Eliminating Fear

Edited by Gillian Palmer

The atrocious assassination of a journalist reveals the reign of terror imposed by the Islamic State.

Following the flood of images and videos posted on the Internet that show the atrocities carried out in Syria and Iraq by radical Islamists, it is hard to believe that one additional video could cause such uproar among citizens and governments in the West. And yet it happened yesterday. Images of the bloody beheading of American journalist James Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012, show that the Islamic State is stepping up the amount of savagery contained in its public displays in order to show off.

The Islamic State is an organization born of the Sunni resistance to U.S. military intervention in Iraq from 2003 to 2011.Given the passivity of the Shiite government of Nouri al-Maliki, jihadis crossed the eastern border into Syria, where they joined the rebel cause, fighting against the dictatorship of Bashar Assad. By starving the modern and secular factions, they decimated the opposition, which ultimately strengthened the despot in Damascus — a man whom the West now cautiously views as the lesser of two evils. Leaving Syria, the group has now returned to Iraq, where it has carried out a series of attacks that have dragged the U.S. back into the conflict — as evidenced by its targeted bombing in the northern region of the country.

The Islamic State has declared a caliphate in the areas it controls in Iraq and Syria, calling all Muslims to take up arms against the West and its allies. In the areas under its control, it perpetrates all sorts of atrocities — from summary executions on a massive scale to the killing of women and children, as well as beheadings and other amputations. Just for the sake of it, the Islamic State has carried out public crucifixions in an effort to sow fear among Christian minorities. Virtually all of these excesses have been documented on camera or by cell phones, and then intentionally disseminated on the Internet through jihadi forums and social networks.

However, the video it shared on Tuesday went even a step further, reminding the West that its extremist campaign knows no limits — it executed in cold blood a professional like Foley, who sacrificed his life because he reported on the conflicts in the region. The jihadis are holding dozens of journalists. One of them, Steven Joel Sotloff, is an American. The executioner in the video threatened to kill him as well if the U.S. does not stop bombing Iraq. Obama offered a strong response — the U.S. does not negotiate with extremists who do not belong to the 21st century.

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