International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

May 17, 2004

May 17, 2004





**  Global media agree that the "medieval" beheading of Nicholas Berg "demeans the value of life."

**  Arab papers denounce the "slaughter" as "unrelated" to the Islamic faith.

**  The "visual horror" marks a further "plunge into the abyss" of violence-torn Iraq.

**  Conservative writers say the "hideous image" reminds the West why it "must remain in Baghdad" and "must win" the war against terror. 




Abu Ghraib scandal 'a pretext for cruelty'--  The videotaped beheading of American Nick Berg is "an inexcusable moral crime" that exposes attempts by Islamic extremists to gain power by exploiting "the culture of death."  The "message of revenge" from Berg's killers is "medieval," designed to build a "confrontation between the West and Islam."  While the terrorists "used the worldwide disgust" caused by the abuse of Iraqi prisoners to justify their actions, Canada's centrist Le Soleil noted it was important not to be "duped"--the killers "would have found another pretext to execute their plan even if" the prison scandal hadn't occurred. 


'The product of a dark culture'--  Arab dailies that commented on the killing labeled the "barbaric and ultimately foolish execution" of Berg an "issue worth condemning by all standards" and said its denunciation "must come from Muslims before others."  Outlets called the act "un-Islamic"; Lebanon's Arab nationalist As-Safir maintained that the "errant group which committed the heinous crime...are not Muslims."  Other papers in the region worried that the beheading "has damaged the image of Muslims" and, in the words of Saudi Arabia's moderate Al-Watan, "will ruin a 1400-year Muslim reputation of love and tolerance." 


Iraq now 'a war of images'--  Papers in Europe and Asia remarked that the competing images of the Abu Ghraib abuse and Berg execution comprised "a war of pictures."  Al-Qaida, said Singapore's pro-government Straits Times, sought to exploit "the attrition of public sensibilities" and undermine the U.S. public's "collective stomach for...a fight."  Euro writers feared an escalation in the "race of horror" and warned that the West "cannot give in to the practice of an eye for an eye."  As Austria's independent Salzburger Nachrichten put it:  "If the made to water down its humanitarian and legal standards, and to open its doors to barbarism in order to secure victory, it has already lost."


'Why the West is fighting' in Iraq--  Conservative commentators in Britain and Australia opined that Berg's killers "have done us a perverse favor" by demonstrating "the type of creature who must never run Iraq."  The video, maintained Britain's Daily Telegraph, "is the answer to those who say that the war in Iraq has nothing to do with the war against terror."  By showing the "implacable and murderous hostility of radical Islamism towards the West," the terrorists had shown that the Coalition must stay in Iraq until it reached "peaceful independence."  Any "retreat from that duty," an Australian editorialist wrote, "would be a surrender to their barbarism and that cannot be even considered.”


EDITOR:  Steven Wangsness


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 58 reports from 30 countries over May 12 - 14, 2004.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN:  "Murder And Truth"


The conservative Times commented (5/13):  "The depressing element here is that whatever the implausible reason presented, some people would accept it at face value.  There is the utterly perverse tendency to identify a form of moral equivalence between U.S. or British troops and the insurgents and terrorists who are attacking them....  The behavior of a number of soldiers at Abu Ghraib was beyond reprehensible.  There is no equivalence, though, between abuse brought to light by other U.S. military personnel, investigated by a major-general and subject to punishment even before offending photographs became public, and brutally hacking a man's head off then hanging his body upside down from a bridge....  This is a mind-set so alien and incomprehensible that many people remain inclined, even after September 11, 2001, not to take it seriously or to believe that there must be something more logical, if horrible, such as revenge, behind it.  The unpalatable truth is that if Mr. Berg's death was revenge, it was revenge for the fact that he existed."


"Why The West Is Fighting -- And Why It Must Win"


The conservative Daily Telegraph took this view (Internet version, 5/13):  "If anything could have been calculated to put the torture scandal in Abu Ghraib prison into perspective, it was the video of hooded and masked al-Qaida terrorists beheading an American civilian.  The executioners were shown shouting Allahu akbar ("God is great") as their victim died.  This hideous image has reminded Americans of why they are fighting a war against terrorism and what kind of foe they are up against....  This particular image...tells every American, more eloquently than any presidential address, what is at stake in this conflict.  It is the answer to those who say that the war in Iraq has nothing to do with the war against terror.  It is the answer to all who deny the implacable and murderous hostility of radical Islamism towards the West in general, and America in particular.  It is the answer to those who posit a bogus moral equivalence between the two sides in this conflict....  There will no doubt be further attempts by insurgents to wreck the peaceful transition to self-government on June 30.  The one certainty in this fluid situation, however, is that the coalition cannot compromise with the foreign terrorists in Iraq, such as al-Zarqawi, who are trying to foment a jihad against the West."


FRANCE:  "Horror And Threat"


Left-of-center Le Monde commented (5/13):  “What Zarqawi’s men have done is barbaric.  It is an inexcusable moral crime, which is also politically devastating for the cause they claim to be defending.  While the indignation from the Arab world and elsewhere, after the revelations of torture is legitimate, this crime and its video go beyond understanding....  How can anyone who claims to be acting in the name of God...fall so low?  This plunge into the abyss that has become Iraq, two months from the transfer of sovereignty, is proof of the impasse into which the Bush administration has put itself.  After 9/11, instead of a patient battle against terrorism, which every democracy approved, Washington preferred to go on the Iraqi adventure.  Far from reducing world threats, this detour via Iraq has increased the perils....  Iraq’s battlegrounds are a threat for the entire world.  And it is up to the world, through the UN, to take charge.”




