Freelance journalist James Foley, kidnapped by ISIS in Syria in 2012, has reportedly been beheaded by the Islamic State, an event recorded on a snuff video circulated by the savages which includes a demand for the end of American action in Iraq. International Business Times describes the video, and has a link to it, although I find myself agreeing with the sentiments of many on the Internet this afternoon: don’t watch it. As always, it is necessary to validate the video, but confidence that it is genuine seems high.
The video shows Foley kneeling beside a man dressed in all black. It begins with a speech by President Obama when he announced that the U.S. military would begin targeted airstrikes against ISIS convoys in Iraq to stop its advance on Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The video switches to a black screen with white writing that reads: “A Message to America.” Foley then begins to recite a message, presumably written for him by ISIS, about his “real killer” — America. At the end of the video, the ISIS militant begins sawing off Foley’s head with a knife. The last clip shows Foley’s head, detached, lying on top of his body.
Foley was a freelance journalist, originally from New Hampshire, who wrote for media outlets including Global Post.
Here, watch this Boston Globe video interview from 2011 with Foley instead. This is who ISIS just murdered.
Another captive American journalist, Steven Joel Sotloff, appears at the end of the video. ISIS reportedly threatens that he will be executed next if their demands are not met: “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.” I think the vacation finally needs to end, Mr. President.
Update: The President parties on, through riots, war, and beheadings. Did he resign a few weeks ago without telling anyone? Maybe he thought it best to keep his resignation quiet, to avoid a wave of “Dear God, Joe Biden is PRESIDENT!!!” panic from sweeping the nation. From The Hill:
President Obama went back to his vacation on Martha???s Vineyard Tuesday evening following less than 48 hours in Washington, leaving people puzzled over why he came back in the first place.
Obama???s two days in Washington were mostly quiet, and concluded with the president receiving his daily national security briefing in the morning, and joining Vice President Biden to huddle with members of his economic team in the afternoon.
Administration officials have insisted for weeks that the president just wanted to return to the White House for a series of meetings, but the explanation was met with a healthy dose of skepticism, since Obama rarely interrupts his vacations.
Judicial Watch estimates the extra roundtrip cost $1.1 million. Only daughter Malia accompanied Obama back to Washington.
The closest anyone can come to figuring out why Obama blew a million taxpayer bucks on the flight to D.C. was attending an engagement party for MSNBC host Alex Wagner. Say what you will about Obama’s bizarre list of priorities, but he certainly seems to understand that the media is the only solid constituency he has left, and he intends to take care of them. He’s back to vacation as of Wednesday morning, no matter how much of the world is on fire.
Update: Due diligence must be performed in verifying the authenticity of the beheading video, but Fox News reports that at least two U.S. officials have said they believe it is genuine. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond also said he believes the video is authentic.
Statement from James Foley’s mother Diane on Facebook: “We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people. We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world… We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist, and person.”
Alas, hostage-taking does not proceed on the assumption that the hostage has control over whatever the terrorists want, and ISIS positively revels in the slaughter of innocents.
The world is not entirely bereft of leadership, for while our teenage President parties on, British Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his own vacation, pronouncing the ISIS video “shocking and depraved.” He also spoke of sending British troops to Baghdad to battle “the evil organization,” although evidently he’s referring to trainers and advisers that will enhance Iraq forces, not combat forces.
The voice of the ISIS killer featured in the video suggests that he might be British, which the UK Daily Mail notes will put Cameron “under renewed pressure to counter ISIS’ recruitment of young Britons.” I’ve also heard concerns the terrorist seen in the video might be a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, although as far as I can tell, this is based largely on the way Foley is made to wear an orange robe reminiscent of the uniforms worn by Gitmo prisoners. If his killer can be identified, we’ll know plenty about his background soon enough.
The Daily Mail also ran the full text of Foley’s final words. I considered the wisdom of refusing to convey the message these savages wanted to send, but it’s something we need to hear, to understand the depths of this enemy’s evil:
‘I call on my friends family and loved ones to rise up against my real killers, the US government. For what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency and criminality.
‘My message to my beloved parents: save me some dignity and don???t accept any (unclear, possibly says media) compensation for my death, from the same people who effectively hit the last nail in my coffin with a recent aerial campaign in Iraq.
‘I call on my brother John, who is/was (this part is also unclear) member of the US Air Force, think about what you are doing, think about lives you destroy including those of your own family.
‘I call on you John, think about who made the decision to bomb Iraq recently and kill those people, whoever they may have been.
‘Think John, who did they really kill? Did they think about me, you our family when they made that decision?
‘I died that day John, when your colleagues dropped that bomb on those people ??? they signed my death certificate.
‘I wish I had more time, I wish I could have the hope of freedom and see my family once again, but that ship has sailed. I guess all in all, I wish I wasn???t American.’
