KYL11E | Main | The world condemns barbarism

May 13, 2004

Nick Berg

Please note: there is no link to the video at this website.

My first post concerning the video can be found here.


I am so angry I have nothing coherent to say about this.

In interviews here, two friends who saw Berg after he was released from detention said he told them he had been arrested at a checkpoint in Mosul when Iraqi police examined his U.S. passport and noticed an Israeli stamp. Travel documents indicating an individual has been in Israel have long sparked suspicion in the Middle East; many Arab countries routinely refuse entry to travelers whose passports bear stamps from Israel.

"He said, 'You want to hear an interesting story? They thought I was a spy because I had a Jewish last name and had an Israeli stamp in my passport,' " said Hugo Infante, 31, a Chilean freelance journalist. "He wasn't [upset]. It was like an adventure for him."

Aziz Taee, 40, an Iraqi business associate of Berg's who has lived in the Philadelphia area for most of the past 20 years, said Berg "was in a taxicab after midnight, stopped during a routine check. The police saw in his passport the Israeli stamp."

And then... It is quite simple, actually. Start as you mean to go on.

The ignorance of even basic economics and history that informs all too many political views is an irritation at the best of times. Now it may kill us all. I cannot count the number of conversations I have had with people who believe wishful thinking, changing the subject or internationalist fictions will do the trick. Take the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war as one example. It is invoked all the time as a standard of behaviour for all (except the jihadis) (or the French government) by people who have never read the thing.

These same fantasists think we can "turn Iraq into Connecticut overnight" in the Professor's turn of phrase. We cannot. Representative government, civil society and the rule of law are a messy business in Switzerland (well, perhaps not in Switzerland) let alone in a country suffering from post-colonial disasters of war and decades of Nazi government.

If the neocons are to be proved right, Iraq must become a beacon of tolerance, democracy and economic opportunity for a region possessed by the Shadow. Many mock the very idea. Some because of their own unacknowledged racism. Some because they must carefully ration their opprobrium for non-recyclable coffee cups at the local Starbucks. Some because the track record of Western democracies in the region is decades of colonial rule, collusion with the former dictator and ongoing support for the super-fascists of Saudi Arabia. I had thought the long morning of September 11, 2001 had finally awakened some small part of the policy establishment of these same democracies to the idea we none of us can be free until all of us are free.

Apparently not. The abuse of prisoners was a sickening revelation. The arrest of an American citizen for no other reason than a Jewish name and a visitor's stamp to Israel is in somes ways yet more dispiriting. The former might be construed as an aberration that will be punished. The latter may be a matter of policy for the incoming local government. News reports suggest elements in the American administration in Iraq knew Nick Berg was being held by Iraqi police and yet there he remained. Some, including his grieving family, blame the delay this detention entailed for his subsequent slaughter at the hands of religious maniacs. I do not. But the grounds for his detention suggest the new Iraqi police force suspected him for no better reason than the one for which he was killed. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

If this is the best we can do then we have already failed.

And then... A Nick Berg Memorial fund has been established. Information can be found here.

And then... I do not know what to make of this (via lgf).

Correspondent David Martin reports U.S. officials say the FBI questioned Berg in 2002 after a computer password Berg used in college turned up in the possession of Zacarias Moussaoui, the al Qaeda operative arrested shortly before Sept. 11 for his suspicious activity at a flight school in Minnesota.

The bureau had already dismissed the connection between Berg and Moussaoui as nothing more than a college student who had been careless about protecting his password.

But in the wake of Berg's gruesome murder, it becomes a stranger-than-fiction coincidence an American who inadvertently gave away his computer password to one suspected al Qaeda operative, Moussaoui, is later murdered by another notorious al Qaeda operative, Zarqawi.

The slain man's father, Michael Berg, told reporters Thursday that his son was cleared of any wrongdoing. He said Nicholas Berg met Moussaoui while riding the bus to classes, and had allowed the suspect to use his computer.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at May 13, 2004 12:00 AM

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Don't lose heart. We will not fail.

Attitude change can take decades. Not all Germans renounced National Socialism in May, 1945. It will take some time for our notions of government and religion as separate spheres to rub off on them. In the meantime, we will continue to rebuild in good faith, and demonstrate to them that strong religious beliefs, cultural differences and democracy are not an incompatible mix.

Democracy is serving millions of people all over the entire world, not just Europe and the Americas. It may not be easy, and it may not be fast, but as W. himself said, freedom isn't America's (or even the West's) gift to the world. It is God's gift to mankind. There isn't a person alive today who doesn't want to be free.

Posted by: Chris Taylor at May 13, 2004 03:05 PM

Hugh, at Jihadwatch, has suggested we go to Southern Sudan with a force of about 5,000 to break up that emerging genocide, establish a new base and promote the establishment of a new country there.

I think it a good next move. Keeps us close to keep tally on Iraq, does good in the world when nobody else will do it, helps the beleagered in Africa.

Will we? Prob'ly not. A crying shame.

Posted by: urthshu at May 13, 2004 03:57 PM

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