James Foley’s senseless death at the hands of ruthless kidnappers sheds light on two frequently misunderstood subjects: Contemporary journalists and our war on terror.
Foley’s execution by Islamic State thugs once again reveals them as cagey criminals, not the faith-driven zealots they claim to be. Foley was held as a bargaining chip in ISIS’ assault on its own countrymen. Like their al Qaida predecessors, these killers cannot articulate any notion other than anarchy. They’ve no interest in building schools, creating an economy or following any humanitarian precepts of their stated faith.
Instead, they pile up excuse after excuse for murder. They claim Foley died in retaliation for U.S. air strikes. Foley died because ISIS mob bosses finally concluded he was of no value to their criminal enterprise. When the U.S. didn’t yield to ISIS’ $132 million ransom demand, he became a liability.
In truth, Foley and the other journalists in this perpetual war zone are an asset to freedom-seeking Iraqis of every faith. His reports reveal a reality that neither ISIS, nor Americans, receive from so-called official sources.
Foley began his foreign correspondence reporting for the Post-Tribune of Gary, Indiana, as an embedded reporter with an Indiana National Guard unit. Friends and colleagues say that’s when he felt compelled to dig deeper, reporting outside the confines of U.S. military.
He went to Libya and sought out the names, backgrounds and opinions of diverse people we Americans often label too simply as “Islamic terrorists.” Consider this excerpt from his 2011 report from Libya, headlined, “Why they fight for Ghaddafi”: “Defected and captured loyalist soldiers said there are a number of factors motivating their former comrades, including the hope of financial reward and a fear of civil war. But the paramount reason to keep fighting, they said, is the fear of reprisals.”
That was written shortly before he was kidnapped the first time, in Libya.
His front-line reports showed an insurgency driven not by a zealot’s faith, but by threats and violence. “Badr Omar, a 35-year-old English teacher who managed to flee Sirte earlier this week, said that many men have been told that the rebels, if they take the city, will rape their wives and their daughters.”
This isn’t conjecture. Foley quoted fully identified sources, among hundreds he interviewed on the record to give his readers firsthand accounts. That’s the journalist’s passion: Simply divulging others’ stories. Foley risked his life to provide facts that give readers a foundation for their own opinions instead of parroting others’ groundless conjecture.
We salute that passion today and commend those war correspondents who continue risking their lives solely to give their readers and viewers firsthand, accurate accounts vital to every democracy.
— Quad-City Times (Iowa)