The Great War for Civilisation : The Conquest of the Middle East

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Overview

A sweeping and dramatic history of the last half century of conflict in the Middle East from an award-winning journalist who has covered the region for over thirty years, The Great War for Civilisation unflinchingly chronicles the tragedy of the region from the Algerian Civil War to the Iranian Revolution; from the American hostage crisis in Beirut to the Iran-Iraq War; from the 1991 Gulf War to the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. A book of searing drama as well as lucid, incisive analysis, The Great War for ...
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The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East

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Overview

A sweeping and dramatic history of the last half century of conflict in the Middle East from an award-winning journalist who has covered the region for over thirty years, The Great War for Civilisation unflinchingly chronicles the tragedy of the region from the Algerian Civil War to the Iranian Revolution; from the American hostage crisis in Beirut to the Iran-Iraq War; from the 1991 Gulf War to the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. A book of searing drama as well as lucid, incisive analysis, The Great War for Civilisation is a work of major importance for today's world.

Reaching back into the long history of invasion, occupation and colonization in the region, Robert Fisk sets forth information in a way that makes clear how a history of injustice "has condemned the Middle East to war."

He lays open the role of the West in the seemingly endless strife and warfare in the region, traces the growth of the West's involvement and influence there over the past one hundred years, and outlines the West's record of support for some of the most ruthless leaders in the Middle East. He chronicles the ever-more-powerful military presence of the United States and tracks the consequent, increasingly virulent anti-Western - and particularly anti-American - sentiment among the region's Muslim populations.

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Editorial Reviews

Geoffrey Wheatcroft
This is really several books fighting each other inside the sack. It could have been an intelligent young person's guide to Western Asia, or a concentrated, closely structured polemic against American policy in the region, or just a memoir…At least in part, The Great War for Civilisation is a stimulating and absorbing book, by a man who speaks Arabic, who has known the region better than most and has met the leading players, from bin Laden to Ahmad Chalabi…It is a formidable production; and as Dr. Johnson said of Paradise Lost, no man ever wished it longer.
—The New York Times
Stephen Humphreys
In short, The Great War for Civilisation is a book of unquestionable importance, given Fisk's unmatched experience of war and its impact in the contemporary Middle East and his capacity to convey that experience in concrete, passionate language. … The Great War for Civilisation is also a deeply troubling book; it may well confirm the conviction of many that the Middle East is incurably sunk in violence and depravity and that only a fool would imagine it could ever be redeemed. As tragic as the last three decades have been, there are different lessons to be learned -- one must hope so, at least.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Combining a novelist's talent for atmosphere with a scholar's grasp of historical sweep, foreign correspondent Fisk (Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon) has written one of the most dense and compelling accounts of recent Middle Eastern history yet. The book opens with a deftly juxtaposed account of Fisk's two interviews with Osama bin Laden. In the first, held in Sudan in 1993, bin Laden declared himself "a construction engineer and an agriculturist." He had no time to train mujahideen, he said; he was busy constructing a highway. In the second, held four years later in Afghanistan, he declared war on the Saudi royal family and America. Fisk, who has lived in and reported on the Middle East since 1976, first for the (London) Times and now for the Independent, possesses deep knowledge of the broader history of the region, which allows him to discuss the Armenian genocide 90 years ago, the 2002 destruction of Jenin, and the battlefields of Iraq with equal aplomb. But it is his stunning capacity for visceral description-he has seen, or tracked down firsthand accounts of, all the major events of the past 25 years-that makes this volume unique. Some of the chapters contain detailed accounts of torture and murder, which more squeamish readers may be inclined to skip, but such scenes are not gratuitous. They are designed to drive home Fisk's belief that "war is primarily not about victory or defeat but about death and the infliction of death." Though Fisk's political stances may sometimes be controversial, no one can deny that this volume is a stunning achievement. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Fisk (Middle East correspondent, the Independent) hardly needs introduction. A veteran journalist who has received multiple awards and is respected by his peers and experts on the Middle East, he is uniquely qualified to write this book. He has produced what amounts to the most comprehensive survey of 25 years of Middle Eastern conflict in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Israel, and Lebanon by dint of his research and analysis of over 350,000 documents and eyewitness accounts. Many respected reporters, such as Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw, have written on this subject but not as thoroughly. Furthermore, this work is more than just a chronology of events or a predictable political analysis. In each well-annotated and provocative chapter, Fisk's impartial reports of torture, executions, political manipulations, and human loss are not mere reportage but instead aim to arouse us from apathy and challenge us to hold those in authority responsible. Strongly recommended for academic and public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/05.]-Ethan P. Pullman, Univ. of Pittsburgh Lib. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781841150079
  • Publisher: Gardners Books
  • Publication date: 10/3/2005

