Robert Fisk – Great Britain

About Bagdad he said on october 10: Out in the streets where few of us go is hell on Earth. I managed to get, a couple of weeks ago, to the mortuary in the city of Baghdad. As I often go in the past, counting the bodies of midday and midsummer out in the heat.

Robert Fisk – Great Britain

There were 26 by midday. Nine had arrived by nine in the morning. I managed to get the official figures for July for the total number of violent deaths in Baghdad alone. The figure was 1,100 violent deaths, men, women and children. Shot, butchered, knifed, executed, death squad killings. A figure which, of course is not given out by the Iraqi Health Ministry and certainly not by the occupational authorities.

We now have a situation in Iraq where there is a full scale insurgency by both the Shiites and the Sunnis against western forces. Once an insurgency of that kind starts in a Muslim country, it is impossible to quench it. Sorry, you guys can we put the book back? Let’s start again, we got it wrong at one point. You can’t do that. You can’t do that. I was discussing with an Iraqi friend three weeks ago in Baghdad what he thought the answer was. He said, “There is no answer. You’ve got to go. You’ve got to go.” I wrote at the time that I thought it was a terrible equation in Iraq. It goes like this. The Americans must leave. And the Americans will leave but the Americans can’t leave. And that’s the equation that turns sand into blood.

More and more, Western reporters in Baghdad are reporting from their hotels rather than the streets of Iraq’s towns and cities. Some are accompanied everywhere by hired and heavily armed Western mercenaries. A few live in local offices from which their editors refuse them permission to leave. Most use Iraqi “stringers” — part-time correspondents who risk their lives to conduct interviews for American or British journalists — and none can contemplate a journey outside the capital without days of preparation unless they “embed” themselves with American or British forces.

Robert Fisk gained a BA in English and Classics at Lancaster University and a PhD in Political Science, awarded by Trinity College, Dublin in 1985. From 1972 – 1975 Fisk served as Belfast correspondent for The Times, before becoming its Middle East correspondent (1976 – 1988). He later moved to The Independent, with his first report published there on 28 April 1989.

As Middle East correspondent Fisk covered the 1979 Iranian revolution, the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, and the 1991 Persian Gulf War. He was one of two Western journalists to stay in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. His book on the conflict, Pity The Nation, was first published in 1990. Fisk has also reported on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the conflicts in Kosovo and Algeria. He is one of the few Western journalists to have interviewed Osama bin Laden – three times (all published by The Independent: 6 December 1993; 10 July 1996; 22 March 1997). Fisk is also one of the few western journalists covering the Middle East who speaks fluent Arabic, providing him with a wider variety of sources and information and familiarity with issues in the Middle East at a much greater level of depth and specificity.

After the U.S. launched its attack on Afghanistan shortly after the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks, Fisk was for a time transferred to Pakistan to provide coverage of that conflict. His graphic account of his own beating at the hands of Afghan refugees was published in The Independent of 10 December 2001

During the 2003 Invasion of Iraq and the ensuing U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, Fisk was stationed in Baghdad and filed many eyewitness reports. He has criticized other journalists based in Iraq for their “hotel journalism”, arguing that they were out of touch with the events and atmosphere of the Baghdad streets

In The Independent he says: Torture’s out. Now they call it abuse. No screaming, no cries of agony, no shrieks of pain. Yes, it sounds much better, doesn’t it?

“Prevail” is the “in” word in America just now. We are not going to “win” in Iraq – because we did that in 2003, didn’t we, when we stormed up to Baghdad and toppled Saddam? Then George Bush declared “Mission Accomplished”. So now we must “prevail”. That’s what F J “Bing” West, ex-soldier and former assistant secretary for International Security Affairs in the Reagan administration said this week. Plugging his new book – No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah – he gave a frightening outline of what lies in store for the Sunni Muslims of Iraq.

I was sitting a few feet from Bing – plugging my own book – as he explained to the great and the good of New York how General Casey was imposing curfews on the Sunni cities of Iraq, one after the other, how if the Sunnis did not accept democracy they would be “occupied” (he used that word) by Iraqi troops until they did accept democracy. He talked about the “valour” of American troops – there was no word of Iraq’s monstrous suffering – and insisted that America must “prevail” because a “Jihadist” victory was unthinkable. I applied the Duke of Wellington’s Waterloo remark about his soldiers to Bing. I don’t know if he frightened the enemy, I told the audience, but by God Bing frightened me. (…)


The Independent’s award-winning Middle East correspondent, Robert Fisk is the author of Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War (London: André Deutsch, 1990). His most recent book is The Great War for Civilisation: the Conquest of the Middle East, published by 4th Estate on 3 October, 2005.


pictures of victims in Irak;


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