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Cautious Outrage

The alleged beheading of freelance journalist James Foley by the shadowy ISIS (or Islamic State) has sparked outrage and horror around the globe.

I say “alleged” because we are not sure if the decapitation was real or faked.

After three decades of covering wars in the Mideast, Africa, Latin America, and Afghanistan, my reaction as a journalist was also outrage – but cautious outrage.

We westerners have a charming and quaint belief that killing people from the air by using bombs, rockets, shells, napalm and cluster munitions – or even nuclear weapons – is somehow not really as bad as ramming a bayonet into an enemy, blowing him to pieces with heavy artillery, or slashing his throat the way sheep are killed

Air warfare is clean. Air warfare is the American way of war.

Furthermore, on the same day Foley was allegedly being decapitated, 19 people in Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, were publicly beheaded for various crimes. One of the men was executed for witchcraft. There was no outcry at all over this medieval horror. Saudi Arabia is suspected of charging political opponents of the monarchy with drug offenses, which carry the penalty of beheading by a sword-wielding executioner. Not a peep about this in the US media trumpeting the Foley story.

I’ve long travelled the same road as this courageous young man and countless other field journalists, covering extremely dangerous places all on my own, with no backup or support system. It’s very lonely and often demoralizing work.

When I was in the southern Angola bush covering pro-western UNITA forces fighting the Soviet-backed Angolan Marxists, I accepted the risk of being killed. But what, I asked myself, would I do if wounded or become desperately ill? The answer: crawl out 200 kms to South African Army lines.

As I relate in my book “War at the Top of the World,” I had to run Afghanistan’s Khyber Pass at night in a Toyota Land Cruiser, headlights off, pistol in hand, dodging roadblocks raised by Afridi tribesmen hired by the Communist regime in Kabul to kidnap me. Had I been taken, I would have been thrown into a 10-meter deep hole in the ground filled with snakes and ferocious biting insects until transferred to be tortured and likely killed in Kabul.

In this and a score of other hair-raising adventures in scary places like Syria, Albania, Kashmir, Iraq, Libya, or Burma, no one would have been able to get me out if I was jailed. No one really cared because I was on my own, working for numerous newspapers. Even al-Jazeera can’t get its jailed journalists out of Egypt.

Newspapers used me, and other young, reckless beginner journalists like Foley, to cover the really dangerous places. No medical or pension coverage for us: we were expendable.
I was usually more scared of diseases like hepatitis or meningitis than of bullets.

Meanwhile, pampered correspondents from the TV networks reported from four-star hotels, surrounded by a support staff and gophers.

Was Foley’s head really cut off? Hard to tell. We have been fed so much fake government war propaganda in recent decades – from Kuwaiti babies thrown from incubators to Saddam’s hidden nukes – that we must be very cautious.

Look at the horrifying pictures of victims from Gaza: babies with heads blow open and bodies torn into pieces by heavy 155mm shells. What’s the difference between this and a decapitation? Only distance between killer and victim.

Of course I’m outraged that any journalist would be kidnapped and held for ransom, a specialty of ISIS and other jihadist gangs in the Sahara region. Europe has paid ransom and got many of its hostages back.

The US apparently refuses to do so. “We’ll never deal with terrorists,” goes Washington’s mantra, though it deals with plenty of terrorist governments. Problem is, any group today that opposes the US abroad is likely to be branded terrorists. No wonder terrorists are popping up everywhere.

Having myself come close to being taken hostage, I would have hoped to have been ransomed in the event I was captured. That seems a more civilized and effective way to deal with hostage takers and bandits, distasteful as it may be. And yes, paying ransom will encourage more kidnappings. Hobson’s choice. But I prefer bad choices that have happy endings.

Democracies should not allow themselves to be provoked by malefactors. But that’s just what ISIS members are now doing by mounting its video horror show. We must ask, why? Why are they trying to goad the US into broader and deeper military intervention into Iraq and Syria, where they live?

Could it be part of Osama bin Laden’s clearly expressed plan to drive the US out of the Mideast by luring it into a number of small wars, slowly bleeding the American colossus? So far, by invading Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and parts of Pakistan, the US may have stumbled right into Osama’s carefully laid trap.

Or is the orchestrated outrage over Foley the media prelude to direct US intervention in Syria where the jihadists backed by Washington are losing. It’s all very confusing. In Iraq, ISIS are demon terrorists. But across the border in Syria, they are on our side, fighting against the “terrorist” regime of Basher Assad.

We are tripping over our terrorists. Osama must be smiling.


(Reprinted from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: ISIS, Syria 
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9 Comments to "Cautious Outrage"

  1. Great article. The fact that we still oppose Assad, fighting ISIS in Syria, but oppose ISIS in Iraq exposes the moral bankruptcy of American foreign policy.

    Israel / the U.S. / the Saudis helped found and fund (and may be continuing to fund) “ISIS” in Syria for the shared geopolitical goal of weakening Syria and destroying the Assad regime.

    So the question we must ask now is whether ISIS is our attack dog gone off leash, fighting in Iraq when it was meant to only chew on Syria, or whether ISIS is still our dog? There are a few curious things about ISIS that point to the latter. Such as the timely “media events” like this beheading, and the curious way they stayed in Syria until the Iraqi government fell out of favor with Washington.