Patrick Sabatier wrote in left-of-center Liberation (5/13):  “It would be a serious mistake, both moral and political, to put on the same footing the pictures showing Nick Berg’s murder and those of tortured Iraqi detainees....  On the one hand there is a video of terrorist propaganda....  On the other hand there are photographs showing the consequences of a war that was ill conceived, waged with poor planning and destined to fail through ignorance and arrogance....  The photographs from Abu Gharib are the symptom of a poison corroding democracy; they serve also as an antidote to that poison.  The video exists for the sole reason of feeding hatred.  There cannot be the slightest excuse for this ‘video of horror,’ including President Bush’s disastrous policy.  Criticism of U.S. policy must go hand in hand with the condemnation of terrorism, which we must fight without respite, but with principles and restraint....  Democracies cannot give in to the practice of an eye for an eye.”


"A War Of Images"


Pierre Rousselin observed in right-of-center Le Figaro (5/13):  “What will be remembered from the war in Iraq are the pictures of tortured prisoners and of decapitated western hostages....  Our collective memory will remember them like the famous black-and-white photograph of a fleeing Vietnamese girl.  The filmed execution is an ignominy....  But because such things exist, the civilized world has the right to defend itself.  It is because we are at war against those who spread barbarity in the name of Islam that the other photographs should never have existed.  It is difficult to measure the impact those photographs, shown in a loop on Arab television, will have on Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia.  Everything in those photographs, the sexual abuse, the involvement of women, the presence of dogs, is food for the most negative image possible of the West.  To recruit more members, Islamic radicals are spreading images of a western civilization, which has lost its values and is in the grips of moral depravity.  We must pay tribute to America for the way it has reacted to the scandal.  When it comes to torture, we are not in a position to give lessons.  Transparency and self-criticism honor, in this one instance, a great democracy.  But the fact remains that President Bush is mistaken if he believes that apologies, public debate and an enquiry will be enough to convince the Arab street of the superiority of American democracy.  As long as Donald Rumsfeld and the Army’s chiefs of staff are not sanctioned, many in the Arab world will feel that once again they have been treated unfairly.  Al-Qaida can only take advantage of this.”


GERMANY:  "Race Of Horror"


Matthias Kamann editorialized in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (5/13):  "First the pictures of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, now the video of the beheading.  One horrible picture is following the other, and we media consumers think that there is a moral context.  But this does not exist.  The bestiality of terrorists is not the consequence of the sadism in Abu Ghraib.  Long ago before the events became known, the bodies of four Americans were hung at an Iraqi bridge, and years ago, the execution of journalist Daniel Pearl was filmed.  Terrorists do not need moral reasons, and they do not have any.  But they use any reason to suggest these reasons in a civil war.  U.S. prison wards have now offered them a reason.  That is why a race of horror developed which the West must lose."


"In A War Of Pictures"


Peter Muench penned the following editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (5/13):  "The conflict in Iraq is being waged with the means of modern technology at stone-age level....  The latest pictures of horror and beheading...are not only evidence that the Americans have lost control over pictures...but they mainly document that the war of pictures, which took place on a parallel theater, has now become independent....  The new thing in the video of Nicholas Berg's beheading is that they serve not only as revenge but also as justification....  An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, this is the message....  The killers intentionally compare their crimes to the misdeeds of Americans.  This is wrong...but nevertheless, the execution video will have an effect in the Arab and Islamic world in particular.  It shows how much the United States has now been on the defensive in the war of pictures....  There is only one way out of this trap in which Washington has got stuck since the publication of the Abu Ghraib pictures:  all details of the 'torturegate' must be investigated, as brutal as they may ever be.  This is the only chance for Washington to close the open flank that its enemies are now exploiting.  This will not reduce the anger and violence of terrorists, but in the war of pictures the truth will come to the fore again--at least on one side of the front."


"Torture Or Barbarity"


Christian Bommarius had this to say in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (5/13):  "The moral disaster, from which the U.S. government has been suffering these days has many faces.  One belongs to White House spokesman Scott McClellan who commented on Nick Berg's killing by saying: 'They have no respect for the lives of innocent men, women, and children.'  The disaster is that every Iraqi citizen would confirm these words without any difficulty.  But he would think less of terrorists but of the soldiers of the U.S. and British armies."


"The Significance Of Pictures"


Rolf Paasch opined in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (5/13):  "Pictures from Iraq determine the course of politics in Washington....  Following the loss of control over Fallujah and Najaf, President Bush has now also lost control over the pictures of the war after the war.  The current episodes have turned the failing occupation of Iraq into a veritable political crisis whose dimensions are not yet foreseeable."


"Further Escalation Likely"


Center-right General-Anzeiger of Bonn judged (5/13):  "A further radicalization of the Arab world seems to be unavoidable.  The bestial, public killing of a kidnapped U.S. national offers sad evidence of this....  The Arabs lost the belief in a humane and friendly occupation long ago.  In this situation it will be of no use that Bush, Rumsfeld, and Blair wear sackcloth and ashes....  We must...fear a further escalation of terrorist brutality."


"Stigmatizing Evil"


Right-of-center Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten opined (5/13):  "The pictures of the beheading...are closing a vicious circle.  Now both sides have visual evidence of stigmatizing the other side as the epitome of evil.  The pictures from Abu Ghraib are strengthening the worst fears and prejudices of the 'real U.S. character,' the video on the execution of a helpless civilian seem to document the brutality of Islam.  From the dehumanization of opponents to claims that oneself is superior, there is not too great a leap to the conclusion that the other side must be extinguished, even if this means one's own fall.  Those who succumb to this logic will find salvation only in the continuation of this war.  A way out of this flood of bestial pictures is not to keep them secret, as the Pentagon wants.  If Bush wants to put an end to this visual horror, he must end Iraq's occupation."


