Posts are circulating on the Internet claiming that the James Foley beheading video is a fake.
To start with, was the video James Foley really James Foley?
Elsewhere, his parents are accused of over-acting -- or is it under-acting? In either event, the parents are assumed to know it wasn´t their son in the video but have been ordered by the CIA and FBI to keep silent and tell lies.
One of the most probative posts was made by Kristie, a nurse. I worked as an inhalation therapist in Maricopa County General Hospital. Translation: they called me when somebody was dying. (In-house secret: "STAT" was the code). Kristie:
"[T]his incident is making me quite angry. It is an obvious psy-op being used as excuse for more intervention in the Middle East.
This alleged beheading video is the biggest crock of shit I've ever seen. Nothing like giving a speech on your knees, with your back straight and your chest out, right before someone's going to cut your head off. No crying. No shaking in his voice. Then a guy supposedly sawing at his neck, with a knife no less, no blood gush, no real struggle and then cut the recording.
Now when you see someone actually about to be beheaded by some heart-eating jihadi, the men are cowering on their knees, backs bent, with their heads looking down, shaking and crying because they know it's all about to end. They're usually already in pools of piss from fear. I've seen enough of the real thing to know what it looks like when a man is about to die.
I will tell you what is the dead giveaway that this video was a fake. You can see as he is giving his little speech that his jugular vein is not distended in his neck. Someone who is about to be killed is going to have sky high blood pressure and heart rate. If you look closely enough you can even count his heart rate in that neck vein, which to me, having been a critical care nurse for 20 years, looks to be running about in the lower 80's. Then when the supposed jihadi tilts his head backward there is zero jugular vein distention. The man in the film is not about to die."
Kristie referred to the presumed motive for the hoax: to manufacture a gut-wrenching cry by the American people for justice (read: revenge), which would serve as the perfect pretext to bomb Syria where part of the terrorist ISIS base is located. That bombing is exactly what General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is calling for.
If to arouse public support for bombing Syria was the goal of faking a Foley beheading, it has a hard row to hoe. A year ago, a Pew poll showed only 29% of Americans favored bombing Syria.
The media are now reporting that an international hunt is on to identify Jihadi John. British intelligence is focusing on the speech accent in the video, which seems to be from East London or southern England.
If you want to track down a terrorist, the first thing you must do is think like one. To wit:
If you were working for ISIS, what would you do in a video of the murder of James Foley?
Here are four possibilities:
(1) The first would be to fake an accent in the sound portion so as to send British and American intelligence officers on a wild-goose chase. I spent a year in London, 1990-1. Such a marvelous time -- which is why it pains me to tell British intelligence something, but it appears somebody had better do it. United Kingdom regional accents can be faked. You don´t believe it? First, look here. Next, look there. Still not convinced? O.K. -- look here.
(2) Secondly, you would have the voice in the video be of a different person than black-clothed Jihadi John. Objective: make Western intelligence services waste even more time trying to put various haves together -- eyes/voice, physique/accent, hands/phrasing -- that don´t form any whole anywhere. Even people who personally knew Jihadi John would be confused and unable to make a positive I.D. I swear he sounds exactly like my ex-neighbor...but that guy was white, short, fat...forget it.
(3) Assuming you want to hide your location, you substitute for the landscape behind you a computer simulation of someplace else. You know that the U.S. has satellite maps and that they will be searching with high-powered computers for the landscape in question. You also know they will eventually find it -- and they do, only...it´s wrong. Again, more time wasted.
(4) Finally, Jihadi John is left-handed. Or is he? A simple but ingenious mise-en-scène to primrose-path the unwary. You got it -- more precious time wasted.
Time is the reason soldiers are ordered and trained to resist torture. Sure, under physical and mental duress anybody and everybody will eventually break down. Why resist, then?
Answer: the more time passes before cracking, the more time the captive´s accomplices and allies have to escape; to change supply routes; to form new communication channels; to switch tactics and personnel. With every passing second, any information a captive offers is rendered more useless, if not downright misleading. Terrorists understand that fact very well -- better, in fact, than the people torturing them. Now your know why Guantanamo prisoner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of 9/11, held out -- why he had to be water-boarded 183 times.
I want to return to Jihadi John´s accent; it seems to be the order of the day.
I had a good friend, John B., who studied Spanish with me in Bogotá, Colombia. He didn´t speak Spanish -- he commanded it. In a fortnight he had the "rolo" accent down perfectly; Bogotanos thought he was from Bogotá. A month later we students went to Cartagena which has a totally different accent; in two days the locals were asking John B. if he was from Cartagena.
Blond-haired blue-eyed John B. was from Oregon. He said the CIA kept trying to recruit him. Imagine: you train a spy, drop him into Cuba or Syria; he has zero foreign accent. Zero. One John B. is worth a 100 Snowdens -- make that 200; we´ll see why in a moment.
John B. told the CIA to get lost; he wanted to be a Spanish teacher. The last time I saw him, I asked him what was the secret to mastering an accent. "Find the song inside," he said; after that, "you can hang things on it."
Over the years I realized each language is a frequency; an accent is a modulation in that frequency. In 1994, when I was studying Russian at the Moscow State Linguistic University, the professors showed keen interest in that pet theory; we discussed it at length. I don´t know if they ever did anything with it.
In considering accents, languages, and songs as interrelated frequencies, frankly I don´t think I am revealing anything of much interest, certainly not to the FBI or CIA. As John B. put it, when it comes to imitating accents, hopelessly tone-deaf people need not apply.
