Foley’s Death Cannot Be In Vain

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.—” Edmund Burke

In a quaint Bavarian village in Germany, there stands a wall with a simple inscription: Never Again. Immediately behind this memorial sits the reason for this monument, the Dachau Concentration Camp.

An eerie calm blankets Dachau, much like standing within the eye of a hurricane. The area is devoid of any real noise, except for your footsteps as they press down on the loose gravel pathways as you walk about. The camp is a short distance from the village that bears the same name, yet is completely detached from our world, haunted by the unspeakable horror and inhumanity that took place there. Dachau is merely one representation of man’s inhumanity against their fellow man.

From places like Dachau, our vocabulary expanded to include words such a Holocaust and genocide, sadly repeated to describe present day events in places such as Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and now Syria. “Never Again” was quickly replaced with “It is not our problem,” or “We can’t be the world’s policemen.” We are a nation weary from war, and rightly so. However, that does not mean we have to become indifferent to the human condition. There are people who believe “Never Again” means something, that these are more than just words on a wall. One person who knew this well was journalist James Foley. James so believed in these words that he gave his life in an effort to remind the world of the suffering of the Syrian people.

James Foley was what we want from a journalist. Committed to exposing injustice and giving a voice to people that too many in our world choose to ignore, James went into harm’s way not for fame, but to remind all of us what happens when “good men do nothing.” James was not a soldier, but his deeds were heroic, and the horrific manner in which he was murdered cannot be how James is remembered.

James Foley’s family wants people to remember him as someone filled with compassion, possessed with a unique ability for touching the souls of everyone he met, that as his mother believes “(He) died for that compassion, and that love. I pray that he could be remembered that way.” The Foleys are proud of their son, stating “Jim was a great American and he believed in the very best of this country,” and that he was “a martyr for freedom.” Not necessarily his freedom, but freedom for all the oppressed people throughout the world.

James Foley’s death cannot be in vain. There was value in his life and in his cause, and his death was a wake up call for the world. The evil deeds that lead us to utter the words “Never Again” still exist, but sadly, they are falling on deaf ears. We must remember why James was there, to expose man’s brutality so the world could see firsthand the atrocities that were being committed in order to take action.

More than 180,000 people have been killed in Syria since 2011. ISIS (the terrorist group claiming responsibility for Foley’s murder) has expanded the conflict to other areas of the region, killing thousands more, selling young girls and women into slavery, beheading boys and men, undertaking mass burials of people who were still alive, forcing people to convert to Islam or face death, and committing countless other acts of brutality. All this is happening while the world powers seem incapable or unwilling to stop this madness.

When faced with the carnage of Dachau and the other concentration camps, the world said “if only we knew.” After looking into the eyes of the survivors and hearing their stories, we said “Never Again.” James Foley sacrificed his life so we would know the truth. James Foley showed us the pain in the eyes of the innocent and told us their stories. Now we know, and once more, we face a “Never Again” moment in time. We can choose to be like the people of the village of Dachau and ignore the smoke coming from the distance, or we can be the America that liberated the camps before the “final solution” was absolute. The answer is not easy, but doing the just and moral thing seldom is.

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2 Replies to “Foley’s Death Cannot Be In Vain”

  1. Jeff,
    Any human with a scintilla of civility agree that Mr. Foley’s death is horrific, and that such brutality must be curtailed. Clearly ISIS and other terror-mongering organizations that use any religion and other forms of obfuscation to defend their murderous agendas must be stopped.

    Though I read your column with interest nearly every week and frequently with a degree of dissent, I cannot recall any writing of yours in this paper opposing the use of state-sponsored torture by the United States and other western nations. Have you publicly condemned the use of extraordinary rendition by the US and coalition members with the goal of sending prisoners to unknown, unreported “black locations” where they could be subject to brutality clearly in violation of the Geneva Convention and other international law? Please refresh my memory.

    Our shared outrage over the killing of any innocent person at the hands of any terrorist or torturer (and what’s really the difference anyway?) is justified; but when that outrage is selectively expressed and acts of brutality and war crimes are ignored because the perpetrators are on “our side” leaves little credibility and no moral authority the many pundits and politicians who failed to address the documented horrors of Abu Graib, of extraordnary renditions and of Guantanamo during and since our country’s military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    We must avoied wave of rage and lust for revenge to again subvert a reasoned foreign policy, or for jingoism in the face of selected inhumane actes –while others are ignored– to lead our country again into a wrong-headed military debacle costing thousands more lives and billions or trillions of dollars that even “fiscally-conservative” hawks claim this country does not have to spend.

  2. “Michael Brown’s death cannot be in vane”. Shouldn’t this be the title of your next article?
    Where is the outrage from you and others about many young black men being killed?
    Racism is live and rampant in the south where the KKK resides and infiltrated the police force.
    Shame on all those who condone this behavior.