Aug 21, 2014

Remember Daniel Pearl: Beheading of One of Our Journalist Brings Back the Memory of September 11th

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This week the nation learned that one of our journalists had been beheaded by a brutal group known as ISIS (also ISIL), a name referencing the goal of this group to establish an Islamic state over in the Middle East that includes Iraq and Syria.  They have made successes in Iraq and Syria; although our recent air strikes and military aid to the Kurdish forces have rolled back some of the group’s advances in Iraq.    This beheading of an American journalist and the capturing of the murder on video for the world to see is not the first occurrence of an extreme and violent group using this sort of tactic on an innocent civilian to influence U.S. policy and to put terror in the hearts and minds of Americans. 
This time, the victim is James Foley. This group has another American journalist in captivity, Stephen Sotloff, age 31 that was also captured while working as a journalist oversees.  Right now, it appears as though rescuing Sotloff from the same fate is quite tricky as any known attempt to rescue him will likely lead to his immediate execution.  This situation, however, is still unfolding, so the United States’ options remain to be seen. 
ISIS is not al-Qaeda and ISIS has not committed a terrorist attack against the United States.  So why does this incident bring back memories of the attacks on September 11, 2001?  Some may have forgotten, while others, such as my students, were too young to remember details in the events leading up to and after 9/11.  One such event was the killing of a captured American journalist.  This brutal and grotesque murder was committed by a- Qaeda about 6 months after 9/11.  Like the James Foley killing, the American journalist was beheaded, and the beheading was captured on video and shared with the world.  In the first few months of 2002, Daniel Pearl, a reporter with the Wall Street Journal, was captured in Pakistan while investigating a possible connection between a fumbled attempt to bomb an airplane here in the U.S. and al-Qaeda.  Pearl was forced to make statements and then beheaded by a prominent operative of al-Qaeda who has since been capture, tried and hung.  The circumstances of Daniel Pearl’s death and the fight of his wife, Marianne Pearl, to get to the bottom of his capture and murder became the subject of a book, A Mighty Heart, and movie starring Angelina Jolie.