Who Was Journalist James Wright Foley?

Posted: Aug 20, 2014 12:40 PM

The Islamic terrorist group ISIS boorishly murdered American freelance photojournalist  James Wright Foley, decapitating him on camera in an attempt to shock the United States and President Obama into military stagnance in Iraq. Foley, a native of New Hampshire, lost his life to the very type of primitive and sadistic people he was attempting to expose.

This was not the first time Foley had been captured while working in the Islamic world. He was  abducted previously in 2011 by Qaddafi loyalists and held in Libya. After 45 days, he was released and sent a letter to his alma mater, Marquette University, a Roman Catholic institution in Wisconsin. He thanked the school for challenging him to “do more and be better.” After taking a volunteer trip to South Dakota and Mississippi with Marquette, Foley said he realized he was a “sheltered kid and the world had real problems.” 

During his imprisonment, Foley wrote that he prayed every day and even said prayers out loud with his imprisoned colleague, Clare. Here is a portion of the letter:

One night, 18 days into our captivity, some guards brought me out of the cell. In the hall I saw Manu, another colleague, for the first time in a week. We were haggard but overjoyed to see each other. Upstairs in the warden’s office, a distinguished man in a suit stood and said, “We felt you might want to call your families.”

I said a final prayer and dialed the number. My mom answered the phone. “Mom, Mom, it’s me, Jim.”

“Jimmy, where are you?”

“I’m still in Libya, Mom. I’m sorry about this. So sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, Jim,” she pleaded. “Oh, Daddy just left. Oh … He so wants to talk to you.

How are you, Jim?” I told her I was being fed, that I was getting the best bed and being treated like a guest.

“Are they making you say these things, Jim?”

“No, the Libyans are beautiful people,” I told her. “I’ve been praying for you to know that I’m OK,” I said. “Haven’t you felt my prayers?”

“Oh, Jimmy, so many people are praying for you. All your friends, Donnie, Michael Joyce, Dan Hanrahan, Suree, Tom Durkin, Sarah Fang have been calling. Your brother Michael loves you so much.” She started to cry. “The Turkish embassy is trying to see you and also Human Rights Watch. Did you see them?” I said I hadn’t.

“They’re having a prayer vigil for you at Marquette. Don’t you feel our prayers?” she asked.

“I do, Mom, I feel them,” and I thought about this for a second. Maybe it was others’ prayers strengthening me, keeping me afloat.

The official made a motion. I started to say goodbye. Mom started to cry. “Mom, I’m strong. I’m OK. I should be home by Katie’s graduation,” which was a month away.

“We love you, Jim!” she said. Then I hung up.

I replayed that call hundreds of times in my head — my mother’s voice, the names of my friends, her knowledge of our situation, her absolute belief in the power of prayer. She told me my friends had gathered to do anything they could to help. I knew I wasn’t alone.

James Foley chose to continue exposing the problems in the Islamic world after his initial release and was  captured again in Syria in November 2012. The Committee to Protect Journalists began a petition for his freedom after his second abduction. Sixty-six journalists have died covering the conflict in Syria and seven have been murdered, according to CPJ’s site. It is the most dangerous country for the media. 

In a Facebook post Tuesday,  Foley’s mother, Diane Foley, said she has never been more proud of her son:

We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.

We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.

We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim.

President Obama was briefed about Foley’s murder while flying back on Air Force One to his vacation spot at Martha’s Vineyard. He is expected to address Foley’s death during a press conference at 12:45 PM EST Wednesday.