Two New Messages From ISIS Hostage John Cantlie

ISIS hostage John Cantlie has a new video message (Episode 3 of "Lend Me Your Ears") available on You Tube here. It's much the same message as prior videos. More interesting is a new written statement by Cantlie addressing media claims that his video messages are scripted or written by ISIS.

Cantlie's new written statement is contained in the final pages of the just released Issue 4 of ISIS's Dabiq Magazine, available here in English. [More...]

The written statement appears to be more recent than the video, as it refers to the killing of Alan Henning. (Cantlie also says in the written statement that 8 of the video messages were filmed at the same time.)

Cantlie's written statement is very compelling. I am reprinting it in full below because I think he deserves to be heard and quoted, and many won't take the time to cut and paste from a magazine article printed in PDF format. I believe that the statement was written by Cantlie and is not an ISIS scripts. Others may disagree, but before forming an opinion, they should at least read the whole thing.

Forgive me in advance, but there are many references to myself in the following article. I dislike talking about myself, it appears arrogant, but it’s my voice and words being analyzed by journalists following the release of videos shot by the Islamic State. And to put things into perspective, I have to tell parts of my story.

One observation is that the videos are scripted, and that perhaps I have no choice in the content. This is not true. The mujahidin suggest initial titles, I write the scripts, hand them over for any copy changes that need to be made and the videos are shot. It’s all very fast – the first eight videos were written, approved and filmed in just 12 days – but the mujahidin are like that. In quick, get the job done, move on to the next task.

When your brain has had nothing to work on for two years except basic survival, and is suddenly put onto centre stage in front of the world’s media, it’s a shock to the system. Nothing, nothing, kablam! You’re on.

I was used to working for the news before, not being the news, and it’s very different. Every word you say is examined, especially if you’re in my situation. So to really understand the content of the films, and why I say what I sometimes say, you need to appreciate the story behind the scenes.

As a friend, once said to me, I am nobody going nowhere. I am just a man in a dark room with a mattress on the floor. It is clean and comfortable; for a man in my position, it is enough. Four of my cellmates have already been executed by the Islamic State in the most visceral way possible after the British and American governments apparently made a joint decision not to discuss terms for our release with our captors. And now, unless something changes very quickly and very radically, I await my turn.

Such an environment forces the mind to change. I’ve had to become pretty tough inside, sometimes just to get through each day. The Sheikh who originally captured James Foley and me back in November 2012 said, “to go through this you will need a heart of stone.” And he was right. I try to stay very calm, tolerant and accepting of my situation. Muslims call it ‘Qadr Allah,’ the will of God, who determines everything in advance.

I am thankful for any comfort I receive and for every plate of food I get. It hasn’t been an easy road, and some of us had a bumpy ride. Once we were finally put into general population with dozens of European prisoners, we had to watch them all go home to their loved ones while we, the British and Americans, were left behind. That was a bitter pill to swallow, but nothing compared to what came next. Now I’ve had to watch as James, Steven Sotloff, David Haines and Alan Henning walked out of the door, one every two weeks since August 18th, never to return, knowing they were going to be killed and going to their deaths.

And now they’re gone, their faces and deaths plastered all over the world’s headlines, four foolish policy victims. What does that do to a man? After enduring years of pain, darkness and regret, to see it all end in such a ghastly way when everyone else went home, to see ordinary guys, family men, loving fathers killed because their governments wouldn’t negotiate because of ‘policy,’ wouldn’t even discuss options for saving them with their families – can you begin to imagine how that feels?

This wasn’t a fateful soul taken at random, it was individuals missing for years in one of the most high-profile hostage crisis seen in modern history, with dozens of witnesses who had gone home testifying they were alive and could be helped. I believe even the mujahidin were genuinely surprised at how easily our countries left us for dead.

We’d come all this way, putting one foot in front of the other, supporting one another when it got tough, praying together every day. We used to call it the Dead Zone when things got bad, after the area Everest climbers face above 26,000 feet as they approach the summit, when every step is agony, when they hardly have enough strength to carry on. We never gave up hope that our nations would negotiate for our release.

