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The Butchering of an American

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SALINAS,Ca: I heard the news on the radio with a sinking feeling bordering on nausea.

It was the news about Nick Berg being beheaded in Iraq by the latest incarnation of fascists that brave World War II veterans such as my father, Richard, thought they had exterminated a half century ago.

The horror I felt was akin to when I was a kid and first saw King Kong — the scene where Kong’s face appears in the New York hotel window, lustily looking at Fray Wray. But, besides that horror, I felt a bile-spewing sense of utter anger and rage.

On the tail end of a 400 mile drive, as I went north on 101, I still had an unceasing sense of sickness and pain…and for a while I couldn’t figure out why.

Then, suddenly, it dawned on me. I knew.

I realized I truly grieved for an idealistic 26-year-old who had to experience such indescribable horror in the last minutes of his all-too-short life; grief for all the young kids for whom I perform (I’m a ventriloquist this week performing at the Salinas County Fair) who must constantly live under a growing physical threat in a mega-violent world where they’ll have to make stark choices for decades in a life-death battle to wipe out murderers wrapping themselves in religion; plus grief as I heard shameless, self-serving posturing from both sides of the U.S. the political spectrum, not missing a solitary beat in their unrelenting attempt to score points to elect “their” man to the White House..

911 was devastating. Daniel Pearl’s death was sickening and haunting. Yet, Berg’s seems somehow sadder, more shocking and more sickening than Pearl’s death because the last few weeks of his life were filled with such frustration, anxiety, horror and pain.

There are lots of news stories about Nick Berg, a supporter of the war who had gone to Iraq to try and do some work for the Iraqis and for his company. In a nutshell: first he was arrested by the Iraqi police. FBI agents told his parents he was in jail. By April 5 his parents filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia, claiming that their son was being held illegally by the U.S. military in Iraq. Clearly, the parents were frantic in trying to get their son out of there and, by all accounts, he wanted to leave by then, too.

And then this strange story gets stranger, according to the Centre Daily News. In a report published before Berg’s death it reported:

    The next day, April 6, Nick Berg was released. He told his parents he had been riding in a taxi on March 24 when he was arrested by Iraqi officials at a checkpoint in Mosul.He told his parents he had not been mistreated Nick Berg said he would come home through Jordan, Turkey or Kuwait. But by then, hostilities in Iraq had escalated, and Michael Berg said they have not heard from their son since.
    The Bergs have hounded the State Department, the FBI and the International Committee of the Red Cross, seeking information. Michael Berg said the State Department sent an official to Nick Berg’s hotel, where an employee told the official they had not heard of him. The Bergs hired a private investigator, who talked to an American hotel guest who said he remembered Nick Berg.
    Sometimes, they tell themselves their son “is a resourceful fellow who can take care of himself,” Michael Berg said.”Other times we think perhaps he was dead on April 10,” he said. “My worst fear is that I’ll never hear anything.”

So this 26-year-old with personal ideals and modest business aspirations was released. And just think of the sense of relief he must have felt that he’d soon be going home….

Then he was captured by terrorists.

Those final days and moments must have been hell. Just think about it as you read this:

    The video showed five men wearing headscarves and black ski masks, standing over a bound man in an orange jumpsuit similar to a prisoner’s uniform who identified himself as Nick Berg, a U.S. contractor whose body was found on a highway overpass in Baghdad on Saturday.
    Sitting in a chair, Berg made the following statement: “My name is Nick Berg, my father’s name is Michael, my mothef’s name is Susan,”” the man said on the video. “I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah. I live in …Philadelphia.”
    The video then changes to a scene of masked men, with Berg sitting in front of them.After reading a statement, the masked men were seen pulling the man to his side and putting a large knife to his neck. A scream sounded as the men cut his head off, shouting “Allahu Akbar” “God is great.” They then held the head out before the camera.

Just another death? Not quite:

(1)This 26-year-old man was slaughtered like an animal by people wanting to make a political statement. If they could make one by killing you, me, your infant daughter, your son, and your grandmother they most certainly would. The death of Pearl, an Italian contractor, now Berg, is clearly part of a pattern. Expect more of them. Possibly LOTS more. It gets them publicity and spreads fear.

