The White House has refused to comment on reports that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have captured folk singer James Taylor and are threatening to execute him if the Obama administration doesn’t stop deploying musicians as instruments of foreign policy.
Taylor is believed to have been seized after being dispatched to Yemen by Secretary of State John Kerry to practice his unique brand of musical diplomacy on warring factions that have reduced the country to near anarchy in recent months. The move followed the overwhelmingly successful and globally praised visit to France in the wake of the terrorist killings in Paris earlier this month in which the pair duetted — Taylor on guitar and vocals, and Kerry smirking at the camera and tapping his foot awkwardly — on a number of the singer’s best-known hits.
Their performance of “You’ve Got a Friend” drew widespread plaudits for helping to heal France’s wounds in the wake of the murders of 17 people and the subsequent snubbing by President Obama of a national march of remembrance and solidarity attended by dozens of world leaders.
That musical success led senior administration officials to try to leverage their new-found diplomatic weapon to heal other ravaged areas of the world and attempt to bring opposing groups together. The policy, variously dubbed “Steamrollerpolitik,” “Soft rock power,” the “You’ve Got a Friend” program, and “There Is a Young Cowboy” diplomacy, is believed to have been inspired by Hillary Clinton’s recent call for the U.S. to empathize with and respect its enemies.
AQAP’s artistic division released a slick music video in which Taylor delivers a poignant rendition of “Sweet Baby James” in a romantic desert landscape at sunset before pleading for his life and asking the U.S. government to rethink its policy. According to music analysts familiar with Mr. Taylor’s oeuvre, his strained voice and several bum notes suggest that he made the video under duress. In the limited edition extended “Hadhramaut” remix, Taylor delivers a lengthy monologue on America’s involvement in the Middle East since 1945.
It’s understood that Taylor’s tour bus struck an IED yesterday morning in a carefully planned ambush on a dirt track just outside the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, where Taylor was due to perform with Carly Simon before a select audience of tribal leaders and politicians. State Department security personnel fought an hour-long gun battle with insurgents, eventually driving them off without sustaining any casualties, but when the smoke cleared, Taylor and Simon were unaccounted for.
It’s believed that Simon — best known for her 1972 hit “You’re So Vain,” rumoured to have been written after a doomed love affair with young and dashing Yasser Arafat — has already been married off to an elderly Yemeni sheikh, a tactic commonly used by al-Qaeda in tribal regions of Pakistan to cement relationships between the terror group and key local leaders.