But all that time, we never knew that the decision regarding our fate had been made months beforehand in Washington and Whitehall. We never knew that our families, for whom it was like being locked up in prison with us, were being blanked by the governments or being told there was nothing they could do. We never knew that the families were left to themselves to try anything and everything, while the men in charge folded their arms and offered their sympathies.

What does that do to a man? It makes you deeply upset at such gross injustice. hat’s for sure. I am not in possession of all the facts, and of course, I am biased. But how the head of state of any country could sit and watch us die here like this, then criticize their NATO partners for getting their people home seems utterly ruthless. Since when has not wanting to see your citizens executed in front of the world’s media been an act of weakness?

America has paid ransoms and exchanged prisoners for hostages held by terrorist groups before. Just this year there was the release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan, who was exchanged for no less than five high-level prisoners out of Guantanamo. Britain has also paid ransoms and exchanged prisoners for hostages with known terror groups. In 1991 Terry Waite finally came home for a ransom of around $5 million, while a clandestine prisoner exchange took place with the Kosovo Liberation Army. That was in 1994, I believe. But not us.

Somehow we slipped through every safety net, every policy change, and ended up on the floor of what will surely go down as one of the worst hostage disasters of recent times. Yes, America tried to ‘rescue’ us, but instead of spending all those millions of dollars sending ninja commandos in stealth helicopters and risking countless more lives like it was some Hollywood action movie, wouldn’t it have been safer and wiser to have just discussed options for prisoner exchange in the first place? Even if nothing could have been agreed, surely it was worth discussing with the Islamic State. What possible harm could come from negotiations? I will never understand why we were deemed so expendable, but that doesn’t really matter now.

To watch your friends die the way they did when there seemed so much that could have been done to prevent it at a political level has been extremely difficult. I expected the hardest knocks to come from inside these prison walls, not outside, and it’s almost torn me in two. Britain is a small country, an island nation with old traditions that used to mean something. Now? I don’t know. It’s not until you get into a situation as extreme as this that you start to doubt everything you thought you ever knew.

Here in prison, we’d lived inside an absolute vacuum for two years. Of the outside world, I knew nothing. The most complicated piece of apparatus I’d handled was occasionally opening a can of processed meat; now here’s something called an iWatch. Then we started work on these videos and as part of the research process, I was allowed to read news downloads on the impending war in Iraq and Syria, and on our particular situation. And the more I read, the deeper it cut.

I was so devastated to read about the lack of support for the families involved in our case that I wanted to make my voice heard on the matter. “We had to find a way through this on our own,” Diane Foley told reporters. Having watched Obama’s address to the nation on September 10th, I was appalled at the way the names of my dead friends were used to beat the drums of war, like they were being used to incite the public into supporting military action. I watched Steven’s mother making a televised plea to the Islamic State to spare her son after her government declined to discuss anything with her, and read how Diane Foley was threatened with ‘funding terrorism’ charges as she tried to raise a ransom. I read emails from the mothers who’d sent letters to the President begging for help, and another where they’d directly contacted the family of one of the Muslim prisoners wanted in exchange for us to see if there was anything, anything they could do. I learned about the failed rescue attempt, how our chances of survival were rated as so low that it was considered the best option. “The intelligence was a bit stale, but you couldn’t not give it a swing,” said a spokesman.

It was as if our lives and the lives of our families were just a game of baseball. And here’s the thing: if our countries had just talked to the mujahidin, our chances of survival wouldn’t have been low at all. The pain and indignation of learning all of this was indescribable. Everything we’d based our belief on had been an illusion. It was within this context that the videos were filmed, and I used my voice to speak out against what I had seen.

I was startled at what I’d learned, deeply hurt and realized I was desperately naïve. That we’d all been. I knew we were not important people, not special in any way. We’d found ourselves into a real bad spot and desperately needed help but I couldn’t grasp how we were just considered an irritant to two of the most influential countries in the world, when all the European leaders engaged in discussions that ensured the safe return home of their people. Having chosen not to negotiate, our politicians must have known we’d be executed, yet it was decided that if the rescue didn’t work (and they’re always a last-gasp option) then that was okay. Better we were beheaded one by one than talk to our captors. If that is policy, it’s insanity.

