Made of the Same Metal
July 1, 2015 5:50 PM   Subscribe

The Families Who Negotiated With ISIS - "Until recently, they had not known of one another, or of the unexpected benefactor who had brought them together. They were the parents of five Americans who had been kidnapped in Syria."

Lawrence Wright details how five American families, brought together by the Atlantic Media Company's David Bradley and assisted by a team of experts he assembled, fought alongside and even against the U.S. government to try and rescue their beloved children:
Jim Foley: "The others depended on Foley to keep their spirits buoyed. “This guy, he was a man,” Nicolas Hénin, another French hostage, later told L’Express. “He remained upright, dignified.” He added, “When I see his mother’s reaction, I recognize her son. They are made of the same metal.”"

Peter Theo Padnos (aka Theo Curtis): "Sorry Mom, I should have listened to you."

Steven Sotloff: "He was in Tahrir Square the day President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, in 2011, and in Libya the following year, where he first met Jim Foley. For Time he provided crucial coverage of the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, where four Americans were killed, including the Ambassador. . . . During that period, when American foreign policy depended on information arising from these zones of conflict, Sotloff never made enough money to have to file a tax return."

Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig: "One of his friends coined a verb, “to Kassig,” which meant “to selflessly put oneself in harm’s way in order to help others in need, all the while looking suave and sexy.”"

Kayla Mueller: "At one point, they heard a guard say that she was Muslim, and Kayla corrected him. The guard was impressed. “She’s stronger than you,” the guard told another prisoner. “She doesn’t pretend.”"
"In directing the families’ efforts, Bradley was in some respects usurping the role of several federal agencies, and yet the families had largely lost faith in their government."

Beautiful photographs of the families by Carla van de Puttelaar.
posted by sallybrown (6 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Mettle, surely?
posted by unliteral at 8:26 PM on July 1, 2015

Mettle, surely?

Nope; just another language's idiom. It's a direct translation of "Quand je vois la réaction de sa mère, je reconnais son fils. Ils sont faits du même métal."
posted by Shmuel510 at 8:47 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's the same root:
posted by claudius at 9:34 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's so damning of the US government's handling of this, isn't it. Especially towards the end of this long and exhausting article:

"Ali Soufan had arranged for the handoff to take place in the Golan Heights, on the Israeli border, but the F.B.I. and a dozen American officials were mistakenly waiting on the Jordanian border. Bradley had to call and redirect them. "

"Carl finally felt that the government was taking care of him—only it wasn’t his government."

"Bradley’s team, along with the journalists on the Turkish border, repeatedly produced leads that the F.B.I. failed to pursue. When Padnos came home, he was surprised to discover that his iPhone, which had been confiscated by his captors, could still be digitally monitored."

I think I'm going to get a subscription of the Atlantic.
posted by of strange foe at 10:11 PM on July 1, 2015

It's so damning of the US government's handling of this, isn't it.

I don't find it so. From the perspective of the families, it certainly captures how much they felt abandoned, and ground up between the wheels of state-level actors. But it also captured a lot of the complexity of the situation. For instance, Bradley wasn't paying ransoms either, and he probably could have rung up the money in a weekend while cutting a fast "take it or leave it" deal to get them all home. But he understood that ransoms directly finance the enemy, and also that his own presence risked altering the terms of any deal. The families weren't against risky rescue operations either; they were just worried that an operation might not be properly co-ordinated with a ransom being paid, and asked to be checked with.
posted by fatbird at 11:00 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

What was damning, to me, was the lack of coordination by the various government agencies, who seemed at times to be doing things without any larger plan or central authority or without any sensitivity and care for the families. Also damning but perhaps unavoidable due to the way ISIS disseminates information was the multiple families who found out their children were executed through the news rather than from the government. I can't imagine receiving some sort of flash news alert on my phone about a hostage being killed and knowing that was my child.

The policy proposal at the end of the article sounds more promising than the current state of affairs.

I will never forget that image of Jim Foley in the desert.
posted by sallybrown at 5:20 AM on July 2, 2015

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