Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Editor's Note: The execution of Nick Berg has been made available on Annoy.com to allow those who choose the option to witness the horror for themselves. It is not here for gratuitous reasons, to gloat or make baseless comparisons with other grotesque acts. We simply feel that you are in a better position to make necessary choices as to what you want to witness, not the likes of Rupert Murdoch or Donald Rumsfeld, whose tastes we have already been exposed to, and who have proved ill-equipped to serve as arbiters of good taste.
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Revolting millions around the world, the video footage of an American citizen's execution has also raised numerous questions concerning its authenticity.
Even at first glance, internet bloggers were asking on Thursday why Nick Berg was wearing an orange jumpsuit – just like US prisoners wear.
Other net surfers point to the unlikely timing of the executioner's dubbed announcement that Berg was to die for "Iraqi prisoner abuse".
Of course, the Internet is changing the rules of discretion, as The New York Times pointed out in a Week in Review piece on Sunday. Armed with the secrets of Googling, you, too, can join the illuminati. I did just that, courtesy of Al Qaeda, which had posted footage of Nicholas Berg being beheaded. The cable news networks announced that this video was too graphic to show in its entirety. But it was obvious that many commentators had seen it. Greta Van Susteren and Aaron Brown said so, and both described it as hideous. If only to prove that I'm a member of this charmed circle, I decided to take a look.
I found the footage at annoy.com, and this was my reaction. As the victim's screams turned to gurgling, I felt nauseated and started shaking. When his severed head was held up, I fled from the room. Within 10 minutes, I had only an intellectual memory of what I'd witnessed. I couldn't recall the sounds, except for the killers' repeated cries of "Allahu Akbar." This mantra was their way of distancing themselves from the evil deed; my way was repression. Over the next 10 hours, my memory gradually returned—along with feelings of intense guilt. I had come to understand that reportorial duty was my excuse for voyeurism.
What cruel, sick bastards.
Indeed, you can't get much more barbaric than the filmed beheading of 26-year-old Nick Berg that splashed across a terrorist group's Web site yesterday.
In case the world needed a reminder of why America is waging its War on Terror, it got one yesterday.
It's hard to imagine the terror that must have filled Berg in those final moments as he realized his hooded captors really were going to kill him.
It wasn't enough that they slaughtered the young Philadelphia businessman like a sheep and held his severed head aloft as if it were a trophy. No, they filmed the whole thing for the world to see.
Soldiers don't behave like that.
Only cowards and thugs do.
Now it's time to ratchet up the response to this war.
Forget Abu Ghraib.
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