Posted on Mon, May. 17, 2004

Associated Press
Michael Berg, whose son Nick was killed by al Qaeda terrorists, places flowers on his West Chester lawn in Nick’s memory.

Michael Smerconish | BUSH DIDN'T KILL NICK


By Michael Smerconish

THIS ISN'T going to be easy. But some things need to be said to Michael Berg even as he grieves the loss of his son. It would have been more appropriate to let the dust settle before this discourse began, but that is no longer an option where he has turned this tragedy into a morbid blame game.

First and foremost, civilized people everywhere mourn for your family. Nick Berg was, by all accounts, a fine son - smart, ambitious and with an independent spirit for life. Twenty-six is way too young to die. No father should have to endure what you must be going through.


George Bush did not kill your son. Nor did Donald Rumsfeld. And, quite frankly, you are the one politicizing his death when you introduce their names into the same breath as his obituary.

Furthermore, it's just not accurate for you to say "Nicholas Berg died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld." Your son died due to the sins of unholy people acting through some misguided and irrational vision of their faith. And, frankly, you give your son's murderers the credibility they so desperately lack when you say otherwise.

Here is the bottom line, sir.

Your son's death was far more complicated than a simple case of an unwarranted detainment. The Iraqi police and/or FBI would have been derelict in their duty if they did not take a long, hard look at an American voluntarily in a strange and unsafe part of the world, who had some connection - however bizarre and apparently unintentional - to a 9/11 suspect and, dare I say, particularly where that man's father has a documented record of opposition to what we are doing in Iraq.

The picture that has emerged is one of a young man placing himself in harm's way and remaining so on his own accord against the advice of many around him, including his government, which you now blame for his death. He was not there fighting for his country. He was there seeking business opportunity, which displays a gritty sense of American individualism, but ought not to be equated with the actions of those putting on a uniform.

You have also stated that you "would like to ask George Bush a question... [is it] true that al Qaeda offered to trade my son's life for the life of another person?"

Well, I think I can answer that for you. While any father would understandably hope that such negotiations would be entertained for the life of his son, any outsider is in a far less emotional place to better understand why this can never be the case. Negotiations for the life of Nick Berg would only have guaranteed that more negotiations would have followed. Do you really believe that the men who did what is displayed on that tape are the sort with whom you can - or should - bargain?

"This is an administration that allows something that they arrogantly called the Patriot Act to strip away American to make America not the America that I grew up in" is another of your recent pronouncements.

The America that all of us grew up in no longer exists. But that is not attributable to the Patriot Act, nor any other effort to combat the lawlessness that changed the world on 9/11. You are blaming D-Day for the attack on Pearl Harbor. If you wish blame someone or some group for the disappearance of your America, may I suggest you start with al Qaeda?

Nick Berg didn't die because librarians are at risk under the Patriot Act. He didn't die because he was sent to war by the president and secretary of defense. He didn't die because of the absence of negotiations. He died because some sick SOB with an insatiable hatred for all that is good and decent in this world took his life. The sooner all Americans unite against our common enemy, the sooner we will return to the America in which we were all reared.

NOTE: Mike Smerconish is a local AM radio host and newspaper columnist here in Philly.