Daily Archives: May 13, 2004

Is Nick Berg Another Charlie Horman?

I’m not usually into conspiracy theories, but if you read the exchanges between me and Seattle in the Comments section of the previous Nick Berg post, you’ll know I think this whole thing smells like yesterday’s herring. Well, I finally put my finger on what was bothering me: Charlie Horman. I’ve seen this run-around before.

Charlie Horman was a free-lance reporter living in Chile at the time of Allende’s murder and the coup that put Pinochet and the Chilean military in charge of the govt. The date was September 11, 1973, 28 years to the day before 9/11. He disappeared on Sept 12. Two years later, after a prolonged investigation and a whole lot of pressure from Charlie’s father, Ed, a successful NY businessman–and Republican contributor to Nixon’s campaign–the bodies of Charlie and his friend, Frank Teruggi, were found riddled with bullets, Frank’s in the Santiago soccer stadium and Charlie’s in the morgue after being dumped unceremoniously in the street. But before that, Charlie had been buried inside a wall in the tunnels under the stadium. Inside.

At first the American Embassy and the new Ambassador to Chile said they’d never heard of Charlie and had no records concerning him. When Horman proved that Charlie had been to see them a few days before the coup looking for help in getting a friend of his out of the country at a tense time, they suddenly found those records.

And that’s the way it went until the ‘discovery’ of Charlie’s body: govt officials at the US Embassy and US military officials would tell Horman stories, and Ed would painstakingly prove that those stories weren’t true. When Ed didn’t fall for the official fairy tales, they attacked Charlie personally: he was an irresponsible hippie; they’d tried to help him but he wouldn’t listen; he was poking his nose into places he shouldn’t have been and it was too bad but they’d done everything they could; they’d offered to get him out of Chile but he had insisted that he wanted to stay to report on the coup; and so on. In one particularly shameful meeting, the American Consul told Ed that they’d found Charlie and that he was still alive. Ed later proved that he had in fact known of Charlie’s death since a few days after it happened.

Ed and Charlie’s widow, Beth, between them proved that virtually everything Nixon’s embassy officials had told them was a lie, starting on Day One, that everything the military had told them was a lie, and that Charlie had been turned over to Pinochet’s military by US intelligence because he had seen US military and intelligence officers acting very chummy with a covey of high-ranking Chilean officers in a hotel the day before the coup. As we now know, Henry Kissenger had used the CIA, G2, and carefully selected US military brass to co-ordinate and supervise Pinochet’s overthrow of Allende’s Socialist govt because Kissenger thought Allende was a Communist, and because Allende opposed Kissenger’s plans for South America and Pinochet did not.

The similarities between the Horman pattern and the Berg pattern already emerging are striking.

#When Beth Horman made it public that her husband had been in contact with the US Embassy hours before his disappearance, they denied it; after pressure was brought to bear, they ‘found’ the records that confirmed her statement and claimed that they had warned Charlie weeks before his disappearance to leave the country because the situation was ‘unstable’.

*When Suzanne Berg, Nick’s mother, told a Pennsylvania newspaper that the family had been trying for weeks to learn where their son was but that federal officials had not been helpful’, and that she had ‘basically ended up doing most of the investigating myself’, it took mere hours for the US military to release a statement denying that he had ever been in US custody and that Berg ‘was in Iraq “of his own accord” and had been advised to leave Iraq but refused’. Sound familiar?

Update: At Notes on the Atrocities, Jeff reprints this email:

“I have confirmed that your son, Nick [Berg], 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.”Beth A. Payne, from the US Consular office in Iraq (emphasis added)

So now the Army admits that it lied and Nick was in its custody. Beth would think this was oh so SOP.

#When Beth said the US military had interrogated Charlie’s friends after he disappeared in an apparent attempt to prove that Charlie had been involved in ‘subversive activities’, they denied it, and they denied having any contact whatever with them in the days after the coup.

*While Nick was being held, he was interrogated by the FBI three times.

Mr. Berg [in an email to his family] described F.B.I. agents’ questioning as amicable, but pointed. Among the questions asked, he wrote, were: “Why was I in Iraq? Did I ever make a pipe bomb? Why was I in Iran?”He conjectured that their questions arose from some Farsi literature and a book about Iran that he had.

*When Michael Berg, Nick’s father, accused the govt and the military of complicity in his death by holding him illegally when he was about to leave the country, the CPA replied that they had no responsibility for Berg.

