A tragedy of good and evil

It is mortifying that they fell prey to monsters whose motives they would have been ready and willing to understand.

Steven Sotloff beheading (photo credit: REUTERS)
Steven Sotloff beheading
(photo credit: REUTERS)
When Steven Sotloff was abducted last summer while crossing the border between Turkey and Syria, serious efforts were made on the part of colleagues, friends and family members to keep secret the fact that the American journalist was not only Jewish, but held Israeli citizenship as well.
What all the people involved in this campaign to prevent Sotloff’s Islamist kidnappers from learning of his roots believed was that the young man’s life would be in even graver danger if the truth about him emerged.
Today, we know that his days were numbered in any case. Being an American, it turns out, was sufficient cause for Sotloff, like the photojournalist James Foley before him, to be decapitated on camera by the Islamic State operative known by his comrades-in-arms as Jihadi John.
It did not matter to ISIS that Sotloff had undergone a voluntary – albeit “quickie” – conversion to Islam while in Egypt, reporting from Tahrir Square on the revolution that replaced ousted president Hosni Mubarak with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi.
As a liberal, Sotloff likely harbored a degree of sympathy for the region’s anti-Israel and anti-Western forces.
And one imagines he would have shared his views with his captors over the year he spent with them, if for no other reason than self-preservation. But this was of no interest to the British national who ended up beheading him.
Regardless of any personal relationship that might have developed between Sotloff and the hooded butchers whose company he was forced to endure for 13 months, their sociopathic religious ideology sealed his sad fate. To them, he was merely a means to an end.
In their eyes, he – like Foley and the British hostage currently on their literal and figurative chopping block – was simply a slab of flesh to be bargained for and then slaughtered as a “message to America.”
And though most Americans actually have been getting the message that ISIS and an increasing number of other radical Muslim groups possess a blood-lust that is part and parcel of their mission to murder all “infidels,” President Barack Obama continues to deny it.
This is not to say that he ignores individual cases of Islamic atrocities. On the contrary, he rushes to treat incidents like the Foley and Sotloff beheadings as though they are anomalous to the “peaceful religion” of Islam. Rather than acknowledging that the widespread phenomenon of Islamist barbarism poses a global threat, Obama is more concerned about protecting the Muslim world from global warming. Even the comedic genius Joan Rivers, who died on Thursday, could not have written a joke that funny.
To make matters worse, Obama’s response to the televised decapitation of two American citizens at the hands of ISIS, an organization he dismissed in January as “JV” (junior varsity), was to join forces with Iran to eradicate it. Yes, Obama is actually helping the Islamic Republic. This is the Islamic Republic that refers to America as the “Great Satan.” The same regime that is engaging in a charade of negotiations with the US and Europe in order to buy time to complete its nuclear weapons program. You know, the program whose purpose is to subjugate the West. Oh, and to wipe Israel off the map.
Now, Obama himself is not too fond of Israel. And his view of what America used to represent before he got his hands on it was equally dim. Upon his first election in 2008, he made it his business to reach out to the Muslim world. To be more precise, he extended a big olive branch to the Muslim Brotherhood and their ilk – not to all the billions of ostensibly moderate Muslims out there who are either too fearful or passive to rise up against the violent minority wielding machetes and launching mortars.
Imagine Obama’s surprise, then, when the Muslim world did not suddenly become pro-American. Not only has the first black US president, who reminisces about the music emanating from the mosques of his childhood in Indonesia, failed to arouse the admiration of the very Muslims he has tried so hard to appease. If anything, they look down on him. The irony would be delicious if it didn’t involve the loss of so many lives.
What Obama never has been able to get through his community-organizer brain is that it is not enough for him to empathize with the grievances of his enemies, particularly not genocidal maniacs in question. Without actually swearing allegiance to the interpretation of Islam whose imperative is to catapult the modern world into the Dark Ages, there is no way to avoid beheading. And given the nature of internecine Islamist strife, even doing so does not guarantee immunity from bloodletting.
Had Obama acted in the interests of the Free World that he was charged to lead, Foley and Sotloff would be alive today. Whether entering into war zones to provide reportage was brave or reckless on their part is a matter of opinion. But one thing is certain: It was growing up in America (and, in Sotloff’s case, also spending a few years in Israel) that made them feel safe as human beings and as journalists.
It is mortifying that they fell prey to monsters whose motives they would have been ready and willing to understand. But it is also tragic that some people’s liberalism leads them to try and get to the bottom of stories that do not have two sides, other than good and evil.
The writer is the author of To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’