Journalist James Foley (he corresponded with me as Jim) has been beheaded by ISIS. I choose not to remember him from the recent photographs, but as the wonderful young man he was. As a note to ISIS, I don’t believe a word he had to say while under duress. I knew him better than you did. You wasted your time with his confessions, or charges, or whatever you forced him to say.
We first corresponded during my blogging on the war in Afghanistan. I initiated the conversations with him, but he was very warm in his effusive praise and kindness towards me. He worked primarily for the Global Post, but did a good bit of embedded independent work. He was in Kandahar at the time, and politely recommended that I link his blog, A World Of Troubles, which redirects now to Free James Foley.
Jim was kidnapped in Libya early in 2011. I had also made significant use of his fantastic work in The Five Hundred Meter War. The U.S. Army later contacted me wanting the rights to use this video in training and analysis, and I directed them to Jim who (I hope) made some money from the work. He told me that he would gladly sell the rights for a small fee.
I have since reconsidered my position on long distance warfare, and concluded that it isn’t necessarily that the 5.56 mm round is all that ineffective at long distances, but that based on subsequent conversations with various officers, no one (Army or Marine Corps) teaches their men to shoot uphill. All of their ranges are flat. Then again, the 5.56 mm round does tend to yaw in flight, which causes problems at long distances. But Travis Haley has shown us that the 5.56 mm can be effective to beyond 500 yards, and my son qualified at 500 yards as a Marine.
But I digress. Suffice it to say that Jim was an important voice in bringing this feature of the war to our attention. Jim called me “an important voice in the war” in one e-mail exchange, but Jim’s voice was far more important. His reporting was at the same time fact-filled and accurate, and personal and engaging. Jim was the consummate professional, but a genuinely nice person.
I have long since left analysis of the war(s), given that we failed to negotiate a reasonable SOFA in Iraq and proved that we wanted to continue the social sciences game in Afghanistan rather than prosecute a war. I recommended that we leave without another drop of American blood spilled, and never looked back.
Sort of. I have often thought of Jim and what might be happening to him. There aren’t many folks from those days I know only electronically to whom I feel such a kinship. Tim Lynch and Michael Yon are a couple, but the list is short. People like that are the sort where if you met up with them somewhere it would be like meeting a long lost brother, and the conversation would flow without any effort at all.
It was hard to be accepted in military blogging with such parochial and hierarchical (even if unofficial) structure, and with the desire for control by a few. Jim’s acceptance and warmness was welcome, as it is with the folks whom I engage in my current interests of gun and gun rights (like David Codrea and Mike Vanderboegh).
I will miss Jim. I give my warmest, most sincere and most heartfelt condolences to his family. Your family gave us a good and wonderful man. We are worse for this loss.
My brief note to ISIS is this. You screwed up. I’ve previously been told how good you are, how savvy, how connected to social networks you’ve been and how you’re coming for us.
I can’t speak for the folks up North since the collectivists may have disarmed my fellow countrymen by now, but I dare ISIS to come South and bring your brand of sharia to North Carolina or South Carolina. I dare you.
You don’t scare me in the least and you didn’t impress me by harming my friend Jim. Come to the land where the American insurgents beat up the best that Lord Cornwallis had to offer. Come try to plant your damn ISIS flag in my front yard, or try to force my wife or daughter to wear a burqa. The result will be swift and brutal, involving magazines full of 5.56 mm rounds and 230 grain fat boys. I have guns too, and mine still have their buttstocks unlike your dumb ass rifles that can’t be aimed. Mine can shoot 1 MOA, and I can do about the same. I see your stupid videos where you waste ammunition by shooting at the air. I’ve laughed at them.
I had previously lamented the plight of the poor Christians in Syria and Iraq, pleading with them and Christians around the world to arm themselves before it is too late. I have ridiculed the Christian church worldwide for its sloth, arrogance and self centeredness in refusing to help fellow Christians or even pray for them.
But this isn’t just a world away. It’s personal, for I knew Jim. You killed a friend, and I owe you. I pray that you end in hell, and that very soon, screaming out in agony from thirst while you suffer in the lake of fire for eternity. My only regret is that in all likelihood I won’t be the one to send you there. I don’t think you’ll ever get to my doorstep. You’ll die before you make it here because my armed fellow countrymen won’t tolerate you.
I am sent an article by Daniel Greenfield, published at Front Page Magazine. It is entitled James Foley Went Looking to Support Terrorists in Syria, Instead They Cut Off His Head. I have learned to ignore anything published at Front Page Magazine, but in the interest of full disclosure and openness, I’ll give the link below.
Daniel’s thesis is that he was a terrorist sympathizer. He knows this based on his Twitter feed where he retweeted the posts others made. Certainly, based on Jim’s review of my own analysis work of OIF (communicated directly to me), he was no terrorist sympathizer. He was an independent journalist. In fact, Daniel’s commeters try to tell him in the comments that Jim was taken to task in his Twitter feed for NOT taking sides. It’s too late at that point. Daniel is committed to his thesis and can’t roll it back. This is one of the hazards of writing.
I think Greenfield otherwise does good analysis, but I think he missed the boat on this one, and badly so. For me his thesis lands somewhere between highly unlikely and totally impossible. It is my policy never to link to Front Page Magazine. I’ll break that policy this one time and give you Daniel’s article in the interest of full disclosure and to show that I’m always willing to listen to all sides.
His death won’t be broadcast many places, but take my word for his final courage. As the terrorist moves his knife downwards, Foley grimaces but does not cry out. This, after all, is the man that he was, a man who faced great danger to bring knowledge to the world. After being imprisoned by Qaddafi loyalists for 44 days during the Libyan civil war, Foley returned to the country to finish his reporting. When asked why he did so, Foley offered a simple answer. “Why wouldn’t I go back? People had done so much for me back home. I was humbled, I felt indebted to them. [We] wanted to connect the dots; we wanted to finish that story.”
Foley did finish that story (the series about his captivity is here). We should always remember his life and his accomplishments. But we must also remember his moment of passing: facing down a murderer hiding behind a black mask.
And from PBS:
… she was worried that I was being forced to say everything I was saying over the phone. And I just wanted to tell her I was strong, I was praying, I could make it. I knew it was going to be more time, but I was doing — physically, I was fine, and I wasn’t being harmed.
And she was worried that they were making me say these things, but she also said, oh, so many people have been praying for you and so many of your friends and family have come to our assistance.