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Was Berg's Beheading a Case of Death Squad and Mistaken Identity?
Michael Berg, recently murdered on video in Iraq, may have been a victim of mistaken identity. His father public endorsed the March 20 rally against the invasion. His name quickly appeared on a right-wing website as an enenmy of the people. Shortly after his name was published, he was held by either the Iraqi police or the US military for 13 days. THe US claims an e-mail the government sent to the Berg family admitted he was in US custody was false; Iraqi police deny however that they were the ones holding Berg. Upon his release after a lawsuit was filed by his parents in US courts, was he picked up and killed by a death squad?
The family firm of beheaded American Nick Berg, was named by a conservative
website in a list of 'enemies' of the Iraq occupation. That could explain
his arrest by Iraqi police --a detention which fatally delayed his planned
return from Iraq and may have led directly to his death.
Nick Berg, 26 disappeared into incommunicado detention after his arrest by
Iraqi police in March, 2004. He vanished again after his release 13 days
later. His body was found last Saturday in Baghdad, and a video of his
beheading --supposedly by a radical Islamic group-- was posted on the
Internet on Tuesday.
The official story of his gruesome murder has many dubious aspects, not
least the real reason why Iraqi police detained the young man at a
checkpoint. New research by BreakForNews has uncovered a plausible
The FreeRepublic.com web site and forum has a reputation for right-wing
views, fanatical Republicanism and relentless pro-war activism.
On 7th March, 2004, just three weeks before the first anniversary of the
invasion of Iraq, an 'enemies' list of anti-war groups and individuals was
posted on the Free Republic forum.
It began: "Here you are, FReepers. Here is the enemy."
The list had been copied from publicly available endorsements of a call to
action for an imminent anniversary antiwar protest on 20th March, 2004. The
protest was being organized under the banner of the A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition
(Act Now to Stop War & End Racism).
Among those listed as having endorsed the call to action was this entry:
"Michael S. Berg, Teacher, Prometheus Methods Tower Service, Inc."
That's Nick Berg's father, Michael who acts as business manager for his son
in their family radio communications firm, Prometheus Methods Tower Service.
Both father and son cared deeply about Iraq. But they were on opposite sides
of opinion on the occupation --though you would never know that from reading
the New York Times.
Michael was ardently antiwar, whereas his Bush-supporting son was in favor
of the war to the extent that he had already visited Iraq seeking to help
with rebuilding efforts.
Just seven days after "Michael Berg" and "Prometheus Methods Tower Service"
had come up on that Iraq war 'enemies' list, his son Nick Berg returned to
Iraq under the business name of Prometheus Methods Tower Service.
The scene was set for tragically mistaken suspicions --which were to end in
the horrifying death of an honorable and blameless American. A humanitarian
who had traveled several times to Third World countries --such as Ghana, to
teach villagers construction techniques.
The web traffic to the Free Republic forum --and it's forum membership--
include significant numbers of serving and former US military.
Many members take their online activism very seriously. Some delight in
causing mischief for those they think are identified as "enemies."
Within minutes of getting their hands on the antiwar names, one was boasting
of having contacted the military about active service personnel who were on
"I forwarded the list to the ISC (the command you listed), the district
officer... the district legal office and the investigative services office."
"The poor moron is not going to know what hit him. Is this being
mean-spirited? NO! Someone against our military does not belong in the
Another was already investigating a member of the Coast Guard on the list:
"I took a look at his yahoo and he has a site which is not real fond of the
war on drugs OR the war on terrorism.... That particular coastie needs some
serious trouble to come his way...."
" I spoke on the phone to a senior chief yesterday in Virginia.... [who]
could not believe what the guy was doing. He was both astounded and angry. I
think [he] is in for some big, big trouble."
If that list could end up on an Internet forum, then it could just as
readily end up with the FBI, and eventually in the hands of those in Iraq
who are keen to track or harass antiwar activists entering the country.
Alternatively, the enthusiasts on Free Republic have the contacts and the
clear determination to have ensured the list quickly got to the right
At the time the list was posted, Nick Berg had just come back from an Iraq
trip lasting from late December to Feb. 1. He had reported no problems
whatsoever with Iraqi police during that visit.
