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

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

by Robert Fisk


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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 forty 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400075171
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/13/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 1136
Sales rank: 398,273
Product dimensions: 6.08(w) x 9.19(h) x 1.88(d)

About the Author

Bestselling author and journalist Robert Fisk holds more British and international journalism awards than any other foreign correspondent. Fisk is currently the Middle East correspondent of The Independent, based in Beirut. He has lived in the Arab world for more than 40 years, covering Lebanon, five Israeli invasions, the Iran-Iraq war, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Algerian civil war, Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, the Bosnian and Kosovo wars, the American invasion and occupation of Iraq and the 2011 Arab revolutions. He has been awarded the British International Journalist of the Year Award seven times and has also received the Amnesty International UK Press Award twice. 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. He is also the author of Pity the Nation, a history of the Lebanese war, and The Age of the Warrior, an anthology of his ‘Comment’ pieces from the Independent

Read an Excerpt

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 to clamber 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. The Egyptian press was claiming that bin Laden had brought hundreds of his Arab fighters with him to Sudan, while the Western embassy circuit in Khartoum was suggesting that some of the Arab “Afghans” whom this Saudi entrepreneur had flown to Sudan were now busy training for further jihad wars in Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt. Bin Laden was well aware of this. “The rubbish of the media and embassies,” he called it. “I am a construction engineer and an agriculturalist. If I had training camps here in Sudan, I couldn’t possibly do this job.”

Table of Contents

List of Maps

1. “One of Our Brothers Had a Dream . . .”
2. “They Shoot Russians”
3. The Choirs of Kandahar
4. The Carpet-Weavers
5. The Path to War
6. “The Whirlwind War”
7. “War against War” and the Fast Train to Paradise
8. Drinking the Poisoned Chalice
9. “Sentenced to Suffer Death”
10. The First Holocaust
11. Fifty Thousand Miles from Palestine
12. The Last Colonial War
13. The Girl and the Child and Love
14. “Anything to Wipe Out a Devil . . .”
15. Planet Damnation
16. Betrayal
17. The Land of Graves
18. The Plague
19. Now Thrive the Armourers . . .
20. Even to Kings, He Comes . . .
21. Why?
22. The Die Is Cast
23. Atomic Dog, Annihilator, Arsonist, Anthrax, Anguish and Agamemnon
24. Into the Wilderness

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What People are Saying About This

"A magisterial report from the shifting front lines of the Middle East. It deserves to be read by all those concerned with what is happening in Iraq today."
---The Boston Globe

"A stimulating and absorbing book, by a man who . . . has met the leading players, from bin Laden to Ahmad Chalabi. . . . A formidable production."
---The New York Times Book Review

"Vivid, graphic, intense. . . . A book of unquestionable importance. . . . [Fisk’s] experience of war is unmatched, [as is] his capacity to convey that experience in concrete, passionate language."
---The Washington Post Book World

"Fisk’s magnum opus. . . . Seals [his] place as a venerable, indispensable contributor to informed debate in and about the Middle East."
---The Nation

"Powerful . . . Mr. Fisk is a gifted writer and an accomplished storyteller . . . his love affair with the region and the glamorous profession of being a foreign correspondent finds expression on every page."
---The Economist

