Experts Say Nick Berg Beheaded Post Mortem

From the Asia Times, link courtesy of Counterspin:

American businessman Nicholas Berg's body was found on May 8 near a Baghdad overpass; a video of his supposed decapitation death by knife appeared on an alleged al-Qaeda-linked website (www.al-ansar.biz) on May 11. But according to what both a leading surgical authority and a noted forensic death expert separately told Asia Times Online, the video depicting the decapitation appears to have been staged.

"I certainly would need to be convinced it [the decapitation video] was authentic," Dr John Simpson, executive director for surgical affairs at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, said from New Zealand. Echoing Dr Simpson's criticism, when this journalist asked forensic death expert Jon Nordby, PhD and fellow of the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators, whether he believed the Berg decapitation video had been "staged", Nordby replied: "Yes, I think that's the best explanation of it."

Questions of when the video's footage was taken, and the time elapsed between the shooting of the video's segments, were raised by both experts, reflecting a portion of the broader and ongoing video controversy. Nordby, speaking to Asia Times Online from Washington state, noted: "We don't know how much time wasn't filmed," adding that "there's no way of knowing whether ... footage is contemporaneous with the footage that follows".

...A particularly significant point in the video sequence occurred as Berg's captors attacked him, bringing the supposedly fatal knife to bear. "The way that they pulled him over, they could have used a dummy at that point," reflected Simpson regarding what the video portrayed. Separately, Nordby said Berg does not "appear to register any sort of surprise or any change in his facial expression when he's grabbed and twisted over, and they start to bring this weapon into use".

Subsequently, Nordby said it was likely that the filming sequence was manipulated at the point immediately preceding this, allowing Berg's corpse to be used for the decapitation sequence. Nordby also emphasized that the video "raises more questions than it answers", with the most fundamental questions of "who are you, and how did you die", being impossible to answer from it. But broad speculation exists regarding a number of factors surrounding both Berg's death and the video, and its timing in regard to revelations of US prison atrocities.

In a May 13 article, the Arabic newsgroup Aljazeera reported that a Dubai-based Reuters journalist first broke the story, "but while Fox News, CNN and the BBC" were able to secure the video from the "Arabic-only website" that hosted it, Aljazeera was unable to locate it. And also on May 13, the Associated Press (AP) reported that the US Central Intelligence Agency had determined that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the individual who beheaded Berg.

Yet Another Misstep

Our agile, athletic president fell off his bike today.

Let's see. He's choked on a pretzel, he's fallen off a Segway, he's dropped his dog in front of a bunch of kids, and now the bike. He also seems to appear in public with some frequency with slight bruises and bandages.

Athletic people - and we hear about his great athleticism more than we see it since his pix tend to show something of a pot belly - are usually more graceful.

Perhaps he can't chew gum and do anything else. Which means he must be chewing a whole shitload of bubblegum all the freakin' time.

It's late and I'm being kind. I won't list even a dozen of his thousands of horrendous political, social, and moral blunders.

The Chalabi Saga

Robert Novak on CNN tonight was saying how all along, the civilians at the Pentagon and the folks at the WH were embracing Ahmed Chalabi even as the military has been saying he's a bad seed all along.

If he's really the mess he sounds like he is, I sure wish someone, somewhere, sometime at the Pentagon or White House would own responsibility for this. They won't. They don't for anything else.

More About Nick Berg Slaying Suspects

This also from CBSNews:

At least some of the suspects were former members of Saddam Hussein's Fedayeen paramilitary organization, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. They were arrested May 14 in a house in Salaheddin province, north of Baghdad. The province includes Tikrit, Saddam's hometown.

The group that was involved in the killing of Berg was led by Yasser al-Sabawi, a nephew of Saddam Hussein, the security official said. He said American intelligence had asked Iraqi authorities to hand over the suspects, but they were still in Iraqi hands.

Bush's "Honored Guest"?

From CBSNews:

Senior U.S. officials have told 60 Minutes Correspondent Lesley Stahl that they have evidence Chalabi has been passing highly classified U.S. intelligence to Iran. The evidence shows that Chalabi personally gave Iranian intelligence officers information so sensitive that if revealed it could, quote, "get Americans killed." The evidence is said to be "rock solid."