Yet, within two weeks of the list being posted, Nick Berg --back in Iraq on
his final fatal trip-- was reportedly detained in Mosul at an Iraqi police
checkpoint. The official explanation is that authorities thought his
identification might have been forged and were checking his authenticity.
But a more likely reason is that by then authorities in Iraq had discovered
that a 'Berg' of Prometheus Methods Tower Service was in the country, and
issued a detention instruction to Iraqi police because they misidentified
Nick Berg as an antiwar activist entering Iraq to work for the 'enemy'.
That could explain why he was held incommunicado for 13 days, without
recourse to a lawyer; why US officialdom was singularly unheeding of his
mother's pleas; why the FBI visited his family to question them; why it took
a US court order secured by the family to pressure his release.
And why he was cruelly murdered soon after that release, like many others
around the world who suffer such a fate at the hands of state-condoned death
squads --sometimes just hours after their release from official detention.
That's the final sordid twist in this grisly story.
If the world was an uncomplicated place, then this tale would end with the
mistaken arrest of Nick Berg.
We could finish by noting that Nick's father is reportedly accusing the US
government of contributing to his son's death. Unable to find work in Iraq,
Nick Berg's last trip was set to be a short one. He planned to return to the
US on the 30th of March.
Michael Berg charges that his son's detention until 5th April, was a
violation of civil rights which fatally delayed his exit from Iraq and
instead left him dangerously stranded in the middle of the explosion of
violence which erupted in early April, 2004.
But there are much graver aspects to all this. Another chilling perspective
is best summarized by the wry cynicism of Michael Rivero at
In a commentary on the beheading of Nick Berg, Rivero writes:
"How wonderfully lucky for Bush and the NeoCons that such a great piece of
pro-war distract-from-the-torture-scandal event happens at this particular
Rivero's world-weary realism strikes a chord with his popular website's
visitors, but will undoubtedly shock unseasoned observers. However he is far
from alone in questioning the official line. Others have noted the too-white
hands and military at-ease stance of the hooded captors in the video.
The killing has certainly eased the international discomfiture of the US.
The problem with assumptions that al-Queda is responsible for Berg's
beheading, is that Musab al-Zarqawi is mentioned in a caption on the
videotape of the killing.
Al-Zarqawi came to our attention in January, 2004 when the US military
claimed to have intercepted a letter of his written to the al-Queda
leadership. But the content of the letter read like a US military propaganda
statement on the situation in Iraq.
In the letter al-Zarqawi wrote of Iraqis coming to welcome the US presence
in Iraq, and about how al-Queda was loosing ground in it's war against the
In February, 2004 an article "The Zarqawi Gambit," by Greg Weiher on
Counterpunch was deeply skeptical of the letter:
"..if you were Karl Rove, you couldn't design a better scenario to validate
the administration's slant on the war than this. That's a good reason to
maintain a healthy skepticism. In fact, there are a number of good reasons
to take this story with a grain of salt (maybe a three- or four-pounder)."
The US has been keen to paint the opposition to the occupation as composed
of many foreign fighters tied to al-Queda. The letter was clearly fabricated
for propaganda purposes, with al-Zarqawi as it's new al-Queda star.
But if al-Zarqawi is merely a flimsy propaganda creation, then what
confidence can we have in the official line that al-Zarqawi and al-Queda
The only plausible alternative is a covert, black operation orchestrated as
part of the seedier arm of US foreign policy --which generally only come to
light when candid photographs, for example, reach the public domain.
But that's an explanation which many would reject on the grounds that no
force allied to the US --no matter how black its operations-- would have
members so callous as to even countenance the cold-blooded beheading of a US
However, there is a mindset amplified by war passions and found among the
gung-ho brutes who beat Iraqis to death; found among the thuggish mercenary
death squads who roam to slay at will; and found among the cold-blooded
sociopaths who have planted bombs for political strategic reasons.
It's war. And war begets a wartime mindset.
Nick Berg's detention indicates that authorities regarded him an an antiwar
activist and possibly also as an 'enemy.'
