COLUMN: The wrong whistleblower

Kayla Mueller was a humanitarian. It cost her her life, but not before she was subjected to hellish horrors at the hands of now dead ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Mueller, an Arizona native, had worked for Support to Life, an international aid society, since 2012, helping Syrian refugees in southern Turkey. Then, she made a fateful decision. She traveled to Aleppo, Syria, with a Syrian friend. Some reports indicate the trip was to visit a hospital, other reports say they were traveling to work on an internet connection. They were turned away, as Syria was not allowing international aid workers to enter.

On their way back to Turkey, they were ambushed and abducted in August 2013. Her Syrian friend was released. She never saw freedom again. She was imprisoned. She was tortured. She was sexually abused.

We'll let her father take it from here.

“What this man did to Kayla — he kidnapped her,” Carl Mueller told The Arizona Republic this past Sunday. He spoke to the newspaper shortly after President Donald Trump announced al-Baghdadi had died in the successful mission named Operation Kayla Mueller, in her honor.

“She was held in many prisons," Mueller said. "She was held in solitary confinement. She was tortured. She was intimidated. She was ultimately raped by al-Baghdadi himself."

Other prisoners who were held with her told ABC News' "20/20" Mueller was an inspiration with her courage. She remained steadfast and refused to convert to Islam.

Her family shared a letter she wrote while in captivity in 2014.

"I have been shown in darkness, light [and I] have learned that even in prison, one can be free," she wrote. "I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it.

"I am not breaking down [and] I will not give in no matter how long it takes. I wrote a song some months ago that says, 'The part of me that pains the most also gets me out of bed, w/out your hope there would be nothing left ... '"

After 18 months of captivity, the 26 year old was killed in 2015 in a Jordanian raid on the location where she was being held. Her body has never been found.

There had potentially been an opportunity to free Mueller based on intelligence relayed to President Obama. However, after delays, Mueller and her fellow captives had been moved by the time the mission was undertaken.

"I still say Kayla should be here, and if Obama had been as decisive as President Trump, maybe she would have been," her mother, Marsha Mueller, told The Arizona Republic.

Carl Mueller expressed his gratitude to President Trump.

"He knows her story," he said. "He's been briefed on it, and he knows, and that’s important to me. I don’t think anything would have stopped him from getting this guy."

Al-Baghdadi also is believed to have ordered the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff as well as the beheading of former Ranger and humanitarian Peter Kassig in 2014.

His death, and the announcement three days later by Trump that American forces had killed his ISIS heir apparent, were massive triumphs. The operation required the cooperation of Turkish, Syrian, Kurdish and Russian officials. Russia essentially controls Syrian airspace. (Well, we finally have evidence of Russian collusion.)

Trump described the cowardly manner of the terrorist leader's death in which he detonated a suicide vest to kill himself and three children.

Incredibly, much of the national media, which remains obsessed with Trump hatred, could not bring itself to celebrate. Worse, Washington Post columnist Max Boot even implied al-Baghdadi was hardly a coward.

"The assertion that Baghdadi died as a coward was, in any case, contradicted by the fact that rather than be captured, he blew himself up,” Boot wrote. Never mind the three innocent children.

Boot later backtracked and edited that sentence out of the online version of his column.

Meanwhile, Democrat leaders whined about not being briefed in advance. Yes, the same ones screaming for Trump's impeachment.

It's sad so many could not put aside their petulance. Still, their complaints are no more impactful than that of a flea on the back of a bear.

What we have witnessed over the past few days is the work of a president not consumed with hate, but with a sense of steely resolve that has been missing for far too long.

Kayla Mueller can't be brought back, but she wasn't forgotten. At least not by this president. You could say al-Baghdadi's demise was the ultimate honor killing. American-style.

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Ruthenberg is an award-winning columnist and writer for the Enid News & Eagle. Contact him at

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