* * *
Let us assume that
(1) The James Foley in the video was in fact James Foley, and that he was killed by Jihadi John. (2) Jihadi John is a British subject, he spoke in the video, and his accent is not an imitation. (3) Jihadi John is not in the British intelligence data bank of British Jihadists. That bank is obviously Square One in any reasonable search for Jihadi John. (Our next post will challenge one of those assumptions.)
We want to help SIS (MI6), the British secret service, track him down. We have a terrorist I.D. procedure that is not based on accents, although in this case the accent (assuming it is real) would clearly speed up the hunt by reducing the search area.
Step 1. MI6, I know that throughout the Foley affair you will be your usual courteous, chivalrous selves in your treatment of American colleagues, i.e., all those CIA, Secret Service, and FBI agents; all those Pentagon, National Security Agency, and Homeland Security personnel; all those various and sundry Washington consultants and Ivy League advisors who are flooding you with emails and Skype calls, and jumping on overnight flights and landing on your doorstep. After all, they only want to "help" you identify Jihadi John.
MI6, I think you will discover sooner rather than later that the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed newcomers are not, to put it mildly, strategic thinkers. When all is said and done -- and it will be -- when it comes to terrorists, they have precious little to offer. Here´s why:
As you may already suspect, your American colleagues are wonderful time-wasters. They are loaded with data beamed down from wonderful, billion-dollar, whiz-bang vehicles in outer space. 100 million telephone conversations bugged and 100 million emails tapped = ... what? They hopelessly confuse information with understanding; quantity with quality; collecting with doing; technospeak with knowledge. They never have made any difference between them, and never will. Please, don´t try to change them. Time/Time/Time.
A good pat on the back and hearty cheerio -- then, out the door.
Step 2. Jihadi John has the indelible watermark of a middle class rebel turned terrorist. I realize those words are probably meaningless to you, MI6; I won´t attempt to explain them here. If you are truly interested in understanding ISIS, instead of a 100 million emails read The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion. You will see why the queue of Jihadi Johns is long and getting longer.
Step 3. Here I quote from our post of April 29, 2013 on the Boston terrorist attack by the Tsarnaev brothers:
Our Terrorist I.D. Procedure:
1. Take out a telephone book.
2. Open it to universities and colleges.
3. Call their engineering schools.
4. Acquire lists of their present and past students and professors.
Before continuing: why engineering schools?
Mark Sageman, formerly a C.I.A. psychiatrist, concluded from his first-hand study of terrorists: "Very often these persons have already chosen such unambiguous technical fields as engineering, architecture, computer science, or medicine. Students of the humanities and social sciences were few and far between in my sample." (Marc Sageman, Understanding Terrorist Networks, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2004, p. 116. Cited in The Source of Terrorism, p. 295). For the record, Dr. Sageman also concluded that terrorists were "generally middle-class, educated young men." (Op.cit., p. 96.)
5. Tamerlan [Tzarnaev] was a former engineering student. Dkhokhar [Tzarnaev] was a marine biology student. In this case, the FBI had photos of the suspects. The fact the FBI released the photos to the media showed it had zero leads regarding who the suspects were and hoped the general public would help. Tragically, the publication of the photos tipped off the brothers that the noose was tightening; their spree of violence ensued.
The FBI should have withheld the photos and showed them only to engineering school personnel. They would have identified and located the Tsarnaevs within hours.
6. If engineering schools do not provide leads, proceed to other hard science faculties, e.g., medicine, computer science and architecture, thereafter to all other faculties associated with middle class professions.
7. If universities and colleges provide no leads, shake the tree. Open the phone book again. Bring in all middle class professionals, e.g., engineers, lawyers, doctors and accountants, for interrogation. Somebody will know something.
The Procedure is déjà vu for regular readers of this blog. An outline appeared in our post of July 4, 2011, "Abimael Guzman: Terrorists in Tights." That post has received an extraordinary number of visits from around the world. 95% of the visitors do not leave traces of their geographical location/other co-ordinates. In other words: the visitors are primarily intelligence agents.
Back to the present. MI6: it is entirely possible, as some argue, that Jihadi John is a lumpenproletariat, i.e., a petty criminal. The Source of Terrorism discusses how extreme violence (ISIS´ trademark) results whenever lumpens hook up with middle class rebels.* I think the lumpen option for Jihadi John is less likely than the one I am suggesting.
Your diligent inquiries into hard science students, teachers, technicians and professionals will doubtlessly turn up some missing persons. Where are they? The answer will lead you straight to Jihadi John within weeks.
Coming soon. A response to readers´ requests: "(2) The James Foley Video: A New Explanation."
*Update, August 27, 2014. The first known American casualty among ISIS soldiers has just been announced. James McArthur McCain, a petty criminal who had been arrested nine times, fit the lumpenproletariat mold.
Back in May another American, the Florida-grown, basketball-loving Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, died in a truck suicide attack in Syria while fighting for another terrorist group, al-Nusra Front. I would place Moner in the middle class; his father owns a string of small grocery stores.
James McCain died while fighting not against the Syrian Government or the U.S., but Moner´s al-Nusra Front. For the innate tendency of such groups to split, split and split again, see our post of June 10, 2014 "The Baddest Terrorist: Poison, Dagger, Noose, Etc." and The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion, pp. 226-234.