Nick Berg

I missed the big story today about the videotape of al Qaeda beheading American Nick Berg. For some reason, I thought this was old tape of the Daniel Pearl murder that was just now surfacing and didn’t pay it much attention.

Morton Kondracke got it right on Fox News tonight when he argued that this should galvanize American support for the war on terrorism because this exemplifies the nature of the enemy. The Corner’s Andrew McCarthy also gets it right, though, in urging that the Right not play the idiotic moral equivalency game we criticize the Left for by arguing this proves Abu Ghraib wasn’t all that bad. (Are you listening, Fred Barnes?)

Hat tips: Spoons and Laurence Simon

Update: Reuters is reporting new details.

Al Qaeda̢۪s leader in Iraq beheaded an American civilian and vowed more killings in revenge for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, an Islamist Web site said Tuesday.

A poor quality videotape on the site showed a man dressed in orange overalls sitting bound on a white plastic chair in a bare room, then on the floor with five masked men behind him.

“My name is Nick Berg, my father’s name is Michael… I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah,†said the bound man, adding he was from Philadelphia.

After one of the masked men read out a statement, they pushed Berg to the floor and shouted “God is greatest†above his screams as one of them sawed his head off with a large knife then held it aloft for the camera.

The Web site said Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a top ally of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was the man who cut off Berg̢۪s head. The statement read out before the killing was signed off with Zarqawi̢۪s name and dated May 11.

Jordanian-born Zarqawi, 37, has raised his profile and status as al Qaeda̢۪s most active operational leader with a series of suicide bombs and attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq.

Nikita Demosthenes has substantially more at Command Post including several still photographs of the atrocity.

Update: Kevin Aylward has the gruesome video. Stephen Green also has the video available for download.

FILED UNDER: Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. dw says:

    Anyone who makes the moral equivalency argument needs to be taken outside of the camp and stoned. We are not these animals. We are supposed to be civilized, and our conduct should be unimpeachable.

    I hope they hunt these guys down and throw them in a detention camp where they get three squares a day and all the comforts Gitmo can offer.

  2. M.Murcek says:

    Yeah, fatten ’em up in camp, and then put them in a poorly wired electric chair. The people who did the murder, that is…

  3. alan says:

    What I find striking about the terrorists (aside from the terrorism, of course) is their remarkable stupidity. At a time when public opinion in the U.S. is, at the very least, wobbly on Iraq, these idiots commit an act so heinous and in such public fashion that the re-ignition of American righteous indignation is guaranteed.

  4. M.Murcek says:

    Despite our acclimitization to the Internet, there remains a lag. There will always remain a lag…

  5. While not a fan of the moral equivalence arguments in thos context–I think it’s important to distinguish WHERE those arguments are directed.

    When directed at AMERICAN media, the “well, we weren’t as bad as Saddam” is pretty darn stupid and unbecoming.

    However, when directed at the damn near complicit ARAB media when they shed crocodile tears for the prisoner abuses–then it’s a bit more appropriate to ask “Hey, where the eff have YOU been?”

    Only insofar as that distinction can be made is the “moral equivalence” (using that term advisedly) argument appropriate.

  6. fdh says:

    It hit me today before the press began to ponder its implications: did the fact that Nick Berg was Jewish possibly influence the decision by Zarquawi to do an execution? I am not Jewish, but I am alarmed by the rampant anti-Semitism in Europe and the Middle East. Military commanders may want to take steps to make sure that troops under their command agree to some guidelines to keep the ethnic and religious affiliation of their Jewish soldiers a secret. Also, I think that those secular Jews on the Left who oppose the U.S. and Israeli war against the militant jihadists should seriously evaluate their worldviews and political leanings.

  7. Japers Camera says:

    When are you Americans going to realise that the sun does not shine out of your arses and that people of the worls do not only do things to get your reactions.