Meet the Author

Robert Fisk received a Ph.D. in Political Science from Trinity College, Dublin and was The Times's (London) Belfast correspondent from 1971-1975 and its Middle East correspondent from 1976-1987. Currently based in Beirut as Middle East Correspondent for The Independent, he has lived in the Middle East for almost three decades and holds more British and international journalism awards than any other foreign correspondent. His last book, Pity the Nation, a history of the war in Lebanon, was published to great acclaim.
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Read an Excerpt

The Great War for Civilisation


By Robert Fisk

Random House

Robert Fisk
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1400041511


Chapter One

CHAPTER ONE

"One of Our Brothers Had a Dream . . . "


"They combine a mad love of country with an equally mad indifference to life, their own as well as others. They are cunning, unscrupulous, and inspired."--"Stephen Fisher" in Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940)

I knew it would be like this. On 19 March 1997, outside the Spinghar Hotel in Jalalabad with its manicured lawns and pink roses, an Afghan holding a Kalashnikov rifle invited me to travel in a car out of town. The highway to Kabul that evening was no longer a road but a mass of rocks and crevasses above the roaring waters of a great river. A vast mountain chain towered above us. The Afghan smiled at me occasionally but did not talk. I knew what his smile was supposed to say. Trust me. But I didn't. I smiled back the rictus of false friendship. Unless I saw a man I recognised--an Arab rather than an Afghan--I would watch this road for traps, checkpoints, gunmen who were there to no apparent purpose. Even inside the car, I could hear the river as it sloshed through gulleys and across wide shoals of grey stones and poured over the edge of cliffs. Trust Me steered the car carefully around the boulders and I admired the way his bare left foot eased the clutch of the vehicle up and down as a man might gently urge a horse toclamber over a rock.

A benevolent white dust covered the windscreen, and when the wipers cleared it the desolation took on a hard, unforgiving, dun-coloured uniformity. The track must have looked like this, I thought to myself, when Major-General William Elphinstone led his British army to disaster more than 150 years ago. The Afghans had annihilated one of the greatest armies of the British empire on this very stretch of road, and high above me were villages where old men still remembered the stories of great-grandfathers who had seen the English die in their thousands. The stones of Gandamak, they claim, were made black by the blood of the English dead. The year 1842 marked one of the greatest defeats of British arms. No wonder we preferred to forget the First Afghan War. But Afghans don't forget. "Farangiano," the driver shouted and pointed down into the gorge and grinned at me. "Foreigners." "Angrezi." "English." "Jang." "War." Yes, I got the point. "Irlanda," I replied in Arabic. "Ana min Irlanda." I am from Ireland. Even if he understood me, it was a lie. Educated in Ireland I was, but in my pocket was a small black British passport in which His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs required in the name of Her Majesty that I should be allowed "to pass freely without let or hindrance" on this perilous journey. A teenage Taliban had looked at my passport at Jalalabad airport two days earlier, a boy soldier of maybe fourteen who held the document upside down, stared at it and clucked his tongue and shook his head in disapproval.

It had grown dark and we were climbing, overtaking trucks and rows of camels, the beasts turning their heads towards our lights in the gloom. We careered past them and I could see the condensation of their breath floating over the road. Their huge feet were picking out the rocks with infinite care and their eyes, when they caught the light, looked like dolls' eyes. Two hours later, we stopped on a stony hillside and, after a few minutes, a pick-up truck came bouncing down the rough shale of the mountain.

An Arab in Afghan clothes came towards the car. I recognised him at once from our last meeting in a ruined village. "I am sorry, Mr. Robert, but I must give you the first search," he said, prowling through my camera bag and newspapers. And so we set off up the track that Osama bin Laden built during his jihad against the Russian army in the early 1980s, a terrifying, slithering, two-hour odyssey along fearful ravines in rain and sleet, the windscreen misting as we climbed the cold mountain. "When you believe in jihad, it is easy," he said, fighting with the steering wheel as stones scuttered from the tyres, tumbling down the precipice into the clouds below. From time to time, lights winked at us from far away in the darkness. "Our brothers are letting us know they see us," he said.

After an hour, two armed Arabs--one with his face covered in a kuffiah scarf, eyes peering at us through spectacles, holding an anti-tank rocket-launcher over his right shoulder--came screaming from behind two rocks. "Stop! Stop!" As the brakes were jammed on, I almost hit my head on the windscreen. "Sorry, sorry," the bespectacled man said, putting down his rocket-launcher. He pulled a metal detector from the pocket of his combat jacket, the red light flicking over my body in another search. The road grew worse as we continued, the jeep skidding backwards towards sheer cliffs, the headlights playing across the chasms on either side. "Toyota is good for jihad," my driver said. I could only agree, noting that this was one advertising logo the Toyota company would probably forgo.