On Friday, Stahl reported that senior intelligence officials stress the information Ahmad Chalibi is alleged to have passed on to Iran is of such a seriously sensitive nature, the result of full disclosure could be highly damaging to U.S. security. The information involves secrets that were held by only a handful of very senior U.S. officials, says Stahl.

Richard Perle was on TV tonight defending Chalabi and telling us it's the CIA screwing up. But what about everyone else in BushCo who kept telling us how wonderful and noble Mr. Chalabi was, and that he might be the next leader of Iraq?



Today, we heard that - to change hearts and minds - Mr. Bush is going to give a major speech on Iraq each and every week for the foreseeable future. Um... so?

Any of you reading this can already tell exactly what he'll say:

    * We're gonna stay the course
    * I'm proud to be commander in chief (it's much better than that Texas reserve gig I had in the 60s where they bleepin' expected me to show up before 10 in the mornin')
    * Iraq's so much better off now (I'm a much better lookin' despot than that Saddam guy who wanted to off my Daddy)
    * Our troops are just great (and they won't mind if I cut more benefits away from 'em to give to my rich pals)
    * If you're not totally suckin' up to me, you're with the terra-ists
    * The Iraqi people know we got good hearts (and if they think otherwise, I got some people at Abu Ghraib who're gonna convince 'em otherwise)
    * Oh yeah, and a vote for John Kerry's like havin' Osama over to dinner

Those Two Detained in Berg's Murder

MSNBC said tonight that the two men still being held for questioning in connection with Nicholas (Nick) Berg's death are not believed to be any of the five men seen in that vicious videotape of his murder, but may be part of a group that "sold" him to the group who killed him.

Questions, questions.

Does Bush Have a Clear Exit Strategy for Iraq?

That's the poll question CNN asks right now, and 85% of more than 30K respondents say no. Now I know how Bush ended up with 39% in a presidential poll today where Kerry had 54%.

Pay Attention to Ahmed Chalabi

I suspect the subject of Ahmed Chalabi - the raid this week, the theories about whether he really passed information to Iran about US operations, his unhappiness with Bushco, and why he's being targeted now - will be a big issue on the Sunday politico talk show circuit. I believe at least one program will have him on for a chat.

As I said yesterday, Chalabi might actually become useful (perhaps for the first time), if he begins to shed some light on the runup to war and the operation of Iraq since then.

Tonight, I heard Bushco is planning to only allow John Negroponte administer money for the Iraqi gov't following the much-discussed turn over of power on June 30th. I'm sure that will go over as well as a lead balloon in a stiff wind.

I mean, we made al Sadr the most popular man in Iraq, rousing him from obscurity, by targeting him.

Colin, Where's the Outrage?

Secretary of State Colin Powell joined many other GOP voices today saying "enough is enough" with regard to showing Iraqi prison abuse photos. This, the same man who went on every TV news program last Sunday asking, "Where's the outrage?" from the Arab world concerning Nick Berg.

Of course, the two situations are not completely compatible. But lots of prisoners have died and many of them seem to have died from abuse (and we're not even mentioning all those who were captured and killed under US watch in Afghanistan without any real determination if they were really Taliban, fighters, or what).

Come on, Colin. Where's your outrage? When you were head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when you were a soldier, would you have wanted your soldiers treated that way? I certainly wouldn't want any of our fighters treated similarly.

What of the picture today depicting a US translator raping a young boy? Is that something you wanted for Michael when he was younger?

Hint: worry less about King George and worry more about a) the men and women and children involved in all of this, on all sides and b) the future of this country.

Nick Berg's Father Writes About His Son's Death and His Life

Michael Berg, father of the Nicholas Berg, the young man executed by hooded men sometime between April and early May, writes an eloquent, passionate letter in The (UK) Guardian. It begins here, but I encourage you to read it since there is so much more about this man than the horrific way in which he was killed.

My son, Nick, was my teacher and my hero. He was the kindest, gentlest man I know; no, the kindest, gentlest human being I have ever known. He quit the Boy Scouts of America because they wanted to teach him to fire a handgun. Nick, too, poured into me the strength I needed, and still need, to tell the world about him.

