From under the linoleum
Old newspapers show Mussolini's imperialism looked a lot like today's

I sat on the floor and picked through the tragedy of the country we now call Ethiopia laid out on the yellowing pages. It was eerily reminiscent of the current Iraq adventure.

A tale for our times
The December 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov

Seventy years on, the killing of Sergei Kirov casts an eerie light on the events of 11 September 2001, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the “war on Terror” and the state-sponsored hysteria surrounding the shadowy figures of Osama bin Ladin and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Ninety-three years of bombing the Arabs
It was the Italians, hell-bent on acquiring an African empire, who got the ball rolling. In 1911 the Libyan Arab tribes opposed an Italian invasion. Their civilians were the first people in the world to be bombed from the air.

Dispossessed all over again
After spending nearly two months in the West Bank the pull towards my village was growing stronger, especially after being detained twice and threatened with deportation … an Australian Palestinian returns to her ancestral home.

The tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope
Australia slides further into the Iraq quagmire
Cabinet documents recently released under the 50-year rule show that, in 1954, Liberal (conservative) Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and key figures in his Cabinet were extremely gloomy about the prospects for success in an American war against nationalists in Indochina. But eventually they went to the Vietnam War anyway.

Bombing King David
One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist

Some historians date the beginning of modern terrorism from the 1946 bombing by Zionist terrorists of the British military HQ in Jerusalem.

Don’t loiter near the exit
Military debacle and economic decline haunt the Bush regime

When I was just a young possum in the school cadet corps there was a hoary old war story that we all knew. It was almost certainly apocryphal, but it ruefully expressed a nasty historic truth about the US role in the demise of the British Empire.

 


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Nick Berg: the missing month

1 June 2004

A lot of people would like to know what happened to Nicholas Berg after he walked out of Baghdad’s Fanar Hotel on 10 April. They say the 26 year-old American contractor was looking for a taxi when he walked off down the street and into history.

Berg’s decapitated body was found in Baghdad a month later. Before the end of May the infamous execution video would be seen around the world and Berg’s name would fill the top ten most-requested spots on the world’s major search engines.

What happened to Berg that day? Every day is a nervous day for US troops and ‘contractors’ in Iraq, but 10 April was worse than most. Eleven days earlier, four US security contractors had been killed in an ambush in Fallujah and dismembered by a triumphant crowd. Five days earlier, US forces had closed down Muqtada al-Sadr’s newspaper, triggering a Shiite uprising. Things were spinning out of control.

Every investigation needs a hypothesis, but you can’t begin with a whole hypothesis covering everything. I make a start by finding a logical explanation for an anomaly at the heart of the case. In this case I began with the notorious video, supposedly released by Islamist terrorists, showing Nick Berg’s beheading.

There were many puzzling things about that video, but one leapt off the screen at me: the orange jumpsuit. Berg is dressed in a US armed forces standard-issue orange prison jumpsuit. How weird. And then I looked at the opening of the video, the first 13 seconds. They showed a calm, unrestrained man stating his name and identifying his father, mother, siblings and place of residence. Then it struck me: this was just a routine video ‘record of interview’ of a man in US custody, identifying himself as requested by the interrogators!

Actually that first 13 second sequence was carefully crafted together from two separate fragments of such records, taken at different times, which made it even weirder.

So I posted my hypothesis on my website and within four days I’d had over 20,000 visitors. Then Richard Neville ran with it in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Now you would think that such a bold assertion that “high-level US government operatives” (to use Richard Neville’s words) might be involved in the death of Nick Berg, would have drawn an indignant denial of the hypothesis by US authorities, but there is just a resounding silence.

I hypothesised that the first seconds of the execution video were recorded during the 13 days Berg spent in US custody after he was picked up in Mosul as a suspicious person (24 March – 6 April). But maybe it wasn’t, maybe it was shot later. Maybe Berg was picked up again by US forces after he left his hotel on 10 April. Perhaps he was videotaped during interrogations that took place in that missing month before his body turned up. Perhaps he unfortunately died “during intensive interrogation” (as they say at Abu Ghraib).

(Of course it’s also possible that Nick Berg was killed by resistance fighters but that his intact body was quickly recovered by US forces and pressed into service by the psyops boys.)

What might have brought a young Jewish-American to grief at the hands of American interrogators? Well, something else was falling apart during Nick’s last weeks in Iraq: the reign of the neo-conservatives.

Young Nick Berg had some strange associates. For a start there was his sister, Sara, a lawyer working for the Williams Mullen corporation, which specialises in union-busting work and intelligence-gathering in world trouble spots. Then there was his Iraqi business partner, Aziz al-Taee. Mr al-Taee is a real piece of work: a prominent Iraqi expatriate and a spokesman for the Iraqi American Council who not only had an impressive criminal record in the US (selling counterfeit CDs and 100 million vials used for crack cocaine), but also organised pro-war demonstrations in the US in the weeks before the invasion of Iraq. It seems Nick came into contact with al-Taee at a conference on business opportunities in Iraq held in Virginia in December 2003.

It is entirely likely that Nick Berg’s associates were closely linked to the neo-con cabal that invented the WMD story and steered George Bush into the war: Vice President Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Ahmed Chalabi. The Washington elite are looking for scapegoats now, the cabal as been on the outer since February, and US forces have raided Chalabi’s office and accused him of passing secrets to Iran.

It is also possible that Nick Berg was doing a little intelligence-gathering in Iraq, perhaps for the Williams Mullen corporation and his mission was, unfortunately, “misunderstood”. Like they say in the CIA, shit happens.