Transcript: Robert Fisk on his book The Great War For Civilisation | Jan 14, 2006

Robert Fisk stands in a dimly lit auditorium and addresses an unseen audience.
A picture of his book "The great war for civilisation" appears briefly on screen. The cover features a black and white picture of soldiers marching in a frozen landscape.

Robert is in his sixties, clean-shaven, with receding white hair. He's wearing glasses, a black suit, and a blue shirt.

He says I'M NOT GOING TO
GIVE YOU A HARD SELL ON MY BOOK,
NOT LEAST, BECAUSE IT'S 1,366
PAGES AND I DON'T WANT TO INSULT YOU.
BUT I AM GOING TO TRY AND TALK
TO YOU ABOUT HOW THE BOOK AND
WRITING THIS BOOK OVER TWENTY
MONTHS CHANGED MY FEELINGS ABOUT
THE MIDDLE EAST, AND PERHAPS TO
SOME EXTENT, MY FEELINGS ABOUT
MY OWN JOB.
WRITING FROM SIX IN THE MORNING
'TIL EIGHT THE SAME EVENING, AND
LATER AS THE BOOK BECAME MORE
AND MORE DEPRESSING TO WRITE
'TIL THREE IN THE AFTERNOON, I
DID COME TO FEEL THAT THE THIRTY
YEARS THAT I'D SPENT IN THE
MIDDLE EAST WAS SOMETIMES NOT HE
PRIVILEGE I THOUGHT IT WAS.
I SUPPOSE, IN RETROSPECT, AND I
DIDN'T REALIZE THIS WHEN I WAS
WRITING IT, A BOOK BECOMES A
LIVING THING THAT YOU COME TO
ACTUALLY LIVE ALONGSIDE AS YOU
WRITE IT.
IN RETROSPECT, NOW THAT IT'S
OVER, I THINK ITS THEME IS OUR
NEED TO REFUSE TO ACCEPT THE
NARRATIVE OF HISTORY THAT IS
LAID DOWN FOR US BY OUR
PRESIDENTS, AND OUR PRIME
MINISTERS, AND OUR GENERALS,
AND
OUR JOURNALISTS.

[Applause]

Robert continues THE FIRST 202
PAGES - I CAN TELL YOU IT'S
EXACTLY CORRECT AT 202 - WERE
QUITE EASY.
I WAS 29 - I STILL FEEL I'M 29.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Robert Fisk. Author, 'The great war for civilisation. MacMillan Theatre, U of T. November 23, 2005."

Robert continues WHEN I WENT TO
THE MIDDLE EAST I COVERED THE
SOVIET INVASION OF AFGHANISTAN,
WATCHING THE DESCENDANTS OF THE
HEROES OF STALINGRAD,
CRASHING WITH THEIR TANKS
THROUGH THE HINDU KUSH AND BEING
ATTACKED BY THE MUJAHIDIN.
I SAW THE
ISLAMIC REVOLUTION, SPOKE TO
HAMANI.
'WAS IN THE BEGINNING OF THE
IRAN-IRAQ WAR - IN FACT, I WAS
IN FAR TOO MUCH OF THE IRAN-IRAQ
WAR, AS IT WAS EIGHT YEARS AND
ONE AND A HALF MILLION DEAD
DRAGGED ON.
INDEED, AT THE BEGINNING OF THAT
WAR, JOHN SNOW WHO'S QUITE A
FAMOUS CHAP IN BRITAIN, HE'S AN
ANCHORMAN FOR CHANNEL FOUR, THEN
A HUMBLE REPORTER LIKE ME.
HE WAS ASKED BY A SHIPPING
COMPANY IN BRITAIN TO TRY AND
RESCUE THE CREW OF A BRITISH
SHIP TRAPPED IN THE SHATT AL
ARAB RIVER BETWEEN IRAN AND
IRAQ.
DAY AND NIGHT MISSILES AND
ROCKETS WERE FLYING PAST THIS
BRITISH SHIP AND JOHN, IN THE
MOST INSANE ACT OF FOLLY HE'S
EVER UNDERTAKEN, AS HE WOULD
LATER SAY TO ME, AGREED TO TRY
AND RESCUE THE CREW.