There was moonlight now and I could see clouds both below us in the ravines and above us, curling round mountaintops, our headlights shining on frozen waterfalls and ice-covered pools. Osama bin Laden knew how to build his wartime roads; many an ammunition truck and tank had ground its way up here during the titanic struggle against the Russian army. Now the man who led those guerrillas--the first Arab fighter in the battle against Moscow--was back again in the mountains he knew. There were more Arab checkpoints, more shrieked orders to halt. One very tall man in combat uniform and wearing shades carefully patted my shoulders, body, legs and looked into my face. Salaam aleikum, I said. Peace be upon you. Every Arab I had ever met replied Aleikum salaam to this greeting. But not this one. There was something cold about this man. Osama bin Laden had invited me to meet him in Afghanistan, but this was a warrior without the minimum courtesy. He was a machine, checking out another machine.

It had not always been this way. Indeed, the first time I met Osama bin Laden, the way could not have been easier. Back in December 1993, I had been covering an Islamic summit in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum when a Saudi journalist friend of mine, Jamal Kashoggi, walked up to me in the lobby of my hotel. Kashoggi, a tall, slightly portly man in a long white dishdash robe, led me by the shoulder outside the hotel. "There is someone I think you should meet," he said. Kashoggi is a sincere believer--woe betide anyone who regards his round spectacles and roguish sense of humour as a sign of spiritual laxity--and I guessed at once to whom he was referring. Kashoggi had visited bin Laden in Afghanistan during his war against the Russian army. "He has never met a Western reporter before," he announced. "This will be interesting." Kashoggi was indulging in a little applied psychology. He wanted to know how bin Laden would respond to an infidel. So did I.

Bin Laden's story was as instructive as it was epic. When the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the Saudi royal family--encouraged by the CIA--sought to provide the Afghans with an Arab legion, preferably led by a Saudi prince, who would lead a guerrilla force against the Russians. Not only would he disprove the popularly held and all too accurate belief that the Saudi leadership was effete and corrupt, he could re-establish the honourable tradition of the Gulf Arab warrior, heedless of his own life in defending the umma, the community of Islam. True to form, the Saudi princes declined this noble mission. Bin Laden, infuriated at both their cowardice and the humiliation of the Afghan Muslims at the hands of the Soviets, took their place and, with money and machinery from his own construction company, set off on his own personal jihad.

A billionaire businessman and himself a Saudi, albeit of humbler Yemeni descent, in the coming years he would be idolised by both Saudis and millions of other Arabs, the stuff of Arab schoolboy legend from the Gulf to the Mediterranean. Not since the British glorified Lawrence of Arabia had an adventurer been portrayed in so heroic, so influential a role. Egyptians, Saudis, Yemenis, Kuwaitis, Algerians, Syrians and Palestinians made their way to the Pakistani border city of Peshawar to fight alongside bin Laden. But when the Afghan mujahedin guerrillas and bin Laden's Arab legion had driven the Soviets from Afghanistan, the Afghans turned upon each other with wolflike and tribal venom. Sickened by this perversion of Islam--original dissension within the umma led to the division of Sunni and Shia Muslims--bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia.

But his journey of spiritual bitterness was not over. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, bin Laden once more offered his services to the Saudi royal family. They did not need to invite the United States to protect the place of the two holiest shrines of Islam, he argued. Mecca and Medina, the cities in which the Prophet Mohamed received and recited God's message, should be defended only by Muslims. Bin Laden would lead his "Afghans," his Arab mujahedin, against the Iraqi army inside Kuwait and drive them from the emirate. King Fahd of Saudi Arabia preferred to put his trust in the Americans. So as the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division arrived in the north-eastern Saudi city of Dhahran and deployed in the desert roughly 500 miles from the city of Medina--the place of the Prophet's refuge and of the first Islamic society--bin Laden abandoned the corruption of the House of Saud to bestow his generosity on another "Islamic Republic": Sudan.

Our journey north from Khartoum lay though a landscape of white desert and ancient, unexplored pyramids, dark, squat Pharaonic tombs smaller than those of Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus at Giza. Though it was December, a sharp, superheated breeze moved across the desert, and when Kashoggi tired of the air conditioning and opened his window, it snapped at his Arab headdress. "The people like bin Laden here," he said, in much the way that one might comment approvingly of a dinner host. "He's got his business here and his construction company and the government likes him. He helps the poor." I could understand all this. The Prophet Mohamed, orphaned at an early age, had been obsessed by the poor in seventh-century Arabia, and generosity to those who lived in poverty was one of the most attractive characteristics of Islam. Bin Laden's progress from "holy" warrior to public benefactor might allow him to walk in the Prophet's footsteps. He had just completed building a new road from the Khartoum-Port Sudan highway to the tiny desert village of Almatig in northern Sudan, using the same bulldozers he had employed to construct the guerrilla trails of Afghanistan; many of his labourers were the same fighters who had been his comrades in the battle against the Soviet Union. The U.S. State Department took a predictably less charitable view of bin Laden's beneficence. It accused Sudan of being a "sponsor of international terrorism" and bin Laden himself of operating "terrorist training camps" in the Sudanese desert.

