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Jewish World Review May 17, 2004 / 26 Iyar, 5764

Tom Purcell

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Nick Berg's soul | I made the mistake of looking at the images of what they did to Nick Berg.

It's hard for Americans to imagine anyone doing this to an innocent man, but they did. It's hard to imagine they would praise G-d while doing it, but they did that, too.

I can't think of a better illustration of what the war on terror is about.

Nick Berg was a typical American idealist. He was a free spirit, his friends said, one of the coolest and wittiest fellows around.

He was a bright fellow who attended Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania. He probably spent many a night with his friends knocking back a beer and talking about his dreams.

One of his dreams was to help people. He went to Ghana to help the poor. He taught them how to make bricks and build homes. Full of the American spirit, Berg didn't see problems. He saw challenges. And all any challenge requires is a solution.

He didn't graduate, but started his own telecommunications firm. Unlike his father, a Democrat who opposed the war, Berg was a Republican who favored it. You can imagine some spirited conversations around the dinner table Sunday nights.

He went to Iraq on his own to make a few bucks and help rebuild the country, help support democracy for people who never knew it. An employee at the Baghdad hotel said he was friendly as could be. Cheerful. Said he wanted to learn Arabic. Said he came back every night with some beers in his bag and a smile on his face.

Berg had reason to smile. I never met him, but he was surely like many fellows I've known. He believed in the future. He believed in the power of the individual. He went to Iraq to share his skills and help build up the country's infrastructure. It would be an adventure. And in his own small way, he could help the struggling country grow and prosper.

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His murderers saw the future, too, and it terrifies them. The future of Iraq involves people who are free to think, act and speak as they please. Principles will rule — civil rights for all, the rule of law, free elections, innocence will be assumed until guilt is proven, freedom of religion.

Whereas Berg lived to build and improve, they live to tear down and destroy. Berg was curious about the world and loved to travel and learn how others think. They disdain the world. Any ideas that contradict their own must be quieted. Any people whose will is contrary to their own must be eliminated.

Berg was an idealist, after all, who celebrated life. Like many Americans, he knew in his bones that our beliefs and way of life will set the world free. Freedom will unleash the human spirit, giving birth to new ideas and innovations. Capitalism will unleash economic miracles that will allow families to grow and prosper.

They are idealists, too, but they celebrate death. They have disdain for this life — disdain for anyone who dares live differently than they do. And they believe that they kill in celebration of G-d. Why else would they praise G-d's name while cutting off the head of an innocent man?

Yeah, Nick Berg was a perfect example of what the war on terror is all about. He was na´ve and idealistic and he paid for both with his life. America is na´ve and idealistic, too. Our idealism brought us into Iraq.

The world mocks us for our simplicity. Democracy can never work where religious fanatics live and breathe, they say, and recent events favor the cynics.

But the world has a choice. If American idealism wins, more people will be given freedom and hope — more will celebrate life, as Berg did.

But if America loses, the culture of death will win. More women will be oppressed. More economies will falter. More people will suffer and die.

Nick Berg, your end came way too early. The world has lost a great soul. But at least you left this conflicted planet celebrating life. I can't imagine G-d finding fault with that.

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© 2004 Tom Purcell