That original post on Free Republic contains a telling indication of a
mindset, which in the heat of war could well kill an American it regards as
A mindset which has now reacted to Michael Berg's loss of his son like this:
"I wonder what he thinks about his Muslim buddies now... "
A mindset displayed by the search keywords used on Free Republic to
categorize the list of antiwar supporters. The keywords are:
APPEASENIKS; DAMNCOMMIES; ENEMYWITHIN; LEFTISTS; PEACENIKS; RATS; SCUMBAGS;
TRAITORS; TREASONOUSSCUM; USEFULIDIOTS; WARONTERROR
### end story ###
In addition to the above, we have the following:
A translator on one of the TV shows today said that the accents were not
Jordanian as stated, and Al Quaeda is not mentioned in the tape
statement... an arabic word "al quaid" which means 'one who sits and does
nothing' is the correct translation.
This work is in the public domain.
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The Facts Don't add up
by orchill [at] earthlink.net
orchill (nospam) earthlink.net (unverified) Current rating: 0
14 May 2004
OBSERVATIONS ON THE BERG EXECUTION
Yesterday I commented to friends that I had found something strangely odd about the photos from the video re: Berg. At first, I could not nail it down, but finally I hit on
!) The presumed executioners posture (legs and feet apart) appeared to me much more like how American men typically stand than Arabs do.
2) The combination of the head coverings and clothes had an odd â€œtheatrical lookâ€? as of clothing thrown together for an ad hoc play. plus several of the men had similar military looking â€œvestsâ€?.
Today I found this excerpt on the website of Citizens for Legitimate Government, quote:
"Hey, I've done the research. The guys executing the poor dude are not Arab!! When executing, they don't cover their faces or anything else on their body. They expose everything when beheading someone. I don't know who the guys are, but they're not Arab."--a person not based in the United States who viewed the beheading videotape.
The accuracy of this statement has not been confirmed, but at least the person is apparently suspicious that something is not quite right.
Accompanying the above quotation were two images (attached to this email), the first being labeled:
Compare the chairs. Photo from MSNBC, 8:47 p.m. ET May 13, 2004. "Photo may show intelligence officers in charge -- Suspect in prison abuse scandal seen in picture exclusive to NBC" [NOTICE the white plastic chair at Abu Ghraib prison (above) and at Nick Berg's execution (below) ...does al Qaeda shop at the same department store as the US Occupation Authority?]
Spc. Charles A. Graner Jr., leaning against the wall and labeled as No. 1, identified four other soldiers in this photograph (Nos. 4, 5, 7 and 8) as military intelligence officers. No. 2 is a civilian translator. NBC News
Furthermore, ABC News reported:
Executioner wore gold ring - forbidden by Islam --- A close examination of the tape shows none of the five masked men is wearing gloves, so federal officials are trying to determine if there are any tell-tale tattoos on their hands. One of the clues the FBI and CIA is studying is the large gold ring Zarqawi is wearing on his right hand, giving off a glare several times during the six-minute tape. ( http://www.khilafah.com/home/category.php?DocumentID=9529&TagID=2 )
This statement about Islamic prohibition of gold ring has not been confirmed.
Further, it is noted that Berg is wearing an orange â€˜prisoners uniformâ€? in the execution video which is much like those worn at the Guantanamo detention camp in Cuba.
Within a short time after the video was available the CIA announced that it had reasonably concluded that the voice on the tape was that of the voice of Zarqawi. At the time, I thought that that was a rather quick turnaround time in the analysis as that had not happened in the cases of the confirmations of Osama bin Ladenâ€™s voice on the al Qaeda tapes.
Is there some important factual information yet missing in the story on Berg?
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MSNC Raises Doubts
by Mark HM IMC
hmIMC (nospam) indymedia.org (verified) Current rating: 0
15 May 2004
"CIA did it to take the heat off the Pentagon"--NBC reporter
Wed May 12, 2004 23:17
"...the CIA did it to take the heat off the Pentagon"--NBC reporter
stated tonight prime time news, continuing, "...a story that will not
die easily here in the Arab world".
NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, May 12th
Thus said the reporter from NBC News already "innoculating" the public
against this reasonable "conspiracy theory" being promulgated by more
questioning minds in both America and overseas. BUT IT MAKES ALL THE
SENSE IN THE WORLD!