But when Kashoggi and I arrived in Almatig, there was Osama bin Laden in his gold-fringed robe, sitting beneath the canopy of a tent before a crowd of admiring villagers and guarded by the loyal Arab mujahedin who fought alongside him in Afghanistan. Bearded, silent figures--unarmed, but never more than a few yards from the man who recruited them, trained them and then dispatched them to destroy the Soviet army--they watched unsmiling as the Sudanese villagers lined up to thank the Saudi businessman who was about to complete the road linking their slums to Khartoum for the first time in history.

My first impression was of a shy man. With his high cheekbones, narrow eyes and long brown robe, he would avert his eyes when the village leaders addressed him. He seemed ill-at-ease with gratitude, incapable of responding with a full smile when children in miniature chadors danced in front of him and preachers admired his wisdom. "We have been waiting for this road through all the revolutions in Sudan," a bearded sheikh announced. "We waited until we had given up on everybody--and then Osama bin Laden came along." I noticed how bin Laden, head still bowed, peered up at the old man, acknowledging his age but unhappy that he should be sitting at ease in front of him, a young man relaxing before his elders. He was even more unhappy at the sight of a Westerner standing a few feet away from him, and from time to time he would turn his head to look at me, not with malevolence but with grave suspicion.

Kashoggi put his arms around him. Bin Laden kissed him on both cheeks, one Muslim to another, both acknowledging the common danger they had endured together in Afghanistan. Jamal Kashoggi must have brought the foreigner for a reason. That is what bin Laden was thinking. For as Kashoggi spoke, bin Laden looked over his shoulder at me, occasionally nodding. "Robert, I want to introduce you to Sheikh Osama," Kashoggi half-shouted through children's songs. Bin Laden was a tall man and he realised that this was an advantage when he shook hands with the English reporter. Salaam aleikum. His hands were firm, not strong, but, yes, he looked like a mountain man. The eyes searched your face. He was lean and had long fingers and a smile which--while it could never be described as kind--did not suggest villainy. He said we might talk, at the back of the tent where we could avoid the shouting of the children.

Looking back now, knowing what we know, understanding the monstrous beast-figure he would become in the collective imagination of the world, I search for some clue, the tiniest piece of evidence, that this man could inspire an act that would change the world for ever--or, more to the point, allow an American president to persuade his people that the world was changed for ever. Certainly his formal denial of "terrorism" gave no hint.

Continues...


Excerpted from The Great War for Civilisation by Robert Fisk Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

1 "One of our brothers had a dream ..." 3
2 "They shoot Russians" 35
3 The choirs of Kandahar 71
4 The carpet-weavers 92
5 The path to war 139
6 "The whirlwind war" 179
7 "War against war" and the fast train to paradise 218
8 Drinking the poisoned chalice 259
9 "Sentenced to suffer death" 294
10 The first holocaust 316
11 Fifty thousand miles from Palestine 356
12 The last colonial war 402
13 The girl and the child and love 453
14 "Anything to wipe out a devil ..." 513
15 Planet damnation 586
16 Betrayal 646
17 The land of graves 688
18 The plague 716
19 Now thrive the armourers ... 748
20 Even to kings, he comes ... 789
21 Why? 827
22 The die is cast 888
23 Atomic dog, annihilator, arsonist, anthrax, anguish and Agamemnon 937
24 Into the wilderness 999
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 22 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2007

    Now I begin to understand

    As history and news junkie I have always read to understand. Mr. Fisk has lived in the Middle East while covering the area since the 70s. He writes for the Independent newspaper now. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone who must know more about why and how the Middle East is the way it is.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2014

