These Are the Stories James Foley Risked His Life to Tell

The accomplished war reporter went deep into conflict zones and brought back stories to people who would not have otherwise heard them.

Patrick Reis
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Patrick Reis
Aug. 19, 2014, 3:59 p.m.

James Fo­ley, a journ­al­ist who dis­ap­peared in Syr­ia nearly two years ago, has been murdered by mem­bers of the Is­lam­ic State in Ir­aq and Syr­ia.

IS­IS mem­bers pos­ted a video on­line Tues­day that they claim de­picts Fo­ley’s ex­e­cu­tion. The Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Coun­cil re­leased a state­ment Wed­nes­day morn­ing an­noun­cing that they found the video to be au­then­t­ic.

Fo­ley’s moth­er Di­ane re­leased a state­ment Tues­day night on a Face­book page ded­ic­ated to the journ­al­ist. Here it is in full:

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.

Cap­tured in Novem­ber 2012, Fo­ley, 40, was an ac­com­plished journ­al­ist who doc­u­mented the com­plex­ity of the wars in the Middle East and Afgh­anistan and told the stor­ies of those af­fected by it—hu­man­iz­ing and ex­plain­ing sub­jects for an audi­ence far re­moved.

Here is some of the work for which Fo­ley risked—and likely lost—his life.

Ed­it­or’s note: Due to tech­nic­al dif­fi­culties, all videos be­gin play­ing im­me­di­ately upon land­ing on the page. They can be paused and watched in se­quence.

Fo­ley in­ter­views Amer­ic­an sol­diers about the fine—and of­ten frus­trat­ing—line they walked in Afgh­anistan as they faced off against en­emy com­batants while sim­ul­tan­eously try­ing to win over a ci­vil­ian pop­u­la­tion. 

He also wrote, pen­ning a piece for the Glob­al Post in which he in­ter­viewed sol­diers fight­ing a los­ing battle on be­half of former Liby­an dic­tat­or Muam­mar el-Qad­dafi. “De­fec­ted and cap­tured loy­al­ist sol­diers said there are a num­ber of factors mo­tiv­at­ing their former com­rades, in­clud­ing the hope of fin­an­cial re­ward and a fear of civil war. But the para­mount reas­on to keep fight­ing, they said, is the fear of re­pris­als,” Fo­ley re­por­ted.

Fo­ley was cap­tured in Libya in 2011 and spent sev­er­al weeks in cap­tiv­ity. He dis­cussed his ex­per­i­ence, re­call­ing the feel­ing of help­less­ness dur­ing cap­tiv­ity and the sad­ness he felt over the death of one of his col­leagues.

Fo­ley also dis­cusses the draw of war re­port­ing, both for the ad­ren­aline of the ex­per­i­ence and the de­sire to get a story that would oth­er­wise go un­told:

“It’s a struggle be­cause there is al­ways that al­lure for some people of com­bat. There is al­ways that sort of high of be­ing close to com­bat … and then be­ing able to come back and tell that story.”

This story was up­dated Wed­nes­day with state­ment from the NSC.

Stephanie StammReena Flores contributed to this article.
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