  8. Germanator says:

    It is pretty sick of what those extremists have committed. I watched the video in shock and had to learn the hard way what cruelty was committed.
    Words cannot describe this horror act.
    Cowards are those hiding their face wrapped in a doorag. I certainly wish we as Americans will stand up finally and cut through the cheese, though we are criticized by others and punish those who associate with such extremists. If they are celebrating over our casualties, why not round them up and imprison them?

  9. Anonymous says:

    It appears that the United States has slumped back into a collective amnesia. We have forgotten the over 3,000 souls who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. It appears that we have forgotten the war, or even the reason why we are fighting. We have become obsessed with pleasure, sport and recreation. We have become the masters of our own distraction, a deadly distraction. We have a government that is more concerned about its outward appearance to the world than in the cold hard decisions of winning a war and preserving the peace and the American way of life. Yes I did say the American way of life. Our culture and nation is vastly superior to many other nations in the world. We have brought freedom and liberty to countless millions. We have preserved the human dignity of man and championed the cause of freedom everywhere. Do not be distracted by the liberals and their macarthyistic practices by the treasonous Ted Kennedy and his ilk and their facade of concern regarding the “helpless” Iraqi prisoners. The Islamic mindset is not afraid of death. They only fear humiliation and our soldiers and intelligence officials involved with the prisoners understand this. The only thing these bastards understand is strength and humiliation. The days of the hippie cum-bye-ya love-in are over, or at least they better be if we want to win this war. The British understood this concept when dealing with the Islamo Fascists in times past. They would bury the Islamic dead in pig skins as an ultimate sign of humiliation to their enemy. (The pig is an unclean animal in Islam. Taken even further than the Jews) This action had a great effect on the Islamo psyche in humiliating them into submission. We have to be tough, there is no other way. Giving them a hug will only give us a knife in the gut.

    History teaches us that fanatics whether it comes in the guise of Nazism, Communism, Islamo Fascism or Liberalism understands nothing and will accept nothing short of superior strength. If we are not united, if we do not stand up against these untermenschen then we are lost. There is no way around that. We are dealing with a people who will die for their cause at any price. I have often said that history is the most vital subject of all. The premise for this argument is simply put by the great Spanish philosopher Santayana, THOSE WHO DON’T LEARN FROM THEIR MISTAKES ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT THEM. The crusades were not fought as a way to spread Christianity by the sword, but to defend Christendom from the invading Muslim armies. Read your history, it’s all there. Our forefathers understood that Islam was a real power to be reckoned with. They understood that it was kill or be killed when it came to combating them. The great city of Constantinople fell at the hands of the so called “religion of peace.” They reached deep into western Europe including southern Spain, remember the Moors? Do you think that several hundred years has quelled the desire to convert the world to their point of view? Freedom of choice, and freedom of religion are not found in Islam. period! It’s Allah’s way or the highway! Sounds Luciferian to me. September 11th and the countless events leading up to it were a grave indication of their intent toward us; the freedom loving peoples of the world.

    I am personally enraged at the apathy of our nation towards this most vital of issues. We seem to be more concerned about the “pebble in our shoe” than the knife at our throat. We need to see the planes hitting the towers over and over again. We need to see the Nick Berg video and know who we are truly dealing with. The all knowing all compassionate press do not feel that these things are fit for public display. Who the hell do they think they are?? But this same press will show you the so called abuse photos of the Iraqi prisoners ad-nauseaum twenty-four seven giving our enemies all of the press time and propaganda they could hope for! We see in the WTC photos our fellow citizens plummeting to their deaths in order to avoid being burnt alive! Can you imagine the horror and the suffering of being at that place that day?? We must never forget. We must use that day as the impetuous to move our nation to victory. We must never forget!

    The killing of Nick Berg last week should be another wake up call to us all. What was the crime of our fellow citizen butchered by these bastards? He was an American, and a Jew. Hitler is back, and he is wearing a head scarf. We must all understand this. The swastika has been replaced by the crescent moon and a head scarf. This could be you,your father, brother or maybe your son or daughter. Think of how devastated the Berg family is right now. Think of what they are doing to us!!! These photos are not for the weak, but they must be seen so that you can bear witness of why we must fight. There is no other choice.