People ask me why I focus on putting the blame for my son's tragic and atrocious end on the Bush administration. They ask: "Don't you blame the five men who killed him?" I have answered that I blame them no more or less than the Bush administration, but I am wrong: I am sure, knowing my son, that somewhere during their association with him these men became aware of what an extraordinary man my son was. I take comfort that when they did the awful thing they did, they weren't quite as in to it as they might have been. I am sure that they came to admire him.

They Outsourced GOP Donations?

From Keith Olbermann's Countdown newsletter:

For 14 months between May 2002 and July 2003, 125 Indian telemarketers solicited money for the GOP. Now, THAT'S convoluted.

My understanding, however, is that it's still going on. Recently, one of the midwest papers had a short piece about several people reporting Bush solicitation phone calls from people with a distinctly Indian or Pakistani accent. A friend's mother in South Jersey reported same.

Detentions re: Nick Berg

CNN and MSNBC are reporting that four people were detained (and two later released) for questioning on Nick Berg's death. Unfortunately, that's as far as the details go right now. None of them were announced to be Zarqawi, the folks the CIA targeted as the fellow behind it (but as stated earlier, there's some real doubt on that score).

America Wouldn't Do This... or Would it?

Just what extremes will we go to in getting what we want? That's a good question, and the answer appears frightening. From here:

A military intelligence analyst who recently completed duty at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (news - web sites) said Wednesday that the 16-year-old son of a detainee there was abused by U.S. soldiers to break his father's resistance to interrogators.

The analyst said the teenager was stripped naked, thrown in the back of an open truck, driven around in the cold night air, splattered with mud and then presented to his father at Abu Ghraib, the prison at the center of the scandal over abuse of Iraqi detainees.

Upon seeing his frail and frightened son, the prisoner broke down and cried and told interrogators he would tell them whatever they wanted, the analyst said.

I know. Just a harmless frat prank. Why's everyone so concerned, right? Until it's your child, of course.


"You're Going Whether You Want to Or Not!"

Warm bodies needed and you don't apparently have the option of saying no:

The U.S. Army is scraping up soldiers for duty in Iraq wherever it can find them, and that includes places and people long considered off-limits.

The Army on Tuesday confirmed that it pulled the files of some 17,000 people in the Individual Ready Reserve, the nation's pool of former soldiers. The Army has been screening them for critically needed specialists and has called about 100 of them since January.

Under the current authorization from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Army could call as many as 6,500 back on active duty involuntarily.

"Yes we are screening them and, yes, we are calling some of them up," an Army spokesman, Col. Joseph Curtin, told Knight Ridder. "We need certain specialties, including civil affairs, military police, some advanced medical specialists, such as orthopedic surgeons, psychological operations, military intelligence interrogators."

The Army has been forced to look to the Individual Ready Reserve pool and elsewhere for soldiers because it's been stretched so thin by a recent decision to maintain American troop levels in Iraq at 135,000 to 138,000 at least through 2005.

The Army is also considering a plan to close its premier training center at Fort Irwin in California so the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the much-vaunted Opposition Force against which the Army's tank divisions hone their combat skills, would be available for combat duty in Iraq.

My understanding is that last group is the type only sent when all other avenues have been exhausted. It looks like they have been.

A Link Discussing Nick Berg

Reader CK points us to a site apparently several others have found which discusses many of the inconsistencies regarding the video of Nicholas (Nick) Berg's execution by beheading.

Imus on Rick Santorum

Apparently Don Imus likes Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) about as much as half of the rest of the Americans who know of him.

Today, on his radio show simultaneously shown on MSNBC, he was asked about Sen. ("gay marriage will lead to man-on-dog sex") Santorum, and he responded something like, "Santorum? Ha! He's one of those who does belong naked, hooded, tied up, and being abused in a pile in Iraq."

The Silence on Nick Berg's Death is Deafening

Last night, I did a scan of maybe 50 different major news sources, few of which have mentioned Nick Berg or his horrific death since last Friday (except in the occasional letter to the editor). The government is being even more quiet.


Leave No Rich Child Behind

From yesterday's Washington Post:

THE HOUSE of Representatives plans to take up a bill this week that would provide new tax breaks to families earning as much as $309,000, while doing next to nothing for those at the low end of the income scale. The bill, which could come up as early as today, is the most egregious part of a House tax-cutting spree that altogether would add more than $500 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years, according to estimates by the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center.

