Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Nicholas Berg
May 13, 2004 1:45 PM   Subscribe

The Orange jumpsuit, couch potato Al Quida members, flawed timelines, the freepers connection, and the outspoken father. Nicolas Berg conspiracy theories abound on the Internet.
posted by thedailygrowl (98 comments total)

 
Berg was killed by Al-Quaeda (known to be a CIA - Mossad joint venture).

Known by whom, sir, the creature inside your laundry hamper who provides you with guidance and winning lottery numbers?
posted by jonmc at 1:52 PM on May 13, 2004


There is weirdness about this--why him? why did we arrest him in Iraq? did they think he was israeli? a spy? and why are freepers insane?
posted by amberglow at 1:59 PM on May 13, 2004


iirc, it was reported a few days back, the Pollish(think it was this coalition) soldiers said they did not have a record of his arrest.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:11 PM on May 13, 2004


This speculation is hideous.
posted by Nelson at 2:12 PM on May 13, 2004


Also, "orange jump suit" looks like silk suit; nothing like I've seen worn on California's freeway's road sides picking up trash.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:16 PM on May 13, 2004


I can't see how it seemed like a good idea to pick up contracts by wandering around an out of control war zone by himself. Who owned the towers, who would be paying for their inspection and repair? Seems like the sort of job the big Republican contributors would be overseeing. Wouldn't he have stood a better chance of securing lasting fortune for his company by sending promotional materials to people in Washington or Houston than he did by renting a hotel room in Baghdad and driving to remote areas by taxi late at night? Especially unsafe as a Jew in a Muslim country having arrived through Isreal. While I can't see any conspiracies, his actions seem to have went beyond adventurous towards foolhardy, and it doesn't seem to be that he was a stupid guy.
posted by TimTypeZed at 2:19 PM on May 13, 2004


"9) 'Arabs' have lily-white hands and (other exposed) skin.
If this speculation above was true, I'd be a redheaded Arab. Sad some americans will think they are the only white skinned people.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:21 PM on May 13, 2004


unspeakably horrible as the whole snuff film is, the Berg story right now is perfect conspiracy material:

1 . "war effort" seriously humiliated on the world media by torture photos

2. immediate need for a distraction and "muslims are animals" counter-narrative material

3. young American adrift in Iraq is re-arrested, given to Black Ops Arab-speaking wet boys.

4. snuff movie is shot, ends up on Internet

it's perfect tinfoil hat stuff, dovetails perfectly. why be surprised? there's people who think the moon landing was a fake. this think makes marginally more sense than "moon landiong in New Mexico". or than Roswell. come on.
bad taste? yes. but this is the Internet, lots of bad shit around

anyway:

Police Chief Denies Arresting Beheaded American

A young American decapitated on a videotape released this week told friends that he was arrested by Iraqi police in Mosul because he had an Israeli stamp in his passport. The Mosul police chief today denied having arrested him.
The body of Nicholas Berg, 26, was found last weekend in western Baghdad. Three days later, a videotape posted on an al-Qaida-related Web site showed Berg decapitated by hooded armed men.
However, details of Berg’s stay in Iraq remain unclear, including the time and place of his abduction.
US officials said that Iraqi police arrested Berg in Mosul on March 24 because they believed he may have been involved in “suspicious activities”.
US spokesman Dan Senor would not explain those suspicions but insisted that Berg was held by Iraqi – and not American – authorities. However, he said the FBI visited Berg three times before he was released on April 6.
In Mosul, police chief Major General Mohammed Khair al-Barhawi insisted that his department had never arrested Berg and maintained he had no knowledge of the case.
“The Iraqi police never arrested the slain American,” al-Barhawi told reporters. “Take it from me ... that such reports are baseless.”
Berg’s family said the young Berg was transferred to American custody soon after his arrest. The family blames American authorities for holding him until a flare-up of anti-American violence, which set the stage for his abduction and death.
After his release, Berg travelled to Baghdad and checked into the Fanar Hotel. An acquaintance quoted Berg as saying he had been arrested by Iraqi police in Mosul because he had an Israeli entry stamp in his passport.
Most Arab countries bar foreigners from entering their territory if their passports contain Israeli entry stamps. However, controls along Iraq’s border have relaxed since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in April 2003.
A US official said Berg was detained by Iraqi authorities “for his own protection” because his behaviour in Mosul seemed unusual for a westerner.
He had been seen travelling in taxis and moving about the dangerous city without any escort, the official said. He added that Berg, who was Jewish, had written materials which were “anti-Semitic” in tone, the official said without elaborating.




posted by matteo at 2:24 PM on May 13, 2004


Sad some americans will think they are the only white skinned people.

Maybe it's a racial thing, but the real issue to me is that if you are living in the desert fighting a war, odds are you aren't going to be soft, overfed, and pale with a good manicure. I don't so much think of it as being a "they must have been white guys" thing, but a matter of practicality. In an situation like that you will be hungry, exposed to the elements, dirty, and probably have a fierce tan going regardless of ethnic background. These guys look like accountants on holiday.
posted by evilcupcakes at 2:37 PM on May 13, 2004


Matteo: Berg was showing anti semitic tendancies? Not accordion to this article in the Forward (one of the oldest Jewish Bund Socialist oriented papers) . Although the fact that he was known as a Jew when he was in the Iraqi prison system is information I am sure could have have easily been leaked and followed him out.

The Orange suit has already hit Ask Metafilter. We don't know much yet, and with this administration tin hats are sometimes a healthy approach.
posted by zaelic at 2:54 PM on May 13, 2004


Nelson: This speculation is hideous.

Why? Everything about this death is too convenient.