    What can we do? We can demand that our leaders do something. We must demand that our soldiers be allowed to conduct this war as a war, not as a police action. Our soldiers are not allowed to do what ever it takes to win. In some ways, Vietnam is back and reborn in this war in that politics are more important than victory. Win a hill today, and give it back tomorrow. Write your congressman, senator and the President. Let them know that action must be taken now! I don’t know how much effect this will have as most of our politicians are only interested in their own agenda and self promotion. But the politician’s mind is always testing the political wind so to speak. And finally, we can pray. We can pray to our Father in Heaven to watch over us, and our nation. To watch over our soldiers and our leaders. To bless them with wisdom (heaven knows they need it!!) We can humble ourselves before him and do our best to serve him. Just as in times past, we can not do it without his help. We are not the culprits in this, we are the victims!! Don’t side with the enemy. There is nothing we have done that can justify these actions against us!

  10. Rebecca1 says:

    So the website where this Video originated is wat?

  11. Bud says:

    i just watched the video of the beheading and it made me sick, those animals are not fit for life, good luck in the war against them, i give you it my full support. I very much hope they are caught and killed, and my condolences to Nick’s family, nobody should die like that.

  12. Bud says:

    here is the link to download the video, i hope you all realise that this war needs to be won.

  13. Anonymous says:

    nuke em

  14. Rae says:

    First of all my condolences go out to the Berg family.

    Now, what is it going to take for your soliders to get out of Iraq? I thought the war was over. I realize that Nick Berg was not there on behalf of the United States government but you have to open your eyes. These terrorist are not afraid of dying (as proved by the numerous suicided bombers) so this will last until you have killed everylast one of them and I don’t think that that is going to happen within the next couple of weeks or even months. This “war” has to stop now. GET OUT OF IRAQ. I understand that you want revenge (face it that is what it is) and you can’t let them just get away with it but How many more Americans are you willing to lose?

  15. “At a time when public opinion in the U.S. is, at the very least, wobbly on Iraq” “these idiots commit an act so heinous and in such public fashion”

    And that should really make you think? What did you see … and who did you see do it?

    A President under scrutiny so close to Re-Election? A Secretary under fire for the behaviour of US soldiers over seas…”I knew, but I did not know until I saw the pictures?” ~Secretary Rumsfeld

    How many laws were broken to make this… “occupation”…. or war happen? Constitutional, Geneva, Nuremberg? How many lies? WMD? Sanctions on children…what does Saddam have to do with 9-11?

    After 10 thousand Iraqi deaths…these supposed “Al Qaeda” release a video showing brutality beyond compare on an American civilian…all in response to the “humiliation” put on Iraqi prisoners of war? This makes no sense, it acomplished nothing for them?

    On the flip side …the same video gives Bush the exact “fix” he needed to re-direct public opinion and ensure a chance at re-election?

    As much as it hurt me to watch that video… I had to wonder who was really holding the blade?

    “I shall give a propagandist cause for starting the war, never mind whether it be true or not. The victor shall not be asked later on whether he told the truth or not.” ~Adolf Hitler

