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A Father Politicizes His Son’s Death

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“My son died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. This administration did this…”

This is a hard one for me to write. One one hand, there is no doubt in my mind that Michael Berg, the father of Nick Berg, loves his son. As you know, Nick Berg is the person who was ritually beheaded in front of a video camera so that the terrorists could display the horrible footage to the world.

The obvious aspect of this tragedy is that Nick Berg, by all accounts, was a young man who cared about people and was hoping to make a difference in the world. He had travelled to other impoverished nations and raised and spent money to try and improve their lives. Nick seemed to be a person intent on doing good in the world. Yet, his honorable life was horribly ended.

The ironic twist of this story, which few have given mention, is the fact that Nick’s life was ended after he was, not once, but twice profiled. The first incident of profiling was, of course, by Iraqi security. In a routine check of papers, they found a man claiming to be an American among a group of Iraqis whose name was Jewish and whose passport had stamps showing two visits to Israel, among other countries.

An American Jew among Iraqis, with possible ties to Israel? So they detained him for a number of days to verify his story. During his detention, the FBI was notified and they met two or three times with Nick, contacted the parents to verify his identify, and on April 6, Nick was released.

The second incidence of racial profiling occurred after Nick was captured by terrorists in Iraq on April 9. I’m sure they focused in on the same information as did Iraqi security; a Jewish man with American and Israeli connections. This made him the perfect fodder for their radical beliefs. Ultimately, what Nick Berg got was the “Daniel Pearl treatment;” no more, no less.

Of course, the terrorists in the video (one of whom is now thought to be Zarqawi) claimed this was all revenge for what had been done to Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghrabe, but anyone with half a brain knows better. Nick Berg got the same kind of treatment that Jews often get at the hands of Islamic extremists… The same kind of treatment that Tali Hatuel, eight months pregnant, received a few weeks back when she and her four girls, ages 2 to 11, were all murdered in their car, shot at point blank range by terrorists, with an extra bullet to the mother’s stomach to assure that the baby went the way of the other five.

Okay, all that is obvious. Now for the not-so-obvious tragedy which, yesterday, presented itself to the world… Michael Berg’s claim to the press that George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld were really responsible for Nick’s murder.

As I listened to Michael Berg, obviously fighting back tears, rattle off the same anti-Bush talking points he learned working with the radical left organization, International ANSWER, I just couldn’t help but feel even worse for Nick Berg and the rest of Nick’s family. There stood Nick’s father, a man whose hatred for George Bush had grown so intense, he was even willing to polticize his son’s own death!

What about the radical Islamists who performed the brutal act? Victims, of course, of US aggression and arrogance. Those poor terrorists, they have been so bullied and harried that, like animals, they’ll do violence to anyone they can get their hands on. Its our fault since we pushed them to this extreme.

And on goes the man’s pitiful sad rhetoric…

A father willing to turn his brave son’s life and death into a political footnote for Campaign 2004. I guess he’s just being a good socialist. Which is why, to me, this is the most devastating aspect of the Nick Berg tragedy. The terrorists used Nick’s murder for political purposes, and then so did his father.

David Flanagan

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  • yes americans are more terror thin al qaeda we are not killing you in your country you came to us in afganstan and iraq you want to kill us so we will do the same thing to you unless you leave us and leave our country’s and this War isnt against terrorist or any things its all about “cursad” and a war for jews goods. all goods of the wars goe’s to jews and americans is useless people for the good for jews only but we will keep this fight up untill we get 1 of 2 things either Glory or heaven”death”. the only thing that’s make diff between us muslims and you unbelievers “jews are included” that we love death as much as you love life.

  • I’m not surprised, JR. The fool here is not Michael Berg. But for the corrupt foreign policy of the U.S. and the inept behavior of American and U.S. run agencies, including the jail where he was held, Nick Berg would be alive. That does not take the most direct responsibility for his death away from his murderers. But, there is definitely responsibility to share and the U.S. apparatus owns a piece of it.

    Under the crocodile tears, all David Flanagan’s more recent post does is applaud the status quo, as usual. Newer people may not know it, but Flanagan’s objectives are to be a cheerleader for Bush and the far Right version of Christianity at Blogcritics. By shifting all the blame to Berg and the terrorists, he promotes a great untruth. Berg had traveled in Muslim areas before and had good experiences. (He was particularly taken with a Muslim region of Uganda.) His previous trip to Iraq, where he made many friends, probably reasssured him. The claim that being a Jew in Iraq was grounds enough for him to be killed is not supported by the known facts. The occupation is more than a year old and no other beheadings have occurred. (Though there are at least 25 dead Iraqi detainees whose causes of death are unknown.) This entry serves a purpose, but that purpose is not forwarding knowledge of the life and death of Nick Berg.