"Relapse Into The Medieval"


Centrist Mannheimer Morgen (5/13) noted:  "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth--this message of revenge from the Gospel has now reached every house via the Internet and TCV.  What looks like a relapse into the medieval ages...has mainly a documentary goal.  Everyone should see how vulnerable the U.S. superpower and its allies are.  Pictures can create fear and horror, they can demoralize, and with them it is possible to make politics.  The shocking pictures from the 9/11 terrorist attacks proved this, and the same is true from the pictures of tortured Iraqis.  The helpless viewer is haunted by one shock after the other.  We are in the midst of a war of pictures."


"Abu Ghraib Is Pretext For Cruelty"


Right-of-center Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung of Heidelberg (5/13) judged:  "The Abu Ghraib prison…is threatening to turn into a disaster not only for the U.S. policy toward Iraq.  It offers opponents of the United States with Islamic terrorists at the helm a pretext for an infamous form of public cruelty.  The orchestrated and filmed 'slaughter' of civilian Nick Berg is evidence of this relapse into barbarity like the abuse of killed Israeli soldiers.  The world is experiencing an unknown loss of cultural values, which will stir up the 'clash of cultures.'...  U.S. policy is not innocent of this development."


ITALY:  "If America Loses Itself"


Ernesto Galli Della Loggia commented in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (5/13):  “There were no torturers among the American soldiers who on June 4, 1944...entered Rome....  The forces that liberated us sixty years ago impressed us with their kindness...and for their numerous cultural offerings like films, books, newspapers....  But we didn’t even see a glimmer of this in Iraq....  We’re under the impression that the forces engaged in Iraq are different from the ones we used to know:  it looks like an army that was solely made to fight, to win the war and nothing more; that it has given up being, or no longer knows how to be, the mirror of its great nation.”


"The Murderous Cry In The Name Of Allah"


Magdi Allam commented in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (5/13):  “The cry ‘God is great’ accompanied the beheading of Nick Berg....  IThen [the assassin] went on to list the enemies who must be defeated.  America first....  Then he mentioned Pakistan....  This confirms the close ties between Islamic terrorism in Iraq and bin Laden, who is in flight along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.  This is only further proof of the fact that the real battle is taking place within the Muslim world.  The heart of the conflict is the evaluation of the value of life within Islam itself.  It is al-Qaida’s objective to gain power in Muslim countries by using terrorism that centers on the culture of death.  This is a disturbing scenario, in which Westerners are simple obstacles to remove, even physically.  [The terrorists] strike out against innocent victims to terrorize the masses.  This is the macabre message that came from Berg’s atrocious killing.”


RUSSIA:  "The Impasse"


Nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya ran this by B. Lvov (5/13):  "Looking closely at what the U.S. administration is up to with regard to Iraq, it is easy to see that the plan is simple and provides for more efforts to delude the public at home and abroad.  The United States says that it will start transferring sovereignty to the Iraqis on June 30, assist in adopting a new UN resolution on placing Iraqi authorities under a kind of UN auspices, and eventually pull out its troops and let in the Blue Helmets.  All that is a lie pure and simple.  The truth is that the United States has in mind to stay in control of the Iraqi armed forces, keep up the extra-territorial status of the U.S. troops there, be able to veto any laws and decisions made by the Iraqi authorities, maintain its presence in Iraq indefinitely, and be the sole master of its resources.  If so, any Iraqi government and parliament  under the UN aegis is a farce, and the proposed UN Security Council resolution to draw more allies into Iraq a hoax.  Just like a year ago, the Bush administration, as it refers to the UN Security Council, is hoping to find dupes there, but there have been fewer of them in the world lately."


"Head For Eye"


Aleksandr Morozov commented in youth-oriented Moskovskiy Komsomolets (5/13):  "(Nick Berg's) is a frightful story.  Anyone--an Italian, Japanese or Canadian--could share his fate....  There is a motley crew of armed groups in the Iraqi underground, each with its own slogan.  But only one, a third force, profits from this bloody mix.  It is not fortuitous that the authorship of the Nick Berg public execution is ascribed to an al-Qaida agent.  He and his associates couldn't care less about prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.  Instead, they seek to shock and dismay.  They want the Arab world to join them, take it off the road of civilized development and onto that of an endless jihad."


AUSTRIA:  "Is The Iraq War Out Of Control?"


Security affairs writer Burkhard Bischof commented in centrist daily Die Presse (5/13):  “There is an even greater danger now that the Iraq war--that is also being waged with images of torture and executions--will get completely out of control.  All moral inhibitions could dissolve; brutal attacks against coalition troops could be followed by even more ruthless retaliatory strikes; there could be more shootings, bombings, more torture and beheadings, potentially turning Iraq into a virtual slaughterhouse.”


"Propaganda Killings"


Foreign affairs editor Martin Stricker stated in independent provincial daily Salzburger Nachrichten (5/13):  “If the West--in reaction to the murder [of Nick Berg]--is made to water down its humanitarian and legal standards, and to open its doors to barbarism in order to secure victory, it has already lost.  To some degree, the Bush administration has by now walked right into this trap.  The leadership around Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld has permitted the torture and abuse of prisoners, and has thus offered the terrorists an opportunity to effectively stage their next round of killings.  It is hardly reassuring--remotely comforting at best--that the American general public wants to hold those accountable who are responsible for these acts, both in politics and in the military.”


BELGIUM:  "Images"


Foreign editor Jean Vanempten wrote in independent financial daily De Tijd (5/13):  "Again the impact of images was demonstrated by the videotape of the execution of a young American entrepreneur.  The cruelty of that beheading can barely be described.  Above all, it shows how immense the hatred against the coalition troops is--which an increasing part of the Iraqis view as occupation troops.  The White House said immediately that the execution must not be related to the torture practices in the prison.  The question is whether that vision is shared by the people in Iraq and the rest of the Arab world....  Adamantly sticking to the strategy of violence and counter-violence is extremely risky:  Iraq may turn into a vast quagmire from which the coalition troops cannot escape, in which the international community does not want to become involved and where the war continues to ravage--without any winners in sight."