  16. SHOCKED AND AWED says:

    What I have to say is simple and to the point, yes, yes, Nicolas Berg was killed by Satan incarnates, but we are here in this country. Even though our leadership didn’t do it they are ultimately responsible to an extent. Why was he held? Why did we not do something to save him? You are thinking how? how? please for your own personal enlightenment you must know that “we” knew or our “leaders” knew, the f***er’s tried to negotiate for Mr. Berg’s release. We turned our cheek, we don’t negotiate wiht terrorists you say, well tell that to his father, mother, sister, brother. What kind of fascist BASTARDS are running this country I am sure that with our Navy Seals and Delta Force so on and so forth we could have “negotiated” and fooled the enemy. But hey it doesn’t effect Adolf Bush’s re-election as well as a severed American head so they don’t see it as top priority, or huhhhhmm could it be that this would benefit their UNworthy cause. Think intelligently Iraqi Freedom what a quaint idea but think, think, think, how many nations have a dictator, in the middle east alone we would have to wage multiple wars. Why not Iranian Freedom huh? Or SAUDI FREEDOM FOR THAT MATTER but noooo they might not be free but hey, shhhhh, they are an oil tycoons best friend. Please, this s**t is poppycock the so called WMD was BULL I tell you BULL and no matter how REPUBLICAN you might be you have to acknowledge that. Why is it we have Saddam and not Bin Laden? You might say uhhh because Saddam was careless, no no no I say it is because we have abandoned Afganistan and moved on to Iraq, and all because of a government that has their head in the wrong place. Please respond to what I have shared, even though I have no doubts of my convictions I admit I would love nothing more than to be wrong, do your best to try.. And please take note I am in the process of leaving for BMT in the Air Force!

  17. JOSEPH says:

    I say screw countries that our scared to help fight terrorism and getting sick and tired of USA and the British to be babysitting all the time. Spain is a bunch of PUSS#%#% and the FRENCH our FA###^. I DARE ANYONE TO EMAIL ME BACK THAT DONT AGREE..I WILL WIN…USA RULZ

  18. cecko 256 says:

    im not even from america but im sick of all this. every night on the news all you hear is more soldiers have been killed in iraq.
    its not that i dont care but has anyone every heard of the more media exposure iraq gets the more things like this will happen? (free advertisement)
    everyone wants a solution to iraq why not pull out and see how the iraqi people like being repressed once again or you could have a solution to 2 problems many nations have nuclear weapons they dont know what to do with (extreme solution) shit would hit the fan if a nation fired off one of them. i think the best solution would be a building to building search not random searchs like before but a net like search so no one can hide or hide anything. no weapons not AS much killing.

  19. JOSEPH CLARK says:




    my name is joseph clark
    from osterburg pa
    814 276 3657 call if ya must i will win

  20. jay schroeder says:

    wow, i cant believe the stupidity of the previous emailer, shock and awed, its amazing how naive you are… what happend in iraq to nick berg is hanious and wrong, and hope we catch who did this and do the same to them, but when one goes to a country at a time of war, especially with a people of such small inteligence, you should expect the worst…

  21. cecko 245 says:

    hey JOSEPH
    our countrie (NZ) is helping but our leader (helen clark) is stupid and ulgy and does not like our armed forces and is trying to get rid of them
    here is her pic WARNING she might frighten small children
    see what i ment about ulgy, i wasnt kidding

  22. Michael Bayer says:

    Mit Traurigkeit und Entsetzen habe ich ganz persönlich reagiert und will an dieser Stelle mein herzlichstes Beileid Bergs Familie aussprechen. Gleichzeitig aber bin ich traurig und entsetzt über die vielen zivilen, gemarterten und erniedrigten Menschen im Irak. Es ist mir unverständlich, daß eine solche Regierung nicht aus dem Amt gejagt, angezeigt und abgeurteilt wird. Ich kann das hier vielleicht etwas deutlicher sagen als unser Außenminister J.Fischer.
    Ich wünsche Amerika für die Zukunft ein offenes Auge für die Probleme im eigenen Land, einen bodenständigen und ehrlichen Präsidenten und keine korrupte Regierung.
    Ich bin traurig über so viel Dummheit auf der Welt und hoffe auf schnelle Einsicht.

