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What happened to Nick Berg?

By Dave Menendez
Thursday, May 13, 2004, at 11:03 PM

Summary: There are an awful lot of questions about how the atrocity that happened to Nick Berg happened. Also: Limbaugh, North, and Savage claim the torture at Abu Garib was not a big deal or simply not enough.

I’ve been trying to follow events in Iraq, but I haven’t said much here for two reasons. First, I don’t know that I have anything intelligent to say that others haven’t already said. (Torture is bad. Beheading is bad. Anyone who needs me to tell them that has serious problems.) Second, the horrors just keep coming.

Seeing the pictures from Abu Garib depressed the hell out of me. I don’t believe for a minute that this was the work of six isolated individuals. Stuff like this doesn’t happen without either official approval or an unacceptable leadership vacuum. Neither reflects well on us.

The Rushites are doing their best to downplay what happened. Limbaugh has compared it to fraternity hazing. According to Iran-Contra conspirator Oliver North, “all we have seen on the front pages of America's newspapers is a group of obviously twisted young people with leashes and weird sex acts, the kind of thing that you might find on any college campus nowadays, being perpetrated by people in uniform.” Others are suggesting that the torture is somehow revenge for what happened in Fallujah, despite the fact that it happened months earlier. Beyond them, you get people like Michael Savage who feel we haven’t had enough torture.

But I digress. While bad news is still coming from Abu Gharib, a group of terrorists release a video of American Nick Berg being beheaded, claiming it is in response to the torture. (According to Mr Savage, “you can thank the Democrats, you can thank the Senate Arms Services Committee for their hysterical hearings. You can thank John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, Biden, The New York Times, the alphabet channels and The Washington Post for this atrocity because they caused it.” This is the host of the third-largest syndicated talk show in the nation, folks. Read those excerpts—it gets worse.)

There are a lot of unanswered questions about Mr Berg. Like, what was he doing in Iraq? Why was he detained? Who detained him? (The Americans claim it was the Iraqis. The Iraqis say they never had him). Over at Hullabaloo, Digby’s post “Berg Central” is a good jumping-off point to some interesting facts and questions. (For example, the execution video contains no reference to al Qaeda. The translation released by the U.S. government apparently confuses “al qaed” (one who sits/does nothing) with “al Qaeda”.)

None of this makes Mr Berg’s death any less abominable, of course. It’s just… weird.