By Eric Margolis
August 24, 2014 "ICH"
The alleged beheading of freelance journalist James
Foley by the shadowy ISIS (or Islamic State) has
sparked outrage and horror around the globe.
“alleged” because we are not sure if the
decapitation was real or faked.
decades of covering wars in the Mideast, Africa,
Latin America, and Afghanistan, my reaction as a
journalist was also outrage – but cautious outrage.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
pampered correspondents from the TV networks
reported from four-star hotels, surrounded by a
support staff and gophers.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
tripping over our terrorists. Osama must be smiling.
Eric S. Margolis is an internationally syndicated
columnist. His articles have appeared in the
New York Times, International
Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times and others. He is
a regular columnist at Huffington Post,
LewRockwell.com, The Gulf Times (Qatar), Khaleej
Times (Dubai), Nation Pakistan, Sun Malaysia and a
member of the Institute for Strategic Studies in
Eric S. Margolis 2014