    This is a long book that contains a lot that is worth reading: F

    This is a long book that contains a lot that is worth reading: Fisk’s review of the Algerian civil war, following independence; the Armenian genocide; the Gulf war and preceding Iran-Iraq war; the links between the Palestinian leadership and the Nazis; his interviews with Osama bin Laden; the behaviour of journalists, editors and commentators. They are stories that are rarely told, such as the USA’s unwavering support of Saddam, to the extent that the USA covered up an attack on a US warship by an Iraqi plane and instead blamed Iran, or Saddam's use of gas and electricity to kill thousands, war crimes which were then not mentioned in the build-up to the 2003 invasion. 
    The book provides little in-depth analysis, although Fisk's opinions do feature, and it is interesting to see how he writes about Blair and Bush, who are not caricatured in the way we might expect. But the overwhelming purpose of the book is to bear witness and balance out the narrative of the violence that has been a feature of the Middle East and North Africa for the last century. It is frustrating that the book was published at the same time as the London bombings of 7/7, and they are not described, nor are the UK’s detention without trial laws or the frequency of extraordinary rendition that was exposed around that time. On the other hand, the historical context on 20th-century Afghanistan and Turkey is enlightening, and the description of events across the Muslim world that provided the lessons which should have been learnt before 9/11 and the subsequent wars, makes you wonder about the maturity, wisdom and ability, let alone the motives, of the US, British, French and Israeli governments, their armed forces and intelligence services. 
    Fisk's commentary on the language used by journalists is sometimes difficult to follow, but it is clearly very important to him professionally, that the difference between writing "occupied Palestinian territories" and "Judea and Samaria" is semantic and at the same time overtly political, an act which can be violent in itself, though not on the scale of the physical violence documented in this book. There are many other interesting points: the 'no-fly zones' and devastating sanctions imposed on Iraq, a state of constant violence and suffering inflicted on civilians, which by the USA's own twisted arguments served no purpose; or the nail-biting stand-off between UK and Turkish forces at a Kurdish refugee camp in the mountains of northern Iraq. Other parts of the book are less gripping. Fisk's frustration with editors and news desks sometimes seems petty given that he does not seem to have had his book edited properly, and occasionally allows himself to ramble on. For example, his lengthy presentation of evidence that weapons manufactured in the USA are used by Israeli armed forces against Palestinian civilians seems largely unnecessary to demonstrate how arms manufacturers deny their responsibility. He fails to properly emphasise why this is important - that the USA is avoiding international law and claiming the right to act as intermediary in a peace process, when it is helping one side to violate the human rights of the other.
    Overall, the book probably does not deserve to be read end-to-end, but it is a vital reference resource. Fisk’s understanding and humanity – his insistence on naming victims of violence - are in stark contrast to the powerful women and men who seem never to take their due responsibility for that violence.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2014

    Did it work

    &#1492 hello i like my books should i get this one

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  • Posted July 11, 2010

    Courageous In the Age or Cowardly Corporate Media

    Robert Say's it like it is, and that is why many critics call him biased, because they are afraid the truth will come out.

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  • Posted November 10, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    CONQUESTS vs. conquests (2 of 2)

    (1 of 2) is posted in Sofcover edition.<BR/><BR/>CC) Bob! You are right. It is true that in 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini "intriguingly left out his activities more than a quarter of a century earlier" - Page 98 - because he disapproved of Mossadaq policies of `Nationalization' and `Secular' approach in education. <BR/>In the early fifties, the Ayatollah was not against the Shah. In fact he had no power base then, but the term "nationalize' was anathema to the ears of the Mullah's who possessed large tracts of lands. <BR/>(Actually, in the late forties Winston Churchill advised King Farouk of Egypt to introduce Land Reforms in favor of the Egyptian fellaheen - peasants - to help upgrade their standard of living -- the King promised to do so and leaked out his plans in a way which added fuel to the estrangement of the Wafd, the strong right wing party, whose leaders were the major owners of large tracts of fertile lands--. King Farouk's son in law, the Shah of Iran, was surprised to learn of possible Land Reform Projects in a monarchy like Egypt. But alas in politics, what the British saw as fair in Egypt, was not as fair in Iran). <BR/>When Mossadaq began with Oil - to transfer from private to State ownership in the early 1950's to be able to improve the standard of living of the Iranians - he was labeled `a Communist'. His secular approaches were focused on overdue reforms that should have been put in place since the discovery of oil - the black gold mines - of Iran. <BR/>However, twenty-five years later, the Ayatollahs became uncompromising with the Shah because he intended to introduce wide Land Reform Programs something the Mullah's could not accept with coldness of nerves. Some went out to the extreme and described the Shah of the seventies as another Mossadaq. <BR/><BR/>DD) referring to torturing techniques administered on Iranian dissident groups opposing the Shah's regime. Who taught the SAVAK the 'art' of 'body roasting', ' psychological methods of rough interrogations' ` nail plucking' `sole beating' etcetera? And worse still, who provided the SAVAK with the related equipment, gadgets, listening instruments, mistreated medicines, poisoned needles, radioactive feeding that penetrates the human bodies without leaving traces? This `hitech' calls for well-trained suppliers who possess the know-how and the means, of which, as you can appreciate, the Iranians have been lacking. <BR/>You have alluded to CIA, MI6 and the Israeli Mossad. <BR/>The irony of the matter though is that, all of a sudden, Britain and the USA have been criticizing the Shah - when his voice became prominent in the Oil Industry - that he had been using `Nazi' methods of incarcerations and interrogations of the Iranian opposition groups and that the Shah had actually transformed his country into a Police State. (Same accusations they had many times heaped on Abdul Nasser, Saddam Hussein and Abdul Hamid el Sarraj). <BR/>The drama of the matter is that Great Britain and the USA have `now', by the pressure of multiplying security events after 9/11, applied similar methods as the ex- `police states' to guard against the same `fanatical groups' that had once been harassing Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Iran. <BR/><BR/>Bob; you've given us a great book ........

