The Courage of Michael Berg

Revolutionary Worker #1242, May 30, 2004, posted at

"Nicholas Berg died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. The al-Qaida people are probably just as bad as they are, but this administration did this."

Michael Berg, father of Nicholas Berg, outside his house, May 13

On May 11, a video was released on the internet showing four masked men beheading 26-year-old American Nick Berg, who had been missing in Iraq since early April. Immediately the U.S. media began using this horrific incident to justify further horrors by the U.S. against the Iraqi people. In recent weeks, the U.S. government has been stung by revelations of torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison. But now, after the killing of Nick Berg, prominent supporters of the war claimed that his death justifies the actions of the U.S. and that it showed that nothing the U.S. has done can compare with the actions of its enemies.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said, "The image of these murderers is a shocking reminder of the people we're up against. They are not soldiers. They're monsters, they're terrorists, and we will not rest until every last one of them is in a cell or a cemetery."

Sen. John Kerry said, "The terrorists who committed this atrocity will not prevail, and America stands together against them."

However, the facts are that the U.S. war machine has now killed over 10,000 Iraqi civilians, and the U.S. army has admitted that at least 37 prisoners died under suspicious circumstances in their custody. By what twisted logic does the execution of one American now justify all that?

Since his son Nick was killed, Michael Berg has courageously spoken out against these twisted claims by war supporters, and he has put the blame for Nick's death squarely on the U.S. government's war in Iraq.

Michael Berg has repeatedly said that the war and occupation carried out by the Bush administration was ultimately the reason for his son's death.

Berg said: "Donald Rumsfeld said that he took responsibility for the sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners. How could he take that responsibility when there was no consequence? Nick took the consequences."

Nick Berg had been detained without charges by U.S forces in Iraq prior to his death, causing him to miss his scheduled flight out of Iraq. Michael Berg told Boston radio station WBUR: "What cost my son his life was the fact the U.S. government saw fit to keep him in custody for 13 days without any of his due process or civil rights and released him when they were good and ready. It goes further than Donald Rumsfeld. It's the whole Patriot Act, it's the whole feeling in this country that rights don't matter any more because there are terrorists about. Well, in my opinion `terrorist' is just another word like `communist' or `witch' and it's a witchhunt and this whole administration is just representing something that is not America."

Even before the murder of his son, Michael Berg was put on a list of traitors and enemies on the right wing website because of his support for the anti-war movement and his public endorsement of the ANSWER anti-war coalition. There is speculation that this may have been the reason that Nick Berg was held for so long by the U.S. and allied forces in Iraq.

Speaking about his involvement in the anti-war movement, Michael Berg said, "It is something that I am not ashamed of. I am proud of it. I think stopping the war and ending racism are extremely important things that this world has to do right now. I am proud to be a member of ANSWER and I plan to be at the march on June 5. I know it is considered a radical group. But I want to ask: Radical as compared to what? The Bush administration? I'll be radical."