As with previous issues, the latest release of the Islamic State’s propaganda magazine Dabiq features a piece ostensibly written by hostage John Cantlie, a British photographer kidnapped in 2012 alongside subsequently murdered American journalist James Foley.
He also says Foley was under the mistaken impression earlier in the morning that he was being taken out to make a video that would be “good for all of us,” to which Cantlie replies, “No, this isn’t just a video.”
There is always reason to doubt that anything purportedly written by the hostage photographer for ISIS was written voluntarily, or even written by Cantlie’s hand at all. He might not even be alive; he was featured regularly in ISIS videos in the past, but has not appeared in one for quite a while. Hostages freed from the Islamic State’s clutches have said Cantlie, Foley, and other prisoners were tortured and brainwashed.
With all due skepticism in mind that anything in Dabiq reflects John Cantlie’s sincere beliefs, the article under his byline in the latest issue talks about the hostage experience, blaming America and Britain for getting hostages killed by failing to pay the ransoms ISIS demands.
“I know more about what happened after the last European went home than anybody else alive,” Cantlie writes. “I don’t think or talk much about what happened back then. I have moved on both physically and mentally and have tried to put it behind me. We cannot live forever in the past. But it was an entirely avoidable sequence of events that will be stained forever with the blood of my former cellmates and remains a pillar of shame for the governments involved. Nothing will ever change the way America and Britain cynically left their people to die while every other nation got their citizens home.”
The opening paragraphs of the piece are juxtaposed with a photo of President Barack Obama wearing a facial expression that suggests he deeply regrets whatever he ate for lunch that day, and the front pages of newspapers criticizing him for nipping off to the golf course after delivering a brief statement on Foley’s murder. Subsequent pages of the article feature photos of President Obama golfing, and Foley suffering a knife beheading.
Cantile says the “fallout” from ISIS executing American hostages included a change in U.S. policy on negotiations:
Suddenly it was okay for families to discuss ransoms running into the millions of dollars when less than a year before this policy shift any folk that tried to do so – and Diane Foley and the others certainly tried – were threatened with prosecution by national security agents. I’ve heard no word on Britain’s stance on the same subject but since they meekly do whatever America does a little further down the road, then it’s quite possible they have now changed their position as well.
He calls the “hard-line” position of refusing to negotiate with ISIS “stupid,” and says countries that take such a stance are “condemning your imprisoned citizens to death.” He also claims the Islamic State no longer needs the money from ransom payments as much as it used to, because it now “pumps millions of dollars a day in oil revenue.”
In fact, he says the “mujahadin” (holy warriors) only demand ransom because the Koran instructs them to do so, citing the relevant verse in its entirety.
“Make no mistake about it, the mujahidin follow the Koran to the letter, say what they mean, and mean what they say,” he warns. “They don’t play games, a fact that was not lost on the European countries whose citizens were prisoners.” He goes on to blame the American government for the death of hostage Kayla Mueller, who was brutalized and sexually abused by her Islamic State captors, claiming that she was killed by a coalition bomb.
Perhaps the most deranged passage from the article is Cantlie’s reference to former cellmate Nicholas Henin of France, who he describes as a “peculiar fish” whose company he enjoyed.
“One of my favorite Nic-isms was when he got a sound thrashing from a guard for throwing bread down the toilet, and he announced to the room in a high-pitched voice, who had just watched him sail past the door on his head before getting a pretty decent one-two in front of all of us, that ‘I have just been beeeee-ten!’ Ah, such happy days,” Cantlie writes.
Cantlie suggests that paying ISIS ransom is good P.R. for compliant governments, while America’s intransigence unleashed a “tirade of public anger and bitterness” after Foley’s beheading in 2014.
“Nobody had ever seen anything like it, certainly not on this scale, and it made the front page of every newspaper and TV headline in the world,” Cantlie writes. “Initially the anger was directed at the mujahadin for conducting the executions, but very soon it became clear the governments involved could have done a great deal more to get their people out and all eyes turned towards them. The deaths were a result of the actions – or rather complete inaction – of the American and British politicians.”
Cantlie claims to have seen emails between the Islamic State’s “negotiators” and the families of hostages. “The desperation and pleading for more time by mothers as they singlehandedly tried to facilitate the freeings of prisoners held in ‘black site’ US prisons in exchange for their sons was awful to read, and testament to just how little their government had done, or even discussed with them as the clock ticked relentlessly down,” he writes, citing the efforts of Steven Sotloff’s mother to get President Obama to arrange such a prisoner swap.
Cantlie also taunts the Americans and British for failing to halt the “caliphate’s” expansion of its borders with their hardline policies.
“Did those decisions stop affiliate Islamic groups in the Sinai Peninsula, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Nigeria, and Libya from declaring allegiance ot the Caliphate, thereby creating the largest sharia governance ever seen in the modern world? No. Did it stop the Islamic State pushing back the feeble Iraqi army and capturing most of Anbar province while the Shia dropped their guns and fled? No. Did it stop America from spending billions of dollars on the air campaign thus far and deploying thousands of advisory troops in a country they departed in 2011? No. And did it stop attacks by mujahidin in Texas, New York, Tunisia, and California throughout 2015 that have left dozens of Britons and Americans killed or wounded? Absolutely not,” he asserts.
Cantlie concludes by naming another murdered ISIS hostage, Peter Kassig, claiming that a few days before he died, he said, “Maybe after I’m dead, somehow something good will come of it.”
“His death, and the deaths of the others, shamed America into change,” Cantlie writes. “But the shedding of their blood could have been so easily avoided in the first place.”