HE CUT ME IN ON HIS STORY ON THE
GROUNDS THAT IF I COULD GET HIM
AN ADMIRAL T MAP, A BRITISH
ROYAL NAVY ADMIRAL T MAP OF THE
SHATT AL ARAB, OF WHICH OF
COURSE THE IRAQIS HAD NONE, I
COULD COME ALONG.
AND I GOT HIM ONE FROM A
NORWEGIAN SHIP TRAPPED IN BASRA.
AND SO WE SET OF WITH AN IRAQI
COMMANDO SQUAD - IN THOSE DAYS
OF COURSE, THE IRAQIS WERE THE
GOOD GUYS, THEY WERE ELITE
FORCES, WE WERE SUPPORTING THE
INVASION OF IRAN, SADDAM WAS A
GOOD GUY, A TORTURER OF COURSE,
MURDERER, BRUTAL PERSON, BUT HE
WAS ONE OF OUR STRONG MEN, NOT
ONE OF OUR DICTATORS.
YOU'RE A STRONG MAN BY THE WAY,
WHEN YOU'RE ON OUR SIDE; YOU'RE
A DICTATOR WHEN YOU DISOBEY THE
RULES.
ANYWAY, THIS WAS SADDAM, THE
STRONG MAN'S ELITE COMMANDO
FORCE.
WE PATTED AT NIGHT ACROSS A
SUNKEN DATE PALM PLANTATION DEEP
IN WATER WITH DOGS THAT SMELT US
AND BEGAN TO
[Growling]
AND THE IRANIANS, HELL AS BULLETS CAME
WHIZZING THROUGH.
IT HIT HIGH AS THE IRANIANS
TRIED TO SHOOT AT ANYONE ON THE
ISLAND.
WE EVENTUALLY REACHED THE
ISLAND'S EDGE WITH THE SHATT AL
ARAB RIVER AND JOHN PUT ON BLACK
FROGMAN'S UNIFORM AND BLACK
FLIPPERS, AND WITH A RUBBER
BOAT, WITH IRAQI COMMANDOS, SWAM
AND PADDLED OUT TO THE SHIP
WHICH WAS LIT UP LIKE A
CHRISTMAS TREE IN THE MIDDLE OF
THE RIVER, AND I STAYED ON THE
SHORE.
MY JOB WAS TO PULL THE ORES WHEN
WE GOT THE LIFEBOAT DOWN AND
BRING THE BOAT IN.
SURE ENOUGH, JOHN GOT ABOARD,
GOT ALL THE CREW INTO THE BOAT
AND I STARTED PULLING ON THE
ORES WITH MY COLLEAGUES FROM
ITV.
BULLETS WHIZZED PASSED US,
MOSQUITOES FEASTED ON US, AND
EVENTUALLY THE BOAT CAME IN.
AND OF COURSE, BEING A BRITISH
SHIP, MOST OF THE CREW WAS SRI
LANKAN AND INDIAN.

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues AND ALONG WITH
THE BRITISH, THEY'LL BOUGHT
THEIR DUTY FREE GOODS RECENTLY
PURCHASED IN THE TO-BUY DUTY
FREE SHOP.
BUT OF COURSE, YOU COULDN'T
CARRY FRIDGES AND TELEVISION
SETS, ESPECIALLY THE NEW LARGE
COLOUR VARIETY ACROSS A SWAMP TO
DATE PALM PLANTATION UNDER FIRE.
SO MY MOURNFUL DUTY WAS TO
WELCOME EACH MAN TO SAFETY ON
ASHORE, TAKE HIS COLOUR TV SET
OR HIS FRIDGE AND CHUCK IT INTO
THE SHAT AL ARAB RIVER.
WE WERE NOT THE MOST
ENTHUSIASTIC GREETED RESCUERS IN
THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues BUT WE GOT THEM
OFF.