I never told the others what I’d learned while they were still alive. I’d been moved to my small cell and had chosen to stay, so couldn’t talk to them anyway. I find the close confines of the walls stop my mind wandering too far and I can focus more, keep myself in check in my solitude. It was probably better the others didn’t know. Such a litany of anguish would only have filled them with fear and anger.

The mujahidin have kindly given me a voice the others never had. I don’t know why I deserved such a privilege, but I’d use that voice to say this:

Please don’t allow these deaths to fade quietly into the night – there is more to this than meets the eye. The public have no appetite for consecutive beheadings of their countrymen in 2014, so why was this allowed to happen?

The Islamic State is not some bunch of guerillas or gangsters. They have 32,000 fighters, tanks, missile system, law courts, a police force and they control the second largest city in Iraq. Surely they must be considered large enough and serious enough for any politician to deal with.

To my darling wife, my friends in the media and my family: let our political leaders know it doesn’t have to be this way. Our political leaders have the power, if they choose to change things. For now, I am still alive, but at some point in the near future, the mujahidin will surely run out of patience. Just ask our government to talk. That’s all. Open a channel and negotiate with the Islamic State like the others did. If nothing is possible to agree on, then fine, but it cannot compromise policy to open a dialogue.

Death holds no fear over me; I have lived beneath its wings for a long time. But if that is to be my final destination, I would rather look it in the face knowing this was a fair fight and not a hollow capitulation.

< NY Doubles Down on "El Chapo" Guzman | ISIS Releases Dabiq No. 4 : Yazidis, Sotloff and Attacks on the West >
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  • Display: Sort:
    How much worse than the ISIS fanatics (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by fishcamp on Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 03:57:31 PM EST
    holding John Cantlie can the aging Guantanamo prisoners be?  I say cut a deal.  The "we don't bargain" days are long gone.  It should have been done before the other American and British men were beheaded.  I guess I don't understand the high and mighty goals we have set.  The entire world is pi$$ed off at us over Guantanamo.  Let's end it and get this guy back home.

    Where does it stop (none / 0) (#2)
    by nyjets on Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 04:01:36 PM EST
    'The "we don't bargain" days are long gone. '
    Why. If you negotiate with one set of terrorists, that sets the precedent to negotiate with other terrorists. And encourage other terrorists to continue their actions.

    Yes, I understand that principle but, (none / 0) (#5)
    by fishcamp on Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 04:15:56 PM EST
    it just upsets me to much to adhere to it anymore.  Maybe we should ban our journalists from getting so close to these guys, which of course, would be another giant can of worms, but they would still have their heads.  Is it a good precedent to keep the Guantanamo prisoners forever, in some kind of no trial ever limbo?  There must be a way around the stupidity.  Those militant groups are not going to change, and neither are we?  Just great, let's keep the wars going like always, since the beginning of time.

    i do understand what you are saying (none / 0) (#7)
    by nyjets on Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 04:28:20 PM EST
    However the whether or not Guantanamo should be closed (it probable should be closed) is a separate issue as to whether or not one should negotiate with terrorists.

    What I'm saying if we totally (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by fishcamp on Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 04:37:48 PM EST
    stop the airstrikes, their next demand will be the release of the Guantanamo prisoners, which has always been a lurking demand.  Both you and thomas are right, but I'v said what I mean, right or wrong.

    The reason I keep talking (none / 0) (#12)
    by fishcamp on Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 06:41:53 PM EST
    about Guantanamo is that was one of the big demands by  al-Qaeda, release the prisoners.  We refused because they would go right back to their front lines and continue to fight against us.  Now there are so many  groups of radical Muslims cropping up every week with a new name, I feel the 149 prisoners at Gitmo wouldn't make much difference with the thousands that are already fighting over there.  I say cut them loose. Our recent bombing campaign, even finally, with allied forces doesn't seem to have stopped much of the problem in the ME.  We have our own problems with kids shooting up schools and theaters, cops shooting unarmed teenagers, drug cartels along our southern borders, poverty, Medicare, the list goes on. I say let the French step up to the line.  They've hated us since we saved them from two world wars in the past and they're the ones that need the oil from the ME the most.  The bad guys can walk to Europe just like the Romans did.  Let's take care of our own borders and problems.  

