of the Delta variant meant the hoped-for end to the pandemic had not come and the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in what was widely seen as a debacle. Critics and supporters of the president, both in the United States and abroad, claimed that this suggested that this was something else the president was unable to control.
According to the tally by website FiveThirtyEight, Biden’s current approval rating stalls just 41 points, with 52 disapproval. The midterm elections are less than 10 months away, and Democrats desperately need positive news to use to go out and campaign when talking to voters.
In the final photo, Biden can be seen watching intently as the action unfolds thousands of miles away.
And when he addressed the American people, he did so with carefully chosen words.
He said, “This operation is a testament to the reach and ability of the United States to eliminate terrorist threats no matter where it tries to hide anywhere in the world.”