"Iraq:   Predictable And Predicted Fiasco"


Foreign editor Paul De Bruyn remarked in conservative Christian-Democrat Gazet van Antwerpen (5/13):  "Today, Iraq is the flopped dream of the neoconservatives.  Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Charles Krauthammer and Robert Kaplan believed that a liberated Iraq would be the first step towards a democratic pro-Western Middle East.  In that new region Israel would finally be safe.  However, exactly the opposite may be the case.  Instead of a beacon of democracy, Iraq threatens to become a source of permanent unrest.  The worst may be that what is happening today is a slap in the face of those who plead in the Arab world for the pro-Western model.  Allegedly, Western governments are superior to dictatorships.  How credible does that sound today?"


BOSNIA-HERCEGOVINA:  "A Path Paved With Lies"


Sarajevo's Oslobodjenje opined (5/14):  "The beheading of the American Nick Berg is a monstrous demonstration of terrorist retaliation for the torture and humiliation of Iraqis in their occupiers’ prisons.  This on-camera slaughter will help Washington's argument that it is leading the struggle against terrorism in Iraq, as well as to balance the horror of the sadism of coalition forces."  


FINLAND:  "The White House And Responsibility"


Leading, independent Helsingin Sanomat contended (5/13):  "The prison scandal is only an example of a dominant feature which has marked the Bush administration from the very beginning.  It makes far-reaching decisions but does not bother to consider the consequences.  At the most, it pays attention to elections tactics.  The results are conspicuous in Iraq."


NORWAY:  "Barbaric Images"


The Christian Democratic Vaart Land remarked (5/14):  "To avenge the treatment of prisoners...a terrorist group has decapitated a 26-year-old American....  Gradually a basis for confrontation between the West and Islam is being built....  But Osama bin Laden and his followers must not lead us to treat all Muslims as terrorists.  The Western Alliance must act with dignity in Saddam's occupied land.  The implementation of democracy in Iraq must not be allowed to develop into a disastrous clash between two civilizations."


POLAND:  "Different Standards"


Marcin Bosacki editorialized in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (5/13):  “Yes, Americans are right when they say that the cruel murder of an American civilian puts things back in perspective.  It shows how cruel al-Qaida, America’s main opponent, is....  In light of this, even the torture perpetrated by the Americans at Abu Ghraib pales.  But it’s wrong for Americans to shout ‘Forget Abu Ghraib!’ after the murder of Nick Berg.  Didn’t-we-tell-you commentaries voiced by some across the ocean are not only in bad taste, they are simply stupid.  America must understand that al-Qaida’s crimes will not wipe away the crimes of its soldiers.  [It must understand] that the world applies different standards with regard toward the most powerful democracy in the world, and different standards toward the gang of depraved terrorists.  And [world opinion] has the right to do so.”


SPAIN:  "Images of the Evil"


Left-of-center El País held (5/13):  "The evil is on both sides and this war has stirred it up in all directions."


"The Evil Does Not Justify The Means Either"


Independent El Mundo editorialized (5/13):  "The video where five hooded men cut the throat of the young American, Nick Berg, while shouting 'Allah is great' and threatening the U.S. already has an outstanding place in the history of ignominy....  These terrible episodes corroborate the level of depravity to which the human being is able to reach when guided by the blindness of a religious fanaticism such as Islamic fundamentalism, and they cannot and should not be discounted.  However, the confirmation that our enemy is cruel and bloodthirsty...should not be used to justify the actions of those who theoretically are civilized....  Radical Arabs and supporters of bin Laden agree that the execution of the U.S. citizen is a fair and proportionate response to abuses in Iraq.  It is evident that it is not.  But it does not serve either as a retrospective justification for the disreputable means to which some U.S. soldiers have resorted, nor as an excuse to continue with a fundamentally counterproductive policy."


"The Cost Of Ignominy"


Conservative ABC opined (5/13):  "It is a fact that both [the tortures and the execution of Nick Berg] have superimposed themselves in the eyes of the world as a reflection of the darkest part of what is happening in Iraq.  Western public opinion should keep its cool at these moments, because the same as the tortures in the prison did not justify the murder of Nick Berg, his atrocious death would not justify either that the occupation forces launch reprisal operations....  At these moments, it is absolutely necessary to show the immense moral superiority of democracy over barbarity."


TURKEY:  "Future Of Iraq"


Cengiz Candar noted in the conservative-sensational DB Tercuman (5/13):  “Today the focus should be the future of Iraq rather than unnecessary debates about whether or not the war was justifiable.  The U.S. vision for Iraq, as stated from the beginning, is a democratic Iraq with territorial integrity.  The formula to achieve this goal is a federal Iraq.  The Abu Ghraib photos created a fatal blow against the American intentions, yet American vision for Iraq’s future remains a valid as well as a legal goal....  The U.S. should not abandon its policy of transferring authority to Iraqis.  Transfer of authority must be coordinated with an election calendar.  The U.S. should also take steps toward fairness in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and urgently discard its ‘pro-Israel’ image.  As for the Abu Gharib scandal, the U.S. should make sure that the responsible persons, including the responsible political rank, receive severe punishment.”




ISRAEL:  "Scapegoat For Iraq"


Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in left-leaning, independent Ha'aretz (5/13):  "Israel is trying to distance itself from the war in Iraq, as if events there did not concern it.  But Iraq is chasing Israel:  as the Americans become ever more deeply embroiled between Baghdad and Fallujah, and the campaign for liberation and democracy becomes a horror show, a difficult problem is also developing for Israel's foreign policy....  At the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, there is concern about the strengthening of the opinion that America got itself into the mud only to help Israel in its endless war against the Arabs.  They are thinking about a quiet diplomatic effort to blur the connection between Iraq and Israel.  This is no simple task....  The Americans do not understand the first thing about the Middle East and the Arabs....  Israel is now reaping the benefits of this ignorance. But the benevolent hour is waning.  Even if Arab culture is foreign to the Americans, the skyrocketing prices of oil are well understood in Washington and in Texas.  The stronger the reaction to the war grows in the United States, the stronger the call will be to exact a price from Israel.  And this poses a complicated challenge to Sharon and his partners in the Israeli leadership."