“My understanding,” [CPA Senior Advisor Dan] Senor said of the Iraqi police, “is that they suspected that he was involved/engaged in suspicious activities. U.S. authorities were notified. The F.B.I. visited with Mr. Berg on three occasions when he was in Iraqi police detention and determined that he was not involved with any criminal or terrorist activities. Mr. Berg was released on April 6, and it is my understanding he was advised to leave the country.”

But the Iraqi police deny that they ever held him, or that they were the ones who arrested him.

Senor referred questions about the reason for Berg’s detention to the Iraqi police. In Mosul, however, police told the AP they had no knowledge of the Berg case. Police official Safwan Talal said the only American arrested there in recent months was a woman who was released soon afterward.Mosul police chief Maj. Gen. Mohammed Khair al-Barhawi told reporters Thursday that his department had never arrested Berg.

“The Iraqi police never arrested the slain American,” he said. “Take it from me … that such reports are baseless.”

#When Ed Horman demanded that the US military authorities in Chile use their contacts with the Chilean military to find his son, the US military representative insisted that they had no contacts and even if they did, they didn’t have the power to force the Chilean Army to give him up. Ed scoffed at that, refusing to believe that Chile’s military govt would dare to hold an American unless they knew that the US approved, and that they would certainly never dare to refuse to surrender him if American authorities demanded it. As the later Congressional investigation showed, Ed was absolutely right–Teruggi and Charlie Horman were the only Americans to be tortured and killed by the GOC (the Chilean Army) during the coup; although 80 other Americans had been held ‘for questioning’, they had all been released as soon as US authorities ordered it, and none had been mistreated.

*When the CPA’s Dan Senor insisted they had no authority or control over the Iraqi police, David Berg, Nick’s brother, replied:

“The Iraqi police is mentioned frequently, which is, of course, absurd, because there is no Iraqi government right now,” David Berg said. “And if you think about it, to be detained by the Iraqi police without the U.S. government’s knowing would be tantamount to kidnapping.”

Michael Berg, told that the FBI had visited Nick and determined his innocence but that the Iraqi police had refused to release him despite this, ridiculed the FBI claim, saying, “The Iraqi police do not tell the FBI what to do, the FBI tells the Iraqi police what to do. Who do they think they’re kidding?”

Us, Michael. Us.

Nick Berg was held in an unidentified jail that he ‘described…as managed by Iraqis with oversight from United States Military Police forces. He wrote that federal agents had questioned his reasons for being in Iraq, whether he had ever built a pipe bomb or had been in Iran.’

Did Nick witness something in that jail, as Charlie had in the hotel, that US authorities didn’t want him talking about when he got home? If so, the whole sorry mess could have been staged for our benefit, just as the charade of the US ‘search’ for Charlie Horman was staged. As I pointed out in a reply to Seattle, ‘Finally, the mercs in Iraq count among their numbers some of the worst murderers and torturers of the old S African secret police. A bogus beheading would strike them as an afternoon’s good fun and a blow struck for freedom. They’ve done a lot worse.’

What really happened to Nick Berg? And why?

A ‘Western Strategy’ for the Democrats

My FTT partner, John McKay, has an excellent post at archy that explains the so-called ‘Western Strategy’ about as clearly and concisely as anything I’ve seen.

The Western Strategy is a simple demographic observation. For years the West has been divided into a safe Democratic West (the coast states) and a safe Republican West (the mountain and basin states). Demographic changes along the southern edge of the Republican West are turning some of their safe states into swing states, with the possibility that they might eventually become out and out Democratic in the near future. The states most often mentioned are New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada. The demographic changes in question are mostly the rapid growth of the Hispanic population, but the rapid urbanization of some areas (in the form of retirees) is also an important factor.

He discusses the ins and outs of the strategy, its weaknesses and strengths, and advises that we don’t give up the South for it.

The South-less Strategy leaves no margin for error in the presidential election. The South-less Strategy ignores other parts of the government to concentrate on the White House. Although there are now very few statewide races that a Democrat can win in the South, there are plenty of individual districts that are winnable, and we need them to regain control of the House.

Thoughtful stuff. On balance, I tend to agree with him, but I’m not a count-the-districts kind of political junkie except in Mass, so I’m a little off my turf in Arizona. Read it and see what you think.