    Michael Bayer

  23. Dazed and Confused says:

    Why did the US even get so heavily involved with the Mideast to begin with? Two basic reasons: oil and Israel. That’s it, folks. If we weren’t there to support our oil addiction and to support Israel we would have zero involvement with Mideast, and thus we never would have been attacked by terrorists. And now with the war in Iraq we are in way over our heads trying to change a region full of dictators, fanatics, and barbarism more to our liking (and exposing our own moral hypocrisy in doing so) and that just ain’t gonna haooen anytime soon. And even if one accepts that attacking Iraq was a part of the larger War on Terrorism (which I don’t), from a military standpoint it was a really, really stupid thing to do. A distraction from Bush’s failure to get Osama bin Laden and wipe out al Qaeda when he had the chance (the fiasco at Tora Bora). Sort of like Hitler attacking Russia due to his frustration when he failed to take Britain, and we all know where that got him. But in the end the biggest danger is not that we won’t win the so-called “War on Terrorism”, which should more properly be called the “War on Fundamentalist Islam” (but that doesn’t have the same catchy ring to it and has much more far reaching implications too serious for the average rather slow witted and dull American to contemplate), but that we become more and more like the enemies we are trying to defeat. In fact, it may already be too late (Abu Ghraib immediately comes to mind but the Patriot Act also applies here). And could someone please explain to me exactly how we will know when we have achieved victory in this war. Will the terrorists come out of hiding holding up a white flag? Oh yeah, one other thing. All those graves Saddam filled after the first Gulf War, well in part you can thank Bush I for encouraging the people of Iraq to rise up against Saddam and then standing by doing nothing while Saddam slaughtered them all!

  24. SK says:

    American President is a stupid guy. he didn’t help this innocent guy and just wanna winning in the coming presidential election

  25. Jennifer Fed says:

    Im with Joseph, wipe out the entire country and end it after all. the beheading of Berg has made me sick. wipe em all out

  26. cecko 256 says:

    i think without oil you would be a little pissed off but hey who am i to say anything im sure the iraqis miss saddam. and whats wrong with bush he didnt just sit on the sofa at least he got off his ass and got something done not like most americans!

  27. cecko 256 says:

    another thing this migh shock some people but yes in some wars people die yes thats right people die.

  28. Grifter says:

    funny thing is, this guy could of left the ‘warzone’ safely. G-R-E-E-D. he decided to stay for the sake of his company (non-military company, money-raping establishment). the kids in the military have no choice to leave and are killed daily while actually doing something worthwile (defending our nation and freedom). this guy was a looking to make money from our “occupation” of iraq. i say good riddance to him and all the rest of the money-grubbing dogs of war. ……………dont be shallow, repent, repent!!

  29. Anonymous says:

    fuck Bush!!!!!!!!!

  30. Jim says:

    When are you Americans going to realise that the sun does not shine out of your arses and that people of the worls do not only do things to get your reactions.

    First off, learn to speak English before you even Bash Americans. Secondly, not only do you just appear jealous, your argument is rediculous to say the least. Of course these people did this to get a reaction..that was the whole point stupid. Anyway, upon my first reaction of the video, I feel that every available means of military might should be let loose on that anus of a country. Kill em all, let “Allah” sort em out.

  31. grifter says:

    worse part is, everyone still thinks Allah and God are different entities. lol just a different word for the guy who is gonna send you all to hell. lol

  32. cecko 256 says:

    iraq should have been a blitzkrieg

  33. grifter says:

    or just should of been made to listen to ‘blitzkrieg bop’…either way osama would still be on the loose..

  34. cecko 256 says:

    you americans should do in iraq what you do best (shoot anything that moves and if it doesnt BLOW IT UP)

  35. grifter says:

    i guess its better than what most europeans do, lay down and cry…even tho i dont agree with whats goin on in the mideast right now

  36. cecko 256 says:

    i aint european and if you dont agree with it why dont you do something about it

  37. grifter says:

    ummm is that like a challenge to a fight,dumb fukk? we’re online, btw. can’t really “settle” a dispute the same way your inbred parents do (relentless beatings and rapings). either way, you’re not American, so you should stfu unless you’re involved in this mattered (not being from America/Iraq/or the UN disqualifies you from any further comments)

  38. cecko 256 says:

    who cares anyway no matter what happenes in iraq not everyone going to be happy about it. there will allways be people who want to feel important and have their say in the matter.

