James Foley was courageous, and his murder by an apparently English-accented zealot of the Syria-based Islamic State was so horrific that no simple narrative can do it justice. Unless, that is, you're a conservative political opportunist of a special sort, eager to pin the crime on liberal policies.
The right wing, drunk on a fermenting rotgut of hyperpatriotism and anti-left paranoia, just knows that Foley's murderers were enabled by bleeding hearts and due process. They think they've found proof that Foley's executioner was a prisoner freed from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Maybe it was even Barack Hussein Obama himself who gave the order to free this killer!
Unnamed aggregators at Twitchy, the dittoheads who stare at tweets, were the first to round up grumblings—or perhaps hopes—among right-wingers early Wednesday that Foley's murderer was freed from the detainee pool. These tinfoil hatters took their inspiration from two anonymously sourced paragraphs buried in an early Washington Post report on Foley's murder from Tuesday:
A European intelligence official said the British government was examining the video, and the speech of the purported executioner, to compare it with former Guantanamo Bay prisoners and other British residents believed to have joined the Islamic State.
Both prisoners in the video are wearing orange shirts and pants, similar to orange jumpsuits worn by detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A similar outfit, believed to be a jihadist symbol of the prison, was worn by Nicholas Berg, an American businessman kidnapped in Iraq in 2004 whose execution by an Islamic State precursor organization was recorded on video and posted online.
Translation: Flummoxed U.K. intel officials were checking the murder against the usual suspects, hoping to stumble onto a clue in the tiny pool of data they already had before reluctantly wading into the murkier waters of global jihadism. That's standard sleuthing.
And it's sadly unsurprising that the Islamic State's propagandists dressed Foley up in an oversized t-shirt mimicking the infamous orange jumpsuits put on problem detainees at Gitmo; Al Qaeda in Iraq had similarly garbed several of its condemned captives in outfits imitating the jumpsuits—enduring symbols of the mistreatments, real and supposed, of Gitmo inmates.
But to Islamophobic, Gitmo-loving conservatives, these paragraphs could mean so much more:
WaPo: 'British examining [Foley] video...to compare it with former Guantanamo Bay prisoners...believed to have joined the Islamic State.'
— Byron York (@ByronYork) August 20, 2014
@ByronYork So we had him. Released him. And surprise ,he did more evil stuff. Blood on the admins hands. Sickening.
— Chris Tsotsoros (@ctsotsoros) August 20, 2014
Presumably, Tsotsoros meant the Bush administration, since it's the one that released all of the 10 British citizens that have been repatriated from Guantanamo, all between 2004 and 2007. And York's choice of ellipses is deceptive, since it implies that the Post was referring to some of those ex-detainees as Syria-based jihadists, when it also was referencing a larger pool of some 800 to 1,500 other British citizens that have traveled to fight for ISIS. (None of the U.K.'s ex-Gitmo inmates is believed to have gone to Syria except Moazzam Begg, who has been in British custody since February on charges related to his travels.)
But never let facts get in the way of a good psychotic B.S. meme. By Wednesday morning, Hot Air's Ed Morrisey was just asking questions, and the game of right-wing telephone was on:
— Paul R. Reyes (@PaulRReyes) August 20, 2014
While Obama silent on James Foley, press reveals WH knew of threats to his safety & possible Gitmo link to killer. http://t.co/eOFTyNIpPv
— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) August 20, 2014
Was Foley’s killer released from Gitmo? http://t.co/l3sx6Ls4si Beheading video eyed for ex-prisoners who joined Islamic State
— WND News (@worldnetdaily) August 20, 2014
When you think of Journalist Foley's beheading remember that Obama turned 5 Islamists lose from Gitmo in exchange for deserter Bergdahl.
— WeirdReport (@WeirdReport) August 21, 2014
By Wednesday night, the Gitmo link had become "likely" on conservative Twitter:
I did not realize the executioner was likely a GITMO detainee. http://t.co/RKsFOCx0o2
— Amy Otto (@AmyOtto8) August 21, 2014
We need to be focusing more on whether John Foley’s murderer was a Gitmo detainee — and why Obama still wants to release Gitmo detainees.
— Ken Gardner (@kesgardner) August 21, 2014
The rumors, like hot sludge on a city street, had trickled down to the lowest internet gutter:
The ISIS thug who murdered American journalist James Foley may have been Gitmo detainee http://t.co/RnHnrtA4tv If so, why was he released?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2014
And the rumors mutated into straight-up, demonstrably false partisan bullshit:
Word is,the executioner of James Foley was former detainee at Gitmo, who was released by Obama! Notice lately Obama not talking about Gitmo!
— James L.Peach, Sr. (@pearlpeche) August 21, 2014
If James Foley's executioner was releasled from Guantanamo, Obama should be impeached immediately.
— Jack (@BennyKubelsky) August 20, 2014
— ┌П┐(•_•) (@exposeliberals) August 20, 2014
Did Obama release terrorist who beheaded James Foley from Gitmo? http://t.co/wktLuFVuq7
— Phx Ken (@PhxKen) August 21, 2014
— Politics Matter (@Politics_Matter) August 20, 2014
Obama Knew ISIS Was Planning To Behead Foley. The Terrorist: Possible Former Guantanamo Detainee: http://t.co/1wZGSjBiSL
— Dr. Marty Fox (@DrMartyFox) August 20, 2014
— ┌П┐(•_•) (@exposeliberals) August 22, 2014
And hey, where did the Islamofascists get that orange jumpsuit anyway? Isn't that federal government property? You can't just buy that stuff, right?
How was James Foley dressed in a Gitmo outfit? How did ISIS get it? Seems very odd.
— Moon-Eyed Girl (@mooneyedgirl) August 21, 2014
Let me reiterate: Whatever hype you may hear, no U.K. Guantanamo detainee released by this administration is responsible for this reprehensible murder, because this administration hasn't released any U.K. detainees from Guantanamo.
Is it remotely possible that one of the 10 Gitmo detainees with British citizenship released by the Bush administration has slipped off into Syria and become an executioner? I don't know the whereabouts of all of them, so I can't say no for sure. But it's astronomically less likely than the possibility that "Jihadi John," as the Brits are calling Foley's presumed killer, is any one of several hundred other disaffected Syria-based zealots with U.K. passports—like, say, this doctor's brother, or any of these idiots, all of them younger than the Gitmo releasees.
About the only thing that's certain is that conservatives—who cleave to simplistic, manichaean narratives like ornery toddlers to security blankets—must have a villain, even if they have to create it.
[Photo credit: Twitter]