I'D MANAGED TO AVOID GETTING MY
FEET WET.
JOHN WAS THE HERO OF THE DAY; HE
HAD UNIQUE FILM.
I TOOK IT WITH ME AT HIS REQUEST
TO KUWAIT, BOARDED ITV'S
PERSONAL JET, CHAMPAGNE AND
SMOKED SALMON OF COURSE, ALL THE
WAY TO IMAN.
THESE WERE THE DAYS BEFORE WE
HAD SATELLITE DISHES WITH US.
IT WAS ONE BIG DISH IN IMAN, AND
HALF AN HOUR EACH DAY A
SATELLITE WENT OVER.
THEY USED TO CRY, "WE HAVE A
BIRD, WE HAVE A BIRD!" AND UP
YOU SHOT YOUR FILM.
I GOT JOHN'S FILM OUT, I WROTE A
STORY IN WHICH I GAVE HIM ALL
DUE CREDIT, AND WENT OFF TO BED
IN THE IMAN INTERCONTINENTAL.
THE NEXT MORNING, I WOKE TWELVE
HOURS LATER TO FIND A TELEX -
THIS IS BEFORE THE DAYS OF
EMAILS AND SO ON - SO A TELEX
BENEATH MY HOTEL DOOR.
EX-FOREIGN, FOREIGN DESK OF THE
TIMES.
PRO-FISK, IT SAID.
WHY YOU NO SWAM SHARK-INFESTED
SHATT AL ARAB RIVER?

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues I READ THIS
PASSAGE TO A DEAR FRIEND OF MINE
AND I SAID TO HER, YOU KNOW,
THAT'S THE LAST HAPPY STORY IN
THE BOOK.
AND SAID - SHE SAID, "AH, THAT
IS THE END OF THE SWEET
STORIES."
I THOUGHT THIS WAS POETIC ENOUGH
TO REPORT.
SO THE NEXT
PARAGRAPH BEGINS, "THAT IS THE
END OF THE SWEET STORIES."
THOSE OF YOU UNWISE ENOUGH TO
BUY MY BOOK WILL SPOT THAT AT
THIS POINT...
...A PAGEANT OF
TERROR, BETRAYAL, AND JUSTICE,
TORTURE, DICTATORSHIP, ETHNIC
CLEANSING, AND GENOCIDE WILL
FOLLOW.
YOU KNOW, WHEN YOU'RE REPORTING
A WAR LIKE THE IRAN-IRAQ WAR,
YOU GO TO THE IRANIAN FRONT
LINES AND YOU SPEND THREE WEEKS
THERE, AND HOPEFULLY YOU
SURVIVE; WE DIDN'T ALL, BUT MOST
OF US DID.
AFTER THE THREE WEEKS,
EXHAUSTED, OUR MINDS BLANK AND
OUR EARS DEAFEN BY GUNFIRE, WE
COULD GO HOME, BACK TO BEIRUT -
ADMITTEDLY THERE'S STILL A WAR
THERE BUT NOT ON THIS SCALE.
THIS WAS A PSALM-LIKE WAR, THE
IRAN-IRAQ WAR.
LIKE MY FATHER'S WAR ON THE
WESTERN FRONT.
ONE AND A HALF MILLION DEAD
EIGHT YEARS.
BUT I COULD GO BACK TO BEIRUT,
HAVE DINNER, GO HOME FOR
CHRISTMAS, GO TO SEE FRIENDS IN
EUROPE, AND THEN GO BACK TO THE
WAR.
MAYBE ON THE IRANIAN SIDE, MAYBE
ON THE IRAQI SIDE, BUT WHEN YOU
CHOP OUT ALL THE LITTLE PERSONAL
BITS THAT TRAVELS BACKWARDS AND
FORWARDS AND YOU END UP BY
PUSHING TOGETHER ALL THE SCENES
OF WAR, AND THOSE WITNESSING
REPORTS OF MY COLLEAGUES WHO
WERE THERE WHEN I WASN'T,
MOHAMMED SALAM OF THE ASSOCIATED
PRESS, WHO SAW THE FIRST
EVIDENCE OF GAS USE AGAINST THE
IRANIANS.
