It’s hard to fault the brave journalists willing to venture into war zones to provide in-depth and up close and personal reports of happenings behind enemy lines. It’s a job that few of us would ever take, and certainly the motives of most the journalists involved is commendable.

ISIS Islamic State

That being said, with the Islamic State (ISIS) racking up millions of dollars in ransom that it can then use to fund its war of terror, it’s important to ask if said journalists are doing more harm than good.

In the ideal world journalists would be able to travel freely and report objectively on the situation on the ground. We live in anything but an ideal world, however, and ISIS has shown no more mercy for journalists than for anyone else who appears to challenge or offend their rule and their views of Islam, or who has any association with the West.a

Amount Paid In Ransom To ISIS Terrorists In the Tens of Millions

The total amount of money paid to Islamic terrorists for ransoms numbers in the tens of millions of dollars by now. European nations alone are believed to have contributed $125 million dollars or more to Al Qaeda and its affiliates.

While Al Qaeda has had more time to collect such sums, the Islamic State is far more powerful and includes more people than it’s former parent organization ever even dreamed of. IS has captured numerous journalists and aid workers and European governments and other third parties have been paying huge sums to secure their freedom.

The total amount of money paid to the ISIS remains unknown but almost certainly numbers in the tens, if not hundreds of millions.

It should be noted that the American government will not deal directly with terrorists and will not pay ransoms for kidnapped people. Apparently James Foley, who as recently murdered and beheaded by ISIS.

Funds Empower Terrorists

Like any other type of organization in the modern world, the Islamic State depends on money to fund its wars. The organization must buy weapons, must train and feed its soldiers, and even provides many of them with cash payments for their service.

IS doesn’t rely on suicide bombers to inflict maximum damage, it relies on a core of battle-hardened soldiers willing to fight and die on the front lines. Maintaining such armies is certainly not a cheap undertaking but between oil, ransom money, and funds seized from Iraq’s central bank, the organization is having no trouble funding its operations.

Every time a multi-million dollar ransom is paid to free a journalists, those funds are funneled into the organization and likely result in more weapons being bought, more soldiers being recruited and trained, and ultimately more bodies filling the mass graves that IS is leaving across Iraq.

Execution Of Journalists May Force Western Leaders To Act

There is another view, however, that journalists are forcing developed nations to act, both by providing evidence of the atrocities being carried out by IS, and also by acting as martrys. This could arguably outweigh the damage done by any ransoms paid.

As morbid as it sounds, the United States and other countries may only be willing to step up their commitment to fighting ISIS when heads are rolling. It’s terrible to say, and yet that may be the reality of the situation.

Seeing Americans (or British or whoever else) executed on TV can certainly create a groundswell of support for increased military action against the Islamic State. Seeing and reading first hand accounts from journalists on the ground can also help build a case for expanded action.

Either way, it’s a difficult situation and organizations sending journalists, as well as freelancers heading to the front line, will face difficult choices. Given all of the information that is now flowing in over the Internet, the risks of sending journalists to the region may simply be too high to justify. Then again, without Western shoes on the ground, the United States and its allies might forget about ISIS.