  • JR

    Amazingly enough, Michael Berg has a point.

    …the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger.

  • Flanagan, you must explain what exactly politicizing a person’s death is, and also you must explain what is wrong with doing it. Bhw points out that you ignore the context–that this man was grieving. But you also ignore a much larger context. Did Bush politicize the deaths of 9/11 victims? For his latest such “politicization,” see Furor over Bush’s 9/11 ad, and see this old one also: Jimmy Breslin on the Bush Speech. Does not Bush politicize the death of Jesus every day? Was Pat Tillman’s death politicized? By conservatives? By liberals? By communists? I just don’t know exactly what you mean by politicized, and I would like you to clarify when it is good and when it is bad.

    Seemingly, politicizing a death is to cheapen it, dirty it, corrupt it. Is that what you mean? Is there an assumption that connecting a death with political action somehow corrupts the death as it is commingled with tainted politics? How can a death be corrupted? You can’t really harm a person after they are dead. Are you merely calling for a bit of reverence and respect for the dead? In America, forget it. Are you assuming that all politics is corrupt, all politicians corrupt, all politically active people corrupt? And now you’ve gone and politicized Berg’s father’s “politicizing” of it. Oh what a travesty (sarcasm). Sorry, but I don’t understand.

    I could see you making a case for a call to reason. We should not allow immediate emotional responses to cloud our logic. One death, in the big scheme of things, is not supposed to lead us to eschew our rational plans and strategy. In some ways, I agree with this idea. We should not rush into any political action, any war, with anger and revenge as our motivations, based on the death of Berg–or based on the deaths of 9/11 victims. Our political decisions should be based on the security and safety of our people and of the people of the world. So, I encourage people to allow the rational part of their minds to overcome the horrified, angered, “somethinged” feelings that Berg’s death creates in us. Please think things through logically rather than emotionally (WWSD–What Would Spock Do?).

    Marc said: “making political hay off Berg’s death?” Again, what exactly does this mean? Why is it bad? Is making political hay off someone’s death always bad? Please explain.

    RJ, you wrote “inaction led to. . .” I always thought that actions led to consequences. That said, I think that Clinton is a “politicized” devil (same goes for Bush, his daddy, Ronald Reagan, and, probably, for Kerry) who definitely failed to respond adequately to the Rwanda/Burundi tragedy–along with all of his Democrat and Republican coworkers (and the rest of the world). Of course, such tragedies have been going on in different parts of Africa–and in other parts of the world–for a long time, and the US has not done much to avert them, either.

  • Well, I did say at the beginning that this article was a hard one for me to write. Why? Because, in my judgement, Michael Berg has politicized his son’s death. When you stand in front of cameras, as he did, and spout the talking points of the most radical anti-war/socialist group in the nation, and then go on to declare the Patriot Act to be a “coup d’etat,” you’ve clearly moved from the realm of grief to that of politics.

    And again I say that levelling these criticisms is very hard for me to do. The man lost his son.

    I have two daughters, ages 1 and 4, and they, along with my wife, are the joy of my life. Tomorrow morning I’m going to watch my four-year-old in her first ballet recital. She’s so excited about it that, tonight, she could hardly get to sleep. I finally had to pretend to be very stern with her to get her to stay in bed long enough to fall asleep. I tucked her in bed for the sixth time in just under an hour, making sure the sheet was folded back over the blanket and the corners were tucked tight, just the way she likes it, kissed her on the cheek, told her I loved her, then reminded her, “no more getting out of bed.”

    How could I survive if I lost any one of them? I don’t even pretend to know what it’s like to lose one of my children, I only know that it’s my worst nightmare.

    And so it was a depressing article to write, but I feel, as a father, that Nick Berg’s father is not honoring his son with this kind of rhetoric. If Michael Berg had said something like, “I’ve been against this war from the beginning, I never wanted it to happen, and now I’ve lost my son to this war,” I would have understood completely, and never said a word. But he didn’t quite make it that simple, did he?