    Does ISIL care? (none / 0) (#4)
    by thomas rogan on Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 04:13:38 PM EST
    Thinking that ISIL cares about GITMO is our own projection, just as people thought in 2001 that 9/11 and Al Qaida were somehow about the Palestinian people and their right to self rule. ISIL is all about proving to people in the region that they are more potent and terrifying than the paper tigers of the US and Britain.  It's worked as far as Turkey goes; their little deal with ISIL is that they will leave them alone in Syria if ISIL leaves them alone in Turkey.  Churchill supposedly said something about appeasement meaning that you're the one who the crocodile eats last.

    One potential ISIS edit? (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 04:30:21 PM EST
    I'm wondering whether the word "blanked" in Cantlie's sentence (that the hostages' families were "blanked by the governments") was a stronger word which ISIS replaced with the word "blanked." ISIS doesn't use profanity, and "blanked" doesn't seem to make much sense.

    I don't think it's right that (4.25 / 4) (#6)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 04:21:52 PM EST
    Italian, South American, French and Belgian journalists, as well as Turkish diplomats, were freed after ransoms were paid and/or prisoners were exchanged, while the British and American hostages are being killed.

    Without one policy to which every country in the world adheres, there is no deterrent to kidnappings. Negotiating with terrorists and paying them and releasing its prisoners won't make ISIS stronger. Not doing so provides it a public platform to spread propaganda and fear.

    But for the beheadings, ISIS would not have gathered as much media attention and most people would not know the difference between them and any other group. There would have been no airstrikes or war against ISIS. (The Yazidis were already determined not to be in sufficient danger to warrant an airstrike.) The beheadings led to mission creep, and it's only just begun.

    Negotiating with ISIS would not only have saved these hostages, it would have saved countless dollars and human lives now being spent in yet another unwinnable war.

    yes it will (none / 0) (#8)
    by nyjets on Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 04:30:06 PM EST
    'Negotiating with terrorists and paying them and releasing its prisoners won't make ISIS stronger. '
    Yes it does. It tells them they can kidnap, threaten, and kill innocent people and they still will get what they want.
    Negotiating with ISIS will only encourage them to continue to perform acts of terrorism.

    France (none / 0) (#10)
    by Politalkix on Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 04:35:49 PM EST

    France has a history of paying ransom through intermediaries to obtain the release of its kidnapped citizens, including four French journalists held by the Islamic State in Syria this year. However, the French government said this week that it would not give in to the Algerian cell's ultimatum. The prime minister, Manuel Valls, told Europe 1 radio on Tuesday: "If we cede, if we retreat one inch, that would hand victory" to the militants.

    Over the past decade, groups directly affiliated with Al Qaeda have collected millions of dollars in ransom from European governments and their proxies. According to the Treasury Department, about $40 million was paid last year to free four French citizens who were being held by Al Qaeda's North African branch. An investigation by The New York Times found that Al Qaeda's affiliates have generally moved away from killing their hostages for propaganda purposes, and prefer to use them as a source of revenue.

    The exception to this trend was the Qaeda branch in Iraq, whose leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, appeared to relish filming himself beheading his Western victims. His methods were deemed so brutal that the Qaeda leadership reprimanded him in a letter that was later made public, saying that he should kill his captives by shooting them, to avoid the horrifying and potentially damaging imagery of a decapitation.

    Mr. Zarqawi's group has since broken with Al Qaeda, and the Islamic State is its newest incarnation.


    Hollande, (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by lentinel on Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 08:03:00 PM EST
    the president of France, has been extremely weak.
    He is polling the lowest of just about anyone.
    He has done nothing for the people of France.

    So, he, like others in a similar predicament, figure the only way to turn things around is to act tough. Get military. Link arms with the sinking Mr. Obama and others representing powerful white countries.

    He decides to look tough at the expense of a hapless hostage.



    But every time I see a post here about (none / 0) (#15)
    by oculus on Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 08:53:07 PM EST
    the beheadings, the women and children, the magazine and other propaganda, I ask myself, why is TL front-paging this?

    Yes, I can scroll on by. But, still ....


    It's what I want to write about (none / 0) (#17)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 01:54:39 AM EST
    Obviously, I find it interesting.

    Very interesting (none / 0) (#19)
    by CaptHowdy on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 09:01:45 AM EST
    and nice to have coverage of the subject without showing or linking to the horrific videos which seems to be the point of most coverage.

