ISIS has released a video purporting to show the beheading of American journalist James Wright Foley, who had been missing for almost two years. The video, which also threatens to do the same to a man identified as American journalist Steven Sotloff, will not be linked to on this blog.

Foley had gone missing in northwest Syria in November of 2012, and Sotloff, a reporter for Time, had disappeared in mid-2013, perhaps in Libya. ISIS accompanied the video with a message that:

…U.S. President Barack Obama’s authorization of strikes against the group places the United States “upon a slippery slope towards a new war front against Muslims,” according to BNO.

“Any attempt by you, Obama, to deny Muslims liberty & safety under the Islamic caliphate, will result in the bloodshed of your people,” the ISIS person added.

Foley also speaks in the video, saying: “I call on my friends, family members and loved ones to rise up against my real killers, the U.S. government.”

There is a longer version of Foley’s statement here.

Apparently he was reading it, and it is difficult if not impossible to know whether he meant his words or not. Perhaps Foley thought that if he read the statement his captors might spare his life, although his words indicate that he fully expected them to kill him. If the video is for real—and so far there is no indication whatsoever that it is not—his statement would have to have been made while he was under an extraordinarily extreme form of coercion and dread.

Ever since the video of the beheading of journalist Daniel Pearl was released in early 2002, the world has known that Islamic terrorists are fully capable of such things and are extremely eager to brag about them.

The purpose of such acts and the publicity that follows is manifold: to inspire other jihadis with the extremity of their savagery, and to intimidate the west by sowing widespread horror and fear and ultimately capitulation—and, if not capitulation, then retaliation, which can then be used to fire up even more terrorism, in an ever-increasing spiral of blood and gore.

This is barbaric evil, and although it has the purposes described in the previous paragraph, it cannot be really “understood,” only fought:

If it were necessary to fully understand evil in order to fight it, World War II would have never been won by the Allies. What is necessary is to be able to recognize evil and see it for what it is quite early in the game. Those are the important first steps. The next steps are finding the will and the tools to fight it. Evil is very strong, because it doesn’t know the same restraints and limits as morality or good.

To the family of James Wright Foley, deep and heartfelt condolences. To the family of Steven Sotloff, hopes and prayers that he will not meet the same fate. But ISIS is not just their enemy. It is an enemy to all civilized people.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]