The previous article posted, "Fishy Circumstances and Flawed Timelines"
is worth reading, especially the numbered observations at the close of
the article. But there is more to add:
1. Both Drudge and Aljazeera report that "Ã¶Ã¶A body found on Monday by
US military patrol along a roadside over the weekend was identified as
Note the confused reporting in this direct quote, "on Monday", "over the
weekend", by US military patrol. Was it found on Monday or over the
weekend--which one? Does this make sense to anyone? Or was someone
scrambling a press release (in panic) of wording that was hastily contrived,
and uncertain themselves about how the facts would compare to the report.
VAGUE TIMING BEGS THE QUESTION, WHEN WAS THIS BODY REALLY FOUND?
Secondly, how was the body identified as "Berg's", if it was headless? Or
was it? How do you quickly identify a body without a head?
Third, WHO were the U.S. forces that found it? Were they the same ones
involved in his illegal detention?
2. Here is the smoking gun: If the body was found on Monday (May 10th), or
previously "over the weekend" (prior), how could the execution and video be
taped on May 11th, as is reported?
"The statement in the video was signed off with Zarqawi's name and dated 11
May" (Drudge and Aljazeerah).
An Arab magic trick indeed...to be able to execute a man on video tape
("May 11"), AFTER HIS BODY IS FOUND BY US FORCES, on "May 10th"!!!!! The
video is not the only thing that appears fuzzy!!
3. The video was dated May 11th, typical Judeo-Masonic (CIA/MOSSAD) signature
and M.O., like 9/11, and the recent 3/11 in Spain. Sorry, there is an M.O. to
this "terrorism" that matches that of government psy-ops! Funny how they never
mention the obvious pattern of dating isn't it? And the "terroists" signed his
name to the video, though they wore hoods and masks! (Why?)
4. Berg's father filed law suit against the illegal detention of their
son....and, bingo, he was released the next day (but not very popular we can
"His father, Nick, filed a lawsuit on 5 April stating Berg was being held
illegally by the US military in Iraq. The next day Berg was released."
Aljazeera and Drudge
5. The Guatanamo Bay type US issue prison suit is very suspicious! Either he
was handed over to the alleged "terrorists" in it--meaning US forces
complicity to rid them of an American "dissident"--or the executions are
Government--i.e. CIA (well-fed, lily white hands, hooded...but leaving the
name of the executioner?)!
6. According to the video clock notations in the film, the "execution" took
place between 13:46 and 13:47....apparently around 1:46 to 1:47 pm. Why is
the video time not in Arabic? Do Arabs use military time?
7. "God is great".....typical propaganda to libel militant Muslim jihaders
with the crime, while they have lily white hands, their victim in US issue
prison clothes, and video time in US military English!
8. The TIMING of this event being reported to the American public, on May
11th evening (note how quickly this went to full-blown news coverage by
6:30pm EDT on the very day of the execution......fast......and conveniently.
Even MORE remarkable is how this was reported to Congress (not sure when)
during WORK HOURS IN SESSION, precisely as the Pentagon, Rumsfeld, etc., were
being grilled, and Senators were investigation the horrific prisoner abuse,
and who was behind it! TALK ABOUT WELL-COORDINATED AND EXPEDITED 1) EXECUTION
2) BODY FOUND, IDENTIFIED, 3)NOTIFICATION OF KIN, 4) REPORTED TO CONGRESS...5)
RELEASE IN FULL DETAIL WITH VIDEO TO NETWORK NEWS..........ALL IN ONE AMAZING
Is that a credible timetable WITHOUT government involvement? The 9/11
"hijackers" were not even identified for a couple days....but this one is
instantly solved, and we are expected to swallow it whole without choking!
8. The pattern of US government information, from Bush, the Pentagon, Jessica
Lynch, justification for Iraq, the "911" story is a HISTORY OF PROVEN LIES AND
FALSEHOODS FOR POLITICAL ENDS!!! So why should ANYONE believe this!!
This is the most inaccurate combination of facts of any realistic scenario of
an execution and identification of who did it--contrived in panic and haste to
deflect the outcoming of literal "war crimes" by US forces--that would not be
sustained in any court of law, except that of the naive and brainwashed
American mind, that has a Yankee flag wrapped around its eyes and ears!
