The beheading of James W. Foley, an American freelance photojournalist, by a member of the Islamic State, was nothing less than barbaric — evil.
So is the threat to execute another captured American journalist unless President Barack Obama halts the U.S. bombing campaign against the terrorist organization. “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision,” an Islamic State fighter clad entirely in black said on a videotape.
The beheading came during the video titled, “A Message to America.” On it, the Islamic State fighter asserted that the beheading was the result of U.S. air strikes against Islamic State fighters at war with Kurdish forces in northern Iraq. Before executing Mr. Foley, the fighter declared, “Any attempt by you, Obama, to deny the Muslims their rights to live in safety under the Islamic caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people.”
On a human level, the execution of Mr. Foley, 40, should be no more shocking than the beheadings, crucifixions and other executions of countless Iraqis — non-Muslims and others who have resisted the Islamic State’s effort to conquer both Iraq and Syria. The executions aren’t just the Islamic State’s form of punishment, they’re also a grisly form of intimidation and propaganda.
Mr. Foley’s death is disturbing to us on a professional level as well. He was a journalist risking his life on a daily basis trying to inform the world about the brutality of war, both in Syria and Iraq, and about the singular cruelty of the Islamic State.
His mother, Diane Foley, said as much in a statement after she learned of her son’s death. “He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.”
Sadly, Mr. Foley, who was captured in Syria last year, is not the first journalist killed since that civil war began. Nor is he likely to be the last. In addition to Steven Joel Sotloff, an American correspondent for a number of publications who the Islamic State has identified as its next victim, a number of other American and other journalists also are missing.
European journalists captured by the Islamic State have on occasion been released, according to the Associated Press. Their home countries are believed to have paid ransoms in the tens of millions of euros.
We wouldn’t urge our government to do that. Nor should the possibility that the Islamic State will kill other U.S. journalists alter President Obama’s policy on air strikes against the Islamic State. If anything, the Islamic State’s actions and its plans for genocide underscore the importance of the struggle against this terrorist army.