Politics 3 How the President announced the death of terrorist...

3 How the President announced the death of terrorist leaders and what he said about them

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President Barack Obama made a televised statement in 2011 that Osama bin Laden had been killed. President Donald Trump announced the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2019. President Biden announced on Monday that al-Baghdadi had been killed in a US drone strike in Afghanistan. -Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Brendan Smialowski/Pool; Alex Wong; Jim Watson/Pool/Getty Images


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Brendan Smialowski/Pool; Alex Wong; Jim Watson/Pool/Getty Images


President Barack Obama made a televised statement in 2011 that Osama bin Laden had been killed. President Donald Trump announced the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2019. President Biden announced on Monday that al-Baghdadi had been killed in a US drone strike in Afghanistan. -Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Brendan Smialowski/Pool; Alex Wong; Jim Watson/Pool/Getty Images

A US president announcing the death of a terrorist leader has been the most common occurrence in US politics for the past 11 years.

The words each president utters and their behavior on the podium reveal a lot about the kind of leaders former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump have tried to be, and President Joe Biden is trying to be.

This week, Biden announced that the US had killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul this weekend.

In 2019, Trump revealed that the US had killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. And in 2011, Obama shared with the American people that Osama bin Laden, the architect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, had been killed.

In the days following Biden’s announcement, Edited video Comparisons of speeches by Biden, Obama and Trump have popped up online. According to historians and rhetoric experts who spoke to NPR, while some of the videos are designed to cast certain leaders in a bad light, it’s worth analyzing these three speeches.

A closer look at each speech, its delivery, down to every word used, provides a small window into each person, the experts said.

Thomas Schwartz, a professor of history, political science and European studies at Vanderbilt University, said that despite the very different characters, there are striking similarities.

The fact that Obama, Trump and Biden took center stage to announce another person’s execution is “a little bloodthirsty,” Schwartz said.

“But they recognize that there is a domestic political advantage in taking out terrorist leaders and they want to claim it,” he added.

Every president makes a special note of saying this in his speech That Directed military and intelligence officials to act on the intel provided, that That Ordered, Schwartz said. Every man ultimately wants to establish his leadership on the world stage, he said.

“It’s all down to a president trying to justify himself politically and get something politically,” Schwartz said. “So I think our comparison on that level is probably fair even though, on the stylistic side, it reminds people of what they liked and didn’t like about different presidents.”

Obama’s speech on bin Laden is long


President Barack Obama reads his statement to photographers after televised remarks on the death of Osama bin Laden from the East Room of the White House on May 1, 2011.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP


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Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP


President Barack Obama reads his statement to photographers after televised remarks on the death of Osama bin Laden from the East Room of the White House on May 1, 2011.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Every expert NPR spoke to agreed: Obama’s speech was iconic. Although Trump and Biden have taken out major terrorist leaders, the gravity of killing bin Laden is incomparable. To some extent, Trump and Biden tried to emulate Obama’s bin Laden speech, Schwartz said.

“Bin Laden was obviously a household name that the other two men were not,” said Margaret O’Mara, a professor of history at the University of Washington. “So it was an extraordinary historical moment, and in a way it seems bigger than the other two, because it was bin Laden.”

O’Mara noted that Obama took time to express his feelings for the victims of 9/11 nearly a decade after the attacks.

“Obama is speaking almost 9/11 so it’s more raw,” she said.

In a nine-minute speech, Obama said: “Nearly 10 years ago a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history.”


President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden, with members of the National Security Forces, update on the campaign against Osama bin Laden in the White House Situation Room on May 1, 2011, in this image released by the White House and digitally altered by a source to spread the paper in front of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Pete Souza/AP


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Pete Souza/AP


President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden, with members of the National Security Forces, update on the campaign against Osama bin Laden in the White House Situation Room on May 1, 2011, in this image released by the White House and digitally altered by a source to spread the paper in front of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Pete Souza/AP

He added: “And yet we know that the worst images are those left unseen by the world. The empty seats at the dinner table. The children who were forced to grow up without their mother or father. The parents who would never. Knowing the feelings of their child’s embrace. Take it. Nearly 3,000 civilians taken from us, leaving a hole in our hearts.”

