Robert Fisk

English writer and journalist (1946-2020)

Robert Fisk (born July 12 1946 – 30 October 2020) was a British journalist and war correspondent.

Robert Fisk




  • Clinton has changed all that. By endowing bin Laden with his new title (i. e. America's Public Enemy Number One), he has given the Saudi dissident what he sought: recognition as the greatest enemy of Western "corruption," the leader of all resistance against US policy in the Middle East. It would be funny if it weren't so tragic, the way America now treats its opponents as if they were Hollywood bandits.




  • And where, for God’s sake, does that wretched, utterly dishonest phrase “coalition forces” come from? There is no “coalition” in this Iraq war. There are the Americans and the British and a few Australians. That’s it.
  • So here’s a question from one who believed, only a week ago, that Baghdad might just collapse, that we might wake up one morning to find the Baathist militia and the Iraqi army gone and the Americans walking down Saadun Street with their rifles over their shoulders. If the Iraqis can still hold out against such overwhelming force in Umm Qasr for four days, if they can keep fighting in Basra and Nassariyeh — the latter a city which briefly rose in successful revolt against Saddam in 1991 — why should Saddam’s forces not keep fighting in Baghdad?
  • Two missiles from an American jet killed them all – by my estimate, more than 20 Iraqi civilians, torn to pieces before they could be 'liberated' by the nation that destroyed their lives. Who dares, I ask myself, to call this 'collateral damage'? 'It was an outrage, an obscenity', March 27, 2003
  • So it's a "truly remarkable achievement, is it? General Tommy Franks says so. Everything is going "according to plan, according to the British. So it's an achievement that the British still have not "liberated" Basra. It is "according to plan" that the Iraqis should be able to launch a scud missile from the Faw peninsula – supposedly under "British control" for more than a week. It is an achievement, truly remarkable of course, that the Americans lose an Apache helicopter to the gun of an Iraqi peasant, spend four days trying to cross the river bridges at Nasiriyah and are then confronted by their first suicide bomber at Najaf.
  • Sitting in Baghdad, listening to the God-awful propaganda rhetoric of the Iraqis but watching the often promiscuous American and British air attacks, I have a suspicion that what's gone wrong has nothing to do with plans. Indeed, I suspect there is no real overall plan. Because I rather think that this war's foundations were based not on military planning but on ideology.
  • Yet there is one achievement we should note. The ghastly Saddam, the most revolting dictator in the Arab world, who does indeed use heinous torture and has indeed used gas, is now leading a country that is fighting the world's only superpower and that has done so for almost two weeks without surrendering. Yes, General Tommy Franks has accomplished one "truly remarkable achievement". He has turned the monster of Baghdad into the hero of the Arab world and allowed Iraqis to teach every opponent of America how to fight their enemy.
  • At the time, I was working for The Times. My story ran in full. Then an official of the Foreign Office lunched my editor and told him my report was "not helpful". Because, of course, we supported President Saddam at the time and wanted revolutionary Iran to suffer and destroy itself. President Saddam was the good guy then. I wasn't supposed to report his human rights abuses. And now I'm not supposed to report the slaughter of the innocent by American or RAF pilots because the British Government has changed sides.
  • In reality, an American siege and occupation of the city would take weeks, perhaps months, but capture of the airport would allow troop-carrying aircraft to land. Since the city is 27 miles wide, an all-out assault could be an operation of epic proportions.
  • The New York Times "last month announced that the Syrian-supported Hizbollah resistance in Lebanon had 10,000 missiles that could fly to Tel Aviv and "leave in their wake devastation more terrible than anything Israel has ever known". The missiles are a myth – I travel the roads of southern Lebanon every two weeks and there are no such missiles, as the UN force there will confirm – but this doesn't matter.
  • If you stand up to people, they'll respect you for it. I had an e-mail from a Cambridge University American law student, and he said, 'You are an evil f------ man,' so I called him up - he put his telephone number on it - and I said, 'I'm going to call the police if I have any more messages like this from you. This is an abusive, threatening letter.' And he invited me to give a lecture. I couldn't do it, but I would have done it if I'd had the time.


