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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Nick Berg video: text « Previous | |Next »
May 17, 2004

The spotlight turns on Donald Rumsfeld in the Abu Ghuraib prison scandal. The work of Seymour Hersh highlights that the American-run soften-up chambers at Abu Ghraib, was part of a "black ops" program personally approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and implemented by undersecretary for intelligence Stephen A. Cambone.

To balance this have posted the text accompanying the video of the decapitation of Nick Berg (courtesy of EASTWESTNORTHSOUTH) below. Like the video I doubt that we will see this text in the corporate media. They are viewing the video on a news channel in Baghdad. The execution is repudiated by professional liberal Iraqi's.

The media in Australia have been acting as gatekeepers who fail to understand that in the Middle East political violence also incorporates media coverage. The two dance together. I hope the spotlight will turn on this failure.

They are two sides of the occupation of Iraq; an occupation that needs to be placed within history of the US; just like the decapitation needs to be placed within the murderous history of Saddam Hussein's regime.

As far as I can gather the Islamic text is from the original web site. The translation is pretty rough.

The text reads:

'A statement to the nation

The praise of Allah for all Muslims with his support and the humiliating of those who attempt to defeat Islam and who attack it and who entice the unbelievers with their cunning.

The one that appreciated the days countries with its justice and the prayer and the greeting on from above the Islam lighthouse by its sword as for after :

The Islamic nation

You rejoice at the first signs of the dawn that have started that have granted the wind of triumph. Allah was benevolent to us in Al Fallujah, granting us victory

On one of the days of Allah and that was known to Allah alone

The Islamic nation

Does any excuse for waiting remain? How the free Muslim sleeps, with his eyelids closed.

And he sees that Islam is slaughtered and can be seen bleeding its dignity

And the shameful pictures and the news of the evil humiliation of the Islam people men and women in Ghareb 's father prison then where the jealousy and where the zeal and where the anger about the Allah's religion and where the jealousy for the Muslims sanctities and where the revenge for the honors of Muslims and Muslims is in the crosses prisons .

As for you are the Islam clerics then to Allah we complain about you, you see that Allah have founded the argument on you by the Islam young man who humiliated the strongest force in the date then broke its nose and destroyed its pride

We came to you that you learn from them the reliance meanings and derive from their doing the lessons of sacrifice and redemption to when you remain as the women you master only the slapping language and know only the way of wail and weeping

Then this appeals the world freemen and this it begs Kofi Annan and a third begs Amr Moussa and fourth he demands peaceful demonstrations and as if they did not hear to his saying ( ( O you the prophet incited the believers to the fight ) )

You were fed up with the fight of the conferences and the oratorical battles ohm came to you that you take the jihad way and carry the sword that sent by it the prophets master

And we beg from you that you do not be involved as usual in the denial of what will do it satisfaction of the Americans

He has ordered the prophet - peace be upon him - and he is master the merciful are with the slitting of the necks of some prisoners and their slow killing

And for us it is an example and a good example

As for you, the Roman dog Bush, I hope you are displeased and we wait for you with God's Help tough days and you and your soldiers today who tred Iraq's land will regret it.

And she dared in it to the Muslims fever

And another message to traitor Pervez Musharraf then we say to him that we in wait for your meeting with your soldiers

We demand of the American and will take revenge for the blood of our brothers in and Iraq and elsewhere

And as for you and the Americans soldiers wife then we say that we offered to the American administration this prisoner in exchange for some of the prisoners in Abu Ghareb prison but they refused

Then we say but if the dignity of Muslims and Muslims in Abu Ghareb prison and others is worth theur blood and souls

we tell you to know that the coffins will arrive to you one coffin after another, as your people are slaughtered in this way.........

Then you kill the polytheists where you find them and you take them and count them and place them where they can be seen.

Allah is the greatest and the honour to Allah and to its messenger and to the militants

And our last claim is that the praise of Allah is the Lord of the Worlds

Abu Mus'ab Alzrqawy
Prince of Al Tawhid group and jihad
22 Rabi I 1425

And you see the slaughter, your fighting brothers suspend the head of this unbeliever on one of Baghdad bridges so that they teach a lesson to others from the infidels and serves as a witness to the honour of the Muslims.'

End of text.

It is hard for me to place this text in a context. There are similarities with the execution of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, in early 2002 by a group of Pakistani jihadi terrorists. Is this psychological warfare?