BUSH GOVERNMENT (CIA) DID IT......AGAIN!
One more piece below, by Andrea Mitchell of NBC, how not just the Army, but
Special Forces and the ever-present CIA were ALL involved in the gross abuses
and deaths of Iraqi prisoners, in this bogus war..... THIS PROVES CIA
INVOLVEMENT AND MOTIVE FOR COVERING UP ABUSIVE TORTURE AND KILLINGS, AS WELL
AS ADMITTED COVERUPS ABOUT THEM.
May 6: As the investigation into the prison abuse scandal expands, there are
new indications it reaches beyond the Army. NBC's Andrea Mitchell has details.
NBC Nightly News
Delta Force, Navy SEALs involved in abuse?
By Andrea Mitchell
Updated: 6:15 p.m. ET May 06, 2004As the investigation expands, officials tell
NBC News that special operations forces, including both Delta Force and Navy
SEALs, were possibly also involved in abusing prisoners in Iraq.
In fact, one prisoner, Mon Adel al Jamadi, died while being interrogated in
Abu Ghraib by a CIA officer last November, shortly after being captured by Navy
SEALs. Al Jamadi was being questioned about a plot to attack U.S. forces with
An autopsy revealed al Jamadi had broken ribs and had been â€œbadly beaten.â€? His
CIA interrogator has told investigators the prisoner was injured before he was
turned over to the CIA â€” something the Navy denies.
In a second case, the CIA is being investigated for the death of Iraqi Gen.
Abed Hamed Mowhoush near the Syrian border, also last November. The CIA says
he died several days after they questioned him.
A third CIA prisoner died last June in Afghanistan â€” also after a severe beating.
Did the CIA or other intelligence agencies tell the guards to get the prisoners
to talk? According to former CIA officer Robert Baer, â€œI canâ€™t believe that
those MPs knew enough about Arab culture to systematically do this.â€¦ Somebody
Intelligence officials deny directing the abuse. But the Armyâ€™s investigation
said military intelligence and â€œother government agenciesâ€? â€” the Armyâ€™s code
for the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency and special operations forces,
â€œactively requested that MP guards set physical and mental conditions for
favorable interrogation of witnesses.â€?
The general who was in charge of the prison says it got out of hand. Brig.
Gen. Janis Karpinski remembers, â€œThey said, â€˜Hey, that worked pretty well.â€™
They told us to take the clothes away from those six prisoners, and nobody
seemed to think that that was wrong, so letâ€™s take clothes away from 12 of
Now the CIA confirms that some of its officers hid prisoners from watchdog
groups like the Red Cross â€” violations also under investigation.
Â© 2004 MSNBC Interactive
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US Denies Berg in their custody in Iraq; Berg had connection to possible 9/11 terrorist
by CNN international
hmIMC (nospam) indymedia.org (verified) Current rating: 0
16 May 2004
Coalition: Berg was never in U.S. custody
Businessman's family, friends say he told them otherwise
Saturday, May 15, 2004 Posted: 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
Nicholas Berg, shown in an undated photo, had gone to Iraq to work on communication towers.
The tape that shows the beheading of Nicholas Berg also offers clues. CNN's Kelli Arena reports.
â€¢ Berg buried in private ceremony
â€¢ Gallery: Family, friends remember Berg
â€¢ Friend: Berg said he was in U.S. custody
â€¢ Timeline: How a hostage died
â€¢ Family stunned by killing
â€¢ Berg lived life of adventure
â€¢ CNN Access: Expert says al-Zarqawi bigger than bin Laden
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Born: October 30, 1966
Connections: Associate of Osama bin Laden; affiliated with Ansar al-Islam, terrorist group that once operated a training camp in northern Iraq and during the U.S.-led occupation has been linked to several terrorist attacks.
Background: According to Bush administration, al-Zarqawi fled to Iraq from Afghanistan in May 2002 for medical treatment, arriving with two dozen al Qaeda members, and stayed to organize terror plots.
Record: Sentenced to death in absentia by a Jordanian court in 2001 for planning numerous attacks in the kingdom; also accused of overseeing October 2002 assassination of U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley in Amman.
