Dustin Berg

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Dustin Berg
Born 1982/1983 (age 33–34)
Nationality United States
Occupation Soldier
Known for Convicted of the unprovoked killing of his Iraqi patrol partner, and then trying to frame his dead partner.

Dustin Berg (born February 19, 1983) is a former member of the Indiana National Guard.[1] In July 2005, he pleaded guilty to shooting Hussein Kamel Hadi Dawood al-Zubeidi,[1] who had been his partner during the U.S. Occupation of Iraq. He was sentenced to serve 18 months.[1]

Berg's original claim of self-defense was initially believed, and he was awarded a Purple Heart for the event that later earned him detention, demotion and a Bad Conduct Discharge.[2]


Berg initially told investigators that he had been shot by the Iraqi police officer and then returned fire, killing him. Capt. Dan Stigall, who prosecuted the case, said Berg stuck with that story until 2004, when he admitted killing the Iraqi policeman.[2][3][4]

Berg later claimed that, while on patrol with his Iraqi partner, he had a sudden premonition that his partner represented a danger to him.[2] So he shot him three times, killing him.

Berg then shot himself in the stomach with his dead partner's weapon, so that he could claim he fired in self-defense.[2] Berg's self-inflicted gunshot wound caused a relatively minor injury.

Although Berg admitted shooting himself, his Purple Heart was never formally revoked.[citation needed]

Court martial[edit]

Berg's court martial convened on July 25, 2005.[5] On July 26, 2005, Berg pleaded guilty to negligent homicide, making false official statements, and self-injury in a hostile-fire zone.[1][6][7]

Berg was defended by Charles Gittins, an officer in the United States Marine Corps Reserve who defends American servicemen in his civilian practice.[6]

During his guilty plea, Berg noted, "I feel great remorse.[6] As a result of my ignorance, the Iraqi police officer left behind a 2-year-old daughter and a wife. I went to Iraq to make a better life for everyone else. By also shooting myself, I took away all the good I tried to do."

He received a six-year sentence and a Bad Conduct discharge from the U.S. Army. A plea agreement allowed him to be released after eighteen months.[8]


In June 2006 the Associated Press distributed an article on pressure within the US military justice system to impose stiffer sentences on soldiers who kill outside of the context of battle—including re-introducing the death penalty.[9] The article listed twenty past or pending cases, including Berg's, that contributed to the pressure to start using the death penalty again.

In March 2008, when Berg's unit returned to Iraq, the Indianapolis Star noted Berg's conviction, in the context of new, tighter, rules of engagement intended to prevent GIs killing Iraqis who weren't enemies.[10] The paper quoted instructions the new commander of Berg's old battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Rodney Fogg, issued to the men in Berg's old battalion:

"You still have the right to self-defense. But you need to have your mind open to a different way of operating. Treat Iraqis with dignity. This is how we win -- and how we can go home."

In 2012 Alan F. Williams, a professor of law at Idaho University, wrote an article in which he claimed that the Berg case was questionably handled .[8]


  1. ^ a b c d "U.S. Soldier Admits Killing Iraqi Cop". Los Angeles Times. 2005-07-26. Archived from the original on 2010-01-30. Retrieved 2010-01-30. 
  2. ^ a b c d Monica Davey (2005-05-23). "An Iraqi Police Officer's Death, a Soldier's Varying Accounts". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-30. 
  3. ^ Tom Henry (2005-03-05). "National Guardsman to be court-martialed for murder of Iraqi police officer". The Jurist. Archived from the original on 2010-01-30. Retrieved 2010-01-30. Berg, who received a Purple Heart for his injuries, initially claimed to have been shot by a man in a red turban and a white shirt before changing his story multiple times and eventually admitting to the killing. 
  4. ^ Tom Henry (2005-07-25). "National Guardsman pleads guilty in shooting death of Iraqi police officer". The Jurist. Archived from the original on 2010-01-30. Retrieved 2010-01-30. Berg, who received a Purple Heart for his injuries, initially said the Iraqi police officer had pointed an gun at him to prevent Berg from reporting insurgent activity before changing his story multiple times and eventually admitting to the killing. 
  5. ^ Ryan Lenz (2005-07-25). "Was it war crimes or self-defense?". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2010-01-30. 
  6. ^ a b c Albert Salvato (2005-07-26). "Soldier Pleads Guilty in Death of Iraqi Officer". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-30. A soldier accused of fatally shooting an Iraqi police officer and then shooting himself to support a claim of self-defense pleaded guilty on Monday, the day his court-martial was to begin. He faces prison and a discharge. 
  7. ^ "US corporal admits guilt in killing Iraqi officer". People's Daily. 2005-07-26. Archived from the original on 2010-01-30. 
  8. ^ a b Alan F. Williams (2012). "Overcoming the Unfortunate Legacy of Haditha, the Stryker Brigade "Kill Team", and Pantano: Establishing More Effective War Crimes Accountability by the United States" (PDF). University of Kentucky College of Law Available at 101 Ky. L.J. 337 (2012). Archived from the original on 2012-12-18. Although a military judge sentenced him to six years of confinement and bad-conduct discharge, the terms of the plea agreement limited his confinement to eighteen months. 
  9. ^ Lolita C. Baldor (2006-06-29). "Iraq murder charges raise specter of rarely used military death sentence". North County Times. Archived from the original on 2010-01-30. A string of alleged atrocities by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is testing the military justice system and raising the possibility that American soldiers may face the death penalty for acts in countries where every street can be a battlefield. 
  10. ^ Will Higgins (2008-03-30). "Playing by new rules of war: To increase good will, convoys manned by Hoosiers will share road with locals". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved 2010-01-30. And the soldiers themselves can face consequences for wrongfully killing Iraqis. One of the units in the 76th saw a soldier plead guilty to negligent homicide in the killing of an Iraqi police officer when the battalion was in Iraq five years ago. Cpl. Dustin M. Berg was on patrol with the officer in November 2003. The soldier from Ferdinand said he felt threatened and shot the Iraqi. He tried to cover up the crime by shooting himself and was discharged from the service and sentenced to 18 months in an Army stockade. 

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