Wednesday, May 12, 2004
By Robin Gedye, Alec Russell
and Oliver Poole
AN American was yesterday shown
being beheaded by terrorists in Iraq vowing revenge
for the abuse of prisoners by US
The man, who identified himself as Nick
Berg, a Philadelphia businessman missing since
April 9, read out a statement before five men
wearing headscarves and black ski masks pulled him
aside and cut off his head with a large knife,
crying "God is great" over the sound of his
Masked men stand over Nick Berg shortly before he
was beheaded They then held the head out in front
of the camera. The horrifying video was posted
yesterday on a militant Islamic website which
claimed that Abu al-Zarqawi, a close ally of Osama
bin Laden and America's most wanted man in Iraq,
personally carried out the murder.
OUR initial reaction to
the killing of a human being as a public
spectacle is one of shock and
The words uttered
by President Bush are dripping with
hypocrisy, however, coming as they do from
a president who has signed more execution
warrants as Governor of Texas than any
other governor in recent history; and not
a few of them have been filmed for the
benefit of television documentaries.
Moreover, how many World
War Two executions did the Americans
photograph and film, often in excruciating
LET us however stand back and review
the few facts that have so far been
entrusted to us by the authorities, and on
which the scared media have so far
breathed no comment.
First, the man was
executed wearing an orange jump suit: I
have long been wondering, and expressed to
colleagues the opinion, that Iraqi
resistance would gain maximum global
propaganda effect by putting their
captives through the same humiliating and
painful hoops that the Americans use in
Camp Delta at Guantánamo.
We British are
unfortunately accomplices (even if
unwilling ones) in the atrocities at Camp
Second, it was Donald Rumsfeld
who announced or implied when he and his
cronies embarked on their "war on terror"
in the Middle East that the United States
did not intend to abide by the Geneva
Third, was this latest
victim of Washington's folly the same kind
of "American" as Wall Street
Journal writer Daniel Pearl --
i.e. a 100 percent Israeli citizen, merely
working in or from America, and probably a
Mossad agent? We still remember the
of the Pearl family, living in Israel,
when an Israeli newspaper blew his
The clue to this, apart
from the obvious ones, is that
"Philadelphia businessmann" Nick
Berg is said to have been a "civilian
Most of the Israeli
assistance to the Coalition Forces in Iraq
is in the form of civilian contractors --
i.e. hired mercenaries, supplied to
operate in the fields of prisoner of war
interrogation (Abu Ghraib!), Intelligence,
or contract killings.
It is remarkable, is it
not, that Berg was captured on April 9,
over a month ago and yet not a word of his
capture was breathed in the US media about
it until now, when he has met his savage
end. Nor do I recall any reports on the
discovery of his body on Saturday.
So: remember -- you read
it first here. If he was a naive and
luckless Philadelphia businessman, trapped
and mangled by the Moloch that his
bellicose regime have created in Iraq,
then truly our hearts go out to his
family; if he was however a hired
mercenary engaged on some covert plain
clothes operation, and captured by his
enemies and dealt with as a spy, this must
mitigate our feelings of compassion.
That said, in a
civilized society it is justice that must
be seen to be done, not
anger, as Ha'aretz reveals that murdered
WSJ journalist Daniel Pearl was Israeli
[US media had "agreed to hush this
up"] | A
fine leftist Opinion column on the
The killers said the murder was revenge for the
abuse and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu
Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. They said America
would not receive "anything from us but coffins
after coffins, slaughtered in this way".
President George W Bush, who is facing
one of his gravest political crises over the
prisoner abuse scandal, said Mr Berg's killers
would be pursued and brought to justice.
Scott McClellan, the White House
spokesman, said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with
his family. It shows the true nature of the enemies
of freedom. They have no regard for the lives of
innocent men, women and children." In London, a
Foreign Office spokesman said:
"If this is genuine,
then it is utterly repugnant and indefensible".
Mr Bush's administration had warned that the
publication of the prisoner abuse photos, which
have provoked outrage across the world, in
particular the Middle East, would lead to the loss
of more American lives. The beheaded man was
wearing an orange jump suit and had his hands
"My name is Nick Berg, my father's name is
Michael, my mother's name is Suzanne," the man
said. "I have a brother and sister, David and
Sarah. I live in Philadelphia."
A hooded man then read out a statement accusing
America of rejecting an offer to swap Mr Berg for
some of the detainees in Abu Ghraib. Mr Berg was
then pushed to the floor and murdered.
The video was shown on a website which is
well-known for publishing statements from al-Qa'eda
and its affiliates. The video was called "Abu Musab
al-Zarqawi slaughtering an American". Because of
the masks, it was impossible to confirm that the
murderer was Zarqawi.
America has issued a $10 million reward for
information leading to the capture or killing of
Zarqawi, a Jordanian, whom they accuse of building
a network of Islamist insurgents in Iraq.
The body of Mr Berg, 26, was found by a road
underpass in Baghdad on Saturday. He owned a
communications equipment company and was on his
third trip to Iraq in the past six months when he
disappeared last month.
The video capped the week-old political row over
responsibility for the abuses in prisons in Iraq.
In the latest development, Major Antonio
Taguba, the general who highlighted the abuses
in a hard-hitting report, testified to Congress
that there had been major failures of leadership.
But he added that there was no evidence the
soldiers responsible for the abuses were acting
under direct orders.
The scandal erupted when the CBS network
broadcast pictures of US soldiers revelling in the
humiliation of prisoners. The subsequent row has
rocked the administration and led to calls for the
resignation of US Defence Secretary Donald
The chilling video rekindled memories of the
videotaped murder of Daniel Pearl, a Wall
Street Journal reporter, in Pakistan in 2002.
For many Democrats it will be further proof of the
folly of the policy in Iraq. But Bush supporters
hope Americans will be so appalled that they rally
behind the White House.
Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal
Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said the
killing was "an act of undiluted barbarism which
will fill every civilised person with horror". He
added: "It only serves to emphasise just how
dangerous Iraq has become for coalition forces,
including the British."
Mr Berg's activities
remain unclear. His family said he was a
reputable businessman who, according to his
mother Suzanne Berg, travelled to Iraq
because he was a "staunch supporter of the
government position" and "had this idea he could
help rebuild the infrastructure".
But, after failing to find work, he had told his
family that he planned to return home on March 30
to attend a friend's wedding. However, he is
understood to have been detained by Iraqi police in
Mosul on March 24 and released 13 days later.
"He was arrested and held without due process,"
his father, Michael Berg, told a Philadelphia
newspaper. While Mr Berg was in jail, his parents
were questioned by the FBI "regarding his purpose
in Iraq". Mr Berg was released on April 6 and made
his way to a hotel in Baghdad. He was last heard
from on April 9.
emerge: 'Suspicious' activity: Beheading victim
'never in US custody'
Expanding the Taguba
role in training US army in torture