When you put the two events (the Abu Ghuraib prison scandal and the decapitation of Nick Berg) together the logic of the situation points to the occupation of Iraq being a strategic blunder. So is the ongoing emphasis on military tactics (eg., getting Muqtada al-Sadr even at the cost of causing damage to the sanctity of the shrine cities) and the emphasis on military tactics to the exclusion of political ones.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:56 PM | | Comments (18)


This is an interesting piece from the Jerusalem Post on the way the Israeli Army administers its military prisons, and why an Abu Ghraib-like scandal would never happen in Israel.


David Brinn May. 13, 2004


When I first joined the ranks of the IDF in the summer of 1990 as a 30-year-old reservist corporal in the Military Police, it wasn't the thought of being stationed in a military prison among hardened Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists that was terribly scary.

My fear was the possibility that I might witness scenes of horrifying torture and humiliation of prisoners by my colleagues and superiors. How would I react in such a situation? Would I possess the internal strength to stand up and resist such basic violations of human rights, or would I sit still and passively accept those atrocities? Such thoughts chilled me as I entered my first IDF prison 14 years ago to serve as a jailer, the fear that the Israeli soldier, a fellow Jew, could be capable of inhumane treatment of prisoners.

Seeing the pictures of abuses of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers at the Abu Ghraib facility near Baghdad reminded me of my own trepidations back then. Whether this inexcusable affront to Western, democratic sensibilities could have been prevented will take a thorough investigation of the US military to determine. Could such a travesty occur at an Israeli military prison? Almost certainly not.

A senior Pentagon official has said that the US military units responsible for prisoners in Iraq were not given specifics on permissible techniques for questioning.

In the IDF, there was no such ambiguity. In fact, the entire reasoning behind sending a raw yet comparatively aged recruit like me to serve in military prisons was part of a carefully conceived and implemented plan by the IDF to ensure that such dehumanizing practices would never occur.

When I was inducted for shlav bet (a program for older recruits, largely new immigrants to Israel, who did three months training instead of three years mandatory service) army service in the summer of 1990, it was still the height of the Palestinian intifada that had begun in 1987. The IDF had been forced to open up numerous facilities to house all the Palestinians who were being detained daily for rock-throwing, tossing Molotov cocktails, and worse offenses. These prisons - such as Ketziot, Ofer, Dahariya and Megiddo - were being run predominantly by conscript soldiers between 18 and 21, young men who were not necessarily capable of reigning in their feelings about the people in their charge.

Out of the 95 fellow conscripts I was inducted with, 90 were assigned to the Military Police. "We need you to go to these prisons and be in charge of the hour-by-hour contact with the prisoners," an officer told us during basic training. "We need mature, thoughtful people who aren't going to blow up and let their emotions dictate their actions. There are certain rules that have to be abided by, and you are the best people to ensure they are observed."

So for the next 14 years, I joined conscripts, officers, and other reservists down on the ground with Palestinian detainees, making things run. Huge shipments of food delivered daily had to be dispersed, prisoners had to be taken to doctors and to dentists. Others had appointments with their attorneys, and every day there were staggered visits from family members. All of this required coordination, cooperation, and mutual respect.

Our group of reservists received daily instructions from the young officers who were permanently stationed at the prison. Reservist officers accompanied us everywhere to make sure the different activities were carried out in the most efficient and businesslike manner.

There was a rigid order of checks and balances at work for every activity. For any abuse of prisoners to be carried out, there would have to be a huge conspiracy of silence to which dozens, if not hundreds, of soldiers would have to be part of. The block commander - generally a 20-year-old officer - reported directly to the prison commander, a career army officer.

Our reserve officers came from all walks of life but, to a man, their underlying credo was "Follow the rules." In no corner would have there been any tolerance or simply turning the other way in the event of anything remotely resembling abusive or humiliating behavior.

I WON'T deny that there was no love lost between the soldiers and the prisoners. And even among the "cooler heads" of the reservists, there was plenty of talk about the "Palestinian dogs" that we were in charge of.

But a telling example describes how such racist talk stayed within the ranks and was not allowed to spread. A reservist guard whose job was to watch us military police from one of the many towers surrounding Machane Ofer was walking through our block on the way to his position. He made eye contact with a prisoner on the other side of the fence. The prisoner didn't back down, and the soldier began yelling unprintable things about the prisoner's mother and started to cock his weapon in the prisoner's direction. Within five seconds, the soldier was surrounded by military cops who herded him out of the block.

