Those who serve as foreign correspondents in dangerous places are often asked: “Why would you put yourself in harm’s way?”
The answer typically is that the life gets in one’s blood, and the excitement produces an adrenaline rush. Some correspondents spend virtually their entire working lives overseas, dodging bullets and chemical weapons and guerrilla fighters.
James Foley, a freelance photojournalist, lived that kind of life after growing up in the small town of Rochester, N.H.
Foley now has become the latest journalist targeted by militants, this time the Islamic State, an offshoot of al-Qaida. A video posted Wednesday showed Foley being beheaded, and a knife-wielding fighter promised that more American captives would die because of U.S. strikes on Islamic fighters in northern Iraq.
Life means little to these militants who slay children, women, aid workers and journalists. They kill for revenge and indiscriminately. James Foley was not a soldier in the field against them. He was doing his very dangerous job.
Americans know such work is risky, from the World Wars and Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan where journalists have been at risk in the midst of combat. But in early 2002, a Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl, was kidnapped by Pakistani militants and killed on camera while on assignment in Pakistan. Like Foley, Pearl was no stranger to the hazards of his profession.
But Pearl’s murder showed that militants behind a particular ideology were willing to take any step, commit any act, to make their point. Foreign correspondents will carry on, because that is what they do. James Foley’s work showed the suffering that comes with war. In death, he showed the Islamic State’s evil to the world.