SAUDI ARABIA:  "Beheading Of U.S. Hostage"


Independent London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi editorialized (5/13):  "The killing of U.S. hostage Nicholas Berg, by an alleged pro-Al-Zarqawi group in that cruel manner is an issue worth condemning by all standards, because our Islamic faith orders us to always respect hostages....  The prior actions by U.S. troops on Iraqi prisoners, abusing them to death, annihilating their dignity, assaulting them sexually and physically, do not justify beheading the U.S. hostage....   The USA is a tyrannical, offensive and arrogant government which is an enemy of Arabs and Muslims.  It occupies their lands, kills their innocent ones and supports Israeli terrorism in Palestine....  However, [for us] to go out of our religious teaching...rush to behead a hostage, and disseminate pictures on the internet, this is an issue that will serve the interests of the terrorist U.S. administration, and presents the world with a wrong Islamic image."


"The Slaughter Scene"


Abha’s moderate, Al-Watan editorialized (5/13):  "The slaughter scene of the American citizen two days ago has damaged the image Muslims and cultural norms.  This insult to Islam and Muslims comes at a time when Arabs, Muslims and many other nations condemned the practices of U.S. soldiers against Iraqi prisoners, and Israeli soldiers against Palestinians.  Condemning the brutal killing of the U.S. citizen must come from Muslims before others.  Muslims do not accept the claims of the murderer that he is one of them.  Islam promotes human dignity and respect.  Muslims know that their religion was founded to lead people to the path of righteousness.  The horrible scene of the killing of the U.S. citizen will ruin a 1400-year Muslim reputation of love and tolerance.  He who committed this crime cannot be one of us.  There is a big difference between those who claim to be Muslims and what real Islam actually is." 


KUWAIT:  "Pictures From Iraq"


Independent Al-Rai Al-Am commented (5/13):  "Competition has begun between the disgusting pictures from Abu Ghraib prison and the one of Nick Berg's slaughter--just like the competition between commercial advertisements marketing various products."


LEBANON:  "Berg's Death Augurs Ill For Arab Societies"


The moderate English-language Daily Star editorialized (5/13):  "How quickly events in the Middle East overtake what was yesterday's headlines.  On a purely human level, there seems no limit, and no end, to the horror and brutality of the post-invasion conflict now taking shape in Iraq.  But there are other implications and messages in the barbaric and ultimately foolish execution of Nick Berg....  What more is needed to galvanize Arab leaders into action?  Today, a man named Berg was put to the sword; tomorrow, it could be the Arab nation torn asunder by the same savagery."




Arab nationalist As-Safir maintained (5/13):  "The errant group which committed the heinous crime of slaughtering the U.S. civilian hostage--relayed by television--are not Muslims.  What they did is unrelated to their faith, which calls for coexistence, forgiveness and dialogue with others."


"Who Saves Iraq From Two Bad Options?"


Rafiq Khoury wrote in centrist Al-Anwar (5/13):  “The photo of the beheading is worse than the photos of naked Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib prison.  It is not acceptable that Iraq continues to be the prisoner of two bad options:  what is the difference between an American soldier enjoying humiliating Iraqis...and a radical enjoying beheading an American civilian?  The American soldier is the product of a history that used to kill red Indians and enjoy burning black people and is also the product of a culture that gives its citizens the enslave nations under the slogan of liberating them...and the second (radical) is the product of a dark culture...that encourages its citizens in practicing terrorism and crimes under the pretext that they are working for freedom of foreign enslavement....  In any case, the European reaction to the Abu Ghraib scandal and beheading of the American citizen, which was stronger than the Arab reaction, came as no surprise to us, because Arabs are used to sadism in their own prisons....  As for the U.S., what really bothered President Bush was not the cruelty practiced in the prison...but the knowledge that it will be difficult to continue lying to Arabs about freedom and democracy.”


MOROCCO:  "Scandals Of U.S. Occupation"


Columnist Ahmed Settati noted in socialist USFP Arabic daily Al Ittihad Al Ishtiraki (5/13):  "Human conscience has been moved by pictures of the barbaric torture of Iraqi prisoners; pictures which contradict the promises of freedom, democracy, dignity and prosperity for Iraqis....  Occupation is occupation: ambition, injustice, jails and detention camps.  Iraq has gained no investments, no reconstruction, no food, no development, no freedom and no democracy....  However, one can only salute with gratitude the kindness of the American people, who after learning about the scandalous deeds carried out in cold blood by its army, raised their voices in anger and protest on the streets, in the media and in representative institutions to call for sanctioning the perpetrators....  It is our duty to shake hands with the U.S. people for their courage in condemning the hypocrisy and lies of their leaders, as they did during the Vietnam war, Watergate and other scandals....  Many Arab peoples are still unable to bring their leaders back to righteousness in the absence of a genuine democracy that can hold leaders accountable and punish wrongdoing."


UAE:  "Horrible Crime"


Semi-official Abu Dhabi-based Al-Ittihad remarked (5/13):  "Those who carried out the horrible crime [of beheading Nick Berg] and published his pictures to say that they had killed the hostage in a heinous manner do not belong to any religion or civilization.  This unspeakable act cannot be included as part of the noble Iraqi resistance."