There are too many questions here:
1. why did his parents sue US gov't to get him released? (habeus corpus) and why did the US claim not to be holding him?
2. why is the "beheading" tape so heavily edited? why does the time stamp on the tape show it was reedited into a different order?
3. why did the US govt translator mistakenly include the words "al queda" in their transcript, when the tape actually mentions "al qued" -- which is a different word that fits the sentence context more logically?
4. why does the person claiming to be "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi" appear not to have an artificial leg -- since reports indicate that al-Zarqawi" is missing a leg?
5. how could this tape have been made before the revelations of prisoner abuse came out? How could they respond to the allegations of torture of Iraqis before it was made widely known?

Something stinks here -- someone needs to investigate with an open mind.
posted by mooncrow at 3:00 PM on May 13, 2004


MURDERED BY IT NERDS!
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 3:02 PM on May 13, 2004


Something is definitely strange about this matter, from the detention (by whom?), from the discrepancies in the accounts given to the Bergs by the US government, from the visits to the Bergs from the FBI, to what Berg was doing there in the first place.

Those of us who are too young to remember the story of Francis Gary Powers might be well-advised to remember that the government doesn't always tell us the truth about what happens to US citizens abroad.

Hell, those of us who remember Jessica Lynch....
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:10 PM on May 13, 2004


life is weird, which is why conspiracy theories abound. There is definitely a lot of weirdness in this story... doesn't mean it's a conspiracy, but it does raise questions. How come the Government says they never had him, but then the family produces an email from the Gov't saying they do? Something is strange...

but the bottom line is that a poor kid got murdered almost certainly by extremist fanatics... how he got there and why is strange but in the end we're still left with the terrible murder of an innocent.
posted by chaz at 3:11 PM on May 13, 2004


This speculation is hideous.

*cough**cough* Kaycee Nicole *cough*

Sometimes, a little incredulity is a good thing.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:15 PM on May 13, 2004


These guys look like accountants on holiday.
They knew they were being filmed. Why wouldn't they take pride in their appearances?
posted by thomcatspike at 3:22 PM on May 13, 2004


After watching the tape I have to admit that I have my doubts as to if it really shows the actual moment of Berg's murder. I remember seeing a video ages ago of a Russian soldier's throat being cut by Chechen rebels. In that video the soldier's body violently convulsed even though he was tied up and his head held to the ground by someone's foot. There was also a *lot* more blood in that video.

I can't comment on the sound of the Berg video because I am still haunted by the sounds of that poor Russian soldier as his throat was cut.

It is for this reason that I started to be skeptical. Then I remembered the photos of the British soldier peeing on an Iraqi that were quickly shown to be faked. Perhaps who ever faked those photos decided that they needed to up the stakes to get our attention away from how badly the Iraq situation is getting and how little the Bush administration has in the way of ideas to improve it.

In any case, seeing the video has turned my stomach. It is horrible to watch, but after seeing it, I can not help but be skeptical. It just doesn't *look* right, and I can't put my finger on why.

In any case, let's hope they release that bukake (sp?) video of Lynndie England and six other army guards. That should take the focus off this whole Berg thing and show the Iraqi's that in addition to not respecting them, we don't respect our women either.
posted by DragonBoy at 3:32 PM on May 13, 2004


Wikipedia: Francis Gary Powers
posted by ao4047 at 3:36 PM on May 13, 2004


Apparently, the Berg family has emails to prove that they were told that the US was holding their son:

To back its claims that Berg was in U.S. custody, the family gave The Associated Press copies of e-mails from Beth A. Payne, the U.S. consular officer in Iraq.

"I have confirmed that your son, Nick, is being detained by the U.S. military in Mosul. He is safe. He was picked up approximately one week ago. We will try to obtain additional information regarding his detention and a contact person you can communicate with directly," Payne wrote to Berg's father, Michael, on April 1.

Payne repeated that Berg was "being detained by the U.S. military" in an e-mail the same day to Berg's mother, Suzanne.

posted by Sidhedevil at 3:42 PM on May 13, 2004


What you don't realize is that Bush had caused 9/11 and captured Saddam and Osama months ago, in addition to killing and mutilating numerous American citizens in Iraq. He's just slowly leaking the news to the press whenever his ratings dip.

It's clear that some people here take the Berg conspiracy theories seriously. Their efforts to (selectively) demean and disrespect the dead seem well on track.
posted by Krrrlson at 3:46 PM on May 13, 2004


The various conspiracy scenarios are all plausible according to circumstances, but so are the mundane ones. Berg may have been slain simply because he was an American, or a Jew, or both. He happened to get snatched, and his body was later exploited for propaganda. Or not - there is not much clear evidence here yet, a lot of rumors and reports. Manifest inconsistency in the video. (on preview: the emails and other family testimony is important evidence, of course) Also, after something like this happens, a lot of people will suddenly remember the guy and have a story, and a lot of it is bullshit.

I certainly agree that a serious inquiry is warranted, and in no way disrespectful. Indeed, it seems that's what the family want. A privately conducted autopsy would be a good start, when the body is released at Dover.
posted by crunchburger at 3:48 PM on May 13, 2004


What you don't realize is that Bush had caused 9/11 and captured Saddam and Osama months ago,

breaking news: Saddam was captured months ago, krrrslon
and anyway thanks for the usual insult-laced, straw-men ridden, content-free comment.
posted by matteo at 3:50 PM on May 13, 2004


Their efforts to (selectively) demean and disrespect the dead seem well on track.

Uh huh.

Nick Berg's brother, David Berg, called on the government to come clean about its contacts with the slain American before he died. The family blames the government for keeping him in custody for too long without charges or access to a lawyer while anti-American violence escalated in Iraq.

"They're trying to deflect attention to a couple weeks down the road when no one's paying attention," David Berg told the AP. "I think President Bush needs to be a man about this and tell the truth. I think most, if not all, Americans can figure out who's telling the truth and who's lying."