    As for Nick Berg, please, lets not ascribe secret motives to him. Yes, he went to Iraq of his own choice. He was young, idealistic, and willing to take the risk. I admire him for his courage and I remember being just like that when I was his age. He was just a bright young American whose Jewish faith and American citizenship made him a prime target for Islamic Jihadists.


  • bhw

    SWM, sorry for your loss.

    But you’re making part of my point for me, which is that the younger Berg put himself in danger. The elder needs someone to blame other than his son. He was already anti-war/anti-Bush, it appears, so it’s just easier to go with that.

    I don’t agree with him, but I don’t really see what he’s doing as all that surprising or, given the circumstances, all that horrible.

  • Stately Wayne Manor

    BHW,I understand loss trust me.My father
    and youngest sister were killed by a
    drunk driver over a decade ago.I’m still
    not over it nor do I think I ever will
    be.However,in all of my infinite sadness
    and grief I never tried to place the
    blame on ANYONE other than the woman who
    was driving the car which struck my
    family.It was her own fault for driving
    while intoxicated,not the bar(s)she was
    drinking at or the manufacturers of the
    alcohol she had been consuming.

    Berg knew full well and good (one would
    hope so anyway)that in venturing to Iraq
    that he was taking his life in his own
    hands.I would assume that Bergs father
    knew the same.By all accounts,Mr. Berg
    was an intelligent human being.Perhaps
    his father should’ve tried to dissuade
    from going there in the first place.

    There are other ways to make $$$$$ that
    are a wee bit safer.He wasn’t there for
    any humanitarian reasons that I know of.
    If I am wrong about this please correct

    The fact is: Berg was an opportunist in
    going to Iraq in the first place. He was
    out to make money off of the suffering
    of a people who have seen much too much
    of it.First at the hands of Hussein and
    now at the hands of their “liberators”.

    If Berg The Elder was so shook up about
    this whole ordeal why did he not eschew
    the press entirely in the first place?
    I’m quite sure given the situation they
    (the press,ghouls that they are)would’ve
    fully understood had he chose to do so.

    Call me callous or whatever, but I can’t
    find a whole lot of sympathy here for Mr
    Berg. He consciously made a decision to
    place himself in harms way and paid the
    full cost.

    If I’m to be shedding any tears anytime
    soon it will be for Haitian children who
    are eating dirt just to have something
    in their stomachs or war orphans over in
    Rwanda,not for some upper middle class,
    college educated,opportunist looking to
    make a buck.They(the children)dont have
    any choice in their situations or any
    control over their own fate.Berg did.

    Regardless of this absolutely horrible
    fate suffered by Berg,his father knows
    full well & good that the Government of
    the United Snakes Of Amerikkka isn’t the
    cause of his sons death.

    To claim otherwise,no matter how badly
    consumed with grief he may be right now,
    is irresponsible,wrong and inexcusable.

    A Salaam Alaykum, my sister.

  • bhw

    Stately Wayne Manner, I think having his son beheaded and having it taped gives the elder Berg a lot of leeway for some time to come. You’re trying to ask the man to act rationally at a time when it’s practically impossible.

    When one of your kids is murdered, then you can talk about Berg’s utter and complete idiocy with some actual clout.

  • I do agree to an extent with what bhw is saying. In tort law, there is a concept called comparative negligence. It means that responsibility can be allocated among parties in an injury instead of placed on one of them. Eventually, it may be possible to do that kind of allocation. So, the persons responsible for throwing Berg’s plans off by jailing him would have some responsibility, so would the killers, and, perhaps Berg himself. But, I think it premature to try to allocate responsibility now. Nor is Michael Berg’s point about U.S. foreign policy playing a role in his son’s death dismissable.

    Way too much is being made of Berg’s having visited Israel by the far Right. Berg traveled all over the place. That includes other Muslim areas and a previous trip to Iraq. Again, I encourage people to read real sources of information about the Berg situation. One does not get the facts, or even reasonable opinion, from the troglodytes of Free Republic.

  • I foresaw this. The same people who will use the beheading to encourage escalation of the violence will also attempt to discredit the persons most effected by Nick Berg’s death. That’s far Right Wingers for you.

    As is often the case with a David Flanagan entry, the ‘information’ here is not factual. It is mainly supposition from Right Wing opinion pieces. I’ve written an entry with information about Nick Berg’s visits to Iraq which is posted here. Do read the NYT article I refer to. It will give you a factual account of Berg’s movements, not what Drudge or Limbaugh claims occurred.

