A day after a video posted online showed the beheading of freelance journalist James (Jim) Foley, 40 by the militant Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the White House and National Security Council confirmed the video as authentic and President Barack Obama delivered a statement on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 20, 2014 from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts at the press center in the Edgartown School where he is vacationing for two weeks, condemning the act, ISIS and Foley’s death.
Obama was first informed about the video by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes according to USA Today as he was on Air Force One returning to his vacation after a brief interlude at the White House for meetings and a press conference on the military operation in Iraq and the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri over the police shooting death of unarmed black youth Michael Brown.
President Obama in his short statement sharply condemned the vicious act, saying; “The entire world is appalled. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday or every single day … People like this ultimately fail. They fail because the future’s won by those who build and not destroy. The world is shaped by people like Jim Foley.”
President Obama eulogized Foley, his life and career expressing; “His life stands in stark contrast to his killers. ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday, and for what they do every single day….Their ideology is bankrupt.”
Obama also stated that “A group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century.” The president believes the solution would be to a unified and stable Iraqi government stating; “There has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so it does not spread.” President Obama also pledged that “the United States of America will continue to do what they must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant. We will be relentless.”
The disturbingly graphic video in Arabic with English “narration and subtitles” and only 4 minutes and 40 seconds was posted on Tuesday evening, Aug. 19, 2014 shows a British accented black clothed member of ISIS, and Foley in an orange prison jumpsuit on his knees. Foley was forced to deliver a scripted message blaming Obama’s decision to commenced targeted airstrikes as the reason for his death. The masked ISIS militant than said they will do the same to another imprisoned Steven Joel Sotloff journalist if the airstrikes continue.
Foley said in his last statement; “My message to my beloved parents: Save me some dignity and don’t accept any meager compensation for my death from the same people who effectively hammered the last nail in my coffin with their recent aerial campaign in Iraq.”
The National Security Council confirmed the authenticity of the video on Thursday morning. Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden stated prior to the confirmation; “If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist, and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends.” Hayden later said on Wednesday morning; “We have reached the judgment that this video is authentic.”
President Obama phoned Foley’s parents, Diane and Jon Foley after the video was authenticated on Wednesday. Foley was kidnapped in Binesh, Syria on Thanksgiving Day 2012 on his way to crossing the Turkish border. According to ABC News the White House knew of the threat to an American journalist to avenge the airstrikes, prior to Foley’s murder.
On Friday, Aug. 8 the United States military began airstrikes against Sunni Muslim militants, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) also known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and started dropping food and water to trapped Iraqis threatened by the militant group, many who have been able to escape with safe passage after U.S. intervention. U.S. Military airstrikes helped retake the strategic Mosul Dam this past weekend, and strikes continue in that region.
A Fox News report reminded Americans that then President George W. Bush warned in 2006 and 2007 at the height or criticism for the War in Iraq about the dangers of the U.S. prematurely withdrawing troops from Iraq, saying it will allow it to become a terrorist state. In 2006 Bush stated; “If we leave Iraq before the job is done, it will create a terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East, a terrorist state much more dangerous than Afghanistan was before we removed the Taliban, a terrorist state with the capacity to fund its activities because of the oil reserves of Iraq.”
Bush repeated his warning again on May 1, 2007 while speaking to the CENTCOM Coalition Conference, where he explained; “Withdrawal would have emboldened these radicals and extremists. It would have confirmed their belief that our nations were weak. It would help them gain new recruits, new resources. It would cause them to believe they could strike free nations at their choice. Withdrawal would have increased the probability that coalition troops would be forced to return to Iraq one day, and confront an enemy that is even more dangerous. Failure in Iraq should be unacceptable to the civilized world. The risks are enormous.” Despite the constant criticism from Democrats and then candidate and President Obama, Bush was right about the rise of terrorism in Iraq.
- President Barack Obama’s Statement, August 20, 2014
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.