A Certain Ploy Inherent in Chalabi's Outing?

From Josh Marshall, whom I agree with:

I've had a slew of readers writing in and asking -- or insisting -- that the raid on the Baghdad home of Ahmed Chalabi and INC headquarters was, if not staged, then conducted with the intent of boosting Chalabi's popularity by appearing to place him at odds with the American occupiers. (The idea, you might say, would be to Sadr-ize him.) Indeed, one of those notes came from someone who I'd describe as loosely affiliated with the United States military establishment and quite knowledgable about Iraq and the Middle East at large.

So could this be true?

I have no direct knowledge. I just got back from a few meetings. And I've had no time to make any calls yet. But I'm very skeptical of this interpretation.

Chalabi Revisited

Today, Iraqi police and American forces staged a raid on the offices of Ahmed Chalabi, whom Mr. Bush called our best friend in Iraq and to whom the US just suspended all payments (after we paid him a king's ransom) after widespread corruption about the Iraqi National Congress became clear to even Mr. Bush.

It's good riddance in many respects. Chalabi seemed to do nothing but filter us bad intelligence and provide Judith Miller with unbelievable (and ultimately far from truthful) tips she ran with like they were sermons from the Mount.

However, the raid makes me think there is one thing that Chalabi could be useful for and may be the very reason we raided the offices. Chalabi knows some of the dirt that went on in the lead-up to war. I suspect his offices were raided, at least in part, to try to remove some of that dirt before the election here in November.

I suspect he knows some details that it would be very useful for us to know as Americans in how we went to war, in light of all the lies that were told - and not just by Chalabi to Bush.

Will an enraged Chalabi spill the beans on Bush and Company? I don't know. I bet he's under a lot of pressure to keep quiet, and the raid would remind him of that. The problem is that, given his credibility, it would be hard to believe what he says without proof - and the raid, as I said, was likely designed to remove some of that proof.


More Army National Guard Spam

For some reason that totally escapes me, I now get Army National Guard spam about twice a week. As I noted in this blog before, I'm not exactly an ideal candidate and no, not just because I'm allergic to guns and the idea of working anyplace where Mr. Bush is Commander in Chief (in flight suit only) is abhorrent to me.

Actually, while in college, I went with a male friend who was considering the national guard. Somehow, I got dragged into the spiel at the recruitment office. But while my friend - who had really poor grades, a tendency toward violence (I think he even got hot headed with the recruiter), and kept asking hopefully if they would issue him a gun as part of his commitment - was told he could become a great leader in no time, the recruiter told me - who did already have management experience, was on the Dean's list, and seemingly more committed to actually performing service - I had a brilliant future in a steno pool. The recruiter even made it abundantly clear that the main difference he saw between my male friend and myself was that my friend was... uh... male, and thus more desirable.

So it's fascinating that ALL these many years later, I seem to be on their target list.

Now, before you read on and think I don't respect the military, that would be wrong. I do see a role for the military, and I appreciate the commitment that many people offer to it and to this country. My main problem is the way they're often employed (think Vietnam, Panama, Iraq) as pawns by our political leaders to achieve goals that really have nothing to do with the protection of America.

With this in mind, here's the Spam, and my response (in green) to it:

Check it out ... we've got a free T-shirt and DVD reserved just for you. No obligations. Why?

I assume it's a) because you're desperate and b) because my tax dollars are funding the t-shirt and DVD.

Because we think you're leadership material, and we'd like you to be a leader for us.

OK, now I know you're desperate. But then, some people think Mr. Bush is a credible leader.

As a leader in the Army National Guard, you'll get the respect of dedicated soldiers who will look to you for direction and motivation.

So dedicated soldiers who earn even less than I would will look up to me, who is 5'2 and think's the only direction Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld are taking this military in is the wrong one? I think these soldiers deserve better, don't you? And frankly, the problem with the guard, and with the rest of the military, isn't that soldiers don't respect one another. It's that the Capitol Hill - who doesn't donate many of their own children to the cause - and the government as a whole - and this president in particular - don't respect the soldiers. They've done nothing but cut services and programs and benefits while sending more and more into harm's way.

