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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Talking to Fisk: Truth as a Causality of War

Talking to Fisk: Truth as a Causality of War

By Dan Glazebrook

Robert Fisk has a well-earned reputation as one of the most honest and hard hitting foreign correspondents in the British media.

He has worked in Northern Ireland, where he exposed the presence of the SAS in the mid-1970s, as well as Bosnia, Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon. It was here, as a witness to the immediate aftermath of the Israeli-organised Sabra and Shatila massacre of 2000 Palestinian refugees, that his journalism took on its current form: angry, passionate, and as he puts it “partial on the side of the victims” – a style of journalism which, unfortunately, is not shared by many of his colleagues in the profession. In the midst of a torrent of lies and propaganda emanating from our media about British and US policy on the Middle East, Fisk’s writings are a breath of fresh air – although the hellish reality he depicts does not always make for pleasant reading.

When I met him in Christchurch College, sandwiched between an earlier speaking engagement in Bristol, and a lecture at the Oxford Literary Festival – seemingly without a moment’s rest – we began by talking about the role of journalism in times of war. Firstly, I wanted to know, does journalism, by sanitising or justifying war, also have a role in perpetuating it?

“There are several things. First of all, there’s the inability of many journalists from the United States to actually tell the truth about the Israel-Palestine situation – hence, occupied territories are called disputed territories, the wall is called the security barrier, a colony or settlement is called a neighbourhood or an outpost. Which means that if you see a Palestinian chucking a stone, if it’s about an occupation, you can understand it, but if it’s about a dispute, which you can presumably settle over a cup of tea, then obviously the Palestinians are generically violent. So you demean one side in this appalling conflict.

Then you have this business where television will not show what we see, for reasons of so-called “bad taste”. I remember once being on the phone to a TV editor in London when Aljazeera were asked to feed some tape of children killed and wounded by British shell fire in Basra, and the guy started saying, “there’s no point feeding us this, we can’t show this”…the first excuse was, “people will be having their tea, so we can’t put it on”, and then it was, “this is sort of pornography, we don’t show this”. And it ended up – it is mesmeric to listen to this stuff - the last thing was “We have to show respect for the dead”. So we don’t show any respect for them when they are alive, we blow them to bits, and then we show respect for them…So because of this - and these bloodless sandpits with ex-generals pontificating - it becomes a game; you start propagating this idea that war is primarily about victory or defeat - when in fact, it’s about death, and the infliction of massive pain.

I was in Iraq in 1991, when the British and Americans had been bombing one of the highways. There were women and children dead and in bits, and all these dogs came out of the desert and started eating them…If you saw what I saw you would never ever think of supporting war of any kind against anyone again.


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