State Dept. on Beheading of U.S. Journalist: 'This Is Not About the United States'

Brittany M. Hughes | August 21, 2014 | 6:23am EDT
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President Barack Obama approaches a podium in Edgartown, Mass., Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, to address members of the media about the killing of American journalist James Foley by ISIS terrorists. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

( - Deputy State Department spokesperson Marie Harf on Wednesday condemned the beheading of American journalist James Foley by Islamic terrorists, but she also stated that the ISIS threat “is not about the United States and what we do.”

Harf spoke after President Obama told the nation that “governments and peoples across the Middle East” should come together in a “common effort to extract this cancer, so that it does not spread.” He then went golfing.

"I think ISIL wants to make this about the United States and our actions. And I think what the President was trying to say was that this is not about the United States and what we do. This is about countries in the region coming together to fight a shared threat, and this is not about us."

Foley, captured in Syria in 2012, was brutally murdered by the militant Islamic group ISIS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who then posted a video showing the beheading on YouTube and threatened to kill more Americans if the United States tries to intervene in Iraq.

Obama said Foley’s murder “shocks the conscience of the entire world.”

Harf told reporters there was “no justification” for Foley’s murder, but she couldn’t say how President Barack Obama plans to respond to ISIS now that they have murdered a U.S. citizen.

When pressed by reporters for details on what the United States expects from the other governments in the Middle East, Harf refused to go into specifics on how the administration is working with other countries to eliminate the threat posed by ISIS.

“Clearly there’s more we can all do to fight ISIL,” she said.

Harf also emphasized the administration’s view that ISIS does not accurately represent the religion of Islam as a whole.

“ISIL does not operate in the name of any religion. The president has been very clear about that, and the more we can underscore that, the better,” Harf said.

Harf reiterated the Obama administration’s ongoing stance against “boots on the ground,” saying that combating ISIS includes focusing on cutting off the group’s funding and resources. As to whether future actions would include rescue operations or the use of military personnel, Harf said she could not comment.

The day after ISIS released footage of the murder, Obama put on a jacket and appeared before the TV cameras in Martha’s Vineyard to give a brief statement condemning ISIS:

"One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century,” the president said, adding the United States will be “vigilant” and “relentless” in pursuing justice for the slain journalist.

ISIS, now fighting to establish its own state stretching from Syria through Iraq, has left a trail of terror in dozens of cities, indiscriminately killing anyone who does not subscribe to their extremism, including fellow Muslims, Christians and ethnic minorities.

Reports of beheaded children, mass executions and thousands of displaced citizens fleeing the violence have become regular occurrences as the Islamist group works its way toward the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

Foley is the first American to be killed by ISIS in Iraq.

In the video showing Foley’s murder, ISIS threatened to kill another captive U.S. journalist, Time magazine contributor Steven Soltoff, unless Obama halts the airstrikes he ordered this month against the group.

The video also warned Obama that his actions “will result in the bloodshed of your people.”

During his brief address, the president sought to separate the jihadist group from the larger religion of Islam.

"ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents,” the President said. “No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. People like this ultimately fail. They fail because the future is won by people who build and not destroy.”

As ISIS began closing in on the Iraqi city of Erbil, where the United States has a consulate and many U.S. personnel, President Obama ordered “limited” air strikes against the group, but he has so far refused to deploy troops on the ground to combat the ISIS threat.

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