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Nick Berg, the Job-Seeker

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...remember Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian terrorist, al Qaeda affiliate; ran a training camp in Afghanistan for al Qaeda, then migrated -- after we went into Afghanistan and shut him down there, he went to Baghdad, took up residence there before we ever launched into Iraq; organized the al Qaeda operations inside Iraq before we even arrived on the scene, and then, of course, led the charge for Iraq until we killed him last June.... This is al Qaeda operating in Iraq. And as I say, they were present before we invaded Iraq.       

- Dick Cheney interview with Rush Limbaugh 4/5/07 

Now this from NBC's Chief Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski's March 2, 2004 article "Avoiding Attacking Suspected Terrorist Mastermind": 

"In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaeda had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide. The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and air-strikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council...Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe. The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed in...In January 2003, the threat turned real. Police in London arrested six terror suspects and discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp in Iraq...The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it."  

Military officials quoted in the article explained "the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam." 

The Miklaszewski article, which cited unnamed sources, was confirmed in a 2006 ABC TV interview with Mike Scheuer, who in 2002 was head of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit: "Almost every day we sent a package to the White House that had overhead imagery of the house he [Zarqawi] was staying in. It was a terrorist training camp . . . experimenting with ricin and anthrax . . . any collateral damage there would have been terrorists."  

On May 7th, 2004, Nick Berg, a U.S. civilian seeking telecommunications work in Iraq, was, according to the CIA, personally beheaded by Abu Musab al Zarqawi. In 2007, Dick Cheney is still citing Zarqawi's presence in Iraq as justification for our invasion. What the Vice President fails to mention, of course, is that it was not Saddam Hussein, but the Bush Administration, for the purpose of maintaining a false pretext for war, that was allowing a safe haven for al Qaeda in Iraq.   

Nick Berg was collateral damage in a propaganda war.  

I read Miklaszewski's article for the first time less than a year ago. The calculating and paradoxically thuggish nature of the President's inaction became, for me, a Holden Caulfield confronted with profane graffiti moment, causing me to become insanely mad, if not madly insane. Willful, wanton, and malicious malfeasance of this magnitude, with intent to exploit America's patriotic innocence and naivete, were it somehow not outright treason, surely would, at a minimum, command impeachment, would it not?

Jim Miklaszewski's report came eight months before the re-election of George W. Bush. I never heard anything about it. John Kerry was swift-boated for his heroic service in Vietnam, yet the intentional act of preserving al Qaeda in Iraq - at the risk of deadly attacks on European civilians and possible attacks in the U.S., and which ultimately led to the beheading of Nick Berg and the deaths of hundreds, probably thousands of other innocent civilians, for the purpose of securing a bogus argument for war; indeed, as described in the famous Downing Street memo, "fixing the intelligence around the policy" - was not even tangentially an issue for the 2004 presidential election. Astonishing. Stunning. Preposterous! Strange, and ironic - an electorate quick to sign on to war, yet in other ways as passive, detached and ambivalent as Herman Melville's Bartleby - a civilian and presumably educated population that would "prefer not to" consider, let alone be responsible for, the implications and long-term ramifications of an imperial, aggressive, and Machiavellian presidency - this presidency! 

Americans almost universally agree that terrorism is an unacceptable, evil means by which to attempt to achieve a political objective. What the Bush Administration is guilty of, in case anyone is fuzzy about this, is sustaining an al Qaeda terrorist operation for its political value, at the price of Nick Berg's head as well as the death, dismemberment, and otherwise physical and/or emotional wreckage of other innocent civilians - lots of them. Thousands!  

So here I sit, alone in the dark, bleary eyed, hot MacBook in my lap; distraught; exasperated - seemingly alone in Melvillian despair. Ah, the apathy! Ah, Nick Berg! "Ah, humanity!". 

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Robert Sargent is co-owner of a Washington State commercial printing company with operations in Seattle and Redmond. He has an Economics degree from the University of Washington and occasionally plays alto sax with the Husky alumni band. An amateur (more...)
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