American journalist James Foley lost his life this past week.
The 40-year-old New Hampshire native was killed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a terrorist group unhappy with the United States’ recent airstrikes aimed in its direction.
A masked executor explained the reasoning behind Foley’s death. He then pulled out a knife and beheaded him, as seen in a gruesome video that surfaced online Aug. 19 called “A Message to #America (from the #IslamicState).”
And though the video has since been removed from Youtube, the choices made by President Obama and U.S. officials that led to the U.S. photojournalist’s death are under the biggest of microscopes.
Foley had been in captivity for 365 days before his beheading, and until last week, the list of demands the ISIS had for his release had nothing to do with airstrikes.
The terrorist group wanted the United States to provide a multimillion-dollar amount for his release, according to a representative of his family and a former hostage held alongside him. The United States’ government didn’t blink.
Could money have saved his life? Is there something else that the United States could have done to keep Foley alive? These questions are all valid, and certainly need answering in time.
But right now, it’s time to pay respect.
Foley’s mother, Diane Foley, released a statement via Facebook after the death of her son, saying she and Foley’s father were proud of him.
What she said next, though, touches on the most important thing: What lies ahead.
“We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages,” Diane said. “Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.”
The “remaining hostages” Diane speaks of are at least three in number.
One of which is 31-year-old journalist Steven Sotloff, who has dedicated his life to heartfelt reporting on the brutal Syrian war. Sotloff was last seen on his knees in an orange jumpsuit as an armed man stood in the background, gripping him by the shirt.
“The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision,” the masked man who had just killed Foley said at the end of the video.
Put yourself in a room inside of Sotloff’s parents Florida home, as they anxiously await news of their son.
These reporters and their families don’t deserve such a fate, but it happens time and time again. They’ve dedicated their life to providing news to the people of their country, fully knowing the risks involved, but carrying on with brave souls.
And what about the effect this has on other journalists? Does this change the way that freelancers feel about the Syrian war in itself? What about other dangerous wars, will reporters feel hesitant toward taking risks in these jeopardous environments?
As an aspiring journalist, it certainly makes me feel uneasy to think about all of this. Even the best college-level journalism educations cannot prepare you for what Foley and Sotloff have dealt with.
Journalists shouldn’t be targets, no matter what the circumstances are. Reporting helps dictate how a society operates and shapes its future.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 32 journalists, including Foley, have been killed so far in 2014, compared with 70 in 2013.
And as more and more of these situations occur, it begs the question as to whether or not the profession will fall out of popularity entirely — especially investigative reporting.
So instead of questioning the administration and its every move, take a minute to step back from the political spectrum — reflect.
Pay respect to the journalists like Foley and Sotloff; there are thousands on this planet.
Commemorate reporters who uncover the terrible things that happen around the world. They do it for their country.
And that makes them every bit as good as the people who fight for it.