  39. cecko 256 says:

    my country is involved but no im not from america nor iraq and nor do we try to win wars with white tanks. i would not expect many americans to know where im from because from my experence not many americans know where many other places are except: MC donnalds, the north pole (because santa lives there) etc

  40. Ryan says:

    I went to the site where the video of Nick Berg being killed was shown and i don’t know what made me more sick the video of Nick Berg being beheaded or the website
    If you buy a membership you can watch women being raped fake or not the people watching and the owners of the site are sick.

  41. grifter says:

    ummm thats what’s wrong with this world..

  42. Anonymous says:

    I would not recommend watching the Nick Berg video. I haven’t felt the way I felt after watching that since watching the twin towers fall. Saddest part is, my peers are over there killing people, no different then the way Nick Berg was murdered, and we can’t seem to find a better solution. We as a whole are not wholly human until we can stop killing.

  43. mami says:

    are you a man mr. bush? the best devil in the world.

  44. grifter says:

    im not an advocate of censorship at all, but that doesn’t mean that every sick piece of shit video/pic should be posted on sites. entertainment is a good measuring stick of the culture of the times…we’re not doin too good right now.

  45. Samiel says:

    My condolences to the family of Nick Berg. This war isn’t about oil. It’s about stomping out terrorism. I don’t think Nick belonged in it, and I swear on every fiber of my being I hope the men who killed him die in the most painful fasions imaginable. We could have just nuked Iraq, but we aren’t animals. This however, is worse than our humiliating Iraq peoples. This was Death, which will in doubt, begin vengance killings as we torture, kill, or somehow harm others in retaliation. I would urge the Iraqi folk to turn over the terrorists, since they too, get harmed in all this. Lets leave the innocent alone already. Enough have died. Btw, do not for the love of Christ re-elect that moron Bush!

  46. grifter says:

    we are our own destroyers/holders of our destiny. human nature is to destroy, as soon as we are born we make our way to death , in a sense, dying the second we are born. do what you can while you are here, do not give to those who bring down humanity, or keep it stagnant. turn off your tvs, throw out your clocks and listen to the countdown to your own death.

  47. boh says:

    u rule cecko all the way baby

  48. cecko 256 says:

    nice peep talk really motovating

  49. Been there, done that! says:

    Dialog from “Full Metal Jacket” (Stanley Kubrick film about Vietnam war), which also apply to the War in Iraq:

    “It’s like we’re dying over here for these people and they don’t even appreciate it!”

    “It seems like they would rather be alive than free…”

    Why we just declare victory…oh yeah, that’s right, according to that moron Bush we already won last year…OK…well then declare victory once again and get the f**k out? NOW!

    I’m afraid that the only way the US will be forced to withdraw is when the draft is reinstated and there are, once again, riots in the streets and on the campuses of America!

    Of course, at the same time we’ll get to see just how many of these blowhard conservative Bush supporters are willing to sign up, putting life and limb on line for their beloved prez’s grandiose dreams of an American empire!

  50. grifter says:

    i agree, throw those bastards to the fires first. you supported him, go and show it. strap on a gun and don’t come back ’till you’re in a pine box. better yet, let the idiot in the top gun outfit go first, since he skipped the first time

  51. kirbyspunkroxie says:

    i agree i think we should NUKE them. just wipe their miserable pathetic people off the face of the earth.

    may nick RIP.

    and fuck anyone who isnt pro-american..we need to seriously nuke them, them being iraq.

    those cowards who murdered nick will pay. the US will get revenge for this horrible and gruesome murder of nick.

  52. James Joyner says:

    I’ve closed the comments to this post due to a huge Google-related traffic spike.

    I don’t have any desire to bear huge expenses to host insipid rantings of random passersby.