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Opinion: Why the U.S. Swaps Prisoners but Doesn't Pay Ransom

in Opinion

Reuters/Carlo Allegri // A man holds up a sign in memory of U.S. journalist James Foley during a protest against the Assad regime in Syria in New York City, August 22, 2014.Brian Michael Jenkins — The recent report that the United States refused to pay ransom to the kidnappers of journalist James Foley, only weeks before it released Taliban prisoners in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, has caused confusion about American policy.

On the surface, the policy may seem inconsistent. Why will the United States release prisoners but not pay ransom?

While both cases centered on Americans held captive, there are key differences. Foley was a private citizen held hostage by terrorists, and the United States has made clear that it will not negotiate with terrorists, much less pay ransom for the return of hostages. Bergdahl, on the other hand, was a soldier being held by an enemy at war with the United States. Prisoner exchanges under such circumstances are not uncommon and do not help finance America's enemies.

Opinion: Running Toward the Danger

in Opinion

Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images // Freelance journalist James Foley, left, in September 2011 on a highway in Surt, Libya.David Rothkopf (Foreign Policy ) — In the wake of 9/11, the world developed a special appreciation for first responders, the men and women who ran toward danger when they saw it. They risked all to help others, and fittingly there was a surge of recognition for cops and firefighters and paramedics -- both those lost in the twisted metal of lower Manhattan and those who carried on in the same tradition.

Neither James Foley nor Steven Sotloff wore a badge or a uniform. Nor did Mbalu Fonnie, Alex Moigboi, Alice Kovoma, Mohamed Fullah, or Sheik Umar Khan. But they embodied the first-responder spirit as truly and fully as any of those whose courage inspired us and whose sacrifices broke our hearts at the World Trade Center. For precisely that reason, out of genuine respect for them and their contribution to the world, it is essential we not make the same errors we did amid the anger and grief that marked the earliest days of what we once called the War on Terror.

Foley and Sotloff, the two American journalists who were recently brutally murdered by terrorists, chose to run into the flames of Syria even as the rest of the world looked away. They, like other journalists covering that country's civil war, knew that the risks they faced were grave. But they made a calculation that letting the slaughter in that country go unrecorded, unnoted, or uncommented upon would be compounding those battlefield atrocities with indifference. That would be inhumane and was so intolerable to them that they made their way into a country that many of the world's great and powerful leaders were doing their best to avoid and ignore. What does it say about a person who chooses to go on their own into mayhem that has already claimed almost 200,000 lives and do so without a weapon, without an army, without a congressional resolution?

Opinion: There is Nothing in Islam to Justify Islamic State Beheadings

in Opinion

YouTube // Footage released last week appears to show US journalist James Foley being beheaded by IS militants.Zaid Al Fares (International Business Times) — Whenever the Islamic State, or IS, makes a statement, it claims to be fulfilling the work of god and striving for some kind of religious utopia, free of vice and sin. The militants claim they are messengers of Allah, even when they are beheading people and posting videos on the internet.

Yet, as a Muslim, I reject this out of hand. There is nothing in our religion which condones or encourages the vicious treatment meted out to James Foley and the dozens of other people who have been beheaded and then used as public trophies in IS's battle for control of Syria and Iraq.

Even if there were anything in our religious teachings to justify chopping off an opponent's head, that particular edict would be patently anachronistic today. At the time of the Prophet, fighting was done with swords and spears, while today's battles employ the latest weapons. There is no way you can reasonably apply ancient standards of warfare to the reality of conflict today.

The Islamic State May Have Hit the Point of Diminishing Returns

in Opinion

Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images // Shiite militia fighters fire a volley of rockets at Islamic State militants on Sept. 3 at Sayed Hassan village outside Tikrit, Iraq.Col. Clint Hinote (Council on Foreign Relations) — After the release of the second Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) propaganda video Tuesday depicting the murder of U.S. reporter Steven Sotloff, I’ve examined both videos in context. When taken together, we can glean some interesting points, the most important of which is the level of desperation and frustration displayed by ISIS.

First, a personal note:  My heart goes out to the families of Steve Sotloff and James Foley. As a father, I cannot imagine the horror they have endured. These videos show the sheer evil and depravity of ISIS.

To kill an innocent journalist (whom they surely know has no control or influence over US policy) is contrary to any moral framework, including Islam. One of the reasons that I continue serve in the U.S. Armed Forces is that there is evil in the world, and if good people stand back and do nothing, that evil will spread.

Opinion: How to Stop Canadians From Becoming Jihadists

in Opinion

Reuters // Criminalization alone is not best way to keep Canadians from becoming foreign fighters in the Middle EastAlexander Corbeil and Reza Akhlaghi (Canadian International Council) — Calgarian Farah Mohamed Shirdon joined his fellow Islamic State fighters in a ritualistic burning of passports, meant to symbolize the destruction of the artificial borders between Muslims and the creation of a new reality, that of a yet-to-be-announced Caliphate.

The video of the act, posted in April, highlights the growing threat from homegrown fighters to Canada’s national security.

Before burning his passport, Shirdon, whose death was reported in August, told those watching, “This is a message to Canada and all the American tyrants. We are coming for you, with permission from Allah the almighty.” In death Shirdon went from being a troubled man, who felt excluded, to an international jihadi star; a warrior who died for a holy cause, the establishment of a Caliphate incorporating Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel-Palestine.

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