On Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012, James Foley, an American war correspondence journalist, was kidnapped in Syria while he was covering the combat between rebels that were confronting Bashar al-Assad’s government troops. His existence culminated with an abominable execution, perpetrated by a jihadi militant, which is how he’s known to followers of Islam that propose to extend that religion across the world, no matter how.
They are the same terrorist factions that have been fighting the government since 2011 and that, according to journalistic accounts, are aided in Syria by Eastern countries.
The brave U.S. journalist took to the grave what passed through his mind in the moment that a man dressed in black, holding a knife in his left hand, decapitated him, not too long after Foley delivered a message directed to the president of the United States, Barack Obama.
Foley’s horrific murder, one of the many innocent victims that the U.S. war against radical Middle Eastern groups has claimed, moved the international community and people like Foley; they know the immense family sacrifice and the risks involved today with [being part of] the journalistic army in the world.
The English-language message delivered by the journalist was complicated, but before being cowardly executed, Foley asked his fellow citizens to rise up against their authorities, as it was they who “put the final nail in my coffin.”*
James Foley’s statements were not provided here at full length, so I consider it important to share some paragraphs with Diario Libre’s readers: “I call my friends, family and loved ones to rise up against my true killers: the United States government. What happens to me is only a result of its complicity and criminality. My message to my loving parents: Save my dignity, do not accept any compensation for my death from the same people who basically have put the final nail in my coffin with their recent air campaign in Iraq. I call my brother John, who is a member of the U.S. Air Force — think of what you are doing. Think of the lives that you are destroying, including those of your own family. I’m talking to you, John. Think of who make the decision to bomb Iraq, and kill those people, whoever they may be. Think, John, who they have really killed, and think of me, your family, when you make that decision. I died that day, John. When your comrades dropped those bombs on those people, they signed my death warrant.”*
The U.S. journalist’s message continued before being executed: “I would like to have more time, I would like to see my family again, but that ship has already sailed. At the end of it all, I suppose that I would not want to be American.”* He finishes with a message directly to his president, Barack Obama, that says: “Whatever your intent, (Obama), to deny the Muslims their right to live safely under the caliphate will result in the spilt blood of your people.”*
This fact came to light at a time when some 20 journalists who covered the wars in Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan are missing, while another knife threatens Steven Joel Sotloff, a journalist kidnapped by IS brigades; the ending of his life depends on Barack Obama’s attitude, since it was already announced he would be executed if the U.S. government doesn’t stop the selective bombings against villages, where those who usually die are innocent civilians, like what happened with the refugees’ school during similar bombings carried out by Israel against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
The brutal killing of the American journalist, and others that could be executed in the future according to the threats of the radical groups, is not different from crimes perpetrated with bombs irresponsibly launched against towns that desperately flee from conflict territories. The lives of men, women, children and the elderly have the same human value and dimension, regardless of color, race, religion, social class or political standing.
The worst part of this cruel murder is that it was done to the messenger, someone who has nothing to do with the war, who doesn’t know how to tell humanity about facts taking place. With the death of another journalist, they’re trying to blindfold the world; with their dreadful beheading, they violate the most elemental foundations of war.
It’s enough to remember that 1949, four years after the end of WWII, is an important date for updating the four international treaties regulating international humanitarian rights, whose purpose is to protect victims of armed conflict. Civilian deaths from indiscriminate bombings, or executions like the one perpetrated last week against the journalist James Foley, are far from these conventions; on the contrary, this and other incidents are a true example that, in these modern wars, civilians are the primary target.
In the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and other conflict zones, international human rights are not respected, and no protection is given to all the people who don’t participate or have ceased to participate in the hostilities, such as wounded soldiers, the ill, prisoners of war and civilians. More recently, in 2005, additional protocols were signed in order to strengthen international human rights against chemical and biological weapons, landmines and civilian executions like the one of James Foley.
The latest incidents that occurred in conflicted areas of the world show us the need to find effective ways to obligate states to abide by the Geneva Conventions, so that journalists or innocent civilians do not have to keep being examples of the fact that in these wars, the law of cruelty is the law that rules.
*Editor’s Note: These quotations, accurately translated, could not be verified.