Letter to Guardian by Michael Berg
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.
I am sure that the one who wielded the knife felt Nick’s breath on his hand and knew that he had a real human being there. I am sure that the others looked into my son’s eyes and got at least a glimmer of what the rest of the world sees. And I am sure that these murderers, for just a brief moment, did not like what they were doing.
George Bush never looked into my son’s eyes. George Bush doesn’t know my son, and he is the worse for it. George Bush, though a father himself, cannot feel my pain, or that of my family, or of the world that grieves for Nick, because he is a policymaker, and he doesn’t have to bear the consequences of his acts. George Bush can see neither the heart of Nick nor that of the American people, let alone that of the Iraqi people his policies are killing daily.
Donald Rumsfeld said that he took responsibility for the sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners. How could he take that responsibility when there was no consequence? Nick took the consequences.
Even more than those murderers who took my son’s life, I can’t stand those who sit and make policies to end lives and break the lives of the still living.
Nick was not in the military, but he had the discipline and dedication of a soldier. Nick Berg was in Iraq to help the people without any expectation of personal gain. He was only one man, but through his death he has become many. The truly unselfish spirit of giving your all to do what you know in your own heart is right even when you know it may be dangerous; this spirit has spread among the people who knew Nick, and that group has spread and is spreading all over the world.
So what were we to do when we in America were attacked on September 11, that infamous day? I say we should have done then what we never did before: stop speaking to the people we labelled our enemies and start listening to them. Stop giving preconditions to our peaceful coexistence on this small planet, and start honouring and respecting every human’s need to live free and autonomously, to truly respect the sovereignty of every state. To stop making up rules by which others must live and then separate rules for ourselves.
George Bush’s ineffective leadership is a weapon of mass destruction, and it has allowed a chain reaction of events that led to the unlawful detention of my son which immersed him in a world of escalated violence. Were it not for Nick’s detention, I would have had him in my arms again. That detention held him in Iraq not only until the atrocities that led to the siege of Fallujah, but also the revelation of the atrocities committed in the jails in Iraq, in retaliation for which my son’s wonderful life was put to an end.
My son’s work still goes on. Where there was one peacemaker before, I now see and have heard from thousands of peacemakers. Nick was a man who acted on his beliefs. We, the people of this world, now need to act on our beliefs. We need to let the evildoers on both sides of the Atlantic know that we are fed up with war. We are fed up with the killing and bombing and maiming of innocent people. We are fed up with the lies. Yes, we are fed up with the suicide bombers, and with the failure of the Israelis and Palestinians to find a way to stop killing each other. We are fed up with negotiations and peace conferences that are entered into on both sides with preset conditions that preclude the outcome of peace. We want world peace now.
Many have offered to pray for Nick and my family. I appreciate their thoughts, but I ask them to include in their prayers a prayer for peace. And I ask them to do more than pray. I ask them to demand peace now.
There will be a rally in London this weekend (Saturday, May 22, 2004) and this letter will be read to the public.