Adventure Gone Wrong
by Kim Petersen
May 13, 2004

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Unquestionably the beheading of Nick Berg was a heinous act. However, it is not enough to focus only on the gruesomeness of Berg’s execution and those who carried out the heinous act. There is namely the question of what Berg was doing in Iraq? As the Guardian notes, this story has yet to “fully emerge.” (1)

Berg is described as a “friendly guy,” an “oddity,” a pro-war believer in the occupation of Iraq. (2)

So why was Berg in Iraq? Andy Duke, a US businessman in Iraq, told the Guardian, “He was here for the very simple reason that for a telecoms guy this was a golden age. In the month he was here I would estimate he made $70,000.”

Yet the violence meted out to Berg stands in antipodal contradiction to the relative benignity shown American Thomas Hamill by his captors. (3) Which was the isolated case? In the case of Berg, his executioners are self-professedly linked to an alleged Jordanian associate of al Qaeda, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. If this is indeed true then do Iraqis bear more responsibility for a renegade foreign group than Americans would bear for a group of Canadians run amuck south of their border?

Ostensibly the timing was most propitious for US authorities reeling from the news of sadomasochistic humiliation, torture, rape, and killing in the occupation torture centers. Not only is it apparent that these egregious acts are not “isolated” at Abu Ghraib, but they are institutionalized (4) in other Iraqi camps (5), in Afghan detention centers, (6) and at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere. (7) It is concomitant with historical US warfare. (8) As elected US representatives look aghast at the latest horrific pictures to come out of Iraq, the never-justified occupation was wilting, faced by a people who only want the occupiers to leave forthwith. Then suddenly the American public’s attention is diverted elsewhere.

BJ Sabri, an Iraqi-American writer who “abhors such macabre violence” muses on whether this could have been staged to implicate others. He asks, “If someone wants to avenge ... especially in the Middle East, all Arabs and Muslims have a code of conduct that came from Babylon: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Then why did those guys decapitate Berg instead of performing abuses similar to those of the Americans?”

“No one ever heard of this group ... that was the first and the last so far ... and they never said what they wanted after the killing?”  

He concludes, “There is a great chance that this was a very well planned act.”

Nonetheless, Sabri explores the execution as an entity in itself.

“From the viewpoint of killing, why is killing by decapitation worse than killing by bullets or bombs? The French executed by this method until 1972. The Saudis still do it. The Americans did it in Vietnam, including the severing of testicles.”

“About sensitivities, when the US dropped its daisy cutter bombs on the al-Amariyah shelter the entire shelter population of 1500 plus went into a million pieces and their remains and body parts are splattered all over the walls that visitors can see up until now.”

The decapitation repulses Americans because they can see it. The Iraqi casualties are not discussed. In fact they are covered up. The corporate media is complicit in censoring the pornography of war. (9) Yet when the pornography of war serves the desired ends of warmongers different rules come into play.

Says Sabri, “This incident must be investigated before judgment can fly. It testifies to extreme callous cruelty, but killing tens-of-thousands of people and destroying the future of the remaining population, for imperialist reasons, is even more cruel.”

The outpouring of grief for one slain American stands in stark testimony to Americans’ insouciance to myriad Iraqi deaths. Surely, morality does not sublimate the untoward fate that befell a man reportedly motivated by cupidity to the catastrophe of a nation.

A Chilean journalist in Iraq said of Berg: “It was just an adventure for him. He told me: ‘I had bad luck. Shit happens.’ He was a tough guy.” [italics added] (10)

War is an unbounded force that submits to no one.

Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at: kimpete@start.no.  


1) Suzanne Goldenberg and Luke Harding, “Shock in suburbs at restless son's death: Neighbours mourn grisly end of friendly fortune seeker,” Guardian, 13 May 2004

2) Ibid

3) Associated Press, “Hamill received medical treatment in captivity,” CTV.ca, 4 May 2004

4) David Leigh, “UK forces taught torture methods,” Guardian, 8 May 2004

5) Siemaszko, “Abuse began at another jail in Iraq,” Daily News, 9 May 2004

6) Estanislao Oziewicz, “Shroud lifting on global gulag set up to fight ‘war on terror,’Globe and Mail, 13 May 2004

7) “Red Cross Report Criticizes Guantanamo Prison,”
Reuters, 13 May 2004

8) Kim Petersen, “The Pornography of War,” Dissident Voice, 6 May 2004

9) Democracy Now, “CNN's Aaron Brown: On the Network's Coverage of the Anti-war Movement, Media's Sanitization of the Iraq War and Why This is an Inappropriate Time for Reporters to ask Questions About War,” Dissident Voice, 5 April 2003

10) Goldberg and Harding, op. cit.

Other Recent Articles by Kim Petersen


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