    I again invite David Flanagan to join U.S. forces in Iraq. I think folks like him belong there. Considering his excessive talking the talk, it is about time he walked the walk.

  • Stately Wayne Manor

    Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh…. THE BLAME GAME.
    Why is it that no one in this screwed up
    country can except the consequences of
    their own actions anymore.Eat like some
    kind of fucking pig and it’s MacDonalds
    fat ya got fat.Smoke like a chimney and
    it’s the tobacco companies fault for not
    warning you strongly enough when you get
    cancer. Go sticking your opportunistic
    nose into a WAR ZONE that you have no
    business being in in the first place and
    it’s the Goverments fault that you get
    your stupid ass whacked ? FUCK YOU !!!!!
    Any loss of life is horrible granted but
    grief and loss is absolutely no excuse
    for the utter & complete idiocy such as
    that being exercised of Berg The Elder.

  • bhw

    A normal father would be privately grieving in a time like this, not giving anti-Republican interviews in an election season.

    One thing I’ve learned over the years from watching people grieve is that there is no such thing as a “normal” way to grieve. Everyone does it differently. Some people prefer privacy, others lots of attention.

    None of us can really say *how* a parent should grieve for a child who was murdered and whose murder has been played for the world to see. If you haven’t been in those shoes, you just simply can’t relate.

    One thought that comes to my mind is that it’s easier for the senior Berg to blame Bush & Co. because the alternative is worse: his son put himself in the position to be killed. He willingly walked into the center of a kill-or-be-killed world.

    But that’s just conjecture.

  • sheri

    I feel horrible for Nick Berg’s entire family. But his father is not the one who had his head sawed off. Nick Berg’s head was sawed off, and from what I understand, he was pro-war. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  • Marc, you forgot to mention that “War is Peace”, “Strength is Freedom” and “Entertainment is Music”.

    Now scamper off to your Anti-Sex League meeting, and don’t forget the Two Minute Hate.

  • boomcrashbaby


    I gather the list is at freerepublic.com

    “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.”

    If that’s the perception of a grieving man right now, whether it is accurate or not, to attack him for it is absolutely incredulous. I hope right wingers go on and on about how he’s politicizing it. I’m liberal, as is probably obvious, however I have a lot of semi-conservative/moderate friends, who are completely appalled at accusations like this during a time of loss, no matter what. Keep on, keep on, I’m liking the result.

  • RJ, when did I ever support the ass-clown you have as your figure-head in the USSR?

    If anything you should feel shame as a citizen that you did nothing to prevent the genocide in Rwanda, and your government’s role in the UN in blocking the massacre. Canadians sent troops, who were blocked by the US from acting.

    Not a President, a Nation. Your President is a figure-head who has been chosen for over 40 years. It’s the unelected cabal who are in charge.

    At least since you are willing to crawl into the light allows some of us to get our pointy shoes out.

  • boomcrashbaby:

    What the hell “right-wing enemy list” are you refering to? If its International A.N.S.W.E.R you are seriously mis-guided.
    In fact the father signed on as an endorser of ANSWER’S March 20 anti-war protest. Nothing wrong in that, that’s his right. But I ask you what does this statement say?

    “”Nicholas Berg died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld,” said Michael Berg from his home in Pennsylvania.

    “This administration did this. The al-Qa’ida people are probably as bad as they are.”

    Michael Berg is playing politics over his son’s dead body, plain and simple. In fact he is saying Bush and Rumsfeld are WORSE than the terrorists. Grief my ass, he is a card carrying member of the Tinfoil Hat Brigade.

    To top it all Kerry has to enter his 2 cents:

    “Later yesterday, Mr Berg, who put up an anti-war sign in his yard, took a call from Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

    “He feels let down … by those who should have been protecting his son,” Senator Kerry said later.

    Are you going to tell me thats not making political hay off Berg’s death? And look at the first part of the quote, “Mr Berg, who put up an anti-war sign in his yard.”

    He is an avowed supporter of International A.N.S.W.E.R. and JUST THEN he decides to display the sign, just when hundreds of reporters, and cameras, are stomping thru his yard

    Ignorance is bliss!

  • So, in other words, it is more that the interests and profile of the Party are correct, and the image of the Great Leader be untarnished rather than doing good?