Justice was quick. Within minutes, the prison commander personally apologized to the prisoner and his block leader, and the soldier had his next leave from the base rescinded.

After spending more than a year of my life in such situations, I can say that the above incident was the closest I came to witnessing any type of prisoner abuse in the IDF.

I make no claims of knowing what goes on when the Shabak takes a prisoner away for interrogation, but I can say that prisoners I saw who returned from such interrogation walked under their own direction and looked no different than when they were taken.

I'm proud of my service in the army and the high moral standard that I saw enacted day after day by ordinary Israelis put into difficult circumstances. Of course, the IDF certainly isn't perfect, and I can remember cringing more times than I would like at some uncivilized or hurtful behavior by soldiers toward prisoners.

These incidents fostered hate and served the interest of neither side in the conflict. But senseless macho posturing is far different than deliberate humiliation. And just as the IDF realized this years ago when they were forced to deal with the dilemma of soldiers guarding civilians, the US military will have to grapple with its mistakes and draw its own conclusions. The question is not why the atrocities at Abu Ghraib took place but how the Americans can stop it from happening again.


The writer, a former news editor of The Jerusalem Post, is the editorial director of ISRAEL21c ( He retired from active IDF duty in 2003.

Copyright 1995-2004 The Jerusalem Post -

"We demand of the American and will take revenge for the blood of our brothers in and Iraq and elsewhere."
Well they didn't seem to want to take too much revenge for the blood of their brothers when Saddam was covering himself with it. As for the blood of their brother's sisters at the hands of the likes of Uday and Qsay, well sisters, you don't even rate a mention.

what about the American neo-con hatred for Arabs? Should we forget about that?

We do have a clash of cvilizations in this conflict.

And some of the wilder Amrican hawks want revenge; they to use ever more force to crush the insurgents, to escalate the war beyond Iraq to Syria.

Some of the wild ones in the War Party want the Arab nation states to submit to the American eagle.

There is a lot of hatred of Arabs and Islam in this War party mentality.

I'm coming across suggestions here and there that the Israelis have been "advising" the Americans on the ins and outs of managing an occupation.

More specifically on how to gain the necessary intelligence information from selected prisoners and on the techniques to sexually humilate Arab prisoners to soften them up.

Gary, you are utterly and completely wrong about the neo-con attitude towards Arabs. Many people, some of them on the left, have been arguing that Arab culture is ill-suited to democracy and that the American attempt to impose representative government from above, a la post-WWII Japan, are foredoomed to fail.

The neo-cons have denounced that argument as an expression of bigotry, and have argued that the average Arab has a desire for democracy and liberty that is no different from that of the average American or Australian. Paul Wolfowitz has been particularly outspoken on this point. So, far from being motivated by hatred of the Arab world, as you describe, the neo-cons are moved by a desire to make that region of the world a better place that respects the same democratic freedoms that we take for granted in the West.

You really have to start reading more broadly than just counterpunch, Gary.

And, as for U.S. - Israeli cooperation, the Israelis have been advising the Americans on military matters such as urban small unit tactics and the like. The Israelis don't indulge in torture, so there is nothing that they could teach the Americans, even if they wanted to. And, by the way, I am using the definition of torture as it appears in the UN Covention on the subject. "Moderate physical pressure," which the Israelis do use in interrogations, is not the same thing as "severe pain or suffering," the definitional wording that appears in the Convention.

Those junior cowboys and cowgirls at Abu Ghraib were off the reservation all by themselves. The Taguba investigation revealed no higher direction or orders. There was definitely a complete breakdown in the command structure at Abu Ghraib, which was also evidenced by the widespread sexual goings on amongst the US troops there.

Yet another example of why women don't belong in combat zones. But, that's another debate...

"Gary, you are utterly and completely wrong about the neo-con attitude towards Arabs. Many people, some of them on the left, have been arguing that Arab culture is ill-suited to democracy and that the American attempt to impose representative government from above, a la post-WWII Japan, are foredoomed to fail.

The neo-cons have denounced that argument as an expression of bigotry, and have argued that the average Arab has a desire for democracy and liberty that is no different from that of the average American or Australian. Paul Wolfowitz has been particularly outspoken on this point. So, far from being motivated by hatred of the Arab world, as you describe, the neo-cons are moved by a desire to make that region of the world a better place that respects the same democratic freedoms that we take for granted in the West."

