- The killing of Nick Berg, the American telephone engineer
beheaded by Islamic militants in Iraq, triggered a political storm last
night as the murdered man's father blamed the Bush administration for the
circumstances that led to his death.
- Michael Berg, an avowed opponent of the war in Iraq,
said his son might still be alive if the US military had not taken him
into custody for 13 days in late March.
- Mr Berg said he believed that if the 26-year-old had
not been detained so long he might have been able to leave the country
while conditions were more stable.
- Nick Berg had travelled to Iraq as a freelance telecommunications
entrepreneur intending to help rebuild communications antennae, but was
detained by Iraqi police at a checkpoint in Mosul, amid confusion as to
what he was doing in the area.
- He was later passed to the US military, who finally freed
him after his parents sued the federal government for his release on April
5. Mr Berg said his son had been held without a lawyer and was not allowed
to make telephone calls.
- The Berg family, from West Chester in Pennsylvania, were
told of the gruesome video images of their son's killing by an Associated
Press reporter yesterday afternoon.
- Mr Berg's father, brother and sister collapsed in a tearful
embrace in their front yard. The family already knew their son was dead.
His mutilated body was found in Baghdad on Saturday.
- "I knew he was decapitated before," Mr Berg
said. "That manner is preferable to a long and torturous death. But
I didn't want it to become public."
- Mr Berg said his son had been a Bush supporter, and looked
at the war "as bringing democracy to a country that didn't have it".
The Bergs described their son as an idealist who had travelled before in
the Third World, including Kenya and Ghana, where he had spent £500
on a brick press for an impoverished village.
- Last night in a statement read by a neighbour the Bergs
described their son as "a great kid" and said they were "devastated"
by their loss.
- Earlier they complained that federal officials had been
unhelpful as they struggled to find out where their son was. They last
heard from their son on April 9, when he said he was going to come home
- Even before news broke of Mr Berg's murder Republican
members of Congress and conservative media commentators, were expressing
outrage at what they called the irresponsible and unpatriotic leaking of
a secret military report into the abuses, and the publication of photographs
of prisoner assaults.
- It has already emerged that Gen Richard Myers, the chairman
of the joint chiefs of staff, had warned CBS television that broadcasting
the Abu Ghraib images might endanger the lives of soldiers and hostages.
- Gen Myers succeeded in convincing CBS to hold off on
broadcasting the images for two weeks, after he urged them not to inflame
world opinion during the tense siege of Fallujah. The next 24 hours will
tell whether public anger at the killing will swamp American soul-searching
at the behaviour of military reservists in Abu Ghraib.
- There was already a significant slice of Middle American
opinion that was impatient with talk of suffering Iraqis, arguing that
the detainee abuse paled next to the attacks on US forces and hostages.
- © Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/05/12/wirq