Berg: the missing month
lot of people would like to know what happened to Nicholas Berg after
he walked out of Baghdads 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.
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
Bergs name would fill the top ten most-requested spots on the
worlds major search engines.
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-Sadrs newspaper,
triggering a Shiite uprising. Things were spinning out of control.
Every investigation needs a hypothesis, but you cant 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 Bergs beheading.
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!
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.
I posted my hypothesis on my
website and within four days Id had over 20,000 visitors. Then
Richard Neville ran with
it in the Sydney
you would think that such a bold assertion that high-level US
government operatives (to use Richard Nevilles 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
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
wasnt, 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).
course its 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.)
might have brought a young Jewish-American to grief at the hands of
American interrogators? Well, something else was falling apart during
Nicks last weeks in Iraq: the reign of the neo-conservatives.
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.
is entirely likely that Nick Bergs 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 Chalabis office and accused him of passing secrets to Iran.
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.