So is Berg's family "disrespecting the dead" too?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 3:51 PM on May 13, 2004


From your article, Armitage, it says that Berg was investigated a few years ago for letting a suspected terrorist use his computer... which is strange but would explain why when he turned up in Iraq, the Americans would be interested in why he was there and what he was doing. His name was presumably in their database.
posted by chaz at 3:59 PM on May 13, 2004


Francis Gary Powers
Saw a story about this incident. The story stated until then, no one had heard publicly of the CIA which was information that went over most American's heads.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:20 PM on May 13, 2004


There's also apparently some question not just about the Arabic accent delivering the statement, but the official translation, in which 'al-qaed' (meaning 'the ones who do nothing') has been misheard as 'al-qaeda'.

And this article just muddies things further [cypherpunk@cypherpunk.com / cypherpunk]: Berg's preliminary work in Iraq included repairing the broadcast towers at Abu Ghraib.
posted by riviera at 4:36 PM on May 13, 2004


You know what the real conspiracy is? It's the attempt by the various media to confuse us regarding the spelling of the name of the terrorist organization behind all of these awful acts. Al Quida? Al Quaeda? Al Qaeda? Al Qeada? Al Quaidea? Al Qeda? El Queso? Which one is it? These options don't even begin to scratch the surface of the vast, dark array of spellings we've seen. And don't forget the hyphen question! Is it hyphenated or isn't it!?!

I know this must be important: the media can't be putting all of this energy into obfuscation for no reason!
posted by mr_roboto at 4:36 PM on May 13, 2004


media obfuscation

Here's an e-mail from a soldier. Put point out, it was my understanding that e-mail had and is cut off during all this.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:48 PM on May 13, 2004


You know, in the end, Nick Berg was still killed and beheaded. It doesn't really matter if it was done on video or not.

The fact is, the man is dead and was found with no head on an Iraqi highway.

That is bad enough.
posted by moonbiter at 4:51 PM on May 13, 2004


Well, it sure as hell matters whether or not he was dead or alive when they filmed a guy cutting his head off. It's a homicide investigation, and the evident snuff film is a piece of evidence and not the final story.
posted by crunchburger at 5:06 PM on May 13, 2004


I seriously doubt that the video will be of much use as evidence in Mr. Berg's death.
posted by moonbiter at 5:24 PM on May 13, 2004


breaking news: Saddam was captured months ago, krrrslon
and anyway thanks for the usual insult-laced, straw-men ridden, content-free comment.


I think all that pointy sarcasm you spew has broken your own sarcasm detector matteo. And thanks for the usual half-hearted outburst that lends credence to ridiculous ideas (whether you intend to or not, the effect is the same), and citing an extremely questionable source in support of it all. The content *you* provide is worse than no content at all.


So is Berg's family "disrespecting the dead" too?

I daresay Berg's family is entitled to dealing with his death however they wish. This privilege does not translate to a bunch of bloggers clutching at the straws of conspiracy theories to push their agendas.
posted by Krrrlson at 6:10 PM on May 13, 2004


I actually heard on the radio just now that the suspected terrorist who used Berg's computer was none other then Zacarias Moussaoui, often (erroneously, it turned out) referred to as the "20th hijacker". Bizarre.
posted by cell divide at 6:42 PM on May 13, 2004


....was none other then Zacarias Moussaou...

I heard the same report. It's odd, and getting odder by the minute.
posted by dejah420 at 6:49 PM on May 13, 2004


No, it was an acquaintance of Moussaoui, who later gave Berg's password to Moussaoui. Not Moussaoui himself.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:02 PM on May 13, 2004


Also from CNN:

The Web site said the killing had been carried out by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of an Islamist terrorist group that has claimed responsibility for attacks on coalition forces in Iraq.

The voice on the tape could not be verified as that of al-Zarqawi. CNN staff members familiar with al-Zarqawi's voice said the voice on the tape did not sound like him.


Is this rocket science? Jordanian and Iraqi accents are pretty different, even to my non-Arabic-speaking ear.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:05 PM on May 13, 2004


agendas

*sigh*
posted by jpoulos at 7:27 PM on May 13, 2004


The fact is, the man is dead and was found with no head on an Iraqi highway.

That is bad enough.


Nope. It can be worse. He could have been killed by black-ops US of A forces as has already been offered up by the tin-foil hat briggade.

If that version turned out to be reality, that means the US government is willing to kill citizens while attempting to frame others. That goes beyond a murder. It goes beyond taping the murder. It goes beyond editing said video footage then releasing it.

But nothing is gonna put Mr. Berg's head back on.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:45 PM on May 13, 2004


For the record I think the idea of this being 'black ops' is totally off the mark, but just to entertain the idea, the way it usually works, rough ashlar, is not that such a thing is set up part and parcel-- it's that a convenient death occurs (not set up by the intelligence agency, whichever one may be involved) and then it is manipulated to become something more significant. Or, information is fed to killers (that someone in Iraqi prison is a Mossad agent whose goal is to take down Iraqi resistance) and the person is conveniently delivered to within a few blocks of the terrorists' lair and an operative presses for video proof.

I know it's awful, and again I think it's definitely NOT the case here, but willing to kill and manipulating death is the difference in most cases between intelligence work and assasination or soldiering.
posted by cell divide at 7:59 PM on May 13, 2004


The idea that some freeper's masturbatory fantasy hit list cut and pasted from a Move On petition would lead to a murder in Iraq is pretty weak. Freepers are the flies buzzing around this shit pile, just ignore them.
posted by 2sheets at 8:28 PM on May 13, 2004


Allright, so I just watched the cut video thats on Ogrish (warning, this is the most disturbing thing I have ever scene). The three weird things that stand out are:
1. There is a time jump of 11 hours on the video time code from when he is pushed down to when they cut off his head.
2. There is another jump of a minute missing the part where his head is actually removed.
3. There is no blood when the head is held up.

Perhaps the bad guys were squeamish and killed him before cutting off his head? This is the most logical explanation I can think of.