  • War is primarily not about victory or defeat but about death and the infliction of death. It represents the total failure of the human spirit.
    • Preface (page XIX)
  • I don't like the definition 'war correspondent'. It is history, not journalism, that has condemned the Middle East to war. I think 'war correspondent' smells a bit, reeks of false romanticism: it has too much of the whiff of Victorian reporters who would view battles from hilltops in the company of ladies, immune to suffering, only occasionally glancing towards the distant pop-pop of cannon fire.
    • Preface (page XXI)
  • In just one year in Bosnia, thirty of my colleagues died. There is a little Somme waiting for all innocent journalists.
    • Preface (page XXI)
  • I suppose, in the end, we journalists try - or should try - to be the first impartial witnesses of history. If we have any reason for our existence, the least must be our ability to report history as it happens so that no one can say: 'we didn't know - no one told us.'
    • Preface (page XXIII)
  • And I think, in the end, that is the best definition of journalism I have heard; to challenge authority - all authority - especially so when governments and politicians take us to war, when they have decided that they will kill and others will die.
    • Preface (page XXIII)
  • When we journalists fail to get across the reality of events to our readers, we have not only failed in our job; we have also become a party to the bloody events that we are supposed to be reporting. If we cannot tell the truth about the shooting down of a civilian airliner - because this will harm 'our' side in a war or because it will cast one of our 'hate' countries in the role of victim or because it might upset the owner of our newspaper - then we contribute to the very prejudices that provoke wars in the first place. If we cannot blow the whistle on a navy that shoots civilians out of the sky, then we make future killings of the same kind as 'understandable' as Mrs Thatcher found this one. Delete the Americans' panic and incompetence - all of which would be revealed in the months to come - and pretend an innocent pilot is a suicidal maniac, and it's only a matter of time before we blow another airliner out of the sky. Journalism can be lethal.
    • Chapter 8: Drinking the Poisoned Chalice (page 333)
  • And history`s fingers never relax their grip, never leave us unmolested, can touch us even when we would never imagine their presence.
    • Chapter 11: 'Fifty Thousand Miles From Palestine' (page 464)
  • 'Terrorism' is a word that has become a plague on our vocabulary,the excuse and reason and moral permit for state-sponsored violence - our violence - which is now used on the innocent of the Middle East ever more outrageously and promiscuously. Terrorism, terrorism, terrorism. It has become a full stop, a punctuation mark, a phrase, a speech, a sermon, the be-all and end-all of everything that we must hate in order to ignore injustice and occupation and murder on a mass scale. Terror, terror, terror, terror. It is a sonata, a symphony, an orchestra tuned to every television and radio station and news agency report, the soap-opera of the Devil, served up on prime-time or distilled in wearyingly dull and mendacious form by the right-wing 'commentators' of the America east coast or the Jerusalem Post or the intellectuals of Europe. Strike against Terror. Victory over Terror. War on Terror. Everlasting War on Terror. Rarely in history have soldiers and journalists and presidents and kings aligned themselves in such thoughtless, unquestioning ranks. In August 1914, the soldiers thought they would be home by Christmas. Today, we are fighting for ever. The war is eternal. The enemy is eternal, his face changing on our screens. Once he lived in Cairo and sported a moustache and nationalised the Suez Canal. Then he lived in Tripoli and wore a ridiculous military uniform and helped the IRA and bombed American bars in Berlin. Then he wore a Muslim Imam's gown and ate yoghurt in Tehran and planned Islamic revolution. Then he wore a white gown and lived in a cave in Afghanistan and then he wore another silly moustache and resided in a series of palaces around Baghdad. Terror, terror, terror. Finally, he wore a kuffiah headdress and outdated Soviet-style military fatigues, his name was Yassir Arafat, and he was the master of world terror and then a super-statesman and then again, a master of terror, linked by Israeli enemies to the terror-Meister of them all, the one who lived in the Afghan cave.


  • Now quite apart from the fact that many Iraqis -- along with myself -- have grave doubts about whether [abu Marsab al-] Zarqawi exists and that al-Qaida's Zarqawi, if he does exist, does not merit the title of "insurgency mastermind,...
  • I do truly treasure this story. It proves my point that the Los Angeles Times -- along with the big East Coast dailies -- should all be called U.S. OFFICIALS SAY.
  • We have been conned again. The Israeli elections, we are told, mean that the dream of "Greater Israel" has finally been abandoned...But it is a lie.
  • I can't help wondering today how many of the innocents slaughtered in Haditha took the opportunity to vote in the Iraqi elections -- before their "liberators" murdered them.
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