Socialist Worker

‘There should be an immediate end to the occupation’

Issue No. 1909

Nick Berg, an American contract worker, was kidnapped and beheaded in Iraq earlier this year. MICHAEL BERG, his father, came to Britain last week to attend demonstrations against the fake handover of power in Iraq. He spoke at a press conference organised by the Stop the War Coalition.

THE TRANSFER of power is nothing more than another nut and shell game from the Bush and Blair coalition. We know the Iraqi people have not had an election yet. So it’s not a democracy—we have a dictatorship of Bush and Blair.

More than 11,000 people have been killed in Iraq, either by American bombs or by the instability that the US presence has caused. And for these people an American presence is not a democratic choice.

What kind of stability has the US brought to Iraq? People get swept off the streets, kidnapped and beheaded.

What kind of stability is there when the US can’t even protect its own? What kind of stability is there when we have to sneak in the transfer of power two days ahead of time?

If the five Al Qaida members who killed my son moved in across the street from me, went to work every morning doing their killing and nothing was happening to them, how would I feel? I imagine that’s how the Iraqis mourning their 11,000 dead feel. There should be an immediate end to the occupation.

My son Nick went to Iraq in December. Ever since he was about 20 years old he has been doing this. He went to Africa when he was 20—to Uganda. I thought that was dangerous. He went back to Africa two more times after that.

His views on the war were different to mine. We agreed to disagree and always respected each other. Every time I went to an anti-war rally he would say, “I don’t agree with you, but I respect you for doing what you think is right.”

I believe Nick would have got out of Iraq if the FBI hadn’t detained him. I know that the US government is responsible.

All the legal action I took was to get my son home. I don’t want their money and I personally don’t want their power. But I’ll do everything I can to see that their abused power is removed from them.

They held him for 13 days without due process. The press would not respond to my pleas to get the word out that my son was missing.

Nick told me that the FBI interviewed him every day. They came to my house on 31 March and interviewed my wife and me until they were sure he was who he said he was. They immediately recommended that he should be released, but he hadn’t been released by 5 April.

I thought in the beginning that something would happen to help me get through the death of my son. But I’ve come to realise that you can’t get over something like that.

All you can hope to do is to go on doing the things you want to do. What makes me so mad is that people like George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld don’t see the pain that people have to carry around with them.

I’ve received over 1,000 pieces of mail and countless phone calls. Wherever I go people tell me how sad they feel about my son. There are at least 11,000 Iraqi citizens dead. Each of their families is as affected as I was.

Hard face of war

The media do not talk about these people. They have shot miles of tape and produced miles of newsprint, but none of it is for the Iraqi people, the people who are suffering the most.

I think sentiment is changing in the US, but the media don’t reflect that. They act as if the anti-war movement doesn’t exist.

I had people from the media calling me every day after Paul Johnson and Sun Il Kim were kidnapped and murdered. I invited the journalists to come to a vigil in my town, Westchester, Pennsylvania.

Not one would come, because no one wants to tell the American public that there are peace vigils happening all over the country.

We had a huge turnout for anti-war protests in San Francisco and Washington DC on 5 June and got no press coverage at all. When they do cover it, they play the numbers down.

A lot of people have asked me how long I’ve been against the war. I think it started in 1965. Back then we were starting to protest against the war in Vietnam.

But there is a difference between Vietnam and this war. In Vietnam the press showed us the hard face of war.

I think that’s why people are willing to listen to me for a few minutes—I’ve seen that hard face of war, even though the press in America like to keep it from us.

The war was all about greed. George Bush told us that we were going into Iraq because the regime had some part in the destruction of the Twin Towers. But the commission into the 11 September attacks reported that is not true.

He told us we were going into Iraq because Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. We have found out that isn’t true. Why did we go in there? Greed.


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Features
Sat 10 Jul 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1909
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