Does anyone have a link to the complete video (including the statement)? I don't want to sound like a ghoul, but there are so many inconsistancies in this story that I am curious.
posted by phatboy at 9:06 PM on May 13, 2004


"Bloggers" make al-jazeera:
Bloggers doubt Berg execution video

"There are plenty of questions raised concerning the video too. The body is completely motionless even as the knife is brought to bear – not so much as an instinctive wriggle.

More graphically, some claim that cutting the throat's artery would cause a significant amount of blood to gush out. But little emerges and when the head was raised – not a drop of blood is seen to fall."

posted by phatboy at 9:13 PM on May 13, 2004


Perhaps the bad guys were squeamish and killed him before cutting off his head? This is the most logical explanation I can think of.

This is exactly what I was thinking, phatboy. Then the voice would sound so "faked" (I haven't seen/heard the video myself) because the bad guys dubbed in the scream themselves. This would explain away half of the allegations in the original post. Occam's razor.
posted by rafter at 9:45 PM on May 13, 2004


Please note.

I mentioned my concerns in the other thread, but nearly everyone ignored me.

Who is my daddy?!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:40 PM on May 13, 2004


Nice catch uncanny. That other thread sure is full of crap, probably why I quit reading it. It's funny that a thread about an unfounded conspiracy theory nets a more intelligent response than the one on the news item.

BTW, I think you mean "whose your daddy". If not, I'm happy to be your daddy!
posted by phatboy at 11:50 PM on May 13, 2004


Remember that the "Daniel Pearl beheading" video turned out to be dodgy too. Not saying there was something strange going on there, just pointing out a coincidence.

The best explanation I read was that the facking goofball operating the camera didn't hit "record", so they had to re-enact his beheading with a very fresh corpse.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:52 PM on May 13, 2004


BTW, I think you mean "whose your daddy". If not, I'm happy to be your daddy!


Sorta ruins the joke when I have to explain it... but yeah, that's what I meant. Doesn’t work well in text.

It is my own patented version of the saying. In a Gilligan from Gilligan's Island kind of way. Where he would say something stupid and cute, but the rest of the castaways would know what he meant anyway.

Back on topic. I actually mentioned more concerns on a different forum. eg. Lack of blood and camera strangely going out of focus. But alas I didn't mention them here so I can't be as "in your face!" about it as I deserve! :)

One thing that I also found strange, that I don't think has been mentioned before, is in the Ogrish.com version (the only version I've seen)... the strange way they all spring into action. It looked kinda rehearsed. Like everyone new exactly what to do.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:03 AM on May 14, 2004


Hmmm... I've not seen this video - and I've got no desire to - but this sounds more and more strange all the time. It does sound like he died earlier and it does sound way too theatrical.

The problem is, that there are way too many parties who would have an interest in fuelling the fighting out there...
posted by twine42 at 1:04 AM on May 14, 2004


Latest addition to the 'it makes me really queasy to feel as if a tinfoil hat has been placed on my head' thing: match the decor and the chair. (I don't subscribe to the content, but it's the only place that includes the Lynndie England photo in its montage.)

Because, right now, I really do want this to be a bunch of murderous Islamist bastards, because the alternative is just horrifying. So count me in the 'CNN's Arabic translation staff just can't distinguish Arabic accents' camp. And the 'yellow paint and white garden chairs are just really common in Iraq' conspiracy. (Except that one report notes that Abu Ghraib was repainted in August of last year. And prisoners were dressed in orange jumpsuits.)
posted by riviera at 1:24 AM on May 14, 2004


One other puzzling thing about the video -- I listened to just the opening statement with the monitor switched off, as it's a bit too early in the day to watch a poor man's head sawn off -- is that 'Zarqawi' doesn't begin with the 'bismillah' that prefaced his audio messages. But, they're all collected here, so if any Arabic-speakers -- especially ones who can pick out dialects -- care to listen to the audio messages and see if they match up...
posted by riviera at 1:39 AM on May 14, 2004


So what are you suggesting Rivera: that he was killed (possibly by accident) and then decapitated to deflect blame? Any self respecting American would have fixed the timestamp on the video. The orange jumpsuits don't look that similar either. I'm going to subscribe to the spooky coincidence theory on this one. The only blame I am going to put on the US is potentially unlawfully keeping this guy in jail, which may have inadvertantly led to his murder.

BTW: Berg was released from american custody and called his parents on April 9. So unless he was picked up again I don't see how he'd be in Abu Ghraib.

I'll be your daddy anyway uncanny.
posted by phatboy at 1:41 AM on May 14, 2004


Looking at rivera's statement portion of the video helps me a bit. I believe that there are two cameras set 11 hours apart. There are three cuts in the preface video from 13:26 to 2:28 to 2:40. It ends before the killing. On the ogrish video the killing starts at 2:44 then there is a cut and the head is cut off at 13:45.

Riviera's clip (no killing)
Camera one at 13:26 is taking pictures at the same time as camera two at roughly 2:26. This gives an 11 hour difference in time stamps.

Ogrish clip (killing)
On the ogrish video the killing starts on camera two at 2:44 and there is a cut to camera one at time 13:44, i.e. 11 hours difference again.

Assuming this is correct and there are two cameras 11 hours apart, then the whole thing took about thirty minutes and happened in the correct order.
posted by phatboy at 1:55 AM on May 14, 2004



Why did there have to be any editing at all? Who did the editing? Why did there have to be two cameras? Why did the 2nd camera operator feel the need to zoom in so much it went out of focus and we couldn’t see what was happening? (conveniently followed by a “cut” in the footage.) Why was the second camera at such a funky angle? Seems strange.

Just askin’.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 2:14 AM on May 14, 2004


I'm really not suggesting anything, phatboy: I'm trying to consider the most obvious anomalies, rather than looking so hard that 'connections' present themselves, as such things do when you look too hard at very limited source material. Because that way lies the ten-foot lizards.

So the one thing which strikes me as most odd is the about-face across certain news media on attributing the voice. The two audio messages sound like the same person; the quality on the video makes it hard to compare, but I'm guessing a competent Arabic speaker would be able to pick out any distinction in dialect.