Reward: Up to $10 million offered by U.S. government
â€¢ Transition of Power
â€¢ Life after War
â€¢ CNN/Money: Rebuilding Iraq
â€¢ War in Iraq
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A coalition spokesman said Friday that U.S. military police may have been at the Iraqi facility where Nicholas Berg was held before he was killed, but he insisted that Berg was never in U.S. custody, despite reports to the contrary.
"To our knowledge, he was detained by the Iraqi police in Mosul," coalition spokesman Dan Senor told CNN. "He was in Iraqi police custody. He was met by U.S. officials, he was visited three times by the FBI, but at all times, he was in Iraqi custody."
"I think some of the confusion emanates from the fact that [in] a number of the detention facilities throughout the country, there are American MPs who play a support role there," Senor added. "But it doesn't detract from the fact it's still an Iraqi facility, and I think once we do a little more investigating, we can hope to provide more clarity."
Iraqi authorities said they held the American civilian only briefly before handing him over to U.S. troops, police sources in Mosul said Thursday.
Attorney General John Ashcroft said Friday that Berg was in the custody of Iraqi police when he was questioned by the FBI.
Ashcroft also said FBI agents and officials with the Coalition Provisional Authority "emphasized to him the dangerous environment that existed at the time in Iraq. And they encouraged him to accept the CPA's offer to arrange his safe passage out of Iraq."
Berg also turned down offers to advise his family of his status, Ashcroft said.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher has said that State Department consular officers spoke with Berg in Baghdad on April 10 and offered to help him leave Iraq by plane to go to Jordan. However, Boucher said, Berg told the consular officers that he had made arrangements to leave by land through Kuwait.
Berg's decapitation was videotaped, and the video was posted on a Web site linked to al Qaeda on Tuesday.
Berg's father, Michael Berg, said Thursday that State Department officials told him his son was being held by the U.S. military.
State Department officials said Thursday that they were later told the information they passed to Berg's family in e-mails -- information they attributed to the Coalition Provisional Authority -- was incorrect.
At least one friend, as well as Berg's relatives, said Berg told them he was in U.S. custody for about two weeks.
"Nic told me, 'Iraqi police caught me one night, they saw my passport and my Jewish last name and my Israeli stamp. This guy thought I was a spy, so they put me with American soldiers and American soldiers put me in a jail for two weeks,' " said Hugo Infante, a Chilean freelance journalist who stayed at the same Baghdad hotel. (Full story)
Berg's brother David told reporters that the family received e-mails from Berg after his release in April that made clear he had been held by U.S. forces. And Infante said Berg described being held in a coalition facility where Syrians, Egyptians, Jordanians and Iranians suspected of entering Iraq illegally were also detained.
Berg had been scheduled to return to his home in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 30, but missed that flight while in custody. Michael Berg said the delay contributed to his son's death, since intense fighting between Iraqi insurgents and American troops broke out five days later.
Also Friday, Berg's friends and family held a private memorial service at a synagogue in his hometown of West Chester, Pennsylvania. (Full story)
Encounter with Moussaoui acquaintance
Berg had been investigated by the FBI once before when he was a student at a branch campus of the University of Oklahoma. At the time, Berg's e-mail account was being used by Zacarias Moussaoui -- the only person publicly charged in the United States in connection with the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. (Full story)
Berg's father said his son gave a man on a bus the password to his account because "Whoever was next to my son was treated with great respect and friendship."
Ashcroft said Berg was cleared of suspicion during the initial investigation more than a year ago.
"The suggestion that Mr. Berg was in some way involved in terrorist activity, or may have been linked in some way, is a suggestion that we do not have any ability to support and we do not believe is a valid one," Ashcroft said.
'High probability' al-Zarqawi killed Berg
A CIA official said Thursday that it was likely that al Qaeda associate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the man who killed Berg.
An assessment of the video showing Berg's death concludes it is a "high probability" al-Zarqawi is the hooded speaker who is shown decapitating Berg, the CIA official said.
On Capitol Hill, Republican Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said a Defense Department official told him he believed al-Zarqawi was the man on the video.
Al-Zarqawi, a 37-year-old Jordanian, has a $10 million reward on his head.
