White House

Obama: ISIS ‘Has No Place in the 21st Century’

The president condemned on Wednesday the militant group responsible for the murder of journalist James Foley.

Rick Friedman-Pool/Getty Images
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Marina Koren and Matt Berman
Aug. 20, 2014, 9:05 a.m.

“Today, the en­tire world is ap­palled by the bru­tal murder of Jim Fo­ley,” Pres­id­ent Obama said at a press con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day in Martha’s Vine­yard in Mas­sachu­setts.

Obama pro­ceeded to con­demn the Is­lam­ic State in Ir­aq and Syr­ia, the mil­it­ants re­spons­ible for Amer­ic­an journ­al­ist James Fo­ley’s death, in the harshest pos­sible terms.

“ISIL speaks for no re­li­gion,” Obama said, us­ing a dif­fer­ent name for the group. “Their vic­tims are over­whelm­ingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to mas­sacre in­no­cents. No just God would stand for what they did yes­ter­day, and what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideo­logy. Their ideo­logy is bank­rupt.”

The pres­id­ent spoke of IS­IS mil­it­ants “ram­pa­ging” through Ir­aq, “killing in­no­cent, un­armed ci­vil­ians,” kid­nap­ping wo­men and chil­dren, sub­ject­ing them to “tor­ture and rape and slavery.”

Video foot­age of an IS­IS mil­it­ant be­head­ing Fo­ley was re­leased Tues­day af­ter­noon, and judged to be au­then­t­ic by the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Coun­cil on Wed­nes­day morn­ing. Fo­ley, 40, was ab­duc­ted in Syr­ia in late 2012 and was not heard from dur­ing his cap­tiv­ity. In­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials in Eng­land are now try­ing to de­term­ine wheth­er the mil­it­ant in the video was Brit­ish, based on his ac­cent. Brit­ish For­eign Sec­ret­ary Philip Ham­mond said that his gov­ern­ment is “very con­cerned by the ap­par­ent fact that the mur­der­er in ques­tion is Brit­ish” and said of­fi­cials are “ur­gently in­vest­ig­at­ing.”

In the video, an IS­IS mil­it­ant threatened the life of an­oth­er Amer­ic­an cap­tive, journ­al­ist Steven Sotloff. Sotloff, a freel­ance re­port­er, was cap­tured near the Syr­ia-Tur­key bor­der last year.

“One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st cen­tury,” Obama said.

Fo­ley’s par­ents spoke with Obama by phone, they said Wed­nes­day. His moth­er Di­ane re­leased a state­ment about her son on Face­book on Tues­day night. “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,” she said. “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.”

Obama said he told Fo­ley’s par­ents that “we are all heart broken at their loss, and join them in hon­or­ing Jim and all that he did.”

The U.S. has been hit­ting IS­IS tar­gets in Ir­aq with air­strikes for nearly two weeks, an op­er­a­tion that began with a hu­man­it­ari­an mis­sion to help Ir­aqi Yazid­is who were un­der siege by the mil­it­ant group in north­ern Ir­aq. The mil­it­ary ran 23 air strikes on IS­IS tar­gets over the week­end, and Amer­ic­an planes and drones have con­duc­ted close to a dozen strikes in Ir­aq since Tues­day, of­fi­cials told the AP Wed­nes­day morn­ing. On Monday, U.S. strikes helped to free the Mo­sul Dam from IS­IS con­trol, Obama told re­port­ers then.

The U.S. con­duc­ted 14 strikes on Wed­nes­day, bring­ing the total to 84.

Obama did not ad­dress spe­cif­ic ac­tions that U.S. forces may take in Ir­aq mov­ing for­ward. His re­marks, however, sug­ges­ted that the U.S. will con­tin­ue fight­ing against IS­IS. “The United States of Amer­ica will con­tin­ue to do what we must do to pro­tect our people,” he said. “We will be vi­gil­ant and we will be re­lent­less. When people harm Amer­ic­ans any­where, we do what’s ne­ces­sary to see that justice is done.”

In a state­ment Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry called Fo­ley “brave and bold.” 

“There is evil in this world, and we all have come face to face with it once again,” Kerry said of IS­IS. “Ugly, sav­age, in­ex­plic­able, ni­hil­ist­ic, and value­less evil.”

The sec­ret­ary was more dir­ect in his policy prom­ise about fu­ture U.S. ac­tion against the mil­it­ant group. “Make no mis­take: We will con­tin­ue to con­front ISIL wherever it tries to spread its despic­able hatred,” Kerry said. “ISIL and the wicked­ness it rep­res­ents must be des­troyed, and those re­spons­ible for this hein­ous, vi­cious at­ro­city will be held ac­count­able.”

Here, a col­lec­tion of some of Fo­ley’s work.

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