    Two wrongs don't make a right (none / 0) (#3)
    by thomas rogan on Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 04:07:36 PM EST
    Maybe Terry Waite and Bowe Bergdahl were the mistakes, if anything making it more likely that westerners would be held for ransom and propaganda.  
    Since this is all about publicity, propaganda, and making the West appear to be weak and impotent, perhaps the western media can voluntarily refrain from printing letters written in desperation by a hostage or pictures of beheadings.  You can't do anything about the internet, of course, but not that many people read ISIL on twitter or youtube.  If and when Cantile is released he can write a letter, give an interview, or write a scholarly book about his experience which would surely be worth reading.  

    Can't argue with this.... (none / 0) (#13)
    by lentinel on Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 07:55:48 PM EST
    Just ask our government to talk. That's all. Open a channel and negotiate with the Islamic State like the others did. If nothing is possible to agree on, then fine, but it cannot compromise policy to open a dialogue.

    I can't disagree with that.

    If there is an opportunity for dialogue, for God's sake, take it!

    Unless, of course, war is an end in and of itself.

    In that case, dialogue - being the enemy of unthinking war - becomes undesirable.

    What do propose be included (none / 0) (#16)
    by oculus on Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 08:58:17 PM EST
    on the agenda for such talks?  Please, please, pretty please stop beheading, crucifying, and subjugating women and children, and slaughtering Muslims who don't agree with your strain of Islam as means of signaling the U.S. To stop bombing?

    many countries pay the ransom and the (5.00 / 3) (#18)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 02:32:45 AM EST
    hostages are released. Here's a lengthy NY Times report on it.

    The U.S. already negotiates with terrorists, as is evident from the release of the soldier Bowe Bergdahl. Why are soldiers worth more than journalists?

    Turkey released over 100 ISIS prisoners to get its 49 diplomats released.


    The French government's purported policy of negotiating with militant groups for the release of kidnapped citizens does appear to work. Four French journalists -- Nicolas Henin, Pierre Torres, Edouard Elias and Didier François, who were kidnapped in Syria last year by ISIS -- were released near the Turkish border in April, blindfolded and with their hands bound. One of those hostages, Henin, had been held by ISIS alongside Foley. Henin is free, and Foley is dead.

    Sure. (none / 0) (#20)
    by lentinel on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 11:07:57 AM EST
    Why couldn't those items be on the agenda?

    I propose, however, an agreement to meet without preconditions.

    What's the harm?

    At present, our dialogue is between beheaders and bombers.
    Not too intelligent.


    Those freaks are not going to change, (none / 0) (#21)
    by fishcamp on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 05:56:42 PM EST
    not if we stop the airstrikes, remove all American troops, and embassy people, talk to them, or anything else.  I wonder what's going to happen when the 61% Muslims in Malaysia, a country of over 30 million people, start aligning with their ME friends?  

    Nobody's (none / 0) (#22)
    by lentinel on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 06:46:18 PM EST
    going to change.

    Sitting down with freaks is better than not sitting down with them.

    And, let's not forget.
    To them, we're the freaks.

    Killing. Drones. Torture. The lot.
    Overthrowing governments.
    Installing brutal dictators.


    It is better if the kettle and the pot sat down together and aired their respective grievances.

    My interest, frankly, is in getting us the hell out of this situation if it isn't already too late to do so.

    This is a ME situation.
    And the way it is shaping up, instead of States like Turkey dealing with it, we find that it is the likes of the US, the UK, France and Germany involving themselves - taking sides when neither side has clean hands.

    And we're killing Muslims. It's that simple.
    We kill Muslims. They don't like it.
    And if we don't stop doing so, I"m truly afraid that they will get a bunch of people with pressure cookers or worse and really fk us up.

    And for what?

    So that our pols can look tough?
    So that the dems can look as idiotically tough as the republicans?

    Does anyone believe that we, and the UK, and France and the beloved Germans are in this battling for humanity against the heathens?

    I don't.


    These guys (none / 0) (#23)
    by Jack203 on Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 07:18:02 PM EST
    are horrendous at propaganda.  

    Appealing to the lowest common denominator and psychopaths doesn't strike me as a winning strategy.