Friday, May 14, 2004

The Horror Returned

My compadre has officially encouraged me not to watch the video of Nicholas Berg's beheading, as it's proven to have caused nightmarish hauntings upon his psyche. I saw stills and my imagination filled in the rest--the moving image of his head being severed, the sound of his curdling scream--and that might be enough for me.

But it is not enough for me to sit and accept from the Department of Defense, or from the CIA, or from any institution, the conclusions that have been purported in many waves of media in the last couple of days. I accept that Nick Berg was murdered, and may God have vengeance on the souls of those responsible for it; I accept that he was decapitated on video, and may some strong manner of human jurisprudence be smitten upon those who did it for the political statement it shouted out.

A number of articles have come out in the past day or two exploring some intense discrepancies, (perhaps mere) coincidences and overall very interesting tidbits that belie the seemingly black and white conclusions of guilt and meaning behind the murder.

First, there's some confusion about who Nicholas Berg was. Yes, an American, a Philadelphian, a 26-year old male. The interesting hitch in the tale begins when one considers how it is that "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." Nicholas Berg's father explained this striking coincidence by saying, first, that there was no wrongdoing on his son's behalf and that Nicholas had "met Moussaoui while riding the bus to classes, and had allowed the suspect to use his computer." FoxNews also highlights this merely "coincidental" link between Berg and Moussaoui.

This connection might explain why Nicholas Berg was detained in Iraq prior to being abducted by his killers. The details of his detainment are in dispute right now, as the US Government claims that the Iraqi police picked him up first. A recent article, on the other hand, includes statements from the chief of Mosul police who blatantly counters that allegation: "The Iraqi police never arrested the slain American," he said. "Take it from me ... that such reports are baseless." Nicholas Berg's father contends that the US Military and FBI had questioned Nicholas in Iraq, disclosing correspondences with all parties to that effect.

A research dig into Nicholas Berg's father brings us to another interesting crossroads in this murky situation. This article details that "on 7th March, 2004, just three weeks before the first anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, an 'enemies' list of anti-war groups and individuals was posted on the Free Republic forum." It seems that Nicholas Berg's father, Michael, was ardently against the war in Iraq and consistently suspicious of the current Administration. His son Nicholas on the other hand was diametrically opposed to his father and vehemently supported President Bush and the war on terror and the war in Iraq. That enemies list is on the internet; hell, it's posted right here. You can rest assured that the "enemies list"--which includes predominatly a wide variety of law-abiding, utterly upstanding organizations that happen to fall on the progressive side of the spectrum--was also safely in the hands of the FBI and CIA. This article suggests that the reason why, "during his detention, [Nicholas] Berg was questioned by FBI agents three times," is that the FBI were suspicious of Berg for his father's political views and that it was a simple case of mistaken identity.

And speaking of mistaken identity: the suspected murderer of Nicholas Berg is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a militant linked to al-Qaida. A recent NY Times article indicates that the CIA believes with "high probability" that the killer on the videotape was indeed al-Zarqawi, despite a number of rather blatant discrepancies on the videotape: such as (a) al-Zarqawi is reported to have lost a leg in a bombing, yet the tape shows no limp from a prosthetic; (b) al-Zarqawi's appearance is widely recognized around the globe (with photos of him circulating on a WANTED ad in which the US government offers a $10 million reward) and is therefore not tending to mask himself in public appearances; (c) the murderer's accent is arguably NOT from the same region of Jordan as that from which al-Zarqawi hails. Now, why should I be suspicious of the CIA's allegations against al-Zarqawi? Why would the US come to that conclusion if it were faulty? Consider the following: the reasoning for war in Iraq included (a) allegations of WMDs (which don't exist) and (b) Iraq's ties to al-Qaida (which, UNTIL NOW, don't exist). Pinning this heinous crime on al-Zarqawi (an al-Qaida operative) and placing him in Iraq suggests for the first time that there is a link between al-Qaida and Iraq, and therefore justifies the War in Iraq, for the first time. All of a sudden, then, it starts looking like a sunny day in Washington with al-Zarqawi's prints on this murder.

Now, from all this, where do I stand? I'm officially unsure about who murdered Nicholas Berg and why, and why it was videotaped and sent out as a political statement as repercussion for American transgressions at Abu Ghraib. I'm thoroughly unconvinced that it is as black-and-white as the CIA is purporting. Furthermore, I'm leery of anything that inspires as much emotion and ire in the American psyche as an American being brutally beheaded on video; rash conclusions run rampant with such intense emotions. I'm also suspicious to the Nth degree of any governmental institution offering stringent conclusions in the face of gaping shadows of doubt. I'm also increasingly suspicious of the Administration. I'm still looking for the truth behind it all, and it's safe to say I would not be surprised by any actual truths that may come out.

Add this to the mix: "Berg's body arrived Wednesday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. His parents had requested permission to be at the base when the coffin arrived, but that request was denied. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, said Thursday that refusal came from the Department of Defense." Strange to deny parents their God-given right to see their son's body.


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