The first moment U.S. citizens heard of James Foley’s death, it was most likely with shock or sadness, and the question of who this American journalist was who had been held captive for nearly two years in Syria under the rule of the Islamic State (IS). Surely any American venturing to the Middle East must have known the associated risks in reporting news from areas considered volatile and extremely dangerous. Many journalists, in fact, do know the associated risk in reporting news from these kinds of areas, but James Foley’s death may be the first of many new threats toward the U.S. After all, one of the reasons Foley was beheaded was due to demands from IS to halt U.S. military airstrikes currently taking place in Iraq.
According to FOX News, Foley, 40, was a freelance reporter for the GlobalPost website when he was captured in Syria in November 2012. Since his capture, family and friends were waiting for any sign that Foley might be alive. NBC News reported the first contact made in September 2013, when a “young Belgian” befriended Foley in Syria and returned to Belgium with “excellent information” on the missing journalist. Then, in November 2013, the first email arrived to Foley’s parents demanding 100 million euros (approximately $132 million) and the release of Muslim prisoners. Though the email was vague, NBC News reported it was considered to be “not a serious demand” according to a person close to the case, as stated in an interview with Philip Balboni, CEO of GlobalPost.
Foley’s family continued to receive emails here and there which were mostly directed toward the actions of the U.S. and were reported as not containing more details on prior demands. The emails were also described as being written in “perfectly good English” from an anonymous and well-protected account. As the emails dwindled for the remainder of 2013, the only other information on Foley was reportedly received by hostages who were captured and then freed. NBC News stated the hostages had described Foley as being in “good health,” as well as a “constant source of strength in dire times.” In fact, further information from these hostages had led to a failed rescue mission by U.S. Special Forces this past July.
As recently reported, the American journalist was executed. Video footage was released on August 19 showing Foley’s execution by IS militants. A GlobalPost report stated that prior to the video being released, Foley’s family had received an email on August 12 which stated Foley would be executed due to the U.S. military airstrikes in Iraq. Furthermore, if U.S. airstrikes continue to take place in Iraq, IS militants threatened to kill another American journalist by the name of Steven Sotloff, while also holding two other Americans hostage.
President Obama has pledged to relentlessly pursue justice upon such acts of terror. Thus far, U.S. airstrikes have continued and U.S. officials have declared they do not plan to cater to IS demands. Negotiations are off the table too, as the U.S. has made it clear that the government will not negotiate with terrorists. It is unclear what will then happen to the next American hostages held captive by IS militants.James Foley’s death may be the first of many new threats to occur due to the current disposition of the U.S. It is not as though the U.S. has not been in these types of situations prior to the execution of Foley. The fact that the U.S. recently traded five Taliban detainees for Afghanistan prisoner of war Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl would make any U.S. citizen question the integrity and actions of the Obama Administration with regard to military foreign policy and negotiation.
It is possible that the lives of military personnel take precedence over the lives of American journalists who willingly travel to high-risk areas, even though President Obama has vocalized that the U.S. will do whatever is necessary to protect American citizens abroad. Still, the fact that negotiations were not taken seriously over Foley makes one wonder how the Obama Administration is currently handling hostage situations in Syria. Besides pledging to keep up airstrikes in Iraq, according to Robert Mendick of The Telegraph, both U.S. and British officials have also been investigating a video from May which shows a Briton jihadist who they say bears a striking resemblance to the executioner of Foley.
According to Mendick’s report, the “English-speaking” executioner is dressed in the same black robe, but also appears to have the same “build and height.” Also, both executioners not only use their left hand, but according to the report, both have the “same hectoring style of delivery.” Other factors are being investigated in each video, but Mendrick reported that if officials can prove it is the same man, it would be a “breakthrough” in the inquiry and investigation of such horrid executions.
The fact that British forces are also pursuing investigations into IS demands makes one realize such terrorist attacks are not limited to U.S military response. One can question and judge how the U.S. conducts its military operations and foreign policy investigations, but one cannot ignore the global acts of terrorism which have taken place for several years, and how each country and government official is responding to such acts. Whether one was for the recent pull-out of U.S. troops from Iraq or not, one may agree it most likely contributed to the current events taking place in Iraq, including takeovers of several villages and the Mosul Dam, and the slaughter and hostage situations of people living there.
Despite U.S. airstrikes and government involvement in Iraq, the question remains as to whether the U.S. will find more ways to avoid further executions of American hostages in Syria, and whether the U.S. will become more involved in helping to restrain IS militants from further attacks upon innocent people. Even though President Obama has been criticized for his slow response to actions taken in Iraq and Syria, he has spoken of and shown measures which have proved his technique in handling foreign affairs. Although some of Obama’s techniques and decisions have been questionable, it undoubtedly proves the situation against IS militants is one which not only involves allied international forces, but must be tread on with caution and care.
The question of who will pay for the return of military troops to Iraq, and who will bear the brunt of the force against IS still exists. It is an international concern with many eyes aimed towards the U.S. and a time for which the U.S. must respond to current American hostage situations. Although some may disagree with the response and actions of the Obama Administration in the case of threats and the subsequent death of James Foley’s, it can be assumed that the U.S. is still highly involved in the ongoing conflict currently taking place in both Iraq and Syria.
Opinion By Liz Pimentel
See also Guardian Liberty Voice