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Friday, August 22, 2014

Obama must back up his words

Telegraph Editorial

The gruesome beheading of New Hampshire native James Foley underscores the seriousness of the threat to America posed by the Islamic State militants who control much of northern Iraq and parts of eastern Syria. It also challenges President Barack Obama to develop a clear and commanding response that backs up his strong statements Wednesday.

The 40-year-old Foley was working in Syria for the Boston-based international news source GlobalPost and Agence France-Presse when he was abducted in November 2012. He was there reporting on the plight of the Syrian people as Islamic rebels fought to take down the government of President Bashar al-Assad. ...

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The gruesome beheading of New Hampshire native James Foley underscores the seriousness of the threat to America posed by the Islamic State militants who control much of northern Iraq and parts of eastern Syria. It also challenges President Barack Obama to develop a clear and commanding response that backs up his strong statements Wednesday.

The 40-year-old Foley was working in Syria for the Boston-based international news source GlobalPost and Agence France-Presse when he was abducted in November 2012. He was there reporting on the plight of the Syrian people as Islamic rebels fought to take down the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

For nearly two years, GlobalPost and the U.S. government worked to secure Foley’s freedom, including a failed July rescue mission by American special forces as concerns for his safety intensified in the wake of U.S. airstrikes against the extremists.

Until last week, Foley’s captors were demanding a multimillion-dollar ransom for his release, along with other undisclosed political considerations. This kind of blood money is an important revenue stream for terrorist groups, because many nations are willing to pay up. The United States is not and should not pay ransom for private citizens who knowingly put themselves at risk.

But as American military attacks on Islamic State positions facilitated the retaking of the strategically vital Mosul dam by Iraqi and Kurdish fighters, the extremists sent word that Foley would be killed unless the attacks stopped. In the video of his execution, the extremists threatened to kill another American journalist unless the airstrikes are stopped. They have not, nor should they.

Foley’s murder is barbarous, but not out of character for an organization whose brutal tactics are so repulsive that they’ve even been repudiated by al-Qaeda, the terrorist group founded by Osama bin Laden that was responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the 2002 beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

In addition to Foley’s slaying, a steady stream of atrocity reports have followed ISIS’ advance across Iraq, including the practices of parading the heads of victims on spikes, burying people alive and tying up naked women so they can be raped at will.

“Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior,” Obama correctly observed of the Islamic State.

The danger is that, if allowed to continue unchecked, the Islamic State is poised to use the territory it controls as a staging area to wreak havoc around the world and threaten regional stability for years to come.

That is why Foley’s death and the terrorists’ threat to kill a second captive American journalist must not deter the United States from its mission, which begs for clarification.

Currently, the official U.S. policy is to contain the Islamic State, which means keeping Baghdad safe and preventing Islamic State fighters from overpower the Kurds in northwestern Iraq. But the president hinted Wednesday at something more.

“The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant, and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done. And we act against ISIL, standing alongside others,” he said.

That suggests he’s willing to take a lead role in marshalling an international effort to decimate the Islamic State. We hope he means it and that’s it’s not another example of the president speaking loudly and carrying a small stick.