HE STOPPED COUNTING WHEN HE
FOUND A THOUSAND IRANIAN
SOLDIERS LYING IN THE DESERT,
THEIR TROUSERS STAINED WITH
URINE, BLOOD OUT OF THEIR
MOUTHS.
THEY'D BEEN VISITED UPON THEM
HAD BEEN BOTH CHEMICALS AND
BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS.
WHEN YOU PUT ALL THIS TOGETHER
YOU REALIZE THE IMMENSE
SUFFERING THAT THE PEOPLES OF
MIDDLE EAST WORLD GO THROUGH.
INDEED, ONE OF THE CONCLUSIONS I
REACHED AT THE END OF THE BOOK
IS HOW - AND THIS WAS A MORE
DIFFICULT MESSAGE TO PASS ACROSS
TO AUDIENCES IN THE UNITED
STATES OVER THE PAST TWO WEEKS -
HOW RESTRAINED MUSLIMS HAD BEEN
TOWARDS US, GIVEN THE CLOAK AND
BLANKET OF INJUSTICE, WHICH LAY
ACROSS THEIR LANDS.
PARTLY, WE WEREN'T TOTALLY
CULPABLE, BUT VERY CULPABLE
BECAUSE OF THE WEST, BECAUSE OF
OUR SUPPORT FOR THEIR DICTATORS,
BECAUSE OF OUR SUPPORT, INDEED
OUR APPOINTMENT AND ANOINTMENT
OF THEIR DICTATORS.
THE QADHAFAS AND ANASSAS ALSO
CAME TO POWER WITH OUR SUPPORT
ORIGINALLY, WHEN OF COURSE, OUR
DICTATORS BROKE THE RULES;
INSTEAD OF INVADING IRAN THEY'VE
INVADED KUWAIT, OR INSTEAD OF
GETTING RID OF KING INDRI'S THEY
SETTLE FOR BOMBING A DISCO IN
BERLIN.
OR WHEN, INSTEAD OF JUST GETTING
RID OF KING FARUK, THEY
NATIONALIZE A SERVICE CANAL, WE
BOMBED THEM.
BUT AS LONG AS THEY OBEYED THE
RULES THEY WERE OUR FRIENDS IN
THE REGION AND WE CARED NOTHING
ABOUT TORTURE, OR JUSTICE, OR
DEMOCRACY.
SO I AM LEFT, STILL, AT THE END
OF THE BOOK, AMAZED THAT WE HAVE
BEEN VISITED SO LITTLE VIOLENCE
BY THIS PART OF THE WORLD.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF JOURNALISTS
IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES?
YOU KNOW, I USED TO THINK THAT
IT WAS A PRIVILEGE TO WITNESS
HISTORY.
THE FIRST CHAPTERS OF MY BOOK IS
AND ADVENTURE STORY.
SAY, I WAS YOUNG.
AND INDEED, IN THOSE DAYS I
BELIEVED, AND I STILL DO TO SOME
EXTENT, THAT OUR JOB AS FOREIGN
CORRESPONDENCE, IS TO TELL THE
FIRST ACCOUNT OF WHAT WE SEE, TO
WRITE THE FIRST PAGES OF
HISTORY, SO THAT NO ONE CAN SAY
"WE DIDN'T KNOW; NO ONE TOLD
US."
HOW LONG AGO WAS THAT?
WHAT DID YOU SAY YOU SAW?
I DON'T REMEMBER.
WE HAVE TO PREVENT THAT.
BUT MORE THAN TWO YEARS AGO I
HAD A LONG CONVERSATION WITH
AMIRA HASS, THAT VERY FINE
ISRAELI JOURNALIST WHO WORKS FOR
HA'ARETZ, OFTEN REPORTS FROM
RAMALA, AND WHOSE REPORTS ARE
MORE ELOQUENT AND MORE
COURAGEOUS THAN ANY OF THOSE OF
OTHER WESTERN REPORTERS IN THE
MIDDLE EAST.