AUSTRALIA:  "Evil Off The Hook"


Conservative columnist Andrew Bolt wrote in the popular tabloid Melbourne Herald-Sun (5/14):  “The [Australian] ABC seemed annoyed to have had this interruption to its wall-to-prison-wall coverage of the 'torture' of Iraqi prisoners....  After all this hysteria over pictures of Iraqi prisoners being made to pose naked, there's nothing like a live-on-video decapitation to remind us what real evil looks like, and to make us ask if a media that forgot the difference helped to kill Nick Berg....  It's time more in the media realized just who our greatest enemy really is--and trust me, it isn't America or a handful of its prison guard bullies.  If the media must publish pictures from this war on terror, let them include plenty of our real enemy and its satanic deeds. Then the abuse at Abu Ghraib will be put in the focus that's been all too deliberately blurred.”


"Why We Must Stay"


The popular Sydney tabloid Daily Telegraph stated (5/13):  “Australians will share the revulsion felt by Americans at the barbaric murder of a U.S. civilian in Iraq by men who put grisly photos on the internet to boast of their evil.  The beheading of a 26-year-old Nick Berg was the act of a cowardly and bloodthirsty group who no more represent ordinary Iraqis than a twisted killer here might represent Australians.  By their ghastly execution they have done us a perverse favor.  They have demonstrated the type of creature who must never run Iraq.  The murderers are the very reason why the U.S., Britain and Australia must stay in Baghdad to help the country grow into peaceful independence.  Any retreat from that duty would be a surrender to their barbarism and that cannot be even considered.”


"Devil’s Work Done In The Name Of God"


Conservative columnist Piers Akerman opined in the popular Sydney tabloid Daily Telegraph (5/13):  “Left-wing Western commentators blinded by their hatred of America have claimed that the humiliating treatment meted out to a few prisoners by a handful of poorly trained, ill-disciplined guards has placed the U.S. administration in the same league as Saddam Hussein's murderous regime....  Perhaps the latest grisly video will convince these doomsayers that there is no moral equivalence to be drawn between the brutality of the masked murderers invoking Allah and the liberation of Iraq by brave men and women determined to bring freedom to a people broken by a brutal dictator....  This awful video epitomizes the world of darkness we face.  Now is not the time to cut and run.  Those who argue that Australia should not be fighting against such depravity and should stand idly by, like the Spaniards, betray what we stand for as a nation."


"An Evil Blow Struck In Iraq"


The national conservative Australian editorialized (5/13):  “The beheading of Nicholas Berg, an American civilian in Iraq, is more than an evil act of barbarism against an innocent man.  It is also part of a conscious strategy to drag Iraq into endless anarchy....  The U.S. military and civilian personnel who are accused of humiliating, even torturing, Iraqi prisoners will be dealt with according to law.  If, as seems likely, they are found guilty by an independent court, they doubtless will be severely punished.  But they will not be butchered on the whim of a fanatic who speciously claims religious sanction for an act of medieval ferocity.  There is no conceivable comparison between any such situation and this gruesome affair.  Mr. Berg was killed not for any crime but because he was an American citizen....  There is no prospect of ordinary Iraqis living in peace and freedom when thugs contend for political power.  Ordinary Iraqis will understand that men such as these can find many reasons to murder in God's name, and will never much care who they kill.”


CHINA:  "Privileged Rights Trample Human Rights"


Li Xuejiang commented in the official Communist Party People’s Daily (Renmin Ribao) (5/13):  “Why has the Pentagon not been at all surprised by the prisoner abuse scandal?  One reason is that such atrocities have been commonplace in U.S. military history.  The deeper reasons for the U.S. military’s abuse of prisoners and...disrespect for other countries’ dignities is the theory of U.S. exceptionalism.  Neo-conservatives think that the U.S. has unparalleled power in the world, and so it can treat the world like a monarch and do anything it wants....  Now the U.S. openly has trampled on the ‘Geneva Convention’ by abusing other countries’ prisoners.  This is more proof of the U.S. granting itself privileges but depriving others of their human rights.  The U.S. superiority theory is another manifestation of U.S. exceptionalism.  American neo-conservatives have an almost lunatic missionary sentiment, believing that they are selected by God, that they bear the God-endowed mission to save and lead humankind, and that the U.S. social system and values are the best and should be promoted around the world.  Now the U.S. occupation in Iraq is encountering fierce resistance, and its so-called ‘Greater Middle East’ plan has received broad opposition too, plus the prisoner abuse scandal has worsened the U.S.’ reputation.  For U.S. officials, recalling their earlier arrogance and swaggering style will do them some good.”


PHILIPPINES:  "Pull Out The OFWs In Iraq Now"


The moderate Today maintained (5/14):  “Since the Philippines is part of the willing coalition, it should not discount the possibility of one of its citizens suffering the same fate as the hapless Nick Berg.  The invasion of their country has driven not a few Iraqis to resort to extreme, even barbarous, measures to express their resistance.  And in this cauldron of an entire nation’s outrage boiling over, we fear that more Filipinos are bound to get burned....  The government is under obligation to take the Filipinos in Iraq out of harm’s way.  It was, after all, responsible for putting them right in the middle of the human equivalent of a turkey shoot.” 


SOUTH KOREA:  "Reeling From The Beheading Of An American Civilian By Al-Qaida"


The conservative Segye Ilbo editorialized (5/14):  “Even though they claimed that their beheading of an American civilian was for avenging the abuse of Iraqi POWs by U.S. forces, such an inhuman and tit-for-tat response cannot be justified under any circumstances.  We sympathize with the Iraqis for their shock, anger and sorrow at the U.S. abuse.  However, torturing, abusing or killing innocent civilians as well as POWs who lost their ability to fight back is an inhuman crime that cannot be forgiven under any justification.  They should note that this incident could turn around the world’s opinion, which has been sympathetic toward their anger over the abuse.”


