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Berg's father blames Bush

Daily Local | May 14 2004

GMichael Berg lashed out at President George W. Bush and his administration during his first public comments since his son, Nick Berg, was murdered by al-Qaida terrorists.

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

The 20-minute, impromptu briefing took place outside the family’s home on the 1200 block of Estate Drive, West Whiteland, on Thursday morning.

"This is an administration that allows something that they arrogantly called the Patriot Act to strip away America, to make America not the America that I grew up in," Berg continued. "It was a coup d’etat. At first a bloodless coup d’etat, but unfortunately afterward it has become very bloody."

On the front lawn of the Bergs’ home was a blue sign with that read: War is not the answer.

Michael Berg said he posted the sign there. It belonged to an organization called ANSWER, which is an acronym for Act Now to Stop the War and End Racism.

Berg has been a member of the group, he said, since participating in a rally in Washington, D.C., in March 2003.

"It is something that I am not ashamed of. I am proud of it."

He continued, "I think stopping the war and ending racism are extremely important things that this world has to do right now. I am proud to be a member of ANSWER and I plan to be at the march on June 5.

"I know it is considered a radical group," Berg said. "but I want to ask: Radical as compared to what? The Bush administration? I’ll be radical."

Berg also directed a question to the president.

"I would like to ask George Bush a question. I would like to ask him if it is true that al-Qaida offered to trade my son’s life for the life of another person," Berg said.

"And if that is true. I need that information ... and I think the rest of the people of the United States of America need to know what the fate of their sons and daughters might be in the hands of the Bush administration," he said.

Nick Berg, 26, was killed by terrorists associated with al-Qaida. A video of the execution was broadcast on a Islamic militant Web site shortly afterward. Other reports state his body was found hanging from a bridge outside Baghdad.

U.S. intelligence officials have confirmed that terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the person shown on a video beheading Nick Berg, according to the Associated Press. Officials analyzed the voice on the video, a CIA official said Thursday.

Berg had traveled to Iraq alone earlier this year seeking work for his company, Prometheus Methods Tower Services, which specializes in building communications towers.

The family has scheduled a memorial service today at Congregation Kesher Israel, 1000 Pottstown Pike, in West Goshen. It is for family and friends only.

Michael Berg also told reporters he could prove his son was in U.S. custody during his 13 days of detention in Iraq.

I have a written statement from the state department in Baghdad ... I have it as an e-mail," Berg said. "I think an e-mail is pretty good proof because it has all the dates and whatnot on it, saying that my son was being held by military."

He did confirm that Iraqi police arrested Nick Berg on March 24. At the time, Michael Berg said his son had been traveling in a taxi cab in Mosul late at night.

Berg since has blamed the United States for not taking control of his son and ensuring he boarded his scheduled March 30 flight home on Royal Jordanian Airlines.

"Let me ask you this: Does Washington think the American public is so stupid as to believe that the Iraqi police tell the FBI what to do? I don’t think so," Berg said. "I don’t think we’re that stupid, I really don’t."

The Associated Press reported Berg produced the e-mail correspondences he had with Beth A. Payne, of the U.S. consular office in Iraq, stating that Nick Berg was in U.S. custody

A State Department spokeswoman said Thursday night, according to the Associated Press, that the diplomat in Baghdad had been given erroneous information by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority when she e-mailed the Berg family.

U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-6th, of Upper Uwchlan, provided Berg and the Daily Local News with a copy of a letter he sent to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the directors of the FBI and CIA on Wednesday.

It asked for specific information about Nick Berg’s detention in Iraq, including when he had been released and his interaction with government officials.

"We have not yet gotten any calls back by the agencies," Gerlach said on Wednesday.

The FBI had provided him with a press release containing widely reported information about Nick Berg’s whereabouts on various dates.

The congressman said it is premature to call for a federal investigation and that he would give the various agencies time to collect all the information.

He did not defend Bush against Berg’s criticisms.

"Whatever conclusions people want to draw is up to them," Gerlach said. "It is my responsibility to try to help them get answers to their very legitimate questions. Otherwise he certainly has every right to express his opinion on this matter."

Berg also used took time Thursday to shine more light on the personality of his son.

He said Nick Berg did not drink, use drugs or gamble.

"He didn’t have any bad habits," Michael Berg said. "His only addiction was high places. He liked to climb."

Nick Berg learned to work on communication towers -- often as tall as 1,700 feet -- while employed at a Texas company. That is also where he developed his affection for President Bush, who was then the governor of Texas at the time.

"He came home saying nothing but positive things about George Bush," Michael Berg said. "and to the day that he left (for Iraq) he said nothing but positive things about him. And I’m sure to the moment he died he felt nothing but positive things about him."

Michael Berg added, "On this we disagreed vehemently."