As the family of murdered American journalist James Foley explains on their Facebook page, his captors confiscated every letter he tried to write home, so he asked a fellow hostage to memorize a letter to his parents, and deliver the message after his release. The family has published this letter in its entirety.
Most of it consists of personal messages from Foley to members of his family, but he also describes the conditions of his captivity, making his words part of civilized humanity’s enduring testament against barbaric evil.
I know you are thinking of me and praying for me. And I am so thankful. I feel you all especially when I pray. I pray for you to stay strong and to believe. I really feel I can touch you even in this darkness when I pray.
Eighteen of us have been held together in one cell, which has helped me. We have had each other to have endless long conversations about movies, trivia, sports. We have played games made up of scraps found in our cell???we have found ways to play checkers, Chess, and Risk??? and have had tournaments of competition, spending some days preparing strategies for the next day???s game or lecture. The games and teaching each other have helped the time pass. They have been a huge help. We repeat stories and laugh to break the tension.
I have had weak and strong days. We are so grateful when anyone is freed; but of course, yearn for our own freedom. We try to encourage each other and share strength. We are being fed better now and daily. We have tea, occasional coffee. I have regained most of my weight lost last year.
Follow this link to read the full letter. The Foley family also expressed gratitude for the release of another of his fellow hostages, American journalist Peter Theo Curtis, set free after 22 months of captivity in Syria. The Foleys and Curtises became close while fighting to secure the release of their captive sons. According to the Washington Post, the Curtis family is “deeply grateful to the governments of the United States and Qatar and to the many individuals, private and public,” who helped negotiate his release.
You know what would make everyone even more grateful? If Qatar would stop funding the people who kidnap and murder innocent civilians. Curtis wrote a book called “Undercover Muslim” about “disaffected young men from the West” who studied Islam, and believed its publication made it easier for him to travel through the Arab world, but still ended up a hostage. The West really needs to work on that “disaffected young men” problem, but of course the dominant political culture is unlikely to give up on the ideology and policies which exacerbate it, so we’ll just have to cross our fingers and hope we get our hostages back.
This is the sort of situation President Bush warned against when describing the “Axis of Evil” – terror states gaining legitimacy, rich enabling governments playing both sides of the fence by pouring money into terrorism behind the scenes while publicly aligning themselves with the West. Fault Bush’s leadership in pursuing the remedy if you wish, but his diagnosis was accurate. Islamic terrorism has become a cancer the West manages with pain medication, rather than fighting into remission; an evil we do business with. Somehow we still seem to believe the solution is to create an apologetic Western Civ 2.0 that can persuade barbarians there is nothing about it worth hating. It’s not working.
These captive journalists strike me as brave men with insatiable curiosity and strong convictions. They ran afoul of evil men with even stronger convictions, backed by wealthy patrons who are highly adept at cheating to win their global games of checkers, chess, and Risk. Perhaps through the testimony of these hostages, living and dead, we will finally begin to understand the rules of the game we have staunchly refused to admit we are playing.