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2006-06-09

Zarqawi’s Death "Another Step in the Endless Cycle of Violence"–Father of Beheaded Iraq Hostage

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We get reaction on the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi from Michael Berg, whose son, Nicholas Berg, was captured and killed in Iraq two years ago. It is believed he was beheaded al-Zarqawi. [includes rush transcript]

We turn to Iraq and the reported killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The Iraqi and U.S. governments say he was killed on Wednesday when U.S. fighter planes dropped a pair of 500-pound bombs on a safe-house outside of the town of Baquba.

To many Zarqawi was the face of the Iraqi resistance. He was accused of carrying out countless bombings, murders and other acts of violence including the beheading of hostages in Iraq. CIA officials said it was probably Zarqawi himself who beheaded Nicholas Berg, the 26-year-old American who died in May 2004.

A graphic video showing the beheading appeared on the Internet. In the video his captors read a statement denouncing the abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib.

U.S. military officials found Berg’s body on May 8, 2004–just two weeks after 60 Minutes first broadcast images of the U.S. abuse at Abu Ghraib.

To talk about the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, we are joined in Wilmington, Delaware by Michael Berg, the father of Nicholas Berg. Since his son’s death Michael has become a vocal critic of the Iraq war and the Bush administration. He is running for Congress on the Green Party ticket.

  • Michael Berg, son killed in Iraq. Running for Congress on the Green Party ticket.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Michael Berg.

MICHAEL BERG: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you first share your reaction to the reported death of Zarqawi?

MICHAEL BERG: Well, I was not relieved, not comforted by his death. In fact, I was saddened by his death, as I am about any human’s death. Zarqawi is not the only one that died if 1,000 pounds of bombs were exploded there. Aside from being a human being and having people that love him that will suffer the same pain that my family and I have suffered, Zarqawi is a political figure. He and George Bush have been playing a volleyball game of revenge for too long now, and this is just another spike in that volleyball game, and it will bring about only more death, more sadness, and it will perpetuate this endless cycle of revenge.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Berg, do you believe that Zarqawi beheaded your son personally?

MICHAEL BERG: I don’t know, and I say that because I have been lied to so many times by the F.B.I., the State Department, and by George Bush — we’ve all been lied to by George Bush — that I neither believe nor disbelieve anything that I hear they said or that I hear them say. So I really can’t — I really don’t know. I don’t even know if Zarqawi was alive at that time or whether he’s been dead for a long time, whether he ever existed.

AMY GOODMAN: Why are you — why do you have these questions?

MICHAEL BERG: Again, because I’ve been lied to so many times. I don’t believe anything the American government says. I don’t believe anything the F.B.I. says. I don’t believe anything the State Department says because I have been lied to by them. The F.B.I. came to my house on March 31 and said, "We have your son." On May the 11th, they denied they have my son. The State Department sent me an email. I still have the original email saying, "your son is being held in a military prison in Iraq." A couple days later, they said — a couple of weeks later they said that that was wrong, that he wasn’t held in a military prison. George Bush lied to us about weapons of mass destruction. He lied to us about the Al Qaeda presence in Iraq before he destabilized the country, and he lied to us about Iraqi involvement in 9/11. How can I believe anything that any of these people say? The whole thing can be orchestrated. Maybe many people are Zarqawi, maybe not. I don’t believe, nor do I disbelieve.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Berg, if you could go back to that time, because I think for a lot of people, this is perhaps new information. Explain why Nicholas went to Iraq, and then the course of what happened in those months in March and April of exactly what you understood.

MICHAEL BERG: Ok. My son, Nick, went to Iraq. He actually went twice. During his second trip — and he went there because he believed in the policies of George Bush and because he wanted to help rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq. He worked on communications towers. He went there legally with all the permits that are required to have — visas, passports, everything that he was required to have.

He left on his second trip on March 14. On March 24, he was arrested by the Iraqi police, just because he was suspicious. He was suspicious because he was an American that was traveling alone, not with a Halliburton or Bechtel convoy, not with the American military, and he was immediately turned over to the American military police in Mosul. These police, namely Lieutenant Colonel William Kern, decided all on his own that, yes, Nick was suspicious, and he would be held for F.B.I. questioning. The F.B.I. questioned him for 13 days. They deprived him of his right to due process. They wouldn’t let him call home and tell his parents, "I’m okay; I’m not dead." They wouldn’t let him have a lawyer. They put him in with Iraqi insurgents who wanted to kill him.

Finally, I filed a writ of habeas corpus on April 5, and he was released the next day, but in the meantime, the events that took place in the Abu Ghraib prison had been revealed and had so inflamed the resistance in Iraq, events happening in Fallujah particularly — and he was in Fallujah when he was abducted later on — that Nick could never get home again.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Michael Berg, father of Nicholas Berg, who was captured and beheaded in Iraq in May of 2004. Now, Michael Berg, you are running for Congress on the Green Party ticket from Delaware. Why?

MICHAEL BERG: That’s right. Well, when Nick died, I mean, I have been a war resister since 1965, but when Nick died, I took responsibility for the war. That is, I dedicated every moment of my life to doing whatever I can do to ending the war, and the opportunity to run on the Green Party ticket, the Green Party that is the only party that says, "Bring the troops home now, today" as part of its platform. That opportunity seemed to me to be an extension of my ability to speak out against the war, so that’s why I did it.

AMY GOODMAN: Why didn’t you choose to run within the Democratic Party in Delaware?

MICHAEL BERG: Because I am not in favor of continuing the war for six months or for unlimited time until certain conditions are met. Every twelve minutes, someone dies. Any plan to end the war in more than twelve minutes from right now is irresponsible and immoral, and I don’t think that any of our politicians, Joe Biden here in Delaware, or Murtha, or any of them, have the right to say, 'Well, we can stay in the war this much longer.' No, we can’t.

AMY GOODMAN: And how do you respond to those who will say that Iraq will descend into a civil war if U.S. soldiers pull out immediately?

MICHAEL BERG: I would ask them to open their eyes and to look at the civil war and the chaos that’s going on now. Look at the massacres of people every day that are going on now. How many people died when those bombs fell that got Zarqawi? How many people have died since Zarqawi was killed? Just in retaliation for his death. We’re losing ground in Iraq every day. Baghdad is totally out of our control, except for the Green Zone, and it’s going to be far worse if we wait another six months, if we wait another year, if we wait another eight years. You know, eight years at the present rate would be 400,000 deaths, 400,000 more deaths. That would be over half a million all together. Is that what we want? Like we did in Vietnam?

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Berg, what does it mean to run on the Green Party ticket now in Delaware? How do you — How are you a part of the political process? Do you have to gather signatures now? Are you a part of the debate?

MICHAEL BERG: No. No, I have not been required to gather signatures. The Green Party is on the ballot in the State of Delaware, which means I only had to win the approval of registered Greens in a caucus that we had on May 13. I am the nominee of the Green Party. All I have to do now is gather the votes and win.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us, Michael Berg, father of Nicholas Berg, beheaded in Iraq in May 2004. Michael Berg is now running for Congress on the Green Party ticket in Delaware. He’s speaking to us from Wilmington.

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