James Foley, the 40-year-old American executed by the militant Islamic State group after nearly two years in captivity and an unsuccessful U.S. rescue attempt this summer, was part of a new wave of journalists in Syria.
After the death of American reporter Marie Colvin in Homs in 2012, most Western news organizations decided that Syria was just too dangerous a place for their staff reporters. In the wake of their decisions, underpaid freelancers such as Foley have taken up the cause, driven by an obligation to inform and a desire to lead the adventurous life of a foreign correspondent.
Western consumers of news owe a debt of gratitude to courageous people such as Foley, who continue to flow into the world’s many hot spots. From them, the public learns about the most troubled parts of the world and the threats that could later affect their own lives.
Including Foley, 40 journalists — plus eight translators, drivers or other assistants — have been killed on the job this year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based non-profit. Since 1992, the death toll is 1,070, of which 87% were local journalists covering events in their own war-torn or repressive home countries.
The gruesome beheading of Foley provides further confirmation of the danger the Islamic State poses, and not just to people in the Middle East. The group has slaughtered innocent civilians and abducted women and children. It has raped, tortured and enslaved. And it has made no bones about its desire to export its brutality to Western countries. Indeed, Foley’s executioner had a British accent.
The Islamic State cast the execution as retaliation for President Obama’s decision to bomb its fighters in northern Iraq. No doubt its leaders think Foley’s death, and their threat to kill another captive U.S. journalist, Steven Sotloff of Miami, will intimidate the United States.
Quite the opposite is true. If anything, it will strengthen American resolve. As Obama said Wednesday, the Islamic State is a "cancer" that must be fought relentlessly in concert with responsible governments in the region.
Foley’s death was gruesome and appalling. More than any eyewitness account he could have provided, it demonstrated the enemy’s barbarity.
— USA Today