(2)Some politicos and commentators on the left immediately suggested it was cause and effect. Their “WE TOLD YOU SO!” attitude stemmed from their contention that Berg was murdered in retaliation for the way Iraqi prisoners were abused by American prison guards. And that is indeed what Berg’s killers said, except it doesn’t make sense:

If there had been no guards’ scandal they wouldn’t have taken him out for a nice dinner and camel ride and released him.

Berg was doomed to be butchered on some pretext the second he was caught.

(3)Some politicos and talk show hosts on the right began inching towards the position that this somehow negates the scandal over how Iraqi prisoners were abused — and that it shows Iraqi prisoners deserve it. Or suggesting that since American guards didn’t cut anyone’s head off then what happened to Iraqis prisoners was not that bad and the inquiry should be dropped or buried.

So let’s be blunt:

The fascists masking themselves in religious rhetoric gleefully holding up a head sliced off a terrified, screaming young American moments before contrast starkly with the smug jailers in the photos humiliating Iraqi prisoners in one important way.

The terrorists will be cheered by many on the Arab Middle East street and won’t face consequences unless governments rub them out. The American guard jailers will be tried, punished — and likely shunned. And that’ll happen because Americans value law and life.

But even with all the political implications I return to one all-encompassing thought: those stressful last weeks of Nick Berg in a foreign land, under arrest, kidnapped, then having his young life ended in such a horrorific way.

We can’t forget our values in the Iraqi prisoner scandal; we can’t forget our goals in the war against terrorism. And we can’t forget Nick Berg.

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About Joe

  • boomcrashbaby

    I’m a ventriloquist this week performing at the Salinas County Fair

    Well, my daughter and I will have to stop by, see your show and say hello, or as she eloquently puts it “hehwoo”

  • kuros

    I am sorry Nicholas Berg. I am watching your death, and I am mourning for you like I was your friend. I feel like your friend. I think that you were trying to befriend the world, and that you, through your brief and unexpectedly ended life, have prevailed.

    I wish peace and healing for the Berg family. What has happened is an outrage, and ultimately, can never be apologized for. Losing a child must be the worst pain there is. But to have the entire world focused on it and politicians using it as a bargaining chip leaves us to wonder, “where is God?” What kind of God allows this to happen? In the world we live in, how do we expect to go on?

    It is a sick kind of “Keeping up with the Joneses.” I will see your prison abuse, and I will raise you one beheading. Poker face. Yeah, I know. It is horrible, because war is horrible, and bloody in its scope, the sheer volume of human rage, not to mention bloodshed.

    But let it be known, loud and clear. There is no such thing as revenge. The word and deed exist and the idea of sweet retribution is appealing but never satisfying when actually carried out. Avenging angels/ devils/ infidels/ insurgents are never satisfied. They are always left wanting, or bitter, disappointed. Our egos are bigger than our stomachs, which can only consume so much blood and bile before it is regurgitated onto ourselves.

    What do you do in times like these? Where do we go? What is going to happen now? It isn’t a game, and since there are no ways to play, how do you stop? Does this mean everyone has to die? What is hideous, unavoidable, tragic – is the widespread coverage of it all, the way the information flashes forward in ominous RealPlayer detail to all points on the map. But perhaps, this is our saving grace. Because the pictures are gory, they are mounting day by day, the death toll is rising with a bullet, there is no escape. If you are not commenting on it, you are not here.

    What would God say? I ask my God to help us. He shrugs his shoulders and says nothing. My God is kind of lazy that way. My God takes three hour martini lunches and calls it a day far sooner than He should. He likes me to work shit out on my own. He is cool though.

    I am terribly sad for all the dead, injured, abused, Iraqi and American, military and civilian, hero or madman, everybody – because there is no reason anymore for this escalating violence. It isn’t “Spy vs. Spy.” It is human life. People, with mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, hometowns like Philadelphia or Baghdad.

    My heart goes out for all the suffering in the world. I wish to breathe it all into my lungs, let it run all the way through my respiratory and circulatory system, and exhale pure love and ever loving compassion.

