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Green Party candidate and antiwar activist Michael Berg:
"This is a one-party Republocratic system"

September 15, 2006 | Page 4

MICHAEL BERG is the father of Nick Berg, an American contractor who was abducted in Iraq and executed, supposedly by a group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. But in the wake of his son's death, Michael courageously became a leading voice against the U.S. war and occupation. A retired teacher and longtime antiwar activist, he is now running for Congress in Delaware as a Green Party candidate--to provide an alternative to the two mainstream parties of war.

Michael talked to CHRIS MURPHY earlier this summer about his treatment by the media since his son's death, and why he's running for Congress.

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AFTER THE U.S. assassination of Zarqawi earlier this year, CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien practically begged you to say that you were happy about it.

THEY WANTED a sound bite of a father saying "Yeah! The wicked man is dead." That's what the media does. They orchestrate the news; they don't report it.

I have quite a bit of experience of this--of the media deciding what I should be saying, rather than reporting what I've said. They won't allow me to say many things.

I've had Charles Gibson, on Good Morning America back in 2004, promise me a seven-minute interview, with the first two questions going to him, and the third being one of my choosing. At the end of the second question, he cut me off. I was also wearing a shirt that said, "Bring the Troops Home Now." First, they asked me to take it off, and I said I wouldn't. Then they framed the picture so that nobody could read the shirt.

This is just one example of how the media doesn't want the public to know what I think. If they don't want to report on me, then don't report on me. But if you report on me, at least let me represent myself as what I am, rather than what you want me to be.

On Father's Day this year, I had an op-ed article that was carried by Scripps Howard to hundreds of newspapers all over the country called a "Father's Day Reflection." In it, I used the phrase "murders, rapes and tortures in the Abu Ghraib prison."

First, the editors called and said, "You can't use that phrase because you have no documentation that there were murders and rapes." So I sent them the documentation, and they came back and said, "Okay, we're going to let you put 'murders, rapes and torture,' but we're going to put in alleged." I said, "You can't put in alleged. It doesn't make sense." They said sure it does--whenever there's a news story before a trial, everything is always alleged. So I pointed out that the suspect is alleged to be the person who did it, but the actual murder is not alleged. The guy's lying there on the sidewalk with bullet holes in him, he's pronounced dead. That's murder--it's not alleged.

I had to agree to let them put that word "alleged" in there, or they wouldn't have printed it. Fortunately, in Philadelphia, which is the closest big city to where I live, the Philadelphia Inquirer took the story from me without Scripps Howard, and they printed it as I wrote it.

IN A rebuttal to George Bush's State of the Union address, you said a Green Party leader "would have announced that the will of the Palestinian people has been heard in democratic elections, and we will not impose our will over theirs." How do you view the current conflict between Israel and the people of Gaza and Lebanon?

I DON'T believe that what's happening in Lebanon or what's happening in Gaza or what's happening in Iraq is an overreaction. I believe that all three events were planned--that all three were the first excuse that came along for the leaders of Israel and the United States, George Bush in particular, to put long-laid plans into action.

If you heard the president talk about why he didn't want the cease-fire in Lebanon, it sounds exactly like what he is saying about Iraq. He wants to wait until the government of Lebanon is stable and unrest is subdued. So he wants war wherever he can get it.

I was asked at a mosque in New York City what I would do about Israel. What I said was that I would propose, write, vote for and support legislation that would prohibit the U.S. government from supplying financial, material or military aid to any country that practices violence against its neighbors for an apartheid system within its own country.

WHY ARE you running as a Green in this election?

I'M RUNNING as a Green because the Greens were kind of a perfect fit for me.

I had worked for John Kerry in 2004. Not anything special, just like many people did--I volunteered in a local office, but I also got asked to go out and speak a few times to local Democratic groups.

I was so disillusioned with Kerry turning his back on the election and turning his back on people who thought he was going to be the peace candidate. In January 2005, he was still saying he would escalate the war, after the election was lost.

I decided that there was no difference between George Bush and John Kerry--and further than that, there's no difference between the Democrats and Republicans. I started referring to the system in this country as a one-party Republocrat system.

So I was looking for something else, and a friend of mine, who founded a peace movement where I used to live, in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said that the Green Party was pretty good. I looked into it, and when I moved to Delaware, I registered Green. And I subsequently became a member of the party, and subsequently was approached and agreed to run.

I think there's a certain percentage of the vote that I can get, and that's going to send a message, not only to the Republicans, but more importantly to the Democrats--that you can't go on ignoring what the public wants, you can't go on listening to the media that dictates what the news should be, you can't go on ignoring the will of the people.

If the people of this country and people in the state of Delaware finally see through George Bush--about what's going on in Lebanon and Israel and Bush's comments on this--there could be a tremendous backlash. I'm running against an incumbent who has been just about a carbon copy of Bush on everything but stem-cell research. So I think there is a real possibility.

CAN YOU talk more about what's wrong with the Democratic Party?

FOR ONE thing, there are a lot of Democrats, my Democratic opponent included, who say they are pace candidates. And you say, "Well, are you in favor of bringing the troops home immediately?" and they say, "Oh no, that would be irresponsible, maybe in six months or a year from now."

So they aren't the peace candidates. They're the candidates that want the war to go on for another six months or a year.

Then you say to them, 'What about single-payer universal health care?" and they say, "Oh yeah, I'm all for single-payer universal health care." Then you ask, "Have you signed onto HR 676, which calls for just that?" and they say, "No, I'm not going to sign onto that bill." They'll tell you they're for all these things, but then, they turn around and vote with the corporations that are sponsoring them. They are as much controlled by corporations as the Republicans are.

There's a law about the status of non-profit organizations like churches, private schools and a lot of peace groups. Since I've become a candidate, I'm not allowed to go to schools, to churches, to peace groups that are non-profit, because if they allow me to come in, they lose that non-profit status.

That law applies equally to Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Independents, Libertarians. But it only hurts the people who aren't in the Democratic or Republican Party. Why is that? Because I don't take any corporate contributions at all--none whatsoever. Not a cent of the money that I've raised comes from a corporation. It all comes from individuals, and I meet these individuals at peace rallies, at schools or at churches, or at private parties that people hold for me.

Notice that the Republicans and the Democrats aren't at all upset about this provision of the law. Because they don't get their money from people who go to church, from people who are in schools, from people who are in private, non-profit organizations. They get their money from corporations, and there's no provision that says these corporations can't give.

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