You'll also get career training, money for college and opportunities to develop management skills - plus special training to prepare you for advanced positions.

Well, except for the facts that I have a career, finished college, and already have management skills, that's all fine and good. But I notice you don't mention the fact that many of the reservists and guards have been sent into battle without protective gear. Apparently, the enemy is supposed to know the difference between a "real" soldier and a reservist, so they won't shoot at the reservists. Eeek.

Most Guard members train part-time, so they're ready to respond if their community or their country needs them.

Really? Tell that to the guards and reservists who've been in Iraq working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, for more than a year now while their businesses at home went bankrupt. I'm afraid they believed this story, too. And they're paying a dear price.

The Guard offers flexible Officer programs that can help you stay in school or let you work full-time.

Ah. So I can work full-time at my job from Baghdad in between getting my ass shot out from under me? What a deal! And I won't even be serving my country... just Halliburton and GE!


Look at the pictures available - particularly on the Indy media sites - showing the devastation in Rafah and try to tell yourself that it does not matter to you. Notice the bloody children. See the desperation. Then appreciate the fact that our tax dollars helped kill those children both directly (the money we pay to Israel) and indirectly (the money that Israel in turn pays to GE and others to buy the weapons, not to mention the weapons we simply give them). Those gunships are American made.

This kind of horror - and yes, it's two-sided, surely - is at the heart of how 9/11 happened and how Iraq happened and how our next attacks probably will happen.

Increasing Violence in Rajaf

Breaking news says at least 10 are dead, 40 more wounded in the latest round of attacks by Israelis on Rajaf. Even CNN is describing Rajaf as "a city in Hell" today.


Nick Berg's Last Words

The Rittenhouse Review offers its take on some of the last words spoken by Nicholas (Nick) Berg before he was executed, presumably in Iraq:

We all by now are familiar, too familiar, with the last words of Nicholas Berg, the American executed by Iraqi terrorists in retaliation for the abuses committed at Abu Ghraib prison: “My name is Nick Berg, my father’s name is Michael, my mother’s name is Susan. I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah. I live in . . . Philadelphia.”

After the words truly sink in, the very last four resonant in a surprising way.

“I live in . . . Philadelphia.”

Seems simple enough -- innocuous, even -- but according to local media accounts Berg actually lived in West Whiteland Township, Pa., and his business, Prometheus Methods Tower Service Inc., was located in West Chester, Pa. Both towns are some 35 miles west of Philadelphia.

So why would Berg say he lived in Philadelphia if he didn’t?

Proximity matters, of course, and Philadelphia is much larger and better known than West Whiteland Township and West Chester. Perhaps he was speaking in the casual shorthand we all know and use ourselves.

But maybe Nick Berg was sending a message: to his murderers and to us.

If you’ve watched or heard the video, or seen certain transcripts of Berg’s final words, you’ll notice he pauses slightly before saying “Philadelphia,” as if he thought first of saying West Whiteland or West Chester, only to change his mind at the last moment: “I live in . . . Philadelphia.”

As every schoolchild knows, the city’s name comes from two Greek roots -- phileo, love, and adelpho, brother -- hence the affectionate nickname, the City of Brotherly Love.

Perhaps, just as Berg’s killers prepared to perform their brutal, barbaric, and medieval act, the young man who always carried a copy of the Torah was relaying, in a spiritual sense, where he aspired for all of us to live someday.

One can hope.

More Nick Berg Conspiracy Theory

In the absence of real details - or even a sign that our government or the press is looking for same - the conspiracy theories about the beheaded Nick Berg get wilder and wilder:

The bogus video of the phony beheading of Nick Berg is still being reported around the world - despite glaring credibility problems.

Audio and video discrepancies point to a poorly executed hoax by CIA-Pentagon-Bush Cabal operatives bent on distracting attention from the negative publicity of the Abu Ghraib tortures by US occupation troops, as well as generating fear and hatred among the American booboisie.

Poor staging and even worse special effects contribute to a video that is clearly a provocation for psy-ops (psychological operations), staged for broadcast by pro-Bush Media.

The Vonnegut Piece of Fossil Fuels

A couple of folks wrote in asking where they could find the much-discussed recent Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. piece about this country's overdependence on fossil fuels. Here it is.