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  • Posted November 10, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    CONQUESTS vs. conquests (1 of 2)

    On my way from Montreal (Canada) to Beirut (Lebanon), my youngest brother handed over to me "The Great War for Civilization' (Hardcover) to enjoy reading on board of BA flight to Heathrow. <BR/><BR/>I must say Robert Fisk made sober `guide' to many events that led to the shaping of the Middle East. The author has also been able to provide the backgrounds to everyday questions about expanded patterns set out in the introduction of `new' episodes still classified (or now unclassified) according to their function and position in the present different time situations. <BR/><BR/>This book, however, should have been split in three volumes, with a bigger sized `Characters' to enable many readers (notably elderly) to make reading of its 1110 pages much easier. <BR/><BR/>There are good number comments that I would like to add to Mr. Robert Fisk's vivid and thorough descriptions of the many memorable happenings that he had seen and dared to live. <BR/><BR/>AA) on his encounter with Bin Laden, I can appreciate Bin Laden's hesitance to meet him. <BR/>Bin Laden is a Sunni Muslim from Yemen, and the historical background of the Sunni and notably the Wahhabi Confession with the successive British oligarchy has been discouraging, unlike the Ismaili (a branch of Shia) who rendered assistance to the British Empire in the course of their military conquests and political influence in the Punjab as far back as the late nineteenth century. <BR/>During `The Afghan War' of 1841-42 the Ismaili raised a highly skilled regiment of cavalry to support Generals Nott and England and Ismaili leaders could reach a promising political understanding with Sir Charles Napier when the British troops moved northwards and southwards out of Sind. <BR/><BR/>Such historical conditions remained vivid in the memories of the Sunni Afghan `sheikhs and mullahs' for the next one hundred fifty years that:<BR/> <BR/>--England is the number one enemy of the Muslim Sunni (not the Muslim Shia) and their major aim had been to inherit the Ottoman Empire, divide the Muslims and devour the Arab `World' <BR/><BR/>--In order to gain material advantage, Britain has always been supportive of the minorities (Shia, Druze, Christians and Jews) and a staunch enemy to the Caliphate (The Spiritual and Temporal Succession in the Muslims' leadership - always a Sunni). Britain abolished through the firearms and firmness of the British Empire, the Khalif (the successor of the Prophet Muhammad) in order to take over the temporal capacities, and only leave weakened spiritual guidance to Imam-el-Muslimin (or spiritual chief of the devout) within the British Empire, with English commanders to lead the `true believers'. <BR/>Nevertheless, given the fact that there has been some sort of rough communal rivalry between the Afghan Sunni and Shii, a Sunni `warrior' like Bin Laden would immediately take the presence of a British Journalist for `a Spy'. <BR/><BR/>The heavy load of persecution between the two confessions of the same Muslim faith brought about fanatical hostility that `the friend of my enemy is ipso facto my enemy'. Robert Fisk, irrespective of the gist of his mission in Afghanistan, in the eyes of Bin Laden's supporters, advisors and entourage, has naturally been regarded with extreme suspicion.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2007

    A sparrow tells an uncaring world from a plaintive branch.

