Questions About The James Foley Death Video

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The video reportedly showing the death of James Foley is resulting in an increasing drum beat for US military attacks in Iraq and Syria, but there are some strange features of the video that are being largely ignored by the media and that raise questions about the origin and purpose of the video.

The reported death of journalist James Foley by the Islamic State (IS) is resulting in increasing calls for war not only in Iraq but in Syria, with the Obama administration saying it is considering such attacks. The video of Foley’s death on which these calls for war are in part based has largely been scrubbed from the web. This article reviews the video and questions raised by it. But, we also want to emphasize that the video is only part of the story, another that should not be ignored is who is behind IS. The story is more complex than we are being told.

The death of journalist James Foley spread across the traditional and social media with headlines such as “Video Shows Beheading of American Journalist” published in TIME. And the TIME article declared, “TIME is not publishing the video.” Perhaps in response to widespread concern of assisting ISIS in its propaganda distribution.

There were also responses to the posting and sharing of this video as it was apparently so gruesome that publicizing or even watching the video could get you slapped with a terrorism charge in the UK. If that wasn’t enough, Twitter and Facebook were trying to find people who posted the video and delete their accounts… something that Glenn Greenwald was clearly and rightly concerned may have the down stream consequences of corporate-censored communications.

Now that the video is one of the reasons for escalating war talk, it is important that people view it and examine whether the stories we are being told are true. The fundamental questions are whether IS conducted the murder of Foley and whether his murder was assisted in any way by the United States or its allies.

The Video

Popular Resistance does not endorse the heinous acts of the people who killed James Foley. These links are not provided to show any disrespect for James Foley, someone who by all accounts lived a courageous and positive life, and did a lot of good in the world. You should be advised that this video is graphic.

The video shows a lot about IS, how they design their propaganda and how they link their actions to US foreign policy by including the initial clip of President Obama’s announcement to resume military attacks in Iraq. The speeches by Foley and the purported IS member add to the propaganda purposes of the video.

The most interesting thing about the video is that despite the hype in the media, there was no actual beheading in the video. The TIME article headline was not an accurate description of the video. There was a dead body that was, as many in the media have said, “purportedly” a beheaded James Foley, but the actual act of beheading is not shown. The video does show someone purportedly using a knife to saw at Foley’s neck, but there is no blood and seems to be no actual cut.

We have seen the videos out of Syria, which are truly atrocious, or the video of the beheading of Daniel Pearl a journalist killed by Al-Qaeda, but unlike those there was a strange absence of blood in this video. The supposed killer just puts the knife to Foley’s neck, saws back and forth for a few moments and no blood comes out. Then it cuts to a shot of a severed head over a dead body.

Why didn’t the most brutal terrorist group, according to western media, show the actually bloody murder to get the full terrorizing effect? And why hadn’t the lack of that scene been a crucial part of the media’s coverage? The video left me with more questions than answers. It called out for professional analysis of the video so there could be a higher degree of confidence in the authenticity of the video than the US government’s assurances could provide. IS not showing the actual beheading makes little sense.

“Foley Video Was Staged, At Least To Some Degree”

After searching the Internet for some more analysis, I found a diamond in the rough. Someone played with the brightness and contrast on the video and made it pretty clear that the strange bloodless scene with the knife was certainly not the moment of Foley’s death. See discussion of this video here.

Then, as we were going to press it was reported that the UK Times hired experts to examine the video. The experts concluded that “a video purporting to show the beheading of American journalist James Foley was staged to at least some degree.” The UK Times reported on August 26th:

“The video of a British jihadist beheading an American hostage was probably staged, with the actual murder taking place off-camera, according to forensic analysis…

Firstly, no blood can be seen, even though the knife is drawn across the neck area at least six times. Secondly, sounds allegedly made by Foley do not appear consistent with what may be expected.”

They also point out that while a body and head are shown, and there is some blood in these images, “No pool of blood from the prodigious neck wound is visible.”In short, Foley’s murder was not shown in the video.