The U.S. government contends he has a longstanding connection to al Qaeda and is a close associate of Osama bin Laden.
He is accused of organizing terrorists to fight U.S. troops in Iraq on behalf of al Qaeda. He is also believed to have plotted the killing of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley, who was gunned down in 2002 outside his home in Jordan.
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The Strange Death of Michael Berg
by James Conachy, Tehran Times
hmIMC (nospam) indymedia.org (verified) Current rating: 0
16 May 2004
The Terrible and Strange Death of Nick Berg
By James Conachy, Tehran Times
The terrible death of Nick Berg in Iraq â€” beheaded in front of a video camera â€” has taken place in such strange and suspicious circumstances that it raises deeply troubling questions. Among them is whether American agencies had a direct or indirect hand in the young manâ€™s murder.
Questions immediately arise from the timing and political consequences of his killing. At the height of a massive scandal engulfing the Bush administration, Bergâ€™s death has been exploited by the American government and the US media to launch a counter-offensive against the revelations of systematic US torture in Abu Ghraib and other Iraqi prisons. A wholesale attempt is being made to shift American and international public opinion away from the outrage over the criminal character of the US occupation of Iraq and behind the self-serving argument that American forces are needed in Iraq to prevent the country descending into barbarism and chaos.
Were Bergâ€™s murderers being directly paid by the American government, they could not have performed a more timely service for the Bush White House.
Bergâ€™s killing was carried out in the name of al-Qaeda-aligned Jordanian terrorist Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi. Whoever is operating in the name of Zarqawi, they have a proven record of provocative actions that have only helped to prop up the American occupation of Iraq. On February 9, amid signs that the majority Iraqi Shiite population was on the verge of joining the armed resistance being fought mainly in Sunni Muslim areas, a letter was made public, allegedly authored by Zarqawi, calling for Sunnis to provoke a civil war with the Shiites. American officials used the letter to argue that their occupation was the only thing holding Iraqâ€™s religious groups apart. Several weeks later, on March 2, suicide bombings at Shiite mosques in Karbala and Baghdad were blamed on what the US now calls the â€œZarqawi network.â€?
Contrary to the schema outlined by US officials and in Zarqawiâ€™s letter, the bulk of the Iraqi masses spurned sectarianism. The growing unity has been on display in mass demonstrations and joint struggle since the eruption of a Shiite uprising in early April. Even before the torture revelations, the US occupation of Iraq had crumbled into a morass of bloody reprisals against the Iraqi people and growing American casualties. Opposition has been steadily growing in the US and internationally.
The group who carried out the beheading of Berg and then ensured it was broadcast around the globe must have known that it would horrify American and world public opinion and assist the efforts at damage control in Washington.
Further questions are raised by the attempts of the US government to conceal or distort what it knew about Berg himself and the events leading up to his disappearance in Baghdad on April 10. Berg vanished in Iraq just 72 hours after being released from 13 days in US military custody and questioning by the FBI.
Berg has been described by his family and friends as adventurous. He had a limited knowledge of Arabic and an interest in obtaining reconstruction contracts in Iraq for the family telecommunications company, Prometheus Methods Tower Service. In December 2003 he travelled to Iraq and went home on February 1. Among the places the young man inquired for contract work was the Abu Ghraib prisonâ€”which he referred to as a â€œnotorious prison for army and political prisoners.â€? He returned to Iraq in mid-March.
CBS News revealed yesterday that the young man had been on the FBIâ€™s books for at least two years. In 2002, he was interviewed as part of the investigations in the September 11 terror attacks, over the fact his computer password had been used by alleged al-Qaeda terrorist Zaccarias Moussaoui. According to Bergâ€™s family, the FBI was reportedly satisfied the password was obtained during a brief encounter on a bus, when Nick Berg had allowed an acquaintance of Moussaoui to use his computer.
On March 7, the pro-Bush website FreeRepublic.com published a list of â€œenemiesâ€? who were opposing the US occupation of Iraq. Among the names, taken from a public list of people who had endorsed a planned March 20 antiwar demonstration on the website of the group ANSWER, was Michael Bergâ€”Nickâ€™s fatherâ€”and the name of the Berg family company. Such information would be entered into the databases of US intelligence agencies as well.
