Something that struck me today about the apparent beheading of journalist James Foley by ISIS or IS is how it contradicts the now widely viewed documentary by Vice.com among other coverage, such as that from the New York Times
Journalist Friendly Journalist Killers
For those that don’t know, Vice managed to somehow convince the terrorist group to allow one of their reporters to spend three weeks with them, taking the guided tour of Raqqa, Syria, interviewing citizens and prisoners now under the “Islamic state”, and learning about the recruitment and fighting – an unprecedented overview of the whole system.
What was most intriguing about the piece (beside the fact that it even happened) is that IS have a “press officer,” somebody responsible for liaising with the media and obviously managing their public image.
On the face of it this does not seem to jibe with the James Foley story. Why would terrorists on one hand kidnap and behead a journalist, and then on the other grant a journalist unprecedented access to roughly the same area where the beheading took place?
Even if the video was filmed a few years back, have they suddenly changed the way they do things? Become more moderate with increased power? Not likely.
If we dig a little deeper there are actually some nuances that could shed more light on the contradiction. The Vice journalist in question was Medyan Dairieh, who has also worked for Al Jazeera throughout the Syrian civil war and the conflict in Libya. Though I’m not entirely sure on his nationality, let’s just say he’s no white catholic American James Foley.
Likewise while Dairieh is proud of his impartiality, Foley wrote for publications like “Stars and Stripes” magazine, has a brother in the US Air Force, and was embedded alongside the US military in Iraq.
Whether his coverage was fair and balanced or not, his background may as well be the infidel checklist.
Interestingly in Spring 2011 while on assignment in Afghanistan Foley was caught by the US military at Kandahar Air Field in possession of marijuana and pulled out of the region.
He then turned his focus to Libya and was one of two western journalists working for GlobalPost present at the capture of Gaddafi by rebels.
Did ISIS or Assad Kindap Foley?
It’s now accepted as fact that IS kidnapped James Foley and then beheaded him, however as we learned this week expert analysis shows that the video released was staged and/or edited, as there was no blood present during the beheading and the audio was not consistent with the act. At the end of the clip after an edit, it does appear to show Foley decapitated, but ultimately we just don’t know the finer details of what went down because of the tampering.
What seems to have been missed by most people looking at the case is that when Foley originally went missing the blame was put on Assad’s forces.
As noted by Salon.com at the time:
“With a very high degree of confidence, we now believe that Jim was most likely abducted by a pro-regime militia group and subsequently turned over to Syrian government forces,” GlobalPost CEO and President Philip Balboni said during a speech marking World Press Freedom Day.
“We have obtained multiple independent reports from very credible confidential sources who have both indirect and direct access that confirm our assessment that Jim is now being held by the Syrian government in a prison or detention facility in the Damascus area. We further believe that this facility is under the control of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence service. Based on what we have learned, it is likely Jim is being held with one or more Western journalists, including most likely at least one other American.”
The prevailing assumption was that Foley was being held by pro-Assad forces, or by the regime itself. How did he get from there to ISIS?
— Stefan Becket (@stefanjbecket) August 20, 2014
Was the prevailing theory simply incorrect and it was IS all along? Was Assad blamed because it was convenient?
Did Assad’s regime strike a deal with their sworn enemy and if so to what end?
Could Assad’s forces have staged the video and framed IS for the beheading?
Or as NOW writer Alex Rowell explores was IS actually guided by Assad’s own hand, so he could justify his own regime to the west?
That latter theory seems to somewhat ignore the roots of the group, which grew out of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The Propaganda Effect
Whoever was behind Foley’s murder it’s quickly becoming clear that it’s far more complex than most people would assume. Those that believe it was some kind of CIA/MI6 smoke and mirrors to justify the military intervention that was originally sought, might have half a point considering the British SAS and infamous “Bin Laden killers” Seal Team 6 are joining forces to form Task Force Black, in order to “Smash the Islamic State.”
PM David Cameron has told the SAS and UK spy agencies to direct all their resources at defeating IS after a video of US journalist James Foley being beheaded shocked the world.
The beheading video may be severing multiple masters and multiple propaganda purposes.