At which point the terrorist with the British accent takes over:
???This is James Wright Foley, an American citizen of your country. As a government you have been at the forefront of the aggression towards the Islamic State,’ begins the executioner.
‘You have plotted against us and gone far out of your way to find reasons to interfere in our affairs. Today, your military airforce is attacking us daily in Iraq,’ the executioner says.
‘Your strikes have caused casualties amongst Muslims. You are no longer fighting an insurgency.
‘We are an Islamic Army and a state that has been accepted by a large number of Muslims worldwide.
‘So effectively, any aggression toward the Islamic State is aggression towards Muslims from all walks of life who have accepted the Islamic Caliphate as their leadership.
‘So any attempt by you, Obama, to deny the Muslims their rights of living in safety under the Islamic Caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people.???
Then the beheading commences. It takes a while. He uses a small knife.
The Daily Mail gives a brief account of how the American journalists fell into the bloody hands of ISIS: “Foley, has been missing since November 2012, after being taken hostage at gunpoint by militants from the group Jabhat al Nusra while reporting from Taftanaz, northern Syria, for the GlobalPost.” However, an article by Michael Kelly at Business Insider provides a more complex account, as it was long believed the Syrian government was holding Foley:
What is unclear is if previous investigations into Foley’s whereabouts were inaccurate, if ISIS militants somehow captured Foley from some of the regime’s most elite security, or if the Assad regime provided Foley to ISIS.
“Until recently, James Foley was thought to be in hands of pro-Assad forces. If Assad is handing over Westerners to ISIS to be killed, it indicates Assad feels cornered, looking for leverage,” BBC’s Kim Ghattas tweeted, adding that the assessment jibes with what she has been told by sources in Damascus recently.
Ghattas added that Assad providing Foley to ISIS “would confirm Assad tacitly working [with] ISIS and silence any suggestions Assad is the better alternative. “
I never thought I’d live in a world where Bashar Assad would be seriously described as the better alternative to anything. As the Business Insider piece lays out, it’s not implausible to think that Assad more-or-less deliberately lured the al-Qaeda whack jobs into the Syrian resistance to overwhelm his more moderate opponents, and has reached some tacit understanding with the new Islamic State even as he drops a few bombs on their strongholds in Syria and northern Iraq. Assad has been stepping up actions against the Islamic State recently, so maybe they once had a behind-the-scenes understanding, but it’s fallen apart. Solving all of the questions surrounding Foley’s sickening murder is a matter of both justice and international security.
The Daily Mail has biographical details on Foley, who was just 40 years old… none more striking than the testimony of his friend, filmmaker Matthew van Dyke, coupled with Foley’s own thoughts about journalism:
Mr Van Dyke said: ‘He was certainly aware of the dangers, he was very professional... He had been through a rough time in Libya when he was captured and even after that he came home a little bit and then he went right back to Libya to continue reporting on that conflict.’
Mr Van Dyke said his friend went into Syria knowing that his presence amid the conflict was as dangerous, if not more so, than it had been in Libya.
‘[But] he had a love for what he did and he wanted to tell the story of the Syrian people. And nothing was going to stop him from doing that.’
After being captured in Libya, Foley was held by the government alongside a small group of other journalists, but was released and given a one-year suspended sentence on charges of illegally entering the country.
In an interview about that experience, Foley said he ‘would love to go back’, but recalled the horror of seeing a colleague killed in a firefight. He also spoke of a love of his profession.
‘Journalism is journalism,’ he said. ‘If I had a choice to do Nashua [New Hampshire] zoning meetings or give up journalism, I’ll do it. I love writing and reporting.’
In an interview the BBC in a 2012 interview that he was ‘drawn to the drama of the conflict and trying to expose untold stories’.
He said: ‘There’s extreme violence, but there’s a will to find who these people really are. And I think that’s what’s really inspiring about it.’
Rest in peace, journalist. It’s up to us to make use of the truth you gave us, every last bitter drop of it.
Update: ABC News reports “the White House had been aware of the threat” by ISIS to kill Foley. But Obama partied on. He also hasn’t made a statement on the video yet, but a White House spokeswoman said that if the video is genuine, “we are appalled by the brutal murder of an American journalist, and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends.”
Update: Syrians pay tribute to James Foley, who lost his freedom, and then his life, bringing their story to the world. They don’t seem to think much of our semi-retired President, do they?
Update: An example of James Foley’s writing, in which he discusses the power of prayer during his captivity in Libya in a letter to Marquette University, can be found here. I strongly recommend reading the whole thing. It’s not easy, knowing Foley’s ultimate fate. (Hat tip: Amanda Carpenter.)
Update: By noon on Wednesday, the National Security Council pronounced itself satisfied that the video of Foley’s murder is authentic.