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5/14/2004

 

al qaeda probably as bad as bush and rumsfeld



michael berg, father of slain american independent contractor nicholas berg, said yestarday

Nicholas Berg died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. The al Qaeda people are probably just as bad as they are, but this administration did this.


bush really gets around. the engine in his pickup hasn't even had time to cool from the james byrd lynching and already he's sawing the heads off of american jews in iraq?

i'm inclined to cut mr. berg a little slack because of his grief--odds are he's so traumatized he won't even remember saying this a week from now--but on the surface of it, this is the most idiotic thing i've ever read.

i mean, al qaeda probably as bad as bush and rummy? it's the administration's fault--as opposed to the guys who sliced your son's screaming head from his shoulders, you know, his "best friends"--who are to blame?

The al-Qaeda that killed my son didn't know what they were doing. They killed their best friend. Nick was there to build Iraq, not to tear it down. He was there to help people, not to hurt anyone.


forgive them, father, they know not what they do?

michael berg is rumored to have contacts with international ANSWER, a front for the worker's world party communist movement that came to prominence in the run-up to the iraq war with several slick, well-organized protest marches. that being the case, there probably never was a time when berg didn't consider bush and rumsfeld a greater threat than al qaeda, but...

locdog will reserve judgment for the time being




5/12/2004

 

nick berg and abu ghraib



hindsight is 20/20, but if i were may 1st nick berg and a magic genie offered me a choice between the worst of abu ghraib and the best of the sort of folks we keep incarcerated there, the choice would have been pretty damn clear.

i just saw some photos of the berg execution. i won't link to them, but they shouldn't be hard to find if you're interested. they aren't for the faint of heart. they aren't for anyone, really. no one should ever have to see such things. but see them i did and i'm glad i did and here's why.

today members of congress will be given full access to the infamous abu ghraib photos. all the stuff we've seen, plus tons of stuff we haven't, and, as usual, it's the stuff we haven't seen that's supposed to be the worst of it. now here's what you do. you take all of those pictures and put them together into one powerpoint presentation. you can cherry-pick the worst of the worst if you like, or you can march them all before us in one long, brutal parade. then you take those photos of nick berg having his head sawn off--or even the video of you think you can stomach it--and prepare a second presentation. no adornments to either. no narration. just the facts. you then show your presentations to every american of voting age.

i promise you this: by tomorrow, every one of those accused prison guards will have shiny new medals of honor pinned to their chests and there won't be enough left of iraq to fill a coffee can.

am i suggesting that the deplorable conduct of the abu ghraib guards is somehow justified by the to-the-nth-power behavior of five of their potential wards? no. if those very five were locked in abu ghraib tomorrow, we would be remiss were their treatment not precisely that prescribed by the geneva convention. i believe with every ounce of my being that our way is superior to that with which we have been thrust into conflict, but that belief is meaningless if it isn't practiced. may i suggest that if you don't share this conviction, or think you do while simultaneously holding to the belief that abuse of such men is warranted, then perhaps america isn't the country for you.

may i further suggest--and this is the real point--that what we see here is as useful a contrast between democracy at war and terrorism, whose very nature is war, as any. what we know of abu ghraib thus far, not what we wish or what we'd like to believe, is that the abuses occurring there were the actions of a few individuals engendered by nothing less than the near-total incompetence of their superiors. a total breakdown in the chain of command. we saw what happens when democracy goes wrong. nick berg saw what happens when militant islam goes right.

already the rats of abu ghraib are scurrying. pfc. lynndie england, who aimed imaginary six-guns at the genitalia of hooded prisoners from behind a cigarette-chomping grin, has given us perhaps the most memorable image of an abuse of power since a guard of a different sort pointed an actual gun at the chest of elian gonzalez's american guardian. her defense? "I was instructed by persons in higher rank," which, in the case of a pfc. could be anyone from the president himself to the guy who cooks her chow in the prison mess hall. didn't work for the nazi doctors and it won't work for her. enjoy prison, dear lynndie, and i hope your captors are more merciful than ye.

supposing that lynndie's version is the gospel truth, that psy-ops types were encouraging their conduct with an eye towards more useful intelligence--that rather than a breakdown in the chain of command, we have it functioning as reliably as ever towards nefarious ends--what will come of it? those responsible will be tried, found guilty, and punished. because when democracy goes wrong, democracy fixes itself. free people demand it. when terrorism goes right, well, democracy has to fix that too.

before i ever even heard of the unfortunate nick berg, i thought the response to the wicked goings-on at abu ghraib was blown out of proportion. but now i find something heartening in it, and, what's more, i find something heartening in the fact that the pentagon feared the release of lynndie's portrait, et al. you see, at the end of the day, the death of nick berg was nothing more than a publicity stunt. it was a calculated media event, one banking on the opposite reactions of two groups of people: fear in the hearts of americans, and courage in the hearts of muslims. i feel confident that, for americans at least, the terrorist arithmetic is as poor here as it was on september 11th. i have hopes that the arab world will sense the gross disproportionality and respond negatively, but that hope is lessened by the fact that most of their knowledge of abu ghraib is gotten from people who hate america only slightly less than nick berg's executioners. at the very least, i hope they'll fear america's response enough to turn on their would-be provocateurs, which will be good enough for now.

when nick berg was beheaded, his face shone toward the camera and his captors wore masks. at abu ghraib, it was the other way around. there's something encouraging in the symbolism. it says that however deeply flawed we may be, on balance, we've got it right. and however flawed our decision to go to iraq may have been, it's a fight we must win.

locdog is back from vacation, but wishes he wasn't