The chair/decor thing is just weird, though.
posted by riviera at 2:33 AM on May 14, 2004


Those white plastic chairs are pretty ubiquitous in the world outside the states. Almost every cheap cafe in the world uses them.

I am still with the idea that Berg was murdered by Al-Qaeda. While I often enjoy sporting a tin-foil hat, I think that organizing something like this and making it absolutely failsafe would be beyond the capabilities of US intelligence people, whether they would agree with the morality or not.

While in jail Berg was transferred to a special cell by American authorities after other prisoners taunted him for being Jewish. That kind of info can travel outside of prison via disgruntled guards or other gossip and travels fast. Berg also spoke Arabic, which could - in Iraq - make one conspicuous for suspicion as a spy.

Last summer in Bucharest I met a british backpacker traveling overland with the goal of visiting Baghdad. He assured us he had done his research and that it was perfectly safe. The guy was absolutely blindered to reality.
posted by zaelic at 3:46 AM on May 14, 2004


A provocative thread from the Something Awful forums:
--------------

Many of you might remember that I started a thread on the day the video was released noting how "convenient" it was that the tape had come out, just as the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal was in full swing. Not only did this take the abuse scandal off of headlines, but it swayed public opinion back against "those fucking Iraqis".

Evidence

1) Most people replied by asserting that the execution occured as retribution to the abuse photos that had surfaced, but you have to ask yourself - do these terrorists, who are clearly capable of brainwashing people to the point where they are willing to kill and be killed for their beliefs, really have no concept of political tact? Here they are, the whole world screaming at the US for hypocrisy and injustice over these pictures, and they perform and publish this execution right in the heat of the scandal. In other words, these masters of brainwashing and spin and deception release a video of a despicable act just as the US, their sworn enemy, is being globally grilled. Does this make sense to you?

2) Second, I wonder what the standard issue chair is at Abu Ghraib prison?

*cough*

3) Is it not interesting that the wall colour at Abu Ghraib prison is identical to that of the video?

4) Is it not also interesting that Berg is wearing the same orange jumpsuit worn by prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison? Sure, you say, perhaps he was kidnapped directly from the prison (as stupid as this sounds, anyway) - but then can you please explain (7)?

5) Is it also not interesting that the timecodes in the video jump back and forth?

6) Is it also not interesting that Berg did not exhibit any of the convulsions that typically accompany decapitation? http://www.ahsc.arizona.edu/uac/iacuc/rodents/avma.htm I am suggesting here that Berg was already dead when the decapitation occured (which accounts for 5). Before you go calling me crazy, please review the evidence; why did he not exhibit the convulsions that go hand in hand with decapitation (especially such an extended one)?

7) Is it not curious that the US denies contact with Berg, and yet his friends and family insist that he told them he was being held by the US? Huh? Why?

8) Another tape oddity - the men SPEAK RUSSIAN for several seconds. Not only that, but they speak Arabic with Russian accents. That's right, in the final seconds of the tape, one of the men speaks in Russian. Those here who understand russian (and have the stomach to view that final seconds of the video) can verify this. Those who speak Arabic will be able to verify that these men speak Arabic in Russian accents.

9) Finally (the physical evidence that will convince you in case you already aren't)...

You will notice, in watching the video, that 6 times, a gold ring flashes on the hand of the executioner. What is the problem? Islam completely and utterly forbids men to wear gold rings. This fanatical muslim, willing to kill in a gutwrenching manner, and be killed for his beliefs, is violating one of the clear prohibitions of his religion? Really? DOES THIS MAKE SENSE TO YOU?

10) Nick Berg understands Arabic, but sits calmy while statement is read, waiting to be killed. Hmm?

11) One of the executioners is wearing Air Jordans. WHAT?

12) The "terrorists" signed the video, yet they wear hoods and masks. Why?

13) The "terrorists" have lily white hands.

14) The video time is in US Military English. What the hell?

Conclusion
As many has suspected, but have not had the time to build a solid case for, the execution of Nick Berg was performed by coalition interests (most likely independent Russian mercenaries) in order to dwarf the abuse pictures and sway public opinion back against the Iraqis and in support of the war by taking advantage of the emotional reaction we all experience when hearing of such an despicable act. The poor production quality (all the "curiosities" I have pointed out) of this video can be attributed to the haste in which it was made after the order was given to distract the public from the abuse scandal, and is in line with my conclusion.

Again, before you attack my conclusion, attack my evidence. No matter how crazy you think this sounds, examine the evidence objectively and please try to deny a single thing I have said. If you cannot deny my evidence, you logically cannot deny my conclusion. Make your replies free of subjective opinions and ad hominem attacks or I will not reply to them.

posted by sic at 4:49 AM on May 14, 2004


I've had questions about this from the start - mostly why he was there and why he was detained and by who.
I'm not buying a lot of the conspiracy stuff though.
The chair thing, for one, is unconvincing - cheap plastic chairs like that are everywhere, hell I used to have a few - and the walls do not look the same color.
I couldn't bring myself to watch more than the first minute of the video, but I did notice that the "orange jumpsuit" looks like a more silky sort of shiny drapey thing than a prison jumpsuit.
However, the news this morning that Moussaoui was using his email account is completely staggering. What the hell could this mean? And this story seems to have the FBI admitting Berg was being held by the US/at US behest despite yesterday's denials.

(I'm assuming when they say Moussaoui used his password they mean an email account. )

On preview: Russian???
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:03 AM on May 14, 2004


Also, do they give the prisoners at Abu Ghraib orange jumpsuits? I've only seen those in Gitmo pix.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:55 AM on May 14, 2004


Also, do they give the prisoners at Abu Ghraib orange jumpsuits? I've only seen those in Gitmo pix.

there's some here on an army regiment's personal site (scroll down)
(they look a bit more cottony than those silk pj style, but same general idea.)
posted by milovoo at 8:08 AM on May 14, 2004


Many Arabs of a certain age attended college in Russia, which would explain some Russian.

