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MICHAEL BERG

My son's mission of peace

The following is excerpted from a letter written by Michael Berg, father of Nicholas, who was beheaded in Iraq. It was read at the Stop the War Coalition's demonstration in London last weekend.

WHEN I eulogized my son Nick, I said that he was my teacher and my hero. He was the kindest, gentlest man I know -- no, the kindest, gentlest human being I know or have ever known. Did you know that 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 in the fact that when they did the awful thing they did, they weren't quite as into 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 upon 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 just 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.

But 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, nor that of my family or the world who grieve for Nick, because he is a policy maker, and he doesn't have to bear the consequences of his acts. George Bush can see neither the heart of Nicholas nor the American people -- let alone the people his policies are killing daily.

Donald Rumsfeld said that he took the responsibility for the sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners. How could he take that responsibility when there was no consequence? Nick took the consequences of the policies both stated and given with a wink and a nod by the Bush administration. And, 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 was a soldier. He had the discipline and dedication of a soldier. But Nick Berg was a soldier of peace in Iraq (who went) to help the people without any expectation of personal gain. The trouble was he was only one man. But through his death he has become many.

So what were we to do when we in America were attacked on Sept. 11, that infamous day? I say we should have done then what we never did before: Stop speaking to the people we labeled our enemies and start listening to them. Stop giving preconditions to our peaceful coexistence on this small planet and start honoring and respecting every human's need to live free and autonomously, to truly respect the sovereignty of every state, whether it be Israel or Palestine or Iraq. 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. That detention immersed my son in a world of escalated violence, (and) were it not for his 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 to 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 life was put to an end, but his work still goes on. Where there was one peacemaker before, I now see and have heard from thousands of peacemakers. And for every one of them there are thousands more who can't find the words but feel the same way. 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 from our government about Nick's detention, and we are fed up with the lies from our government about the reasons for this war. 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. Many people 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. I ask them to do more than pray. I ask them to demand it from the politicians and leaders in the White House and in the statehouses across the world and in the mountain camps where they may hide. And let them know that if you don't get it, they aren't going to work for you as their leaders any more. 

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