The WikiLeaks War Logs and the Nick Berg Case
November 3, 3010
Until now, the story that alleged al-Qaeda victim Nick Berg was arrested at a routine Iraqi Police checkpoint has been unchallenged. But the official – and exhaustive – Iraq War Logs recently published by WikiLeaks show Berg was specifically targeted as a suspected terrorist cell leader in a ‘cordon and search’ operation by US forces.
Brushtail, November 2, 2010 The Nick Berg affair is one of the enduring mysteries of the American occupation of Iraq. Berg was a young American businessman of Jewish heritage who was, allegedly, captured by al-Qaeda in April 2004 and personally beheaded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi , an event video-recorded and published on the internet. The video appeared at a most opportune moment for the Bush administration. In late April 2004, the abuse of Iraqi captives by US guards at Abu Ghraib prison began to run in the media. It was an enormous embarrassment but the Berg atrocity provided a “moral equivalence” defence by showcasing a most convenient example of the enemy’s barbarity.
Right from the start sceptics sniffed a rodent. Berg’s itinerary as a student strongly suggests that he was an FBI informant and his email account was once used by Zacarias Moussaoui. Roaming Iraq in search of business opportunities he had, initially, been apprehended and imprisoned, not by al-Qaeda, but by the US occupation forces. According to Wikipedia: “Berg had intended to return to the United States on March 30, 2004, but he was detained in Mosul on March 24 by Iraqi police at a checkpoint. His family claims he was turned over to U.S. officials and held for 13 days without access to legal counsel. FBI agents visited his parents to confirm his identity on March 31, but he was not immediately released. After his parents filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia on April 5, claiming that he was being held illegally, he was released from custody. He said that he had not been mistreated during his confinement. The U.S. maintains that at no time was Berg in coalition custody, but rather that he was held by Iraqi forces. The Mosul police deny they ever arrested Berg, and Berg’s family has turned over an email from the U.S. consul stating ‘I have confirmed that your son, Nick, is being detained by the U.S. military in Mosul’”.
Until now, the story that Berg was arrested at a checkpoint has been unchallenged. Piecing together various media accounts, Berg was found after curfew carrying a Farsi (Persian) phrasebook and was suspected of being an Iranian spy. Some accounts have him arrested by the Iraqi police because his passport had been stamped in Israel and, oddly, report that he was carrying “anti-semitic literature”.
But the official – and exhaustive – Iraq War Logs recently published by WikiLeaks throw a new and very different light on Berg’s arrest. The logs record an incident in Mosul on March 24, and there being no other similar incident reported for that day it is, almost certainly, the official report of Berg’s detention. Here is the transcript (with the name of a US unit and an individual’s name deleted by WikiLeaks. US military acronyms have been expanded in square brackets):
CORDON AND SEARCH BY–____IVO [in vicinity of] MOSUL:____DETAINED
-____AND IPS [Iraqi Police Service] CONDUCTED A CORDON AND SEARCH IN MOSUL FOR BTN [Battalion] TGT [target](___–SUSPECTED LEADER OF A___CELL). THE TGT WAS NOT PRESENT BUT INFORMATION LEAD TO HIS LOCATION. IPS SEARCHED THE NEW LOCATION (IN A NEARBY HOUSE) AND DETAINED THE TGT ALONG WITH DOCUMENTS. THE TGT WAS TAKEN TO THE BTN HOLDING AREA FOR INTERROGATION. NO INJURIES OR BDA [Battle Damage Assessment].
So let’s draw the full implications from the report. Firstly, making the reasonable assumption that it refers to Berg, it is clear he was already a suspect. The report also shows that the Iraqi police were acting in collaboration with, and at the instigation of, a US military unit or a US para-military ‘special operations’ unit.
Secondly, the report was filed at one minute past 6 pm, which would have been some time after the actual events. Thus, the story that Berg was stopped at a checkpoint simply because he was moving about after curfew is clearly wrong. An area of Mosul (probably just a single dwelling) was cordoned off and searched with the specific intention of arresting him. He wasn’t found there but somebody told them Berg was at a nearby house. Finally, Berg was immediately taken to a US military ‘holding area’ which tallies with the Iraqi police statements and the account given to Berg’s parents by the US consul.
When Berg was, following the federal court intervention, reluctantly released from US detention, he made his way back to the Al-Fanar hotel in Baghdad. When asked about his experience he unconvincingly laughed it off as a misunderstanding. He refused a free flight out of Baghdad pressed on him by the US Consulate and was last seen alive on 10 April 2004.
At the time of Berg’s arrest and disappearance, shadowy special operations and intelligence forces (‘other agencies’ or OAs) set up by Donald Rumsfeld’s sinister Office of Special Plans were free-ranging in Iraq and Afghanistan, with Presidential approval, in search of terrorists. Their presence was much resented by the regular US military, the State Department and the FBI and a long and vicious bureaucratic turf war resulted before the OAs were reined in.
Was Berg re-arrested in Baghdad by Rumsfeld’s wild men? Did they then kill him, perhaps “under interrogation”and subsequently use their original video records of interview and his dead body to create the notorious beheading video? Since the release of the Iraq War Logs, that scenario has firmed in the betting.