    There is a singular word for employing such a style of foreign policy: “evil.”

  2. PeterB says:

    One problem for the average person trying to make sense of what is actually taking place is the lack of accurate information that’s available. Almost everything available is slanted, distorted, only half the picture or an outright fabrication due to the fact that there are many actors whose purpose is simply to influence public opinion through manipulation. It’s hard to cut through it all and ascertain the true picture.
    ISIS is certainly hard to pin down as to who they really are. I would guess that this militant and hardline group has attracted people from the other rebel groups because they’ve attained the greatest success in the field. People naturally want to join the winner, the one who is actually out there scoring victories. Also, some of the other groups are tainted as being just American puppets. When they jump ship they take their American supplied training and weapons with them. Trying to play Machiavellian double or triple games never works; it always blows back on those all too-clever people since no one is really smart enough to bring it off. Whether this Foley incident marks an actual breaking point or is just another crisis that can’t be left unexploited remains to be seen.

  3. Max Payne says:Website

    That’s the problem with ALL these groups, ISIS, Al-Nusra, whatever….

    They say they’re fighting for Arab or Muslim freedom but I haven’t seen any of these groups actually directly attack US, Israeli or Saudi interests (known for suppressing popular movements throughout the region with its mountains of money). Because of Saudi money almost every story in the Middle East has an unofficial “street” version and the official newspaper version.

    All ISIS had to do was commit to a token attack in the Golan Heights against Israel, something minor with no tactical benefit what-so-ever. Just for propaganda, recruitment and morale purposes, especially during Operation Protective Edge. Instead they go off killing Shia tribesmen….. Even attacking Israel in the Golan Heights would benefit ISIS because Israel just attacks Syrian government forces in retaliation.

    I think this is why people don’t take them seriously in the Middle East. They’re going to disappear just as fast as they appeared once Western military might ACTUALLY confronts them, and I don’t mean they’re going to get killed off, I mean they’ll just cease to exist as they disband, either out of cowardice or through indirect orders.

    Right now they crossed a line getting too close to important Western-operated oil fields and thus the response is to push them back with air strikes and bombing campaigns.

    This is one of the few times I wish George Bush Junior was still in office, so he can deploy B-52 bombers en masse and level the entire “Islamic State”.

  4. @Max Payne

    Okay, so after we bomb everything into rubble and bomb the rubble into rubble, how much news footage of starving children hunting for rats before we send in the aid convoys and the occupation forces? Because that’s what’s going to happen.

    We will have to slaughter a lot of Muslim Arab males over age 12 to neuter ISIS and its successors after our bombs blow up their family members. Are you up for that level of slaughter? I’m not, and I bet most other people are not.

    Everybody keeps saying ISIS is going to disappear but they seem to keep refusing to disappear. Maybe you’re right but I’ll believe it when I see it.

  5. “But I prefer bad choices that have happy endings.”

    You prefer a happy ending for you, paid for by somebody else, at the cost of a catastrophic ending for… How many others? You don’t care. You can’t even comprehend the question.

    Remember, folks, *every* prog is a malignant narcissist. *Every* prog is a sociopath. That is what defines them. I knew a prog once who said that Stalin’s purges were justified because they were convenient for people like him. I knew this guy well; he wasn’t kidding.

    *Every* progressive would sacrifice your life for his own entertainment, convenience, or career advancement. That is what progressivism *is*. See Rotherham. There is not a single prog on this planet who doesn’t think the gang rapes of 1,400 children is a cheap and perfectly acceptable price to pay for the advantages progs expect to gain from diversity.

    They might feel differently if it were their daughters. Then again, they might not. Malignant narcissists don’t see the world the way moral adults do.

  6. Can you smell what The Caliph is cooking? — RT Op-Edge says:Website

    […] This could all fit Osama’s carefully laid-out trap – over the years – of finally managing to expel the US from the Middle East via a constant war of attrition, slowly bleeding the Empire of Chaos. Eric Margolis has alluded to this possibility here. […]

  7. Can you smell what The Caliph is cooking? by Pepe Escobar !!!!! :) ~J | 2012: What's the 'real' truth? says:Website

    […] This could all fit Osama’s carefully laid-out trap – over the years – of finally managing to expel the US from the Middle East via a constant war of attrition, slowly bleeding the Empire of Chaos. Eric Margolis has alluded to this possibilityhere. […]

  8. Can you smell what The Caliph is cooking?- Pepe Escobar | Your Newsline Independent Reporting From Around The World says:Website

    […] This could all fit Osama’s carefully laid-out trap – over the years – of finally managing to expel the US from the Middle East via a constant war of attrition, slowly bleeding the Empire of Chaos. Eric Margolis has alluded to this possibility here. […]

  9. TRANSCEND MEDIA SERVICE » Can You Smell What the Caliph Is Cooking? says:Website

    […] This could all fit Osama’s carefully laid-out trap – over the years – of finally managing to expel the US from the Middle East via a constant war of attrition, slowly bleeding the Empire of Chaos. Eric Margolis has alluded to this possibility here. […]

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