SINGAPORE:  "When Pictures Scream Louder Than Words"


Evelyn Goh concluded in the pro-government Straits Times (5/14):  "Disconcertingly, the enemies of freedom, as it were, are to be found a lot closer to home....  Given that pictures clearly speak louder than words, this (Berg's beheading video) could represent a new side-war aimed at the attrition of public sensibilities.  The terrorists will be working on the calculation that the U.S. public will be the first to lose its collective stomach for such a fight.  The heart of U.S. foreign policy has always lain within domestic politics, and the most worrying aspect of the current crisis is not the possibility that U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq soon.  Rather, this assault on the American public's sense of self and its sense of purpose may tip the scales significantly against the Bush administration in the months to come.  Heightened public uncertainties about the rationale for the war have so far translated into falling approval ratings for the president.  If other controversies should subsequently arise regarding the war, this public confusion may well turn into a significant weakening of resolve, not on the part of the administration, but crucially, on the part of the electorate."




INDIA:  "Desert Storms"


Pro-economic-reform Business Standard editorialized (5/13):  "Two weeks after the scandal erupted over prisoner abuse in Iraq...worst-case scenarios now look plausible, bringing with them the possibility that at some point after the U.S. presidential elections in November, America will simply cut its losses and leave.  But even staunch opponents of the U.S. invasion recognize that an abrupt withdrawal could plunge the region into deeper turmoil....  The local UN boss, Lakhdar Brahimi, is said to be pushing for a conference that would include key regional players.  But could the UN take over on Iraq's mean streets?  Only if it has about 200,000 troops and a mandate to police the country aggressively, and both are unlikely.   Which country would want to send in its troops to clean up the mess created by the U.S?...  Alternatively, the Americans would have to prepare the ground for a departure by patching together the Ba'athist army and police force to keep the peace--but the Shia majority will never accept that.  It's tough to see light at the end of the tunnel.  A small step could be a regional conference convened by Brahimi and the UN.  Where does India stand? Essentially as a bystander but one that is uncomfortably close by with very little leverage over the main players, who are edging closer to regional turmoil."


"Seeing It Done"


The centrist Telegraph editorialized (5/13):  "The idea of revenge, and then of playing it out as a visually reproducible spectacle, are now integral to the broadcasting of terror....  The footage of Berg's beheading seems to reinforce the Bush administration's insistence that the American abuse of Iraqi prisoners pales in comparison with the barbarity of the 'enemies of freedom'.  But 'justice' is also being prepared for alongside this cycle of vengeance.  Before the transfer of power at the end of June, the United States of America will be handing over Saddam Hussein to the Iraqis, together with more than a hundred other high-ranking Baathist officials. Their trials will begin early next year in a tribunal run by five Iraqi judges, unlike the international courts set up in the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda....  Iraq and the US are locked together then at two levels of action and reaction. There is justice, governed by the laws and conventions of democracy.  But there is also revenge, the rougher justice, in which cruelty and its visual pleasures confound the saviors of freedom with its enemies."


IRAN:  "Hostage Murder"


Al-Vefagh, published in Arabic by IRNA, editorialized (5/13):  "The murder of this hostage will have an adverse mental and morale effect on America's soldiers, forces and agents in Iraq and will place them under immense pressure."


"World Opinion Misled"


The state-run Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran Radio 1 commented (5/12):  "Following the disgrace suffered by the occupiers for torturing Iraqi prisoners, Western media have broadcast pictures concerning the killing of an American national so as to create news propaganda.  Various Western television coordination with [varioud] Western newspapers...have blamed the al-Qaida group and analyzed the issue.  As a result, the issue of Iraqi prisoners' torture has been totally ignored by these media.  The American authorities too, have joined this news-making propaganda.  These authorities have described the killing method of the American national as loathsome; and implicitly indicated that the American troops were justified to torture Iraqi prisoners....  This is the umpteenth time that in the wake of increasing global pressure and public opinion dissatisfaction with America's actions in the so-called fight against terrorism, the al-Qaida group has resorted to an act of terrorism.  As a consequence, in line with the propaganda wave of the Western media, world public opinion is misguided."




CAMEROON:  "Unacceptable Atrocities"


In his weekly column over CRTV Hughes Francois Onana commented (5/12):  "[The abuse at Abu Ghraib] is unacceptable from a country which is a symbol of peace, liberty and justice.  The barbaric killing of an American is a reply to the unhuman treatment of Iraqi prisoners....  The war in Iraq starts a new era, that of a moral crisis in the world.  It is also an enormous scandal that a country which is champion of human rights is keeping 600 prisoners in Guantanamo denying them any kind of justice or rights.  Meanwhile the U.S. signs an agreement with some countries to guarantee impunity to its citizens convicted of war abuses."


UGANDA:  "Hostage Death:  Further Warning To U.S In Iraq"


Independent daily The Monitor commented (5/13):  "It may not have been the most gruesome killing in Iraq since the U.S. and its allies occupied that country, but the beheading of American hostage Nick Berg by suspected members of the Iraqi resistance is telling.  The immediate explanation is that he is just the first casualty in retribution for the atrocious torture and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners by U.S.  As an established promoter of human rights in the world, the U.S. must quickly do something to demonstrate that what happened at Abu Ghraib is truly 'un-American' as President George W. Bush’s administration has recently said.  Fine words spoken in apology are insufficient in redressing the hurt and assuaging the Iraqi people’s anger.  The alternative is a nightmarish surrender to a perpetuation of the on-going cycle of violence." 


ZAMBIA:  "Esclating Violence"


Government-owned Zambia Daily Mail observed (5/13):  "The escalation of violence in Iraq is most worrying and a shocking revelation of the extreme measures that combatants and militants have adopted.  The beheading of an American civilian in Iraq by a group of rebels vowing to avenge the mistreatment of their fellow countrymen and women by Coalition forces is both revolting and totally unacceptable.  We cannot support any action that demeans the value of life.  It was wrong for the militants to take out their anger on an innocent civilian.  The killing...reflects the hatred that the war has brought in Iraq especially among militants who believe that they are fighting for a just cause.  We do not support killings of any kind and find it difficult to believe that any wrong or mistreatment of prisoners justifies the taking of life.  Neither do we support the invasion and continued occupation of Iraq by coalition forces....  Clearly both sides of the war are not observing even the minimum standards as contained in the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners....  We think that it is important that the United Nations start playing a role in the rebuilding of Iraq to prevent the loss of more lives."