Good Riddance

NBC news tonight reported that Ahmed Chalabi, the man wanted in Jordan for bank fraud whom the US gleefully installed as an overpaid informant in Iraq after US troops moved in last year, is out. Strangely, CNN has nothing about this, nor do several other news outlets.

Now the only question here is why it took so long? While Bush and Company had Chalabi here several times as their "honored guest", including at the State of the Union speech this year (where I believe Chalabi sat with Laura Bush), it was known well before now that a) he's a liar b) he's a thief c) he deliberately gave us very bad intelligence (albeit just the type of thing Bush wanted to hear to justify the war).

Wait. There's another question. Bush knew Chalabi was rotten to the core. Why won't Bush pay any price - political or otherwise - for allowing Chalabi such reign? Boy, and they used to call Gotti the Teflon Don.

Study Refutes Marijuana as Gateway Demon

This study - which we read about first at Drug War Rant via TalkLeft - will no doubt be discredited by those who insist marijuana is more dangerous than WMD (real or imagined), but it comes up with some interesting points. For example, marijuana is not a gateway drug, and can only be interpreted as such since we ramped up efforts to wipe out its use.

Now, pot is still a drug and like any drug, its use should be kept in check. But this is true for aspirin, for prescription anti-anxiety agents and painkillers, and certainly true for the ever-present alcohol. In the best possible world, no one should "need" a drug to get through their day.

But I've known cancer patients who were able to keep their weight from falling too low or their pain in check from its use. I've also known people who were life-long casual smokers of pot who go to work everyday, raise decent families, pay their taxes, and contribute otherwise to society. Yes, even I've partaken in my past (I inhaled, too).

I've felt for a very long time that the only reason we as a country have demonized pot so egregiously is that it threatens pharmaceutical companies that would far rather sell you some Xanax or Ativan or one of the other "feel good" drugs. In fact, the Partnership for a Drug Free America, last I knew, is largely funded by drug and alcohol companies.

IMHO, it's way past time to legalize pot for a number of reasons, including cost, the fact that legalization might actually make it more rather than less difficult for those under 18 to obtain it, and just a better use of our law enforcement resources.

We spend an outrageous amount of money putting simple users and small, personal-use-only growers away for decades, while heroin is running rampant in this country. Even here in bucolic, rural Vermont, heroin is at epidemic levels. Our state is finally realizing that although the prison population has dramatically risen over drugs, usage has done nothing but climb. So they're (supposedly) going to begin to approach drug use more as a social problem than a legal one. I hope it works.

Democracy or Theocracy?

Here in America, the line's getting crossed more and more regularly.

As proof, read this Village Voice article ("The Jesus Landing Pad") by Rick Perlstein posted yesterday which says, in part, that the Bush Administration regularly consults with "rapture" Christians regarding the formation of US policy on the Middle East.

This is scary stuff, not just because such Christians don't recognize the right of Palestinians to breathe, not just because their acceptance of Jews amounts to nothing more than a tool in getting such Christians to the Promised Land, but because it's at the forefront of the mess that pits us again and again against the Arab world.

Nick Berg

Except for outrage and a promise from Bush that the killers would be brought to justice (uh huh), we've heard nothing from them. Even a statement why Mr. Berg's body was flown into Dover with other military bodies, something I read is unusual for civilian deaths, even when the civilians are contractors with the military.

Mind you, I don't like the extent to which some conspiracy theorists are spinning this. For example, one says there is proof that these were contractors playing al Qaeda who killed Berg as a symbol. But as long as the government response to this is only to demand outrage from Arabs (many of whom had already expressed such), they're leaving the field wide open for some nasty conclusions given some of the inconsistencies presented (plus the timing of the video's release).

Ironically, however, additional abuses - and word from Sy Hersh's article that orders for such abuse came all the way from Rumsfeld - have overshadowed this young man's death. I did not hear the young man's name referenced at all in mainstream media yesterday, and only slightly on Sunday during the pundit shows.

You're Drafted!

Perhaps dozens of sources are talking about how quickly the draft may be reinstated.

I'd suspect Mr. Bush would want to hold this back until after the election, but the troop forces are pretty strained. Some national guard units are reporting working 16-20 hours a day, 7 days a week - and remember, those are the so-called weekend warriors.