As for the jumpsuit, if you were going to produce this video, you have total control. So why put the jumpsuit in? It doesn't make sense, which is where most of these conspiracy theories break down-- one has to assume that if it's fake, it's done by pros who wouldn't make such obvious mistakes.

Along with the Russian, if it's really there, why include it? If there's editing going on, why not edit that out? These arguments are very weak IMHO.
posted by cell divide at 8:11 AM on May 14, 2004


I thought the Russian thing was pretty strange too. Can any Russian speakers verify that? In general my feeling is that one or two of these oddities could be written off as just that, oddities. But when the list starts growing longer, it just makes me suspect that something is not right with this scenario. It's not paranoia, its just that after being lied to so many times I think that people rightly begin to suspect just about everything that comes their way. If you didn't, you'd be foolish.
posted by sic at 8:11 AM on May 14, 2004


I was just going to make a crack about how given the occupation's luck, if they did conspire to kill Nick Berg and set up Al-Qaeda for it, they'd get owned by the people at Something Awful, much like this. But then sic posted.

...but let's see if questioning the questions gets us anywhere.

In other words, these masters of brainwashing and spin and deception release a video of a despicable act just as the US, their sworn enemy, is being globally grilled. Does this make sense to you?

If the terrorists are interested in creating an ongoing spiral of violence, which is typically assumed of Al-Qaeda, why not? Al-Qaeda hasn't historically been focused on local political victories.

8) Another tape oddity - the men SPEAK RUSSIAN for several seconds. Not only that, but they speak Arabic with Russian accents. That's right, in the final seconds of the tape, one of the men speaks in Russian. Those here who understand russian (and have the stomach to view that final seconds of the video) can verify this. Those who speak Arabic will be able to verify that these men speak Arabic in Russian accents.

Question: would the terrorists speak Arabic with a Russian accent, or speak Russian, if they were Chechen in origin? I honestly don't know, but it's worth asking I figure.

Islam completely and utterly forbids men to wear gold rings. This fanatical muslim, willing to kill in a gutwrenching manner, and be killed for his beliefs, is violating one of the clear prohibitions of his religion? Really? DOES THIS MAKE SENSE TO YOU?

Weren't there stories about some of the 9/11 hijackers going to strip clubs before going on to murder thousands? Wasn't there some discussion about how they'd decided they could disobey some tenets of Islam (being clean-shaven, wearing cologne) to aid their "greater" cause? Fanaticism doesn't necessarily equal piety.

14) The video time is in US Military English. What the hell?

American imported camera, and they hadn't bothered to change the settings? I don't know. This is all very strange.
posted by furiousthought at 8:26 AM on May 14, 2004


The fact that some Arabs used to study in Russia doesn't explain anything. I lived in Thailand for 4 years, but I don't speak my native English with a Thai accent because of it; neither am I likely to speak in Thai to other English-speakers after acts of extreme violence.

But I still think that he was murdered by the people who are suspected, but it does look like his was dead when he was decapitated. I fucking hope so, anyway.
posted by Pericles at 8:27 AM on May 14, 2004


However, your explanation for the Russian is pretty damn thin. "many arabs of a certain age attended college in Russia"? Huh? Pros wouldn't leave in the Russian? What does that mean exactly? How many pro black ops video editors do you know? Have you seen their work before? How can you make the assumption, that they wouldn't make those mistakes?

Just asking.

Evidently, neither you or I speak Russian or Arabic, and this is probably true for about 99% of the projected audience of this video (Americans and Europeans), so if speed were of the essence, leaving it in, because most can't tell the difference, wouldn't be so strange.

on preview: pericles and furious make some good points
posted by sic at 8:32 AM on May 14, 2004


Sic: very interesting stuff you found there. Russian spoken by hyped up Arabs during a gruesome killing spree? Could be Chechen guerillas who have been with Qaeda for years. I haven't been able to bring myself to watch the unedited snuff portions of the film so I can't say. I've seen the censured version on various European news stations though - and they don't even warn the viewer about what is about to be shown. If they are Chechens or Russian mercenaries I am pretty sure Putin would be on TV calling for an investigation right now.

But having lived during the doubtfully explained killings of Kennedy, Martin Luther King, four American nuns in El Salvador, numerous dead Iran-Contra witnesses, the anthrax attacks, and watched Bush and company dodge the 911 commission, I think I'll go out and buy some extra tin foil for the upcoming weeks.
posted by zaelic at 9:08 AM on May 14, 2004


How many pro black ops video editors do you know? Have you seen their work before? How can you make the assumption, that they wouldn't make those mistakes?

Seems to me the notion that a pro black ops video editor would be any better than any other kind of video editor is largely mythological. If you were a kickass video editor, why would you work for the government? In war zones? So it's worth asking, given the time frame and resources, are these mistakes a normal video editor would make? Again a question I don't know the answer to.
posted by furiousthought at 9:09 AM on May 14, 2004


Fanaticism doesn't necessarily equal piety.


Boy howdy!
Truer words were never written.

Just look at our self appelated "Christian" fundamentalists. They preach about the failings of others but give themselves a free pass.
Typical behavior I'd say.

Most probably ought to be "Fanaticism is the opposite of piety."
posted by nofundy at 9:57 AM on May 14, 2004


[this is interesting]
posted by mr.marx at 10:00 AM on May 14, 2004


The whole faked-or-not aspect of the video is of great concern, but even more frightening is the fact that the freepers are starting to get on the bus with the idea of real-life (non-internet) persecution and harassment.
It seems like that just can't end well.
posted by milovoo at 10:14 AM on May 14, 2004


Weren't there stories about some of the 9/11 hijackers going to strip clubs before going on to murder thousands? Wasn't there some discussion about how they'd decided they could disobey some tenets of Islam (being clean-shaven, wearing cologne) to aid their "greater" cause? Fanaticism doesn't necessarily equal piety.