Well, I'm sure there are plenty of Iraqis that would like to live in a western style democracy, but it doesn't look like that is the majority view, and going by the excerpt that Gary has transcribed, there seems to be a fairly large section of Iraqi opinion that want to live under an Islamic state of the Taliban sort.

I think it is only realistic to point out that nearly every Arab country is ruled by either a military dictatorship or a old style monarchy; I think it is more to do with Arab political culture then Islam per se as Turkey and Malaysia seem to be making a reasonable fist of democracy.

I think if Bush was back in office none of this would be taking place.The president is trying to keep every thing a secret there are peoples family out there, they have the right to know everything that's taking place at all heart goes out to the NICK BERG family.To the soldiers get out there and show them whose running this war.

I agree with Adelaide Pundit. Islam doesn't seem to be an impediment to democracy. However Arabs have proven spectacularly unsuccessful in any form of lawful governance.
It can be put down to an astounding intellectual decadence, and a single-minded obsession with Israel.

It's their fault, and I have no sympathy for them.

Equally, we must take into account how resource-rich lands can undermine political systems. If we look at the new Kuwaits opening up in Central Asia and the old resource deposits in Africa, we find an amazing swathe of despotisms cutting across a vast land mass.

Naturally the Great Powers are fine with Central Asian Stalinist dictatorships. You need an iron-fist to hold together and expanding network of pipelines and concessions.

Counterpunch has nothing to do with it.

If it is not the neocons and it is not the paleocons then what strand of con is it?

The anger that is expressed in terms of revenge, hatred and payback certainly exists---- judging from the comments on this blog, many of who come from the Tim Blair fanclub.

What strand of con is the angry white man who is so full of angst and who kickks their rocks off by bashing liberals? The inarticulate angy white men who have been herded in George Bush's Republican camp by Karl Rove.

I call the Australian variety one nation conservatives. What are they called in the US?

Gary - there is just as much hate speech on the left as there is on the right.

Your own sanctimonious reference to "inarticulate white men" who are suceptible to being "herded" is a crass generalisation, as well as being a pretty good "bashing" of its own. Your comments exude an assumption of intellectual and moral superiority that lefties love to arrogate to themselves.

For the record, I am an Ivy League-educated Jew with a substantial publication record as a commentator/journalist. I am also, as you have doubtless concluded, quite conservative politically. I won't be "herded" anywhere, by anyone. I arrive at the conclusions I adopt independently and after substantial cogitation.

So, this all too typical attempt to write off Dubya supporters as semi-literate cretins reveals nothing but your own propensity to succumb to superficial lefty pejorative hype about conservatives.

You want "anger that is expressed in terms of revenge, hatred and payback?" Look to your own. I guess you weren't listening too closely to the vile, hate-filled anti-American and anti-Israel rhetoric that abounded at the anti-war demos that you doubtless attended. Didn't you notice all those placards that equated the star of David with the Swastika?

And, if you really want hostile invective, why don't you look to the leader of the Federal opposition, who abased himself in a cheap attempt to purchase leftist votes by insulting the U.S. president ad hominem terms that were unbecoming of a serious political leader.

you protest too much.

I said the Tim Blair fan club or those from the American War Party who want to nuke Iraq.

"insulting the U.S. president"

This is one of the things that I don't understand about Americans. It is as though criticism of the potus is somehow akin to insulting God.

A president is an elected politican usually as a result of his bank balance and connections. He pisses and shits just like the rest of us.

As least in Australia it is not considered lese-majesty to criticise elected leaders, and rightly so.

And because the potus is considered the 'most powerful man in the world', every citizen of every country has a stake in decisions made by the office-holder, his government and his minions (controllers?) such as Rumsfeld.

And, no, I don't hate the US but I do have an intense dislike of the current (mal)Administration.

Actually, Gary, I rather like Tim Blair.

No, Ron, criticism of POTUS (the acronym is always capitalized) is not akin to insulting God.

But for a serious aspirant to the Lodge to indulge in such language signifies a lack of maturity, both political and general. And, that incident is just one piece of the mosaic that reveals Mark Latham to ill-suited for the PM-ship

Tim Blair, is one thing, VofS,it's his followers who fill me with despair.

What did those hangers-on do before the anonymity of the Internet?

One thing I dislike about commenting on blogs - one does not have a few minutes grace, as happens on forums, to edit or delete a message that one wishes one hadn't posted!

Of course, Gary misses the most salient analogy between the Pearl and Berg killings - in both cases the victims were Jewish.

But, then, leftist indifference to the shedding of Jewish blood is nothing new.