October 16, 2021

Obama: U.S. won’t stop confronting Islamic State, appalled by Foley murder

** FILE ** President Barack Obama speaks in the James Brady Press Briefing Room in the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

** FILE ** President Barack Obama speaks in the James Brady Press Briefing Room in the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)


A stern President Obama said Wednesday he was appalled by the beheading of American photojournalist James Foley and said those terrorists who carried out the execution represent a “cancer” that must be eliminated.

Interrupting his two-week vacation at Martha’s Vineyard yet again to address the growing threat posed by the “nihilistic” and morally “bankrupt” Islamic State terrorist group — formerly known as ISIL or ISIS — the president said the organization’s hateful ideology must be rejected. He also vowed justice in response for the brutal killing, shown to the world via a video posted to YouTube on Tuesday.

“The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see justice is done,” Mr. Obama said. “From governments and peoples across the Middle East, there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so it does not spread. There has to be a clear rejection of these kinds of nihilistic ideologies. One thing we can all agree on is a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century.”

On Tuesday, the Islamic State posted to YouTube a video showing the beheading of the 40-year-old Foley, who was captured by the militant group two years ago while covering the Syrian civil war.

Just before being murdered, Foley is coerced into saying his death is the fault of the U.S. government.

Islamic State fighters then blamed Mr. Obama for any future American deaths.

“So any attempt by you Obama, to deny the Muslims of living in safety under Islamic caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people,” the Islamic State fighter says in the video.

Another American journalist, Steven Joel Sotloff, also is being held by the militant group. He’s shown in the video clad in an orange jumpsuit on his knees.

“The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision,” the Islamic State member says.

The video comes nearly two weeks after Mr. Obama authorized airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq. The American air campaign is designed to degrade Islamic State positions and assist Iraqi and Kurdish security forces in recapturing key areas across the country.

Earlier this week, Mr. Obama said U.S. air power in conjunction with Iraqi ground forces were able to recapture the Mosul Dam, the largest dam in Iraq and one that had fallen into the hands of Islamic State earlier this month.

The president said Wednesday that U.S. forces will continue to act whenever necessary to protect American personnel and made clear he intends to bring Foley’s murderers to justice.

But he did not offer specifics nor indicate a ramping up of U.S. strikes against the Islamic State in either Iraq or Syria.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have in recent days called for a more coherent U.S. strategy in dealing with the organization.

The Islamic State “is a profound threat to humanity as it brutally targets the most vulnerable. We must get serious about confronting this force, including by aggressively arming those battling it,” said Rep. Ed Royce, California Republican and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

While giving no indication of exactly how the U.S. will respond moving forward, Mr. Obama predicted that the Islamic State will “ultimately fail.”

“Let’s be clear about ISIL: They have rampaged across cities and villages, killing innocent unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children and subject to torture and rape and slavery,” the president said in his brief remarks. “ISIL speaks for no religion. 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. They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the U.S. or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior.”