    Y’know you could just save y’all a lot of bother this Fall (not that the rest of the people get a say in what asshole you put in place) but why vote for the lesser evil — just vote Satan.

    Vote Satan, now and forever.

  • Bush’s action (agreed with by both Houses of Congress and the UN [sorta] and the American public[at the time]) has led to hundreds of American deaths in Iraq.

    Clinton’s inaction led to HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of deaths in Rwanda.

    Iraq (pre-liberation) was a TRULY “fascist” state with mass graves containing HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of bodies OF IRAQIS.

    Naturally, a know-nothing Canuck takes Bush to task more harshly than the other two…

  • RJ, a plane crash is not a tragedy. Look it up along with hubris and bullshit.

    This intense focus on issues and incidents from the sole perspective of “how does this affect the Party, and the Glorious Leader”, ack, it’s just disgusting.

    I don’t know what happened with this situation, but it is clear that given that almost everything reported is shrouded in lies and denials, why shouldn’t Michael Berg blame Shrub and Rummy, aren’t they responsible and accountable for the whole mess?

    Or are Glorious Leaders no longer accountable and responsible? Isn’t that the point of having Leaders? They are responsible and accountable for their orders and commands?

    Oh, wait, I forgot, the hallmark of fascism is the absolute abdication of responsibility. So, yes, you’re right, and you just reveal more of your character.

  • A normal father would be privately grieving in a time like this, not giving anti-Republican interviews in an election season.

    This reminds me of the Senator Paul Wellstone tragedy. What should have been a memorial service turned into Republican-bashing. (And the public backlash cost Mondale the election…)Sickening.

  • We love you too Jim.

  • I really regret reading this article because it is nothing more than fascist porn. You must be festering with hate.

    The whole Berg case is a mystery, and will probably take months before the cloud of lies and disinfo is somewhat sorted out. Trying to smear Berg’s father is obscene, as is the relish of the US fascists that they can promulgate the video.

    I know it is a waste of time to ask if you have no shame, because you obviously have none.

  • A failed adgenda? The war may not be going perfectly, but it’s hardly at a point for you to be referring to it as a failure.

    Clearly there are problems, alot of them, but they are problems to be dealt with. This isn’t an english exam where you pass or fail. This is a complex action with so many variables and outcomes. Besides the fact that the war isn’t over, and that we have no idea how the new Iraq will affect our foriegn policy or the region, we are too close to really see the forest (the face of Iraq/Middle East in 10 years) for the trees (prisoner abuse, berg, daily terrorist potshots that kill our troops).

    I would venture that ALL politicians politicize, regardless of affiliation. No one can disagree with me there.

    And no one can disagree that Nick Berg took a risk with his own life for money. Bush didn’t force him to go, and no one should expect Bush to be responsible for him either.

    Mike Bergs comments do not stand the test of reason, and it’s a shame that a man deserving of the nation’s sympathy has to turn around and make a meaningless political point regarding his own son’s death.

  • boomcrashbaby

    There are Republicans who think that the policy over there is a failure. Are they politicizing? No. A failure is a failure. Let’s look at the real politicizing going on here. Attacking a dead man’s father in an attempt to bolster perception of a failed agenda. That is politicizing.

  • boomcrashbaby

    If one reads Nick’s fathers comments with ABCnews, he states that Al Queda is ‘as bad as they probably are’, which might not make complete sense, but then again the man is grieving. To read your blog where you imply that the killers who did this are victims in his mind, is downright falsehood to the extreme.

    Secondly, he blames this on the administrations policies in Iraq, and the fact that he is listed on a right-wing enemy list. Millions of Americans believe that the administrations policies there are a dismal failure, not just his father. that is not politicizing his son’s death. Saying a policy is a failure is not politicizing, it is saying a policy is a failure. It is truely a sad, dark day indeed, when right wing zealots will turn around and attack a dead man’s grieving father. Talk about politicizing. Talk about shame.

  • David,

    Great article. When I heard Berg’s father lay all of this at the feet of our administration, I asked the same question you did: What about the people who actually killed Nick Berg?

    Obviously his father is on the receiving end of some really bad manipulation, and its a terrible shame. And as a jew, it’s hard to imagine an American president who has supported his own people as much as Bush. It’s almost as if the father is casting a negative glow on his son by making these remarks.

    And lets not forget the fact that Bush never sent Nick Berg into Iraq, it was a choice that Nick made for himself, fully aware of the risks involved.