Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Michael Berg on Radio (Here & Now, WBUR)

Michael Berg, the father of Nick Berg who was executed by an Islamist militant group in Iraq, speaks to Robin Young of Here and Now, a radio program on WBUR (click on the link to listen to the Berg interview). Nick Berg was in Iraq helping rebuild broadcast towers. Then, on March 24, 2004, Nick was detained by the Iraqi police at a checkpoint in Mosul and taken into US military custody with no due process. The FBI came to interview Michael on March 31. Michael says that the FBI suspected Nick of being -- of all things -- "an insurgent" or "a terrorist." Michael had to file a lawsuit, naming Donald Rumsfeld as the responsible party, in federal court in Philadelphia on April 5 to have Nick released on April 6, even though the FBI had already recommended Nick's release shortly after March 31. Michael holds Rumsfeld responsible because, if Nick had been given access to a lawyer and released sooner, "We could have gotten him out of there before the hostilities escalated," as Nick had intended to leave Iraq on March 30. Asked if he really blames Rumsfeld for his son's death, Michael replies, what really cost his son's life is, rather than just Rumsfeld, "the whole Patriot Act," "the whole feeling of this country that rights don't matter any more because there are terrorists about. In my opinion, the 'terrorist' is just another word like 'communist' or 'witch' -- and it's a witch hunt. This whole administration is just representing something that is not America, not the America I grew up in."

Robert H. Reid of the Associated Press reports:
In the video of Berg, the executioners said they had tried to trade him for prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

"For the mothers and wives of American soldiers, we tell you that we offered the U.S. administration to exchange this hostage for some of the detainees in Abu Ghraib and they refused," one of the men read from a statement. ("U.S.: Berg Had Been Advised to Leave Iraq," May 12, 2004)
Nick Berg's family lost contact with him after April 9 -- they did not and still do not know when and how Nick was abducted. Nick's body was found on Saturday, May 8 and the video of his execution was posted on Tuesday, May 11. Is it possible that Washington had been indeed given a choice of Nick's life or Abu Ghraib prisoners by the Islamic militant group and yet refused to negotiate with them for his release, without telling his family anything about it for nearly a month? Did the Geroge W. Bush administration sacrifice Nick Berg's life? Is that why Michael and Suzanne Berg's news release (see below) did not make the national media?
Dear Friends and Customers of Nick Berg and Prometheus Towers,

I am enclosing the following news release which my wife and I are about to release to the media for you. If anyone out there in the broadcast industry can do anything to help us spread the word about our son's disappearance especially to the Mid East, we would be very appreciative:

On March 14 our son, Nick Berg, left for Iraq to inspect some radio towers that had been damaged during last year's war. His goal was to secure some contract work for his business, Prometheus Methods Tower Service. He planned to return on March 30 through Amman, Jordan.

On March 24, Nick was picked up by the Iraqi police in Mosul and held for questioning for no apparent reason. He was subsequently detained by the U.S. military and interrogated by the FBI until his release on April 6. No reason was ever given for holding him for these 13 days. Immediately upon his release he emailed the family and proceeded south to Baghdad where he was staying at the Al Fanar Hotel.

On April 9 he called us and said that he was seeking a safe route out of the country either through Jordan, or possibly Turkey. Most of the major routes were closed due to military action around Fallujah. Since that time we have had no contact with our son. No one we know in Iraq has seen or spoken to him, and we know that he has not accessed his email. We are extremely worried about his safety. We are asking anyone who has seen Nick or knows anything about his whereabouts to come forward and give us this information so that he can be safely brought home.

We extend our sympathies to all of the many families who are in the same situation.

Suzanne and Michael Berg
The Bergs' news release was delivered to the broadcast media and circulated among Nick's friends and customers, before it got forwarded by John Hettish to Tower-pro, a listserv for professionals of communications towers construction, on May 7, 2004.

No comments: