President, Other Officials Condemn Berg Murder
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 12, 2004 President Bush and other U.S., coalition and state officials expressed outrage today at the brutal execution of U.S. hostage Nicholas Berg in Iraq.
Bush called the grisly, videotaped execution reportedly by Abu Musab al- Zarqawi an unjustified act on "an innocent civilian who was in Iraq to help build a free Iraq." Zarqawi is the leader of an Islamic terrorist group that has claimed responsibility for attacks on coalition forces in Iraq.
A videotape posted on an al Qaeda-linked Web site May 11 showed Berg, a 26- year-old independent contractor from West Chester, Pa., being decapitated. His killers claimed to be acting in revenge for the abuse of Iraqis at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.
Bush insisted that there can be no justification for Berg's murder and said it won't derail coalition efforts in Iraq. "The actions of the terrorists who executed this man remind us of the nature of the few people who want to stop the advance of freedom in Iraq," he said. "Their intention is to shake our will. Their intention is to shake our confidence.
"Yet, by their actions, they remind us of how desperately parts of the world need free societies and peaceful societies," Bush said. "And we will complete our mission. We will complete our task."
Speaking before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Berg's murder if it fact it is proven to be at the hands of Zarqawi further validation of Zarqawi's extreme tactics. "He will do anything to stop the progress in Iraq," the chairman said. Zarqawi, a Jordanian citizen, has been affiliated with al Qaeda for "a long, long time," Myers said.
Senior Coalition Provisional Authority Dan Senor condemned the "grotesque and brutal murder" and expressed consolation to the Berg family during today's press briefing from Baghdad. "Sometimes the banality of terrorist acts speaks for itselfand this is clearly one of those terrorist acts," Senor said.
Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell said today that Berg's executioners "misread the American people" if they believe their actions will cause them to "cut and run" in Iraq. Rather, Rendell said, atrocities like this will strengthen the American people's resolve "to make sure that all of the American sons and daughters who died there did not die in vain." On the contrary, the governor noted, it "strengthened our resolve to stay and effectuate a successful transition that will place Iraq on the road to freedom and democracy and will fulfill the mission."
Rendell said those responsible for Berg's death showed a lack of understanding of the American people's horror and disgust about activities at Abu Ghraib prison, and the need for those responsible to be brought to justice as quickly as possible.
Senor reported today that coalition forces discovered Berg's body on a roadside near Baghdad May 8. Berg, an American citizen from West Chester, Pa., had registered with U.S. Consular Affairs in Iraq but had no CPA affiliation and no known association with its contractors. Senor said Berg reported that he had entered Iraq through Jordan for business purposes.