Furious: I believe that the idea behind the stories you refer to is that the terrorists were "sleepers" in the US which means they had to live as much like Americans as possible, or at least not live like fundamentalist Muslims, and so they did many things that violated their religion. These supposed al-qaeda operatives would not be sleepers, which leads me to believe that they would not violate their religion so easily.

I also think that the plastic chair and air jordan questions are very interesting. I realize that the white plastic garden chair is a common product in Western markets, but are we really so western-centric as to believe that it is a common product in ALL markets? Iraq was under embargo for 10 years you know, I doubt many white plastic garden chairs made it in before the US invasion. Same goes with air jordans. How many Iraqis or radical arabs would wear, even if they had access to them, air jordans?
posted by sic at 11:06 AM on May 14, 2004


You know, if I had seen this thread five years ago, I would have filed it under the same place I put most conspiracy theories- an interesting/humorous attempt to "fill the holes" in the naturally inconsistent information we get as the public.

On the other hand, this is an administration with a proven track record of baldly lying to the American public and who really seems intent on achieving their goals by any means necessary.

The Massaoui "connection" is particularly interesting to me. There seems little use in fabricating it, as it only undermines Berg's persona as an American Hero. What if Berg really did have some ties to al Qaida? If I were an evil, evil person who wanted to fake this whole scenario to stir up popular support for the war effort, and I had to off an American citizen to do it, I'd certainly pick someone I had already classified as an Enemy of the State.

Now, I'm off to get my tin hat sized...
posted by mkultra at 11:25 AM on May 14, 2004


sic, I have never been to Iraq, but in Jordan those chairs are everywhere. I mean every house's garden (Arabs like nothing more then to sit outside on a warm night, families and gatherings are so big that most houses, even poor ones, have massive stacks of these chairs) and every restaurant on the cheaper side, and even official buildings when extra seating is required. They are basically ubiquitious there and I would assume the same is true in Iraq.
posted by chaz at 11:42 AM on May 14, 2004


Furious: Weren't there stories about some of the 9/11 hijackers going to strip clubs before going on to murder thousands? Wasn't there some discussion about how they'd decided they could disobey some tenets of Islam (being clean-shaven, wearing cologne) to aid their "greater" cause? Fanaticism doesn't necessarily equal piety.

As true as your last statement is, wearing a gold ring (while it might help you blend in, as sic said, in the States) is neither a carnal urge (as going to strip clubs before you bite the bullet [this reeks of urban legend by the way -- is it generally accepted?]) nor would it "aid their 'greater' cause" in any way whatsoever. A piece of jewelry is not something I see many Islamic militants donning on whim.

Sic: I also think that the plastic chair and air jordan questions are very interesting. I realize that the white plastic garden chair is a common product in Western markets, but are we really so western-centric as to believe that it is a common product in ALL markets?

From the SA thread you linked, they're everywhere.

How many Iraqis or radical arabs would wear, even if they had access to them, air jordans?

I'm interested in the question of how many radical Arabs would wear Air Jordans (or clean white sneakers, period) but it seems to me that Iraqis get their hands on plenty of western products.
posted by rafter at 11:52 AM on May 14, 2004


As true as your last statement is, wearing a gold ring (while it might help you blend in, as sic said, in the States) is neither a carnal urge (as going to strip clubs before you bite the bullet [this reeks of urban legend by the way -- is it generally accepted?]) nor would it "aid their 'greater' cause" in any way whatsoever. A piece of jewelry is not something I see many Islamic militants donning on whim.

Not a carnal urge? Haven't listened to enough Juvenile have we. : )

No, these are all good points, but especially in a loose nihilistic organization like Al-Qaeda I can see the attitude of "we're above God's law - we are God's law" bleeding a bit. I guess it's true that Air Jordans don't have Osama's cave appeal, but I'm not comfortable ruling out somebody's fanaticism because they've got gold and nice shoes.

I'm not certain about the terrorists-in-strip-club story, myself, by the way.
posted by furiousthought at 12:28 PM on May 14, 2004


I realize that the white plastic garden chair is a common product in Western markets, but are we really so western-centric as to believe that it is a common product in ALL markets?

And given how many of our consumer products are manufactured in China and Malasia, this does not seem to be a big deal.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:39 PM on May 14, 2004


furiousthought: I'm not certain about the terrorists-in-strip-club story, myself, by the way.

And if true, what would this show beyond the obvious? That even fundamentalists frequently don't live by their own rhetoric and sacred texts.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:43 PM on May 14, 2004


The fact that some Arabs used to study in Russia doesn't explain anything.
What about the facts Russians hired by Saddam & working in Iraq before the war. My brother used a Russian barracks(apartments) while he was there, which was the only air condition he had in his stay. The Russians were building a power plant for Saddam’s palace Nebuchadnezzar's Palace.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:16 PM on May 14, 2004


Saddam’s palace near Nebuchadnezzar's Palace.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:22 PM on May 14, 2004


I speak Russian, but I'm not about to watch that video. If someone really wants to, post a quick sound byte of this alleged Russian and I'll give it a listen.
posted by Krrrlson at 2:45 PM on May 14, 2004


How many pro black ops video editors do you know? Have you seen their work before? How can you make the assumption...

Right back at ya.
posted by Krrrlson at 2:47 PM on May 14, 2004


How many pro black ops video editors do you know? Have you seen their work before? How can you make the assumption...

Right back at ya.


Yes. This was my point.


Thomcatspike, unless you suspect that those russians engineers are in the video, I don't see your argument. Unlikely that Arabs would speak with a Russian accent during the filming of the video.

Rafter: he, they had to choose Real Madrid! Why not Barca or Valencia! At least it wasn't a Beckham shirt....!