Obama also briefly described how the White House obtained intelligence on bin Laden and the steps taken by special forces to kill him.

“Watching Obama, there’s no question you’re reminded of how deliberate and almost academic his style can be when discussing things,” Schwartz noted.

Trump rejected traditional presidential rhetoric


Former President Donald Trump, speaking in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on October 27, 2019, announced the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State group, after being targeted in a US military strike in Syria.

Manuel Bals Senate/AP


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Manuel Bals Senate/AP


Former President Donald Trump, speaking in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on October 27, 2019, announced the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State group, after being targeted in a US military strike in Syria.

Manuel Bals Senate/AP

Former President Trump took a very different approach in 2019 when he announced the execution of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Taking a moment to analyze Trump’s speech compared to Obama’s and Biden’s “provides a window into a lot of things,” O’Mara said.

“Quite frankly, it’s a window into how Trump was such a different president — and not just different from the two guys on either side of him, but the modern president in general,” she said. “If you dial back and look at the presidential rhetoric of presidents of both parties, it’s very different in terms of not just the tone, but the type of information that’s being conveyed.”

trump, Known The announcement made for longer rally speeches than Obama or Biden. His opening speech lasted more than eight minutes, but he took questions from reporters for another 40 minutes.

And in his usual manner, Trump spoke about the raid in dramatic detail, using emotional language to describe al-Baghdadi and the manner in which he died.

“While not a single personnel was lost in the operation, a large number of Baghdadi’s fighters and companions were killed. He died everywhere after fleeing into a dead tunnel, whispering and crying and screaming,” Trump said.

Describing the operation, he said, “He who had tried so hard to intimidate others, spent his last moments in utter fear, complete terror and fear, terrified by the American forces attacking him.”

This is due to Trump’s background not in politics, but as a businessman and reality TV star, these experts noted.

“One of the things that was very remarkable about Trump’s presidential rhetoric is that he claims he doesn’t want to use it, he says he doesn’t want to be president,” said Jennifer Mercica, a historian and professor of American political rhetoric. Texas A&M University. “He felt like the president [style] was boring and lame and thought he won the presidency by being dynamic and interesting. And so, I think, that’s reflected very clearly.”

By comparison, Biden and Obama gave very somber speeches, she said.

Biden tries to project strength


President Biden speaks from the Blue Room balcony of the White House on Monday as he announces that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has been killed in a US drone strike in Afghanistan.

Jim Watson/AP


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Jim Watson/AP


President Biden speaks from the White House’s Blue Room balcony on Monday as he announces that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in Afghanistan in a US drone strike.

Jim Watson/AP

Biden is known for dealing with mistakes and flubs in speeches. He also sometimes said the opposite of what he meant, such as a The New York Times piece During the 2020 presidential campaign.

For the announcement of al-Zawahiri’s assassination, Biden (like the two presidents before him) wanted to communicate strength and power, Schwartz said.

Both Obama and Biden showed restraint in the language and descriptions used to explain the killings of al-Zawahiri and bin Laden, Mercyca said.

Both used the office of the President to provide an authoritative voice and speak out for justice for the victims of 9/11.

Biden said of al-Zawahiri: “He has led a trail of murder and violence against American citizens, American service members, American diplomats, and American interests. And since the United States brought Bin Laden to justice 11 years ago, Zawahiri has been a leader. Al Qaeda’s leader.”

He added: “Now justice has been done and this terrorist leader is no more.”

“There could be a very brutal incident, which the United States has retaliated against and killed another person,” Merciaca said.

“What Donald Trump did was the opposite. He didn’t try to elevate it,” she said. “Instead, he called the person a ‘dog’, described very cruelly how they died and what that meant.”

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