[Marxism] Nick Berg and Ben Linder

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed May 26 07:45:13 MDT 2004


(From the late 1980s until 1992, I was involved with an organization 
called Tecnica that sent skilled professionals and tradespeople to 
Nicaragua and to southern Africa to volunteer with government agencies 
and the ANC. Although Ben Linder, an US engineer who was murdered by the 
contras in northern Nicaragua while working on a small-scale 
hydroelectric dam, was not placed by Tecnica, we raised funds for his 
project which was completed by our volunteers after his death. It is too 
bad that Tecnica folded after the collapse of the FSLN, since it might 
have provided an outlet for Nick Berg whose idealism was channeled in 
the wrong direction largely it seems out of the profound ideological 
confusion of recent years. In an odd way, he was a rightwing version of 
the martyred Ben Linder.)


NY Times, May 26, 2004
Tracing a Civilian's Odd Path to His Gruesome Fate in Iraq

By JAMES DAO

This article was reported by James Dao, Richard Lezin Jones, Christine 
Hauser and Eric Lichtblau and was written by Mr. Dao.

Nicholas E. Berg had a distinctive strategy for soliciting work for his 
communications tower company: conduct free spot inspections, then offer 
to fix any problems. Where others went sightseeing, he went climbing and 
inspecting. Where others wrote postcards, he inventoried towers, from 
Texas to Africa.

By late last year, Mr. Berg, 26, had turned his sights on Iraq. An 
adventurous entrepreneur and religious Jew, Mr. Berg had a passionate 
belief in capitalism's power to transform poor nations. He really 
believed, friends and relatives said, that he could help rebuild that 
war-shattered country one radio tower at a time.

(clip)

He attended Cornell University, distinguishing himself in engineering 
courses, a faculty adviser said. But his defining semester came in a 
small Ugandan village, where he spent the spring of 1998 in an exchange 
program. There he was exposed to poverty he had never imagined, friends 
said. He turned his inventiveness to good use, fashioning a brick-making 
machine to help villagers stabilize mud huts. In letters, he described 
schemes to help the Ugandans market mushrooms and make bricks from 
indigenous materials.

"He was shaken by his experience," a friend, James Wakefield, 52, said. 
"He had nothing but a pair of pants, a shirt and boots when he came 
home. He gave away his clothing."

Friends say Mr. Berg's Africa experience made him impatient with 
traditional academics. He left Cornell at the end of 1998, despite being 
on the dean's list and having only one year left, school officials said.

He spent the next two years searching for ways to transform his Africa 
ideas into a practical plan, studying at Drexel University and the 
University of Pennsylvania before transferring to the University of 
Oklahoma in Norman in the fall of 1999.

In Oklahoma's construction science program, he began testing designs for 
paper bricks that snapped together like Lego blocks, believing they 
could be manufactured inexpensively in undeveloped countries.

"He didn't seem willing to sit around and wait to be spoon-fed stuff," 
said William W. McManus, an associate professor of construction science 
at Oklahoma. "He was always pushing on his own."

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/26/international/middleeast/26BERG.html

Excerpts from a book on the death of Ben Linder: 
http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/pen-l/2000m01.1/msg00171.htm


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