Obama calls Islamic State a 'cancer' after graphic threat

Harshest words yet from US president after Islamic State beheads American journalist James Foley on camera, threatening another execution if air strikes continue.

US President Barack Obama.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
US President Barack Obama.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The Islamic State has no place in this century, is ideologically bankrupt, and is a cancer infecting the entire world that must be stopped, US President Barack Obama said sternly on Wednesday, in his sharpest words yet on the group after one of its fighters beheaded an American journalist on camera.
“The entire world is appalled,” Obama said in a statement to the press at Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
“ISIL [Islamic State] speaks for no religion,” Obama said.
“Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday, and for what they do every single day.
“ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings,” he continued. “Their ideology is bankrupt.” In a video released on Tuesday showing the gruesome beheading of James Foley, a veteran journalist, the group threatened the president with the killing of another American captive should he choose to continue air strikes on its assets throughout northern Iraq.
The video, titled “A Message to America,” showed images of another US journalist, Steven Sotloff, whose life Islamic State said depends on how the United States acts in Iraq.
Obama said the US response to such terrorists would be “relentless” and that justice would be pursued for Foley, who died “bearing witness” to the terrorism of people a world away.
Obama said that Islamic State would ultimately fail for its decision to destroy, and not built society; that it represents the “collapse of any definition of civilized behavior,” and that the group “has no place in the 21st century.”
“People like this ultimately fail,” Obama said. “They fail, because the future is won by those who build and not destroy and the world is shaped by people like Jim Foley, and the overwhelming majority of humanity who are appalled by those who killed him. “ Bucking their threats, the Pentagon announced Wednesday that US fighter jets and drones have resumed attacks on Islamic State targets near Mosul Dam.
US Secretary of State John Kerry released a tribute to Foley, whose family he came to knew when the journalist was captured for the first time in Libya.
“No masked coward can ever steal the legacy of this courageous American who lived out the meaning of the word journalism,” Kerry said. “There is evil in this world, and we all have come face to face with it once again. Ugly, savage, inexplicable, nihilistic, and valueless evil.
“ISIL is the face of that evil,” he continued, “a threat to people who want to live in peace, and an ugly insult to the peaceful religion they violate every day with their barbarity.”
The group should make “no mistake” that the United States would continue to confront it, he continued, suggesting that the military campaign would continue.
James Jeffrey, former US ambassador to Iraq during the Obama administration and now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says that Islamic State’s graphic video had “clarified” the choices facing Obama and the American people.
“There is absolutely no way Americans will be deterred by this any more than 9/11,” Jeffrey told The Jerusalem Post.
“The president is being rightly cautious in pressing factious Iraqi politicians to unite. That’s an okay tactic, but he and the American people must understand we are in a war with ISIS.”
British anti-terrorist police began an investigation into the video, in which Foley’s killer spoke with a London accent.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron returned from a summer holiday to London for crisis meetings over the matter.
If he’s indeed a British national, the killer is just one of hundreds of European Muslims drawn to join Islamic State and who authorities say pose a security threat to US and European interests if they return from the Middle East.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he was not surprised to hear the British accent and that large numbers of British nationals were fighting in Iraq and Syria.
“Our intelligence services will be looking very carefully on both sides of the Atlantic at this video to establish its authenticity, to try to identify the individual concerned and then we will work together to try to locate him,” Hammond told Sky news.
France said it wants the permanent members of the UN Security Council and regional countries, including Arab states and Iran, to coordinate action against Islamic State.
President François Hollande called for an international conference to discuss how to tackle the group.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari urged the world to back his country against Islamic State, which he described as a threat to the world, not just to the minority ethnic groups whose members it has killed in Iraq.
Germany and Italy said they are ready to send arms to bolster the military capabilities of Iraqi Kurds fighting Islamic State in northern Iraq.
Sending arms into conflict zones is a major departure for Germany, which has often shied away from direct involvement in military conflicts since World War II due to its Nazi past.
“The United States does not make concessions to terrorists,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters on Wednesday.
Reuters contributed to this report.