Recall in 2014 when the extremist Islamic State was in the early heyday of its brutal rise to power in Iraq and Syria and sought to bolster its fearsome reputation as an international terrorist organization by publicly releasing horrifying videos of grisly beheadings and other gruesome executions.
One of the more infamous executions that year involved the beheading of an American photojournalist named James Foley, who’d been abducted and held hostage along with three other Americans by militant Islamist extremists in 2012 while covering the Syrian civil war, according to The Hill.
That incident may have garnered extra attention given the fact that then-President Barack Obama had rushed off to go golfing just moments after speaking with the media about the execution, which even CNN noted was “bad optics,” suggesting the president was “insensitive” to the potential horrors faced by Americans held captive.
The mother of that murdered journalist, Diane Foley, had been highly critical of the Obama administration at the time for not doing enough to potentially save her son from his horrific death and eventually launched a foundation in her late son’s honor to focus more attention and apply pressure on government authorities to do more to free Americans held captive abroad.
Fast-forward to the administration of President Donald Trump, and it has become clear that the president has made the plight of captured Americans, and seeing them returned safely home, a high priority during his time in office. Now Diane Foley is commending him for his substantial efforts.
In an interview with journalist Brian Ross for Law and Crime, Foley discussed a recent report issued by the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation on the current estimated status of “hundreds” of Americans held captive in foreign nations and the current U.S. policy on hostages and hostage-takers.
Near the end of the discussion, Ross asked Foley what sort of “grade” she would give the Trump administration on returning captives to American soil.
“I have to commend the Trump administration,” Foley said. “The Trump administration has made the return of Americans more of a priority, without a doubt.”
At the start of the conversation, Ross had noted how much “frustration” Foley had suffered during the Obama years and asked if things were any better now.
“Yes, we are very happy to report that things are better for Americans who are considered hostages, that is, Americans who are held by terrorists, criminal gangs, or pirates, if you will,” Foley said.
Where more work was needed, in Foley’s view, was with the “hundreds” of Americans who were “unlawfully detained” by foreign governments, such as Iran and Venezuela, among others.
Ross asked if Foley knew exactly how many Americans were being held hostage overseas. She replied, “The actual numbers are classified and we are trying to get more accurate numbers, but we definitely estimate hundreds of Americans are taken hostage and/or unlawfully detained every year abroad.”
Ross also asked Foley if she still believed the Obama administration could have done more to save her son or others from the Islamic State group, and said, “Definitely, I feel that we did not engage as a government because of the civil war in Syria and therefore we missed out on a lot of intelligence about ISIS that we would have known had we engaged with the captors of the four Americans. So I do feel it could have turned out differently if our government had negotiated with them.”
Of course, it is stated U.S. policy to never negotiate with hostage-takers or pay ransoms for the return of hostages, but Foley disagreed with that blanket policy, noting that every situation was different and calling for flexibility in pursuing all options to bring hostages home.
Hopefully the president will continue to prioritize the safe return of hostage overseas so that all who are detained abroad will eventually be reunited with their families.
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