    Margaret Cho

  • The best revenge is success. Think about it.

  • Thank you for collecting the extra information about Nick Berg I had not seen or heard .

  • sheri

    Thank You for putting into words the pain and anger I feel about the beheading of Nick Berg. I am not going to forget.

  • Sean Hannity played the audio on his show. It was ghastly. I almost had to pull over.

    To those who haven’t heard it, it wasn’t anything like the guillotine: WHACK-Thump. It was sickeningly slow. Unimaginably terrifying. And these monsters were chanting “God is Great” while doing it…

    What sickens me most, perhaps, isn’t the horrific death of an innocent American civilian, or even the thought that millions in the Muslim World celebrated it. No, what sickens me the most is that these bastards will likely get away with it. Finding them in a chaotic Iraq will be like finding a needle in a haystack.

    Our prisoner-abusers will be tried and punished. Their murderers will likely live long lives as “heroes” to their ilk.

    That’s what sickens me the most.

  • JR

    Our prisoner-abusers will be tried and punished. Their murderers will likely live long lives as “heroes” to their ilk.

    I’m guessing not. Assuming they’re not caught or killed in further criminal acts, these people will probably take to arguing amongst themselves. Since these folks like to resolve conflict by violence, they won’t hesitate to kill each other. One way or another, I doubt these creeps will live long lives.

  • I will say that I was happy that at least Jordan, Saudi Arabia and UAE all expressed outrage at his killing. As meaningless of a gesture as it was, it’s a start on the road to decency (at least appearance-wise).

  • James:

    What about Egypt? Or Kuwait? Or Qatar? Or Oman? Or Yemen? Or Turkey? Or Libya?

    A few dictatorial governments offering sound-bytes isn’t good enough. Until we change the cultural mindset of these people, we still have a lot of work to do…

  • I disagree on the point that Nick Berg’s murderers will not see justice.

    They have done an excellent job of making Nick Berg a martyr for Nick Berg’s cause. His cause was to give up all worldly posssesions to help some more unfortunate people, despite their hostility. Their ill treatment of justice and of an innocent with such helpful intensions reveals the failure of their religion, and will cause even more determination to rid them and those like them from this world.

    Because of Nick Berg’s love and willingness to help others, there are even more children hearing of this story than 9.11 and asking, “What can I do to rid the world of terrorism.”

    In the end, these murderers (just like the prison guards who humiliated Iraqis prisoners) will be dealt justice and they will find themselves saying “God is great…” To Nick Berg’s God.


  • David

    RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – The Arab satellite network Al-Arabiya reported Friday that American hostage Paul Johnson had been beheaded. It did not immediately provide details and the report could not be independently confirmed.

    I copied and pasted the above from MSN. I say that we put a bullet in Saddams head ( by accident of course )and then plug a bomb in the asses of the rest. Next get the Americans out of that fucking shithole

  • David

    Paul Johnson was just beheaded because in the words of the AlQaeda terrorist:
    “He worked on Apache Helicopters that killed Muslims and made them better and easier to kill Muslims”.

  • David, you make me afraid, just like Berg’s and Johnson’s killers.

  • David

    The above was a quote from the terrorist. Shut the fuck up and quit trying to create conflict.

    As far as you being afraid you shouldn’t go so many months without looking in the mirror. I think that’s what scared you.

  • At least one of the new Davids is sounding more and more like Roger Ely — all aggression and abuse. Perhaps he is crazy in his own right. But, with ‘John-Z’ just having left, one wonders.

  • Actually, I was not trying to create conflict. I was giving my honest reaction to your statement, “I say that we put a bullet in Saddams head ( by accident of course )and then plug a bomb in the asses of the rest.” Trust me, what scares me is you.

    “Shut the fuck up,” as if. I have the right to say what I will. And I shall.

  • Natalie, it ain’t you. ‘David’ is like that on every thread. Invite him for a cup of coffee, and he would threaten to scald you with it. The beheadings are horrible and will backfire on the people doing them. But, the topic doesn’t matter for David.

  • David

    MacDiva I think that you are mistaken me for another one of the David’s on here. I have only written a few things on here since a few days ago.