CANADA:  "An Affront To Islam"


The nationalist Ottawa Citizen editorialized (5/13):  "Muslims must be growing weary of calls for them to denounce murder every time al-Qaida or one of its allies commits an atrocity.  Yet today the world has no choice but once again to call upon the umma, the community of Islam, and insist that it condemn in unequivocal terms the ritual mutilation of Nicholas Berg....  Some people might say it is hypocritical to lecture the Arab-Muslim world about human decency when Americans were caught abusing Iraqis at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison.  It's true that some U.S. soldiers committed despicable acts, but the most remarkable aspect of the prison abuse scandal is the collective revulsion and shame it provoked in all corners of American society....  The jihadists might have political grievances, but we should resist the temptation to rationalize their bloodlust....  But if this is a religious war, it is between the jihadist minority and the moderate Muslim majority.  That's why Muslims must speak out against the killing of Nicholas Berg; the soul of Islam is at stake."


"Two Sides, One Choice"


The centrist Winnipeg Free Press commented (5/13):  "Mr. Berg was killed because he was an American who could be killed and because al-Qaida hoped to capitalize on the general revulsion felt around the world, particularly within the United States, to images of Iraqi prisoners being physically and sexually abused and humiliated by American soldiers....  Al-Qaida may have believed that it could add momentum to this.  Instead, what it has done is to put the war back into context.  The people responsible for the abuses that occurred at Abu Ghraib will be identified, tried and punished by the American military.  The people responsible for the beheading of Mr. Berg, a far greater atrocity, will be celebrated by Islamist fundamentalists around the world....  Nothing could more clearly define the difference in the fundamental nature of the two sides in the war on terror....  It is a stark, compelling reminder that there is no moral equivalency between the combatants in this conflict, that there is only one side that decent people can choose."


"Al-Qaida Move Targets Arabs"


The left-of-center Saskatoon StarPhoenix commented (5/13):  "The release on the al-Qaida-linked website of the gruesome video of Nicholas Berg's cold-blooded murder couldn't have been timed better to help a U.S. government reeling from publication of photos that show American soldiers and intelligence officials engaged in gross abuses of Iraqi prisoners at a U.S.-run facility near Baghdad....  While there's no doubt that Berg's savage murder has helped Bush in bringing many Americans and others on-side about the need for the U.S. to continue with the war in Iraq, the video likely hasn't hurt al-Qaida as much as many Westerners might presume, either....  From the al-Qaida perspective, the video is an effective recruitment tool that taps the anger generated across the Arab world over the humiliations inflicted on Iraqi prisoners....  Al-Qaida's reprehensible decapitation of Berg in no way makes it proper for coalition forces in Iraq to ignore Geneva Conventions or military codes of conduct on the treatment of prisoners....  Under the circumstances, Rumsfeld's arrogant stance that U.S. policy on treatment of prisoners in Iraq is just fine only plays into the hands of al-Qaida.  Each act of U.S. brutality that gains publicity, al-Qaida gets another chance to present itself to the Arab world as the defender of Muslims and to drum up money, recruits and support for its cause.  For the thousands of decent soldiers and civilians in Iraq with the best of intentions, that's nothing but bad news."


"The Escalation Of Horror"


Julie Lemieux opined in centrist Le Soleil (5/13):  "The war in Iraq already brought about its daily load of violence and atrocities.  But the decapitation of a young American civilian by terrorists has brought the escalation of horror to new heights.  Although the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by coalition soldiers is reprehensible, it in no way justifies the barbaric act perpetrated by these Allah devotees seeking blood and vengeance....  These extremists have used the worldwide disgust caused by the scandal of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners to justify an act that is beyond reason.  Let us not be duped, however.  They would have found another pretext to execute their plan even if the coalition soldiers hadn't given them this one on a silver platter.  The terrorists no doubt hope that Nicholas Berg's decapitation will convince American citizens and their allies of the need to leave Iraq as quickly as possible.  But we should absolutely not give in to this blackmail, this attempt at intimidation.  Even if this war should never have happened, all nations today have the moral responsibility of rebuilding [Iraq], of giving back hope to Iraqis, of bringing them peace and stability.  The death of the young American must not serve the terrorists' cause and cool the fervor of countries that are able to help Iraq.  On the contrary, it must convince nations from around the world of the importance of uniting to implement a true democracy in [Iraq].  This path is the only one that can stop terrorist activities, calm the storm brewing in the Middle East and offer a minimum of calm to Iraqis."


ARGENTINA:  "Medieval"


International editor Marcelo Cantelmi commented in leading Clarin (5/12):  "The issues, but also the declarations, are medieval:  the more monstrous, the better.  Yesterday, Iraq added an additional shock and it's easy to hint the sigh of relief in one of Bush's advisors.  The terrible sight of a man, sitting (in front of his executioners) shortly before he's beheaded, arrives just in time to compete in the gallery of horrors with the photos of the tortured Iraqi prisoners, humiliated by coalition militia.  The White House took advantage of the situation and described yesterday's murderers as a clear example of what the Iraqi resistance is capable of accomplishing.  They're seeking a justification at any cost:  everything ought to be valid in order to stop those barbaric individuals.  Even torture....  But this is not so.  What everyone expects is for the U.S. not to violate the law as it has been doing in Iraq.  Limits result from complying with the law, and in Iraq, we can see that these limits do not exist."



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