AND SHE SAID, AFTER I GAVE MY
VERY BRITISH DEFINITION OF BEING
A FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, SHE
SAID "NO, ROBERT, YOU'RE WRONG."
SHE SAID "OUR JOB IS TO MONITOR
THE CENTERS OF POWER; TO
CHALLENGE AUTHORITY, ESPECIALLY
WHEN IT WANTS TO GO TO WAR,
ESPECIALLY WHEN IT'S GOING TO
KILL PEOPLE, AND ESPECIALLY WHEN
IT TELLS LIES."
AND I THOUGHT THAT WAS THE BEST
DEFINITELY I'VE EVER HEARD OF
OUR JOB, OR WHAT OUR JOB SHOULD BE.

[Applause]

Robert continues DID WE DO THAT?
IN 1992-93, I MADE A FILM SERIES
CALLED
BEIRUT TO BOSNIA: HOW
MUSLIMS ARE COMING TO HATE
THE WEST.
WE FILMED - ON REAL FILM, IT WAS
SHOWN IN CINEMAS AS WELL AS ON
THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL IN THE
UNITED STATES AND ON THE BRITISH
CHANNEL FOUR TELEVISION.
WE FILMED IN EGYPT, BOSNIA,
GAZA, THE WEST BANK, ISRAEL,
SOUTH LEBANON, BEIRUT, CROATIA
AND POLAND.
AND AT ONE SCENE
IN THIS FILM I WALK INTO A
BURNING MOSQUE IN A VILLAGE
CALLED CHEYLA IN SERB-OCCUPIED
BOSNIA.
THIS IS 1993.
AND AS I WALK INTO THE MOSQUE
AND YOU SEE THE MOSQUE IN
RUINS--
--THIS IS A
VILLAGE I'D VISITED THE YEAR
BEFORE WHEN THE MOSQUE, A
BEAUTIFUL LITTLE BUILDING, WAS
INTACT.
INDEED, I'D HAD COFFEE WITH A
BOSNIAN-MUSLIM MAN IN A LITTLE
COTTAGE NEXT DOOR WITH HIS
FAMILY.
THE COTTAGE IS NOW DESTROYED,
THE FAMILY ETHNICALLY CLEANSED.
AND THERE WITH THE MOSQUE
BURNING, AND AS I WALK IN, I SAY
ON THE SOUNDTRACK, "WHEN I SEE
THINGS LIKE THIS" - THIS IS AN
ACTUAL QUOTATION - "I THINK OF
THE PLACE WHERE I WORK, THE
MIDDLE EAST, WHERE WHEN THERE IS
VIOLENCE WE TALK OF MINDLESS
TERRORISM, BUT WHEN I SEE SCENES
LIKE THIS I ASK MYSELF WHAT DOES
A MUSLIM WORLD HAVE IN STORE FOR
US?"
"MAYBE" I SAY ON THE SOUNDTRACK,
"I SHOULD ALWAYS END MY REPORTS
WITH THE WORDS WATCH OUT."
WHEN I WENT BACK THROUGH ALL THE
RUSHES AND THE CUTS ON THE FILM,
WHICH I STILL HAD ON ROUGH-CUT
TAPE, I DISCOVERED THAT I WALKED
INTO THAT MOSQUE ON SEPTEMBER
THE 11th 1993.
I WAS SHORT BY EIGHT YEARS.
WHEN THE FILM WAS SHOWN IN THE
UNITED STATES, PRESS COMMENT WAS
LARGELY CRITICAL.
I WAS BEING SENSATIONALIST, AND
MUSLIMS WERE NOT COMING TO HATE
THE WEST.
IN THE COMING YEARS - AND I'VE
GONE BACK THROUGH THE FILES,
SEVERAL TIMES I AM MY COLLEAGUES
IN INTERVIEWS AND TELEVISION.
I HAVE ONE FROM 1999 ON CBC.
TALK ABOUT AN EXPLOSION TO COME.
I USED THOSE WORDS.
