The Great War for Civilisation : The Conquest of the Middle East (revised edition 2006)
During the thirty years that award-winning journalist Robert Fisk has been reporting on the Middle East, he has covered every major event in the region, from the Algerian Civil War to the Iranian Revolution, from the American hostage crisis in Beirut (as one of only two Western journalists in the city at the time) to the Iran-Iraq War, from the Russian invasion of Afghanistan to Israel’s invasions of Lebanon, from the Gulf War to the invasion and ongoing war in Iraq. Now he brings his knowledge, his firsthand experience and his intimate understanding of the Middle East to a book that addresses the full complexity of its political history and its current state of affairs.
Passionate in his concerns about the region and relentless in his pursuit of the truth, Fisk has been able to enter the world of the Middle East and the lives of its people as few other journalists have. The result is a work of stunning reportage. His unblinking eyewitness testimony to the horrors of war places him squarely in the tradition of the great frontline reporters of the Second World War. His searing descriptions of lives mangled in the chaos of battle and of the battles themselves are at once dreadful and heartrending.
This is also a book of lucid, incisive analysis. Reaching back into the long history of invasion, occupation and colonization in the region, Fisk sets forth this 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.
Fisk interweaves this history with his own vividly rendered experiences in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Algeria, Israel, Palestine and Lebanon–on the front lines; behind the scenes; in the streets of cities and villages; and inside military headquarters, the hideouts of guerrillas, the homes of ordinary citizens. Here, too, are indelible portraits of Osama bin Laden, Ayatollah Khomeini and Yassir Arafat, among others–all of whom he has met face-to-face–revelatory in their apprehension of the individuals and the ideologies they represent.
Finally, The Great War for Civilisation is the story of journalists in war: of their attempts to report the first, impartial drafts of history, to monitor the centers of power, to challenge authority (“especially . . . when governments and politicians take us to war”) and to battle an increasingly partisan worldwide media in their determination to report the truth.
Unflinching, provocative, brilliantly written–a work of major importance for today’s world.
'Brilliant!this powerfully-written book is filled with accounts of horror, pain and injustice. His triumph is that he has turned a slightly dubious and over-romanticised craft into a honorable vocation.' Independent 'His forte is straight reporting, such as his three interviews with Osama bin Laden. At least as good are his meetings with Saddam Hussein, Khomeini and Sadeq Khalkhali, the hanging judge of the Iranian revolution, and his close-ups of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the launch of Saddam's war against Iran, an ambush by Islamists of an Algerian police patrol, and a lift into trouble in an Apache attack helicopter on the Iraq/Turkey border.' Guardian '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. A formidable production.' New York Times 'Full of furious, vivid and highly personalised writing!An important book by an intrepid and talented writer.' Literary Review
The most decorated British foreign correspondent, Fisk has been based in the Middle East for the last twenty-five years, and his knowledge of the area is unparalleled. He writes daily for the Independent and is syndicated in Italy (La Repubblica), Spain (El Pais) and France (Le Monde), amongst others. 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.