Atrios is looking for your help. He's provided a great resource online, and if you can, give a little thanks.

Bush-Focused Business Fails

An Ohio manufacturing business - used by Mr. Bush last year to highlight how his tax cuts would greatly benefit small business - is going out of business, leaving dozens if not hundreds unemployed.

Hm. Mr. Bush got his tax cuts. So why wouldn't this business flourish? Unless... exactly.


More Details on Nick Berg

While several right wing sites are debunking it, Prison Planet seems to offer some unique information that I haven't found elsewhere, including the "fact" that the original video was posted not from Iraq but from England.

They have links to recordings from it, as well.

As you may have noticed, I have posted no links to the Berg video and that's wholly intentional. The family did not want to see these images posted and that, frankly, was enough for me. I need answers to some very odd questions more than I need to see the horror itself.

Questions Remain Unanswered, Perhaps Unaddressed re Nick Berg

The media has gotten terribly quiet on the issue of the murdered 26-year-old Pennsylvania man, leaving little but those of us asking questions, and those divided between conspiracy theorists and those beating the Bush Administration's drums about what they say happened (and they're not saying that much, except to link it - correctly or incorrectly - to al Qaeda.

Postscript: Buzzflash has a piece on this.

Strangelove... Er... Rumsfeld Points to Syria

I only caught bits of this, but the Secretary of Defensiveness was making noises about Syria and how we might need to do something because it's not the government we want there.

Mind you, the US is happy to send people - including Canadians - there for secret questioning in a land they say they know has terrorist leanings, but apparently, before we're out of Iraq, Dr. Strangelove already has Act III planned.

Iraqi Governing Council President Killed

From CNN's breaking news:

The president of the Iraqi Governing Council was among those killed today by a car bomb near coalition headquarters in Baghdad, officials said. The blast that killed Izzedine Salim also caused an undetermined number of other casualties, witnesses said.

My initial impression: I don't know about outrage in the Arab world, Secretary Powell, but I know I feel a great deal of outrage over what's happened unnecessarily in Iraq since we unnecessarily went to war there.


Are They Running Out of Saint Candidates?

From the Vatican:

Pope John Paul II named six new saints yesterday, including a woman who became a symbol for opponents of abortion because she refused to end her pregnancy despite warnings that it could kill her.

With all due deference, so?

People make choices like this every single damned day. I suspect the woman's other three children might have preferred to have their mother alive to raise them.

That her story has become a magnet for anti-abortion nut cases (and no, certainly, not everyone who feels abortion is wrong is a nutcase, but those who feel their objections outweigh a woman's right to choose begin that long dark journey into loon land, IMHO) is more to the point... the Vatican's point, anyway.

That not every choice is a wise one hardly seems to qualify one for sainthood, or we'd have five saints on the Supreme Court alone. But this woman made her choice, and other women, some of who may not share her convictions, have a right to choose as well.

Blessings on Your Union

This to the couples who will join in marriage in Massachusetts beginning tomorrow.

Nine Thousand People Held in Secret

And I wonder how many of them are Americans and/or innocent.

The Hypocrisy of the Right Concerning Nick Berg

It's just amazing, really. Everytime someone brings up the prison abuse in Iraq, some wingnut proclaims, "Oh, that's all liberals want to talk about. Why is no one talking about Nick Berg?"

The irony is that it is largely progressive voices talking about Nick Berg and asking questions about what happened to him as well as the many questions unanswered. That the media - which is hardly liberal these days, all sucking the teat of journalism as practiced by Rupert Murdoch - has spent far more time discussing the upset on last week's "American Idol" and the end of "Survivor" is hardly to be blamed on any one left of the extreme right.

In fact, some of us resent the hell out of the fact that the right has latched onto the tragedy of Mr. Berg as some kind of carte blanche excuse for everything. I doubt Mr. Berg, even though he was supportive of Mr. Bush and this war, would have wanted that to be his legacy.

Fifteen thousand wrongs don't make a right, even in the world according to Bush.

Just a Wee Bit Overcontrolling, Eh?

