Valley News – Before meeting one of her son’s killers, Diane Foley’s view of Jim had become apparent


Although she never actually said it, Diane Foley could have opened her face-to-face encounters with one of her son’s four killers this way:

“Hi. I’m Diane Foley. Jim sent me.

And in a way, Jim Foley had actually sent her. He was a New Hampshire photojournalist who was executed by Islamic State fighters in Syria in 2014. Diane met Alexanda Kotey, one of four men convicted of Jim’s murder, at the Justice Department in Virginie, twice last October and again just a few weeks ago.

The October meetings, Diane said, started awkwardly, then moved on to what she felt was a hint of remorse — or almost — shown by Kotey.

She said her last encounter was different.

“I was more irritated with him,” Diane said, cradling a cup of coffee as a blue shawl cradled her shoulders. “It was his deal, he had to talk to the families of the victims, but this last time it’s like he’s almost enjoying the fame. He kept talking about his moral compass. It pissed me off. sickened.

This was part of Kotey’s conviction. It was part of Diane’s healing process, albeit a small piece, and it was part of the legacy Jim embodied before he was killed by Islamic State, a brutal act that was videotaped and posted online at the horror of the world.

Sometime after his death, Diane’s view of Jim, her knowledge of him, became clearer. Jim’s actions were so selfless and meaningful, safely stored away to shield his family from worry, that even his own mother had underestimated the depth of his character and empathy.

Jim didn’t say much when he visited his family in Rochester, NH, over Christmas, one of the few times a year when he wasn’t reporting on wars in dangerous places. He preferred to listen. Her life was a bit too complex and dangerous to allow for light conversation over dinner.

“He was interviewing us,” Diane said, “He was like, ‘How are you, Mom?’ He would like to know what the little guys (nieces and nephews) were doing. He really didn’t say much about what he was doing and how he was becoming the man he had become. I was a little ignorant.

After his death, after Jim’s interiority, shrouded in modesty, clearly surfaced and the meeting with Kotey was proposed, Diane knew that her son “would have wanted me to meet him, that he would not have wanted from me or anyone else. be afraid of him, and he would like me to be able to see him as a person.

“I’m not saying it wasn’t a challenge, though,” she said.

She had Jim to lean on. Her soul was calling her, pushing her toward forgiveness, faith, humanity, and encounters with a killer.

Jim’s killer.

“Jim was trying to see the goodness in everyone,” Diane said. “It was one of his gifts. It was unusual. I didn’t realize how unusual it was.

Unusual enough to be taken hostage by Muammar Gaddafi’s henchmen in 2011 in Libya. A fellow journalist was shot dead during the attack.

Unusual enough to be held captive for 44 days and then return to Libya later in the year in time to watch the rebels kill Gaddafi.

And unusual enough to return to combat journalism in Syria the following year. Civilians were dying. The world needed to see. Jim, a freelancer, had built a large following, filming and writing for major outlets in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Diane said Jim had many girlfriends but never married, uneasy about committing when his dangerous and unpredictable long-term goal lay elsewhere.

He dedicated his life to photographing the horrors of war. CNN interviewed him. The fighting in Syria and the plight of the refugees called for it. His mother worried about him.

“He was very careful and took safety courses, but he had two master’s degrees and he could have done anything,” Diane said. “He could teach, he was great with kids, but he felt a call to do it. We thought it was getting so dangerous.

Jim was kidnapped in November 2012. He was killed 21 months later. The video released by ISIS drew angry words from the Obama administration.

By then, however, Diane and her family had grown disillusioned with the US government. She called herself naïve for believing that the authorities made the release of Jim and other noncombatant hostages a priority.

She went to Washington, DC, alone, not knowing where or who to visit, looking for anyone who could provide useful information.

“I was determined, but I failed,” Diane said. “I failed because there was no one responsible for bringing the Americans back. There was no entity I needed to talk to.

His sense of abandonment continued when the United States refused to pay a ransom demand and threatened the Foleys with legal action if they attempted to collect the money themselves. She met with federal officials, who she said paid lip service but did little else.

She mentioned former national security adviser Susan Rice.

“She was nice, but she really cheated on me,” Diane said. “She knew it was not a national priority but was not candid with me or able to be transparent. When other hostages (from other countries) started coming out, I realized that this was not was not at all a priority for our government.

Instead, she made it her own priority, two years after Jim’s death. She quit her job as a nurse practitioner and established the James Foley Legacy Foundation, dedicating her life, full-time, to defending the return of American hostages and promoting the safety of journalists who report in times of war.

She remains disappointed with her government.

“As far as a priority, it never was,” Diane said. “It’s appalling. I was mad. I felt as Americans we had to do better. After his death I was speechless about how we had been treated and I was angry. I felt determined to do better, or we should at least try.

Jim inspired her to meet Kotey. Her voice and her heart followed her into a large conference room with bright lights and members of the prosecution and defense teams, and the FBI.

She was happy with the talks at the second meeting in October, saying, “I felt like he was starting to feel remorse. He didn’t say he was sorry. He said it was all part of the war, but he has a mother, he is close to his own mother, so he could relate.

Diane said any goodwill created last fall faded at the last meeting last month. She said Kotey began to rationalize his behavior, but her previous dialogue with him convinced her that she had continued her son’s work.

That’s his goal.

“I felt a human connection,” she said. “I think Jim would have wanted that. He was precious to me, but I really didn’t realize what an incredible man he had become.

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