Still, I'm not buying the air jordan thing. Next thing you know they'll be wearing iPods while they make these videos.
posted by sic at 3:26 PM on May 14, 2004


I hadn't heard the story behind that photo though.

posted by sic at 3:31 PM on May 14, 2004


That Real Madrid jersey is at least ten years old. And probably a fake.
posted by mr.marx at 3:53 PM on May 14, 2004


Here's the problem. If you believe in a shadowy conspiracy powerful enough to get a man's corpse and saw his head off on video to further some pro-American agenda, shouldn't you assume they're smart and capable enough to get basic things like video timestamps right?

That poor kid.
posted by Nelson at 5:30 PM on May 14, 2004


Here's more interesting (or perhaps tin-foil hat) info:

The Video Was Uploaded From London, Not Iraq Warning...scrolling past that first newsblub leads to some fairly graphic photos...photos that I wish I hadn't seen. The squeamish will want to avoid paging down.

There is no Pennsylvania Department of State record of the business Prometheus Methods Tower Services Inc.

MSNBC changed their site copy, removing information that Berg worked at the prison Abu Ghraib.

Current version

Cached version

This is the text that was removed: (in case cache dies)
"During his time in Iraq, he struggled with the Arabic language and worked at night on a tower in Abu Ghraib, a site of repeated attacks on U.S. convoys and the location of the notorious prison where U.S. soldiers abused Iraqi inmates."
posted by dejah420 at 8:16 PM on May 14, 2004


Here's the problem. If you believe in a shadowy conspiracy powerful enough to get a man's corpse and saw his head off on video to further some pro-American agenda, shouldn't you assume they're smart and capable enough to get basic things like video timestamps right?

I'd assume they were smart and capable enough to plant fissile uranium in Iraq, myself. Hello? Shadowy conspiracy? Anyone?
posted by furiousthought at 9:44 PM on May 14, 2004


The MSNBC thing is weird as hell. Was it scrubbed because it turned out to be untrue? At someone's suggestion?

Those who complain about adequate "correction" features as a problem with blogs should take notw of this unackowledged/creepy correction.

I'm not the type to jump up and say that I have any sort of actual constructive idea of what is so wacky about this whole affair, but something is. All lawn-furniture speculation and wardrobe postulation aside, we have the Moussouai thing for sure (maye a coincidence, but one now worth revisiting), and now questions about whether he worked at Abu Graihb, where torture (and white patio chairs) is the only true multinational institution in Iraq.

I wonder if more real information is forthcoming? It's a shame that they let Seymour Hersh sleep.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:56 PM on May 14, 2004


Here's the problem. If you believe in a shadowy conspiracy powerful enough to get a man's corpse and saw his head off on video to further some pro-American agenda, shouldn't you assume they're smart and capable enough to get basic things like video timestamps right?

Sorry, I disagree with that assumption. Being a powerful organization doesn't guarantee perfection in all its endeavours. Microsoft is powerful enough to dominate the world PC market, yet they are stupid enough to provide software that can't withstand the attacks of 15 year old script kiddies. In fact, I think that often power replaces intelligence or exists despite the lack of intelligence. That is, you don't have to be "smart enough" if you can control other aspects of reality, like perception, through the media (for example). Thank God for the Internet though, which still manages to be slightly out of control.
posted by sic at 2:41 AM on May 15, 2004


I said this on the other thread, and it's relevant here

"The video could be a fake, obviously, but that al-Jazeera article isn't up to much. The reason bloggers are doubting the video is that very few will have seen the original, as the web site hosting it became unavailable very quickly. What most people online have seen is a reencoded and edited version of the video as played out on news agencies - that's certainly what's available on ogrish.com. Once you reencode a low quality internet video file, you're going to miss most of the detail."

Also - when the news agencies played the tape out, they posted a message immediately after

"This agency cannot verify this content of the previous video"

Not many of the news networks bothered with that - it's funny how truth gets generated in this society.
posted by ascullion at 2:45 AM on May 15, 2004


I guess the only thing that really counts, as far as the truth is concerned, is that we are told by enough voices that it is in fact the truth. The minority are so easy to dismiss as "conspiracy theorists" or "people with an axe to grind" etc.

I remember over a year ago watching Sky News (Murdoch Production, I believe) the day that Bush won the war in Iraq, and the gleeful newspeople gloating over a job well done began trashing Robert Fisk for writing in the Independent that day that the war was NOT over. Laughable "conspiracy theorist with an axe to grind" was pretty much the treatment that he got, which was of course broadcast, via satellite, to the entire planet.

How does one compete with that?

(oh yeah, Metafilter).
posted by sic at 3:03 AM on May 15, 2004


I don't think 24 hour TV news will survive another ten years in its current form - or at least, I hope it won't. It's based around too many people working from the same sources, and makes huge judgements with very little authority. Plus, the sheer logistics of TV make it hard to devote significant time or attention to little or visually-unappealing stories.
posted by ascullion at 4:57 AM on May 15, 2004


Wow, this "thy will be done" prisonplanet.tv thing is absurd. You take some random mumbling, ampilfy it, and plant a suggestion on what it means and suddenly you have a Jesuit conspiracy. Or something.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
posted by Nelson at 9:44 AM on May 15, 2004


Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Like the claim that an American got his head sawed off while he was kicking and screaming??
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:33 PM on May 15, 2004


Kur5hin has a roundup of discrepancies in the video.
posted by Nelson at 8:03 AM on May 17, 2004




I can't believe this is the end of the discussion! The lack of posts in the last 2 days leads me to that conclusion, anyway.

I reckon this is huge news. The video STINKS to high heaven. What is there, a list of 15 questionable aspects regarding the video?!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:45 PM on May 17, 2004


I can't believe this is the end of the discussion!

After the visit I got last night by the man in the grey suit, I ain't sayin nuttin.
posted by Nelson at 11:31 AM on May 18, 2004


Classic!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:52 PM on May 18, 2004


there's more
posted by amberglow at 3:26 PM on May 21, 2004


« Older Salam Pax gets a movie deal....  |  The Wild Divine Project.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments