Father of US beheading victim calls for peace

By Terri Judd

The Independent

30 June 2004

Of all the hideous moments Michael Berg has endured in the seven weeks since his son's beheading became public, one stands out in his memory. He was waiting to be interviewed by an American network, listening to the show through an earpiece, when the station began playing the video of the Korean captive Kim Sun-il pleading for his life.

"I couldn't turn it off. I could not pull the earplug out. I had to listen to his pleas. That had to be one of the worst moments," he said yesterday.

On 11 May a group linked to al-Qa'ida released a video of his son Nick, 26, a telecommunications engineer, being decapitated in what they said was revenge for the abuse of prisoners by US troops at Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail.

In the ensuing weeks, Nick's father has crossed the United States and the world to call for peace. Today he will address a Stop the War Coalition rally in Parliament Square.

The 59-year-old from West Chester, Pennsylvania, has come to terms with the fact that pictures of his son's death will forever be symbolic of the brutality of this war. Mr Berg understands that the images of him collapsing after learning of the video sent a powerful message to an American public that until then had been served what he calls a "candy-coated war".

Describing the moment a reporter broke the news to him, he said: "I don't remember hitting the ground. My son and daughter screamed at the photographer. As hard as it was dealing with that intrusion I know it needs to be done ... I remember the pictures of Vietnam and how they stopped that war."

He added: "Nick's death was gruesome and it was public but in the end my grief is no different from that of other parents - it doesn't matter if their child was soldier, civilian or an innocent Iraqi."

* A Briton has been killed while working as a security consultant in Iraq. Julian Davies, 39, from Newport, south Wales, died in the northern city of Mosul on 24 June, the Foreign Office said.