James Foley, beheaded in Syria last week, was a decent, committed humanitarian, according to the famed cinematographer Haskell Wexler, who interviewed Foley on the streets of Chicago while filming there in 2012. Wexler, who did a documentary on Vietnam with Jane Fonda and myself in 1974, said that Foley told him the Syrian conflict could never be settled by bullets. The interview reveals an intelligence, sincerity and humanism about Foley that will be terribly missed.
Foley touched many lives. The headmaster of our son's school, Walter Landberg, was a one of a small circle of his close friends from New Hampshire. They enjoyed many reunions while their lives unfolded into their forties. Still in shock, the circle spent the last week on the phone with each other. Landberg says Foley never lived only behind the camera, but loved people, checking in with old friends and new, doing small favors wherever he went. Coming from a military family, he was drawn to crisis zones - embedding in Iraq and Afghanistan - but carried only a camera. He was a peaceful man. Just before leaving for Syria, Foley was delighted for Landberg's appointment and the two agreed that Foley would come out to speak to the Santa Monica students. Foley had decided that he was "done" - not going back after one last trip - before he was captured a final time.
For more on James Foley, see "Dumbest Policy Ever: We Don't Negoiate With Terrorists"