    '...war is a security organization...because it succeeds...in inventing, real enemies to kill, and...if...not for war, society would...leave men defenseless before...a purely internal foe.' - 'The Psychoanalysis of War,' Franco Fornari, 1974. Currently a scribe at Britain's 'The Independent,' English born Robert Fisk, 1946- , Ph.D., Political Science, LL.D., et al, has resided in Beirut, Lebanon since 1976. His compassionate book, 'The Great War for Civilisation,' 2006, is based on 16 years of eyewitness reporting on 'The Conquest of the Middle East,' culled from over 350,000 various documents. It is almost 1,400 pages, replete with 10 maps, bibliography, exhaustive notes and a chronology. Fisk's coverage of Israel's influence here and the American invasion of Iraq is provocative, because nobody wants to 'damage the peace process'... Arms manufacturers like Lockheed Martin, whom the author questioned, don't speak out against improprieties Israel commits with ordnances because they are a valued customer. And 'The Independent' did a fortnight study of American military stocks, ascertaining that thousands of armour, tanks and planes were grabbed by Israel during two decades. Officers apprised Fisk that the omnipotent Israeli lobby doesn't tolerate captious politicians, who treasure their longevity in government, therefore allowing Israel to anytime snatch more than the minimum $14 million in arms required for congressional notification, uncontested and unreported because it is 'classified.' The most powerful such lobby group is the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, which former doyen of, Denis Ross, plus three other Jews--if they were all Arabs, someone would've taken notice--became head negotiators of in the latter 1990's 'peace envoy.' The American press was reticent about this bias, but the Israeli press welcomed them. Fisk pondered, not just the 'how' and 'who,' but the 'why,' behind '9/11,' the 2001 bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York City. Also, he says, just after this event, on September 16, no British or American newspaper '...would recall the fact that on that date in 1982, Israel's Phalangist militia allies started their three-day orgy of rape and knifing and murder in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila. It followed an Israeli invasion of Lebanon...which cost the lives of 17,500 Lebanese and Palestinians, almost all of them civilians...more than five times the death toll in the September 11th, 2001 attacks....No, Israel was not to blame for what happened...' The author explains that it was Osama bin Laden, whom he first met in 1993, and al-Qaeda, who were the perpetrators, making their statement regarding how they felt about America's involvement in the Middle East--not because 'they hate our democracy.' None came from Iraq, which U.S. President George W. Bush's aggressors invaded, seeking 'weapons of mass destruction' which never existed, through their 'war on terror.' Fisk documents America's pitiless sanctions and civilian killings--'collateral damage'--in Iraq. In Baghdad, citizens' looting is not precluded by U.S. forces, who protect only the Ministry of the Interior, with its intelligence info, and the Ministry of Oil--go figure. It is Israel, who dispossessed 750,000 Palestinians of their land--and 'right to exist,' in the West Bank, in 1948, who now dictates American foreign policy in the Middle East, weakening Arab voices. Get 'The Great War for Civilisation' by Robert Fisk, where a sparrow tells an uncaring world from a plaintive branch.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2007

    A reviewer

    Robert Fisk has written a masterpiece.He shatters the myths about ourselves, and the Middle East we are all fed by the main media, as well as politicians on all sides. It is a book about indescribable pain, human folly, and great courage. In a society where we are quite ignorant about the cultures of the Middle East, and tend to dehumanize Arab people in general 'to put it mildly', this is a welcome piece of work. It is not an enjoyable book, because how can one enjoy reading about havoc and mysery? but I loved it, I learned a great deal, and found myself unable to put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2007

    Tell all

    The author reminds me of Lawrence of Arabia.He implies to the reader and listener that the Middle East conflict is caused because of the conflict between Israel and Islam. He lives in Beirut and must we aware of the decline of the various Christian populations through that portion of the Middle East in areas controlled by Islam. The reader should be aware of the fact that his residence in in the Area world. This unfortunately colors an otherwise excellent book. He also is selective about many of his facts.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2006

    prejudistic and insulting

    I do not even this book deserve any stars. If any, it should be introduced as an insult to the United States very core of existence. This book is a one sided story of the problems in the Middle East. The readers should consider reading more unbiased books.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2006

    Simply outstanding

    Robert Fisk¿s, The Great War for Civilization¿The Conquest of the Middle East, is as fine an all-in-one work as I expect ever to encounter on the topic of the recent (30 years, actually) history of the Middle East. This is not to say Fisk confines himself only to his 30 years¿ actual residency and reportage in the region, as he also provides the background for so many more recent events, including for instance, an entire chapter devoted to the Armenian genocide, a Holocaust Fisk insists should properly be referenced with use of the uppercase ¿H.¿ Another example is a lengthy account of what has transpired in Algeria, the relatively recent civil war against the background that was the war for independence. Fisk¿s provision of such contexts, of which his detailed knowledge is patently obvious, is typical and very useful to those of us who like myself lack such an extensive knowledge of the history of the region in general. Fisk is a journalist of immense passion, a rare breed. His passion is principally that for truth telling, perhaps nowhere more on display than in his account of one of the most vicious of 20th Century conflicts, the war between Iraq and Iran, at which Fisk was present and regarding which he points the finger of blame at parties actually responsible. I¿m personally grateful to Fisk, as might we all be, not just for truth telling, but even more so for telling truth with unfaltering moral conviction. The book is what it is, a firsthand journalistic testament spanning a period of time that renders the book also a history, revealed by a reporter who spares no responsible party, those well known to us and those lesser known to us, though we come to know the latter through Fisk. At the same time, he recounts in excruciating detail, the horrific deeds perpetrated against seemingly countless victims, a small fraction of whom Fisk takes the time and space to name. The book, for all that it contains, is clearly first and foremost one reporter¿s effort to give voice to the victims, in the process revealing his obvious affection for the people of the Middle East and his own thoughts as to what war is finally about as it impacts the victims of that part of the world. Fisk is a fine writer, as good as the best novelist. His writing is what carries one through what is intended to be a thoroughgoing survey, one by the way not for the faint of heart. At the same time, it¿s possible to read only the chapter on the Armenian genocide or on the Iraq-Iran war, and learn a good deal, though for purposes of context the book is best read from beginning to end. Fisk offers at the end some of his own thoughts on prospects and prescriptions, ones difficult to argue with. Robert Fisk is no news outlet¿s patsy. He resigned his job at the London Times when his reporting was doctored. His action then is but one reason he possesses such credibility and stature. He found a new home at the aptly named Independent. He tells us of such personal events as well in his book, including more than one or two harrowingly close encounters, one of which almost cost him his life. This book is that rare instance wherein no party line is toed, unless one counts as party line the elementary moral concern for peoples besieged and victimized by the purveyors of power, so many of whom are never themselves directly involved but whose exceedingly short-sighted policies, intended most often to further special, private interests, are implemented by proxy. The results of those policies, along with some explication of them, are in the book for all to discover. According to Fisk, who should know, the peoples of the Middle East do not forget. While victors write ¿official¿ versions of history, what Fisk has to tell serves as a reminder to western readers at least that they too should not forget, nor suppose they already know what has happened or what is happening, in relying too much on unnamed ¿official sources.¿ Robert Fisk is one major, named, and fortunate fo