For those who did - or didn't - catch the very strange situation on "Meet the Press" this morning where an overzealous aide (or one under strict orders from the White House to control things) wheeled the camera off Colin Powell and onto a plant to avoid a question by Tim Russert, you might want to check out this and this, both courtesy of the folks at Buzzflash.

Bush Let Zarqawi Go Not Once, Not Twice.. But at Least 3 Times

Zarqawi is the man the US says beheaded Nick Berg. But read on:

From Fred Kaplan writing for Slate via Mark Kleiman:

I had seen references to this before, and didn't really believe it could be true. But Fred Kaplan, who knows his business, believes it.

Apparently, Bush had three opportunities, long before the war, to destroy a terrorist camp in northern Iraq run by Abu Musab Zarqawi, the al-Qaida associate who recently cut off the head of Nicholas Berg. But the White House decided not to carry out the attack because, as the [NBC News] story puts it: "the administration feared [that] destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam."

... In the two years since the Pentagon's first attack plan, Zarqawi has been linked not just to Berg's execution but, according to NBC, 700 other killings in Iraq. If Bush had carried out that attack back in June 2002, the killings might not have happened. More: The case for war (as the White House feared) might not have seemed so compelling. Indeed, the war itself might not have happened.

Maureen Dowd on Troy and the Bushies

See any similarities?

Oblivious of the consequences, the impetuous black sheep of a ruling family starts a war triggered by a personal grudge.

The father, a respected veteran of his own wars, suppresses his unease and graciously supports his son, even though it will end up destroying his legacy and the world order he envisioned.

The ferocious battle in the far-off sands spirals out of control, with many brave soldiers killed, with symbols of divinity damaged, with graphic scenes showing physical abuse of the conquered, and with devastatingly surreptitious guerrilla tactics.

Friedman: The Extremists

From Friedman's Times column today:

Question: What do the Shiite extremist leader Moktada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army have in common with the extremist Jewish settlers in Israel? Answer: More than you'd think. Both movements combine religious messianism, and a willingness to sacrifice their followers and others for absolutist visions, along with a certain disdain for man-made laws, as opposed to those from God. The big question in both Iraq and Israel today is also similar: Will the silent majorities in both countries finally turn against these extremist minorities to save their future?

Absolutely. But you might better factor in the religious extremists trying to run this country, too. They also factor into how the people of the Middle East will fare. Sometimes, I feel, they matter disproportionately much considering.

Colin Powell: Where's the Outrage on Nick Berg's Death?

From CNN:

DEAD SEA RESORT, Jordan (CNN) -- The Arab world should be showing "a higher level of outrage" over the death of an American businessman whose beheading was posted on an Islamist Web site last week, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday.

"There's no excuse for silence on this kind of murder," Powell told NBC's "Meet the Press."

"I would like to have seen a much higher level of outrage throughout the world, but especially in the Arab world, to this murder," he said.

Fine. I agree with this... up to a point.

Anyone should be outraged by what happened to Nick Berg with the facts as we know them (and those are precious few - except for the fact that he's definitely dead, executed).

I'm sure, however, the Arab world wondered about some of the "outrage over the outrage" comments here by men (and I use the term loosely) like Sen. Inhofe and "commentator" Rush Limbaugh concerning the prison abuse scandal. Several members of the Bush Administration, including Rumsfeld, might have said the abuse was wrong, but they also did all they could to distance themselves from the very men and women they lead.

Also, being outraged only goes so far. Outrage is an emotion. Actions are more important.

I won't be happy if supposed Islamic nutcases conduct more executions like Berg anymore than I'll be happy if we allow more abuse - and deaths - in Abu Ghraib and the rest of Iraq. Both sides need to confront the situations clearly and directly, and not brush away or justify/rationalize the behaviors as just the work of a few rogues.

Nick Berg Video Edited?

One of the explanations I've seen on the 'Net for the absence of massive amounts of blood in the execution video of Nick Berg is that the video was heavily edited.

But that, in itself, raises another question. Why?

If the point from the executioners was to show us the horror, why would they edit out some of that horror? Sure, stupid people do stupid things, but that in itself is not enough to explain this.

So now the questions aren't limited to who really killed the young man (and why he was targeted), how come he's in a US-issue style orange prisoner jumpsuit (so long after his supposed release from Americans holding him), and who the real executioners are, but who edited the video. And why.