I HAD NO KNOWLEDGE,
INTELLIGENCE, ANYTHING.
BUT LIVING IN THE MIDDLE EAST I
FELT SOMETHING WAS COMING.
THERE WAS A POINT WHERE WE WOULD
BREAK DOWN DOORS THAT SOMETHING
UNPRECEDENTED WOULD OCCUR.
ON SEPTEMBER 11th 2001, I WAS
FLYING ACROSS THE ATLANTIC
TOWARDS AMERICA.
JUST BEFORE WE TOOK OFF I
RECEIVED A PHONE CALL FROM THE
FEATURES EDITOR OF THE
INDEPENDENT.
I HAD LONG SINCE LEFT THE TIMES.
HE SAID THAT A LONG
INVESTIGATION I'D CARRIED OUT
INTO WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN THE
SABRA AND SHATILA MASSACRE OF
PALESTINIANS BY ISRAEL'S
CHRISTIAN LEBANESE MILITIA
ALLIES.
IN 1982, HAD TO BE POSTPONED FOR
THE SECOND TIME.
I SAID, "WHY ON EARTH?"
HE SAID, "BECAUSE A LIGHT
AIRCRAFT HAS FLOWN INTO ONE OF
THE TOWERS OF THE WORLD TRADE
CENTER."
"A LIGHT AIRCRAFT AND YOU'RE
POSTPONING THIS?
WHAT THE INVESTIGATION
EFFECTIVELY PROVED WAS THAT IN
THE ORIGINAL MASSACRE FROM THE
16th TO THE 18th OF SEPTEMBER,
UP TO 800 PALESTINIANS HAD BEEN
KILLED.
BUT FOLLOWING THIS, SURVIVORS -
MALE SURVIVORS OF THE MASSACRE,
HAVING BEEN INTERVIEWED,
INTERROGATED BY THE ISRAELIS,
WERE HANDED BACK TO THE
MURDERERS OF SABRA AND SHATILA
AND TAKEN AWAY, BETWEEN 700 AND
900 OF THEM, TO BE HELD IN
CONTAINER VANS IN EAST BEIRUT
AND UP IN THE MOUNTAINS OF
KESAN.
IN ATTEMPT BY THE CHRISTIANS TO
GET BACK CHRISTIANS WHO WERE
HELD HOSTAGE BY MUSLIM FORCES
IN THE CIVIL WAR.
AND WHEN THEIR HOSTAGES WERE
RETURNED, ALL 800, 700, 900
PALESTINIANS HELD IN THOSE
CONTAINER WAGONS WERE EXECUTED
IN MASS GRAVES.
I KNOW THE LOCATION OF ONE OF
THEM IN BEIRUT.
SO THIS WAS AN IMPORTANT STORY,
A STORY I'VE BEEN WANTING TO GET
IN THE PAPER FOR SEVERAL WEEKS.
IT TOOK MONTHS OF WORK, AND
SUDDENLY, IT COULDN'T GO IN.
HOW I CURSED, BUT THEN, THE NEXT
PHONE CALL, IT WAS AN AIRLINER
INTO A TOWER OF THE WORLD TRADE
CENTER.
THIS WAS DIFFERENT.
THIS WAS A TRAGEDY ON AN
EXTRAORDINARY SCALE.
I SAT DOWN IN MY SEAT IN THE
AIRCRAFT, SWITCHED OFF MY MOBILE
PHONE, USED THE SATELLITE PHONE
BESIDE ME TO CALL THE OFFICE.
A SECOND AIRLINER INTO THE WORLD
TRADE CENTER.
THIS WAS NO LONGER A TRAGEDY,
THIS WAS AN ATTACK.
WE TOOK OFF.
FLEW ACROSS THE BAY OF BISCAY,
ACROSS IRELAND.
I WENT UP TO THE CREW AT THE
FRONT, I SAID, "DOES THE CAPTAIN
KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON IN
AMERICA?"
THE CAPTAIN CAME BACK AT ONCE.
I TOLD HIM OF THE TWO AIRCRAFTS.
