The latest video posted this morning by ISIS militants shows members of the extremist organization threatening the lives of two Japanese hostages, Private Military Company CEO Haruna Yukawa (above) and freelance journalist Kenji Goto; both Japanese citizens were captured by the extremist group last year. The macabre setting of this morning’s video is heartbreakingly familiar: the orange jumpsuit-clad hostages knelt in front of a rocky dune next to the same hooded spokesman who has been featured in earlier beheading videos.
In this morning’s video, ISIS demands that the Japanese government pay the group $200 million dollars for Goto and Yukawa’s safe return. This was apparently in reference to the recent decision by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to commit $200 million in non-military aid to countries fighting ISIS; that decision was announced Saturday and was intended to support infrastructure projects. Abe also announced Saturday that his government is ready to commit an additional $2.5 billion humanitarian support. These monies are in addition to the country’s $2.2 billion dollar pledge two years ago to support humanitarian causes in the Middle East.
Seventeen victims had also been brutally and senselessly killed in one of Europe’s deadliest terrorist attacks in contemporary memory. They include: Charlie Hebdo editor, Stephane Charbonnier; 76-year-old cartoonist, Jean Cabut; Muslim-French police officer, Ahmed Merabet; and, many more.
The Charlie Hebdo shootings have sparked an international outcry, much of it justified anger against an unjustifiable act of terrorism. This is a viewpoint I share with nearly every public pundit who has waded into the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack: mass murder — even mass murder in the name of a political cause — is inexcusable. Period. Full stop.
Where pundits and commentators disagree, however, is in the details of this incident, and the intersection of cultural diversity versus free speech rights.
Over the last few days, mainstream news have tacitly suggested that these two passengers were — by virtue of their forged passports — responsible for the jet’s disappearance. Twitter and other social networking sites have been more explicit, openly theorizing over terrorism.
These theories were whipped into a frenzy yesterday when it was revealed that the two non-Asian passengers flying on forged passports were of Iranian descent.
Because, y’know, “Iranian” is synonymous with “terrorist”.
A group claiming responsibility on social media does not prove a terrorist attack. Although we now know that Benghazi wasn’t the work of an innocent mob, I don’t see how these emails are convincing evidence of a White House cover-up; more likely, there was LOTS of information coming from the intelligence community in the wake of the attacks, some of it contradictory and all of which needed to be sorted through and verified.
While the response to Benghazi was clearly mishandled by the White House and/or the intelligence community, I think this is also something of a manufactured controversy. I think the administration was keeping the public apprised of the situation as they felt they were able to do, and (as sometimes happens when you’re doing this kind of work) the initial conclusions based on the available evidence were wrong, as more evidence was uncovered.
Also, imagine for example the alternative: what would’ve been the consequences had the White House claimed that the Benghazi attacks were a terrorist action, and were later found to be wrong? Would we really have wanted the White House to rush to a conclusion that pointed fingers at various terrorist organizations, without having all the facts?