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The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
roblong on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Great War for Civilisation covers the past thirty years of Middle Eastern history, as covered by Fisk, with pauses to take in more distant reaches such as the Armenian genocide under the Ottoman Empire. The book is vast and a real education in the region¿s recent history. It is intensely partisan; Fisk is a journalist and his writing is highly emotive (which makes it all the more involving): he is pro-Palestinian and regards Western policy across the region as arrogant, foolish and catastrophic. His vivid depictions of the wars and atrocities of the past thirty years amount pass comprehensible levels of horror, and reading the book is a largely dispiriting experience, leavened by the acts of kindness from the people who have to cope with it on a daily basis.
jrcovey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At 1,286 pages, a long and sometimes draining read, but a necessary and compelling one from a passionate voice of conscience. From the three interviews with Osama bin Laden in the opening chapter, to his closing-chapter anecdotes of sitting first in Saddam Hussein's throne and then his foxhole, Fisk has been there and seen it in the Middle East & Central Asia.What I most admire about this book is the way that it puts the lie to the idea that you cannot be fully engaged both with history and with the contemporary moment. He sees each moment in its historical context without defensive detachment, and articulates the hypocrisy in every cruel, unthinking political decision and action.Even the most hardened cynic may be shocked at some of his descriptions of violence and brutality. The chapter on Algeria, notably, is not for the faint of heart or sensitive of stomach.A few published reviews suggest that Fisk, against his own intention, creates the impression that there is nothing more to the Middle East than unending cycles of horrific violence. To some degree I agree with that criticism, but I think that this is largely inevitable due to his his journalistic role in covering specific events.For many in North America, 9/11 happened essentially out of the blue. Fisk attempts to document that long-term collective media crime by giving us 1,019 pages of lead-up to that event. There is no comparably thorough account.
Karen_Wells on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I used to be a rabid Fisk-hater, and I like to think that few could touch me on that score. Then along came the debacle of Iraq, and I was foolish enough to actually read him. My problem now, is how to even attempt to do justice to this book. If you want to know how the world actually is, instead of how you thought it was, read this book. Because he isn't just a theoriser or a commentator or a pundit. His own two eyes have seen it. The case he makes is ironclad and inescapable, because he was actually *there*, in the heart of the world, for fifteen years. But politics in itself can only engage the intellect; it can't move you to tears. Only human stories can do that. Not once, ever, does Fisk talk about politics - wars and systems and corruptions and what-have-you - in a vacuum. Always, the focus comes right in close to the resulting agony and loss inflicted on a single human being or a family. No book has ever made me shed so many tears as this. A propagandist? A manipulator? Hardly. He isn't a Chomsky sitting at a desk three thousand miles away. How do you put 'spin' on a burnt child you have personally witnessed writhing in a hospital? It would be a superb book if it stopped at this, a summing-up of what he has learned and witnessed. But there is a good deal more in this huge and panoramic book; in keeping with the theme of politics being about individual human lives, he uses his own father, a WW1 survivor and a man he didn't like, as a kind of talisman for the history of the 20th century. Then again, there are some very funny stories included too, as one might expect to be accrued by a war correspondent on active duty. I wonder if there's another book in the world which can single-handedly remove as much ignorance as this one? I have to say, I rather doubt it.
patito-de-hule on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was hard to classify--history? or current affairs? Nor is it about terrorism, but it covers the author's half century of reporting experience in the middle east. It includes important information as well as interpretation for those interested in the world of Islam and how it came to be the way it is now. I intend to reread a little slower and check out some sources, but I'll go for four start for now.
Martin444 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is full of the amazing telling of random adventures and biting analysis of the author who has been a Middle East correspondent for English newspapers for most of his life and may never retire. It covers virtually all of the many Middle Eastern conflicts over thirty years including visits with Bin Laden and covers it all with insight if occasionally with undue obsession. The story of his near-death encounter in Pakistan is simply amazing and his reaction is incredible. I'm now a confirmed Fiskite as a result of this comprehensive and compendious work. It's worth every hour of reading it.
mbmackay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Comprehensive (1300 pages!) detailing of the continuing insanity of US (Western) policy on Israel and the Middle East and how this has come to fruition in the Bush-led debacle of invaded Iraq. Confirms what I had thought all along, and adds details and facts to support the view. Particularly poignant in coverage of the Palestinians ¿ who have so lost hope that they now grow suicide bombers. Until the West forces Israel to come to some lasting settlement with the Palestinians, they will never have the ¿security¿ that their retaliation to the suicide bombings is intended to deliver. Read March 2008
ashergabbay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a book every Israeli should read.Robert Fisk is a British journalist who writes for The Independent. He lives in Beirut and has been reporting from the Middle East for decades, having witnessed many of the region¿s conflicts firsthand. The West¿s interest in Osama Bin Laden following the 9/11 terror attacks in the US propelled him to fame, because of his interviews with the bearded arch-terrorist during the 1990s.In this book, Fisk sets out to explain the ¿Conquest of the Middle East¿ (the subtitle of this book). He borrows the name of the book - ¿The Great War for Civilization¿ ¿ from words engraved on one of the medals his father received for participating in World War One (Fisk¿s father features prominently in this book, with Fisk the son expending considerable efforts to reconcile his pacifistic ideals with the fact that his father wore a uniform and held a gun). The book covers many of the conflicts in the Middle East: the Armenian Genocide, Algeria¿s civil war for overthrowing French colonial rule, the eight-year Iraq-Iran war, the civil war in Lebanon, the Soviet and West¿s wars in Afghanistan, the two Gulf wars in Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict.Fisk was witness to many horrors in these wars. His prose is most masterly when he describes these horrors in great detail. We get to know many of the victims personally, and some get a ¿mini biography¿ several pages long, as Fisk traces their families and friends to reconstruct a life that has been brutally taken or shattered by war. Afghans, Algerians, Iranians, Iraqis, Lebanese and many other Arab and Muslim victims receive a passionate and compassionate treatment. In this respect, Fisk¿s attention to detail and his aptitude for understanding human suffering are remarkable.But given Fisk¿s extensive experience and knowledge of the Middle East and the grandiose title of the book, one would have expected this voluminous tome (well over 1,000 pages in hardcover) to provide an insightful and well though-out perspective into the ¿conquest of the Middle East¿. That was certainly my expectation.Instead of a perspective we get a rambling, disordered memoir that is despairingly long and pompously self-centered. After a few hundred pages, the reader comes to realise that this is not a book about the Middle East conflict or even the victims of war; it is a book about Fisk and his terribly misguided outlook on life, an outlook that can be summarised in a few short sentences. Everything the West does is wrong, especially the US and Britain. The Arabs are blameless victims of the West¿s brutal aggression. There is no such thing as ¿terrorism¿, only the desperate acts of people who have been repressed and abused for too long. And, last but not least, we have a modern-day prophet who can open our eyes and expose all the lies: Robert Fisk.As an account of the Middle East conflict, this book is a total failure. It reads like a collection of newspaper columns, shoddily lumped together with little thought given about what they all mean. There is no ¿big picture¿ perspective. The graphic detail of some of the war horrors are borderline war porn. Fisk¿s shattered soul after decades of reporting these horrors is understandable, yet one is left with an uneasy feeling that it is Fisk we are really supposed to feel sorry about, not the real victims.Now the reason why this is a book every Israeli should read.Fisk¿s commendable humanitarian approach to the victims of the ¿Great War for Civilization¿ in the Middle East is nonexistent when it comes to Israeli victims. The innocent lives of the hundreds of Israelis who died in senseless and barbarous terrorist attacks by Palestinian terrorists get only a cursory mention, and almost always in order to find some excuse to exonerate the terrorist and ¿explain¿ his motives. In most cases the Israeli victims have no name; none get the biographical treatment that Arab victims get in this book. Fisk is unable to mask his hatred of Israel and his bigot
Miro on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In a recent interview Robert Fisk concluded that his 30 years of writing and reporting on Middle East troubles had not led to any improvement so he regarded his work there as a failure.I would disagree, in that "The Great War for Civilisation" explores the Middle East conflict in a context of justice and fairness, so the success of the book is that more people can see the basis for Middle East peace. Fortunately it's a bestseller.He doesn't spell it out but his conclusions are;-Turkey admitting the Armenian genocide as the Germans have done with the Jewish genocide. This would be good for their EEC aspirations and the health of their democracy.- Israel unilaterally removing all the West Bank settlements and wall, and offering help and support to a new democratic and viable Palestine state.- Arab states and the world community accepting the results of free elections even if they don't like them. Allow the Islamist democratic winners in Algeria to form a government. Accept Hamas as the democratically elected government of the Palestinians.- Remove all government support from extreme Islamist and Jewish organizations. eg. Saudi support of Wahhabism, Pakistan's I.S.I.O. support of Afghani Taliban, Likud support for fundamentalist settlers and AIPAC manipulation of the US government.- Make the Middle East a nuclear weapon free zone. i.e. Cancel Israel's secret nuclear weapons program and destroy its warheads + remove all nuclear development in Iran, Syria etc.- Withdraw foreign troops from Iraq and Afghanistan in the same way that the Syrains left Lebanon + the US and GB admitting that WMD was a lie and that they tried to manipulate the UN as cover for their invasion.He's saying that justice and fairness are the basis for peace (and growth) rather than traditional Middle Eastern power relationships.
maykram on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting read, Fisk is obviously passionate about the situation in the Middle East
beniez on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brilliant.. and sad. A comprehensive account of what we (the "west") have done to the Middle East over the past century... and what they've done to themselves.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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NewsJunkies More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beirut768 More than 1 year ago
(1 of 2) is posted in Sofcover edition.

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.
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.
(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).
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.
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.

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.
You have alluded to CIA, MI6 and the Israeli Mossad.
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).
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.

Bob; you've given us a great book ........
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'...war is a security organization...because it 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.