HE SAID "FIND OUT SOMETHING
ELSE.
WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?"
SO I WENT BACK TO MY SEAT,
CALLED LONDON.
THIS TIME MY FOREIGN EDITOR,
LEONARD DOYLE, IN A VERY SOLEMN
VOICE, FATHER DOYLE I ALWAYS
CALLED HIM WHEN HE WAS IN THIS
VOICE, CAME OUT AND SAID, "TWO
AIRCRAFT INTO THE WORLD TRADE
CENTER, ONE AIRCRAFT INTO THE
PENTAGON, ONE CRASHED IN
PENNSYLVANIA."
SO I WENT BACK TO THE FRONT OF
THE AIRCRAFT AND TOLD THE CREW.
THE STEWARDESS, LOOKING SORT OF
VAGUELY BETWEEN US AND NOT AT
ANYONE SAID, "A LOT OF PEOPLE
MUST HAVE BEEN INVOLVED.
THEY ALL INTENDED TO DIE.
THEY MUST HAVE MADE DUMMY RUNS.
WHERE DID THE AIRCRAFT COME
FROM?"
AT THIS STAGE WE DIDN'T KNOW
THEY WERE DOMESTIC FLIGHTS FROM
NEW YORK, FROM BOSTON AND SO ON.
THEY COULD HAVE COME FROM LATIN
AMERICA OR EUROPE.
EUROPE.
AND THE PERSON AND I LOOKED AT
EACH OTHER VERY, VERY
MEANINGFULLY AND WE WENT AROUND
THE AIRCRAFT TOGETHER, BOTH
HOLDING LITTLE BITS OF PAPER TO
SEE WHICH OF THE PASSENGERS ON
OUR AIRCRAFT WE DIDN'T LIKE.

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues I FOUND 13; TWO
IN BUSINESS CLASS, THE REST IN
ECONOMY.
HE FOUND 14.
MORE OR LESS,
THE SAME PEOPLE.
OF COURSE, THEY WERE MUSLIMS,
WEREN'T THEY?
AND YOU SEE,
WHEN I GOT BACK TO THE FRONT OF
THE AIRCRAFT I REALIZED I
THOUGHT IT WAS BIN LADEN, I
HAVE TO BE HONEST WITH YOU.
I KNEW HIM, I'D MET HIM THREE
TIMES.
WHEN I GOT BACK TO THE FRONT OF
THE AIRCRAFT I REALIZED THAT
THAT ATTACK IN AMERICA, WITHIN
MINUTES HAD TURNED NICE LIBERAL
BOB INTO A RACIST.
I WAS GOING AROUND MY AIRCRAFT
RACIALLY PROFILING THE
PASSENGERS.
ALL OF THEM WERE COMPLETELY
INNOCENT, OF COURSE.
AND THEN I BEGAN TO THINK THAT
THE PURPOSE OF THIS, PERHAPS IT
WAS TO DIVIDE MUSLIMS FROM THE
WEST.
NOTICE HOW WE CALL IT THE WEST
RATHER THAN CHRISTIANS NOW, BUT
I THINK IT WAS ALSO TO DIVIDE
THE INNOCENT FROM THE INNOCENT.
AND IF ONE MAN WAS EVER TO SAY
PUBLICLY THAT THIS ACT CHANGED
THE WORLD FOREVER, IT
WOULD
DIVIDE THE INNOCENT FROM THE
INNOCENT, AND WE KNOW WHO SAID
IT CHANGED THE WORLD FOREVER.
I'LL SAY NOW, PERSONALLY, I
REFUSE TO LET 19 ARAB MURDERERS
CHANGE MY WORLD.
I ABSOLUTELY REFUSE.
IF MR. BUSH WANTED OR WANTS TO
PERSUADE THE WORLD THAT IS
CHANGED FOREVER BECAUSE OF THIS,
SHAME UPON HIM.
WE SHOULD NOT LOSE OUR STANDARDS
AND OUR VALUES BECAUSE OF WHAT
HAPPENED ON SEPTEMBER 11, 2001.
THