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Friday, May 14, 2004
The Berg Story Continued

By Steven Taylor @ 9:52 am

More and more, this tale fits into the “truth is stranger than fiction” category. From comes: What Led Him to Iraq?

In regards to his arrest prior to his kidnapping:

The source said that in addition to his passport, cash and a laptop, Berg had two books when he was arrested in Mosul on March 24 that aroused suspicion: the Koran and a book that authorities somehow interpreted as “anti-Semitic.”

Friends say it’s unlikely that Berg, a practicing Jew, would have carried an anti-Semitic book but that reading the Koran and other local texts was very much in line with his intellectual curiosity.


On March 24, Berg was arrested while riding in a taxi in downtown Mosul. The military source in Iraq, who spoke with the Daily News by telephone, said he was jailed because unescorted Americans aren’t usually seen downtown and “they didn’t know what to do with him.”

He said police were suspicious because of “his demeanor,” and authorities also wanted to know why he had the Koran and a book that the source said may have been called “The Jewish Problem” or “The Jewish Solution.”

Hollinger said it wouldn’t be surprising that Berg was found with the Koran and various books in Iraq. “It would have surprised me if he wasn’t studying up on the culture of that land,” he said. “He was an avid reader. He always did his homework and wanted to learn about the culture of the country he was in.”

The source said it’s unclear exactly why Berg spent close to two weeks in jail. Although he insisted that Berg was under Iraqi control, the FBI also questioned Berg three times and visited his parents back in West Chester.

In regards to the issue of whether or not his detention led to him staying in Iraq longer than planned, and hence leaving him open to capture, we have this:

On April 6, after Berg’s parents filed suit seeking his release, he was visited in jail by an American delegation that took him aside in a small room.

“He refused to accept any money to go home,” the source said. “He refused to accept an airplane ticket. He refused any escort.

“He didn’t want us. He said, ‘You don’t understand these people like I do. You’re here for a reason - and so am I.’ “

His friends say that while he was in jail, Berg had no way of knowing that four American contractors had been burned and hanged from a bridge in Fallujah, or that the situation in Iraq was sliding downhill.

“I don’t think he understood the gravity of the situation because he was in prison and didn’t know what was going on outside,” Hollinger said.

After his release, Berg went to a Baghdad hotel and decided he would try to come home after all. But he still wanted to do things his own way - spurning an offer from U.S. consular officials for help in leaving from Jordan. He said he would leave from Kuwait - but never got there.

However, I will grant, this could be CYA. Still, the whole story is simply strange.

The same site links to a Philadelphia Inquirer story, A Chance Link Delayed Berg, that notes the following about Berg’s detention, and leaves things confused as to what happened:

But it seemed clear that the detention wasn’t happenstance. Brig Gen. Carter Ham said yesterday in Mosul that the FBI asked Iraqi police to keep Berg until his identity and purpose could be verified. Friends say Berg told them he had been held initially by Iraqi police for several hours and then was transferred to coalition custody.

Berg carried electronic equipment for his work climbing communications towers, and that may have added to suspicions, a friend said.

A State Department spokeswoman said a U.S. consular official in Iraq spoke with Berg on April 10 and offered to “assist him in departing Iraq by plane” for Jordan. She said Berg declined and said he planned to travel overland to Kuwait.

And then there’s this: Berg’s Dad Blames President:

Also yesterday, Michael Berg said he has been a member of International A.N.S.W.E.R. - Act Now to Stop War & End Racism - for the past year and has participated in several anti-occupation marches. He said he plans to march on the Pentagon with the group - which is calling for Bush to bring the troops home now - on June 5.

The story on the alternative blog site theorized that information about the Bergs and the “enemies” list made its way to the FBI and, eventually, into the hands of those in Iraq who track or harass anti-war activists entering the country.

The list appeared on, a neo-conservative, pro-war Web site, on March 7. It posted questions from an unidentified reporter from yesterday.

Berg said his son was a supporter of Bush up until he died.

Again, one can’t make this stuff up.

Indeed, given the whole al Qaeda/911 connection, however coincidental it may have been, and the activities of the father, I am guessing that the FBI/CPA were wondering what the guy was doing in Iraq, especially since he was supposedly going around by himself. I am not suggesting he was up to anything other than fixing radio towers, but one could certainly see how he might have been suspicious.

Hat tip: Wizbang (although I would note that as odd as all this is, I would caution Paul not to draw any conclusions at this point. And, I would add a personal note: while I don’t fully understand the father’s position in all of this, I am of the opinion that he is to be afforded understanding given that his son was gruesomely murdered, essentially in public-worse, really-so whatever rants the father goes on are understandable).

Filed under: Iraq

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  1. Another account

    Comment by mal — Friday, May 14, 2004 @ 10:02 am

  2. I’m going to put up a post later about editorializing too much in a blog POST as as opposed to comments. Also I knew (know) more last night that felt (feel) I could not run with like I ran with the password thing.

    Comment by Paul — Friday, May 14, 2004 @ 10:17 am

  3. Fair enough-and I am not trying to be overly critical. Mostly I am uncomfortable with assuming too much about this situation until the facts fully emerge.

    Comment by Steven — Friday, May 14, 2004 @ 10:22 am

  4. It seems the timing was all wrong.

    Comment by Jane — Friday, May 14, 2004 @ 10:50 am

  5. Ugh. Newsweek has been getting worse and worse recently - more partisan by the week. I see the Newsweek headlines when I load my homepage, which is Despite the gruesome murder of Nick Berg, the headline, with accompanying picture of Don Rumsfeld testifying recently, reads: “The politics of denial.”

    What “denial"? He said the prison “abuse” was going on. Where is he denying that? What planet are Newsweek editors living on? Perhaps I’m missing the context as I refuse to read the article, but I can pretty much guess the article’s content. Then again, what can you expect from a news source that considers Elinor Clift an intellectual giant?

    Could anybody else suggest a new opening webpage that has news? I like because you can personalize it for stocks, weather, sports, etc., plust I like the layout. Fox News is limited in that respect.

    And please don’t tell me “Prarie Home Companion.”

    Comment by John Lemon — Friday, May 14, 2004 @ 1:15 pm

  6. You can be “overly critical” all you want. That is how we learn. I’m going to put my thoughts into a that post later but generically speaking, critique away.

    I tend to get bent out of shape when the JadeGolds and the Hals of the world say things because it is not based in reality. If YOU have something to say obviously there is merit to it.

    I’m a big Simon fan on American Idol. If the contestants listen to him, he is there best friend in the biz.

    I might not look it because I go off on people but REAL criticism is always welcome.


    Mindless banter however…. LOL

    Comment by Paul — Friday, May 14, 2004 @ 1:29 pm

  7. J.L.:

    I use My.Yahoo. Although I am not sure if you can personalize the stock stuff or not-a lot of the content can be, however.

    And Paul,

    Some folks can be a bit annoying, to be sure.

    Comment by Steven — Friday, May 14, 2004 @ 2:52 pm

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