Digital Journal reports that “the experts’ conclusions come after Internet sleuths across the globe questioned many aspects of the video, including the timing, just prior to an Obama announcement to resume airstrikes in Iraq.” The International Business Times, not the usual conspiracy theorist, added its voice to the doubts writing “that portions of it appeared to be just being acted out” and quote a security expert saying “there was no single sign that he was terrified.”

It is also important to know that James Foley’s body has not been recovered.

Why? What Does This Mean?

It is unclear what the staging of this video means. Did IS do it, if so why? Did someone else do it, if so why and who? The problem is that every conspiracy video like this would be incomplete without a stock conclusion that goes something like this “This is an irregularity! Foley’s throat wasn’t cut by this knife! Therefore this entire video is a false flag operation.” (If you do not know the term ‘false flag’ think Gulf of Tonkin.) However a conspiracy cannot be proved by this video alone, it doesn’t ‘follow’ though it certainly isn’t impossible. A classic coincidence that deepens the suspicions but still proves nothing is the report by the White House that there was a failed raid in Syria to rescue Foley by US Special Forces.

On the other side, there could be all sorts of reasons why IS decided not to include the actual beheading. Perhaps they did not want to provide evidence of specific guilt of the individual who killed Foley. Or, the beheading did not go well and they did not want to show their incompetence. These are two of no doubt many reasons why IS could have decided not to include the actual beheading.

Adding Even More Complexity

To make this situation even more complex, when you examine who supported IS you find allies of the United States in the Gulf with little doubt that the US was aware of their support and approved it. As writer and security expert, Nafeez Ahmed told The Real News:

“. . . follow the money, we’re looking at the involvement of the Gulf states, which have really empowered these groups over time and increased their ability to operate. They’ve increased their arms, logistical trading. So we’ve had the Saudis engaged in funding these groups in Syria. . .

“. . . it’s very clear. And we’ve had semiofficial and official confirmations from the CIA, from people in the State Department, other people in the Pentagon, even from British officials that have been involved in coordinating the Gulf states and supplying these kinds of virulent groups that we know are affiliated to al-Qaeda to basically topple Assad.

“. . . what makes it really more disturbing is, going deeper into that evidence of the role of the Saudis and the Qataris and Kuwait, which has been confirmed by various different sources, is really the way in which the U.S. and the U.K. have overseen that process. And that’s something which isn’t so much acknowledged in the mainstream, that actually Britain and the United States were involved in knowingly kind of facilitating the support to these groups, despite knowing their links to al-Qaeda calling back as early as 2009.”

So, things are not what they seem. US allies, with the approval of the US and UK have been providing funding and other support for IS, the video does not actually show the beheading and based on all of this, the call for US military attack in Iraq and Syria is roaring down the track.

When the US and its allies use this video to justify war, we as Americans whose reaction can prevent yet another expensive imperial war, need to demand that the US make a case for why ISIS isn’t our own governments fault. Before going to war the US needs to, among other things, demand that US allies stop funding IS. We need to understand who made this video, why it was made the way it was, and question all groups that stamped their approval on the video as “government verified” and didn’t dig any deeper if we are going to make the right decisions in the coming weeks. THIS VIDEO IS NOT A SMOKING GUN that justifies war.

Elias Weston-Farber is social media director for Popular Resistance.

  • Barbara Lyons

    When will we learn from the past? Have we forgotten “Remember the Maine”, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and WMD’s in Iraq-all proved false in later years BUT an incident lead us marching to war.

  • Alaa Banna

    I think the answer for almost all the raise questions could be much simpler than this.

    Probably the guys are -in addition of being bloody terrorists- are also stupid. After using that knife they that didn’t actually work.. they’ve done the job using another one.

    And because the first try left lots of marks on Foley’s nick when filming the actual footage they just kept the original one.

    Maybe. :S

  • jd

    Eugene Armstrong,Daniele Pearl,Nick Egan now James Foley,Im amazed how no one brings up the others who ve been beheaded by these cowards and extremists..There nothing more then spineless cowards who need to pray on helpless innocent people and they also rappe women and kill kids .If this isn t reason enough to kill all of them then there never will be,I believe there can never be peace with monsters like this living among us…

  • Isidore Agape

    To add on top of this, Obama specifically told the nation that, “ISIS is not Islamic”. He must have known something…