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2006

    Well Worth Plowing Through

    It will take time, but this book is well worth plowing and digging through. There is such a breadth and wealth of information. Even those folks who disagree with Fisk's political position regarding the United States will find fascinating and worth-knowing tidbits. He reminds us much of what feelings reverberated throughout the world from the 1970's to the Iranian Revolution, the rise of Ronald Reagan, the decline and eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, the perils of short-term views of history and the dynamics of countries from Afghanistan to the whole Middle East. I personally enjoyed his interviews with Osama bin Laden from the Sudan to Afghanistan and his chapter entitled 'Why?' The book's size and the material covered could be converted into five differently-oriented books, but Robert Fisk is much too busy a journalist to take the time necessary for appropriate editing. Equally, if you read only one of the five you would miss too much.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2006

    Brilliant , Fisk does it again!

    Like his previous Pity the Nation, Fisk has done it again producing a work that should become required reading for anyone who is interested in the Middle East. His graphic accounts of the Iran/Iraq War, Algeria's Second Civil War as well as the present turmoil in Iraq drive home the reality that it is the common people that have suffered the most in the region and continue to bear the brunt of their leaders political misadventures. Fisk is one of the few Western Middle East correspondents who genuinely cares for his subject and truly understands the complexities of a region that has been the target of much misguided journalism. A master journalist but more importantly a sensitive storyteller who keeps the reader enthralled from the very beginning to the end of what is a poignant and deeply moving book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2006

    A great book

    Robert Fisk, the Independent¿s Middle East Correspondent, has written a great book exposing the evils of colonialism old and new. He combines direct reporting of events with a deep historical understanding. The Turkish government was responsible for massacring a million Armenians during World War One. Turkish interior minister, Talaat Pasha, cabled to his prefect in Aleppo, ¿You have already been informed that the Government ¿ has decided to destroy completely all the indicated persons living in Turkey ¿ Their existence must be terminated, however tragic the measures taken may be, and no regard must be paid to either sex or age, or to any scruples of conscience.¿ Churchill wrote of the Turks ¿massacring uncounted thousands of helpless Armenians, men, women and children together, whole districts blotted out in one administrative holocaust.¿ The founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, denounced the `Armenian massacres¿ as a `shameful act¿. Writing of Afghanistan, Fisk omits all mention of the prior CIA intervention, but he points out that the progressive Afghan government, which the Soviet Union supported, aimed to provide ¿a modern educational system in which girls as well as boys would go to school, at which young women did not have to wear the veil, in which science and literature would be taught alongside Islam.¿ It ¿had been trying to create a secular, equal society in the villages around Jalalabad. It was not the government that was burning the schools and killing the teachers.¿ Article 49 of the Geneva Convention states that ¿the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.¿ UN Security Council Resolution 476 stated that Israel¿s 1980 `Basic Law¿ declaring Jerusalem its capital was `a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention¿. Fisk writes that in the 1980s and 1990s, ¿Israel reneged on every single major accord and understanding that was signed ¿¿. After Iraq¿s US-backed 1980 attack on Iran, UN Security Council Resolution 479 did not call on Iraq to withdraw from Iranian territory it just called for a ceasefire. The Security Council only `demanded¿ a ceasefire in 1987. US and British warships supported Iraq by escorting its ships through the Gulf. At the end of the 1990 war against Iraq, the US government assured Iraq that its withdrawing troops would not be attacked. But, after the ceasefire, USAF and RAF planes massacred thousands of soldiers who had already surrendered, the infamous `turkey-shoot¿ at Mutla Ridge. The New York Times reported in 20 July 2003 that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld¿s approval was required if ¿any planned airstrike was thought likely to result in deaths of more than 30 civilians. More than 50 such strikes were proposed and all of them were approved.¿ This is clear evidence of war crimes guilt.

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