Michael Berg

Michael Berg is the father of Nicholas (Nick) Berg, the young businessman who in May of 2004 was captured by terrorists in Iraq and beheaded. The terrorists videotaped the beheading and distributed the tape via their website. News services reported on the contents of the tape, showing the preamble of statements by Berg (and the terrorists?), but stopping short of broadcasting the actual beheading. However, besides the video, a still image of a terrorist holding up Bergs decapitated head has circulated widely on the Net.

This was the first broadly distributed videotape of a hostage beheading, though others followed later. At the time it seemed so surreal that videotape of such an act existed. Of course I downloaded a copy, but I couldn't get myself to watch it. I watched the beginning, but just couldn't bring myself to view the entire tape. I was too repulsed, horrified.

Now, (how many short months later?) such an act on video seems less horrifying. How terribly sad. What part of my humanity have I lost?

Just watched a video of a very different sort.

It was of Michael Berg (Nick's father) responding to news that the alleged murderer of his son, terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a U.S. bombing raid in Iraq.

F-16 jets dropped two 500 lb. bombs on a building intelligence sources had marked as Zarqawi's location. Innocents were killed in the large explosions, including by one report a pregnant mother. Searching the rubble, U.S. forces managed to recover Zarqawi's body (recent reports say he was being taken out on a stretcher by Iraqi police), and cleaned it up for photos that were displayed at a news conference, hoping the images would prove to skeptics that the long-sought terrorist leader was actually dead.

This same approach was done with Sadamm's sons when they were killed in a firefight, and I was shocked that pictures of the dead would be showcased on national TV -- and by the U.S. government. With the Zarqawi assassination, pictures of the dead are again being showcased, and I find myself less repulsed. How very sad. More of my humanity slips away.

But Michael Berg's reaction caught me by surprise. I hadn't followed his son's murder very closely, or any of the father's statements. So his take was unexpected.

Michael Berg saw nothing good in the murder of Zarqawi. It was a revenge murder that will only continue the cycle of revenge murders.

And he pointed out that Bush sat behind his desk, signing an order to murder people thousands of miles away. At least Zarqawi -- and I swear Berg almost said "was man enough" -- killed his son holding the knife and hearing his screams....

In Berg's mind, Bush is the greater terrorist. A remote terrorist, giving orders from behind a desk, never participating in the horror of taking life.

All this was very weird to hear, coming from the father of a murdered son. But I agree with many of Berg's points. It gets back to the whole declaration of war, which we have defined as giving us the "right" to murder our enemies. No courts, trial, or evidence. Yet I wonder:

If Zarqawi was holed up in a building in the U.S., would we have dropped two 500 lb. bombs on that U.S. building?

No way.

So war behavior is okay in Iraq but not the U.S. But that isn't really fair, since our resources in the U.S. could contain a person, whereas our resources in Iraq probably could not. We probably needed such a strike to get him in Iraq. If we'd tried something with troops, the terrorist would have been warned by someone. But still...

And now the U.S. doesn't want to pay the $25 million to the informant(s) that lead to the accurate bombing because they are terrorists themselves. Of course! Who else could give us such information!?

What a mess of intention and mission.

The CIA pays off some very bad folk, so what's the diff here?

The Zarqawi situation was public.

And, NO! I do not want the $25 million used to fund terror? Absolutely not. Is that hypocritical? Are there other ways to handle this? They could put these informants in something like a witness protection program, supported by the reward money. That way the terrorists can't use it to fund terror acts, yet they still receive a reward, and the U.S. doesn't renege on it's promise.

It's a thought, but I'm afraid not a very good one. Perhaps denying the reward was the best approach among many bad ones.

What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat