This longer-than-normal think-piece was originally written by yer old pal Jerky for the Daily Dirt in May of 2004, shortly after the beheading of young American businessman Nick Berg. Some of the links feature video footage of a truly disturbing and soul-damaging nature, so please be advised. This is not a joke. - YOPJ
THE FUNGUS AMONG US
Conspiracy theories. They've always been with us, but now, more than ever before, they're everywhere. Under an increasingly paranoid regime that strives to impose secrecy and micro-manage information - even attempting to shape the laws of nature by "maligning, distorting or manipulating" politically embarrassing science data - this is unavoidable. Like mushrooms, conspiracy theories thrive in the dark. And, like mushrooms, some of them can spark a "bad trip", complete with mind-warping hallucinations, violent seizures, and projectile vomiting.
In two short weeks, Nick Berg's murder has sent waves of paranoia rippling through the Undernet. Theories ranging from the plausible to the lunatic are replicating at Tribble-like speed. This is already approaching JFK proportions, and with good reason. The whole mess is simmering in a bad kind of strangeness. Real bad.
In today's edition of the Dirt, we will examine as many of these theories as we possibly can. We will debunk when necessary and call bullshit when appropriate. Yer old pal Jerky promises to approach this task with as much objectivity and sensitivity as he can muster, which probably isn't much. So fair warning.
Wikipedia has an excellent, scholarly, and completely respectable web page devoted exclusively to Nick Berg's murder. It covers a lot of basic information that I really can't get into here, for space and time reasons. Rense.com also has a Berg-related index up, including most of the more "way out" conspiracy stuff. Needless to say, Rense isn't very reputable. Nevertheless, you should give both of them a look.
Now, before we begin, I want to stress that neither yer old pal Jerky nor the Daily Dirt are endorsing any of these conspiracy theories… not even the ones that are probably true. So with that in mind, let's start out by examining some of the…
GENERAL WEIRDNESS ABOUT THE VIDEO
Some wags have suggested that the tape is a top-to-bottom fake. Yer old pal Jerky doesn't think so. I think it presents a true, brutal murder. But it has definitely been edited, of that there can be no doubt. This thing is a stitched-together mess.
During the "attack", at no time do the audio and video elements sync up. Berg's screams continue beyond a point that would seem to be physiologically possible. And when you consider that the grisly work was begun by someone wearing a black hood, then finished by someone wearing a white hood, it's pretty clear the video was edited.
But why? And by who?
Whoever edited this thing seems to have excised part of the struggle. An edit occurs immediately after Berg's captors knock him down. The audio track, however, seems uninterrupted. We hear everything. This explains how a dead man can scream. It also explains the lack of arterial spray, and the unseen black-to-white-masked perpetrator switcheroo. All those elements were cut out, and the two remaining halves were squeezed together under an intact audio track, with crude but effective results.
But if the terrorists' aim is to induce terror... why hold back? Why remove the most terrifying part? Did they think to themselves: "Holy cripes… That's pushing it!"? Seems odd. On the other hand, it could have been edited for other reasons, like maybe somebody stumbled into frame that wasn't supposed to. This would necessitate a splice.
Many of the observations being made are easy to dismiss and of limited value. For example, some have said it is suspicious that the footage is time-stamped using military 2400 time. But any commercial video camera can be set to 2400 time, which is the standard across much of the globe.
Some say the wall behind Berg looks suspiciously like the walls of the Abu Ghraib prison. Well, there's a wall in the basement of the building I work in that looks suspiciously like the walls of Abu Ghraib. Also, I would imagine that a lot of the construction in Iraq was done by a small handful of government agencies and contractors. So the idea that two Iraqi basements might have walls of similar color and texture is hardly shocking.
Some have said that Berg appears to be sitting in the same kind of white plastic chair being used by coalition forces in Iraq. They're particularly interested in the similarities between the chair Berg is seen sitting in, and the chair seen in some of the photographs depicting the humiliation of detainees at Abu Ghraib (see links above).
Of course, those chairs are made in China, and are thus ubiquitous around the world. Are such white plastic chairs available in Iraq despite the decade long trade embargo? Yer old pal Jerky doesn't know, and he's not about to fly to Iraq to find out.
Some have suggested that Nick's clothes look like standard issue orange military prison silks. That's what they look like to me. However, even if they are, that doesn't mean he was being held by the American military at the time of his murder, as some have alleged. After all, he'd been in the custody of the Iraqi police for over two weeks prior to being released, after which he was almost immediately kidnapped. Perhaps the prison let him keep or purchase his jumpers as a souvenir. And then, after being kidnapped, perhaps his captors found them in his bags and decided to make him wear them. Perhaps they did this to emphasize the point that his murder was retaliation for the goings-on at Abu Ghraib. I don't know. Check Google News, however, and you'll see that this question is being raised. No answers are forthcoming.
On a more fundamental level, there is the question of the video's source. Fox News, CNN, and the BBC simultaneously broke the story of the video's existence, broadcasting censored versions immediately. They reported that they found it on the Dubai-based, Arabic language "Muntada al-Ansar al-Islami" website. When the news broke, Arab journalists searched that site and couldn't find a trace of the video. Shortly thereafter, the website's Malaysian ISP took it down. Some have claimed the video can only be digitally tracked back to London. I have no idea how this could be determined, and I have no way of knowing if it's true. It is merely an example of the kind of rumors that are starting to spread.
WEIRDNESS SURROUNDING THE PERPETRATORS
A number of questions have been raised about the five men and two cameramen who were present at Nick's murder. Some say they're too fat to be insurgents. That their stances are not typical of the region. That some of them are standing at an American military standard "parade rest". That their hands are pale and white. That the ringleader has a wedding ring on his left hand, which Islam reserves for ass-wiping. That they have non-Arabic accents. That a second cameraman wearing what appears to be a green military cap can briefly be spotted poking into the frame. Individually, these are of little note, easily dismissed. Taken together, they begin raising more substantial questions.
As if this editorial wasn't paranoid enough already, this is where the CIA comes in. The Agency claims to have identified the ring-leader as Abu Musad Al Zarqawi, based on "voice" evidence. But some have alleged that, unlike Zarqawi - a one-legged Jordanian terrorist whose activities have increased tenfold ever since he was killed in a bombing raid last year - the speaker on the tape has a thick, non-Arabic accent. Some people hear traces of Russian. And he appears to be standing on two functional, non-prosthetic legs.
Also, if Zarqawi claims responsibility for the murder - going so far as to do the deed with his own two hands and give himself top billing in the onscreen credits - why would he be wearing a mask? His face is well known to authorities. Considering all the other "I did it! It's me!" elements, it almost seems as though the only logical reason for the murderer to be wearing a mask would be to hide the fact that he isn't Zarqawi.
More CIA stuff… their initial, official translation of the murderers' statement included the phrase: "How many more excuses does Al Qaeda need?" Problem is, it was soon determined that this was not the case. Translators say that portion of the statement translates as: "How many excuses do the silent ones need?" It's odd to think that CIA translators would make such a glaring - and glaringly convenient - mistake, considering they had to know that millions of Arab speaking people worldwide would see the tape and contradict their translation. So it's probably just a mistake. Unless, of course, the CIA as a whole don't give a shit if Arab speaking people contradict them.
At just over five minutes into the long version of the Nick Berg decapitation video - audible on all versions but clearest on 6 MB version - at the point where the onscreen time-stamp reads 13:46:28, a voice can be heard. Some people have been claiming to hear "Thy will be done" repeated twice. Others say they hear "How will we do that?" Still others think they hear "How will it be done?" I decided to check it out for myself. I couldn't make out any of the above, but as I listened, over and over again, I thought I caught something.
To my ears, the voice at 13:46:28 sounds like that of a Black American male, and the words he seems to be speaking are: "I don't believe that." Afterwards, there is muttering, followed by what sounds like another Western voice saying something that sounds a bit like "Thy will be done." Immediately after that, the soundtrack stops. The gruesome video continues in silence.
Let me say right here and now that I'm basing my observations on a crap, compressed version of a video that was recorded under crap circumstances. What I'm describing is by no means obvious. Then again, if it had been more clearly audible - and if it's what I'm trying desperately not to sound like I'm implying it is - then they would have caught it and edited it out. But at this point, with what we've got to go on, this can only ever be a game of Chinese Whispers. It could be other Western hostages watching from the sidelines, expressing disbelief. Most likely it's nothing more than Arabic words, misunderstood. Perhaps one of our Arabic-speaking readers could listen and offer their opinion.
In fact, I'd like to get the opinions of anyone who's already endured this video. I don't want anybody to feel obliged to watch this thing if they haven't done so already. Here is a high-quality version of the video. Jump ahead to 13:46:27 on the video's time-stamp. One second later, you will hear a voice.
What do YOU hear?