Berg was seized on March 24, within one week of returning to Iraq, and held incommunicado without charges in a Mosul prison for unspecified â€œsuspicious activities.â€? His parents in Philadelphia were visited by the FBI on March 31 and asked why their son was in Iraq. Berg reported being interviewed at least three times during his detention by FBI agents and asked whether he had constructed pipe bombs or had visited Iran. He was released on April 6 only after his family filed a federal court case against the US government the day before for illegal imprisonment. Dan Senor, the Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman in Iraq, claimed this week that Berg had never been detained by US forces, only by Iraqis. This has been exposed to be a lie. Bergâ€™s family has produced an email from Beth A Payne, a US consular official in Iraq, dated April 1. Payne wrote: â€œI have confirmed that your son, Nick, is being detained by the US military in Mosul... He was picked up approximately one week ago.â€? The chief of the Iraqi police in Mosul has also publicly rejected the claim that Berg was detained by his command. He told a press conference on May 13: â€œThe Iraqi police never arrested the slain American. Take it from me... that such reports are baseless.â€?
After his release, Nick Berg travelled to Baghdad. His family last heard from him on April 9, when he reported he was looking to leave Iraq via Kuwait as soon as it was safe enough. They have indicated Berg told them he was wary of trying to fly out to Jordan on the grounds it was too dangerous. At the time, much of Baghdad was in engulfed in heavy fighting. Large parts of the city, including the roadways leading to the airport, were under constant attack by the Iraqi resistance and Westerners and Japanese had been taken hostage by various groups.
The last alleged contact with Berg by a US official was on April 10. A State department spokesperson told CBS an American diplomat offered to arrange a flight for him to Jordan. He allegedly refused and restated his intention to travel to Kuwait. His hotel has reported he left early on April 10, saying he intended to be back within a few days. If the American government is to be believed, no US agency then took any further interest in his activities or well-being until it was apparent he had disappeared. No satisfying answers have been given to obvious questions. Were Bergâ€™s movements in Iraq being monitored by American intelligence? Why was he detained and on whose orders? Was he under surveillance after he was released on April 6? If he was, how did he come to be kidnapped in the centre of Baghdad? Throughout this week, Bergâ€™s father Michael has repeatedly denounced the Bush administration for complicity in his sonâ€™s death. He told Boston radio station WBUR on Tuesday: â€œ
[W]hat cost my son his life was the fact the US government saw fit to keep him in custody for 13 days without any of due process or civil rights and released him when they were good and ready. It goes further than Donald Rumsfeld. Itâ€™s the whole Patriot Act, itâ€™s the whole feeling in this country that rights donâ€™t matter any more because there are terrorists about. Well in my opinion â€˜terroristâ€™ is just another word like â€˜communistâ€™ or â€˜witchâ€™ and itâ€™s a witchhunt and this whole administration is just representing something that is not America.â€?
Yesterday, he told Philadelphia radio: â€œMy son died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. This administration did this.â€? He has also demanded to know whether â€œit is true that al-Qaeda offered to trade my sonâ€™s life for another person,â€? as is alleged in the video-tape statement of Nick Bergâ€™s killers.
The issues being raised by Michael Berg point to the fact, that at best, the US authorities created the conditions in which his son could be kidnapped by extremists and killed.
The more disturbing possibility that arises from all the evidence that is known is that Bergâ€™s disappearance and subsequent killing was the work of US agencies or pro-US Iraqi factions. One month after he disappeared, Berg was murdered at the most opportune moment for the US government.
Anyone who believes it is unthinkable or outrageous to suggest that the American government would sanction having one of its citizens murdered to shore up its fortunes is underestimating the political situation.
The Bush administration and elements of the American military hierarchy, media and corporate establishment are indictable war criminals. They ordered, directed, propagated or have profited from a criminal war, in flagrant violation of international law. The year since the US-led invasion of Iraq has been marked by further war crimes and atrocities. For significant sections of the American ruling class, everything depends upon preventing opposition to the occupation of Iraq within the American and international working class from developing into a conscious movement for political and social change. To them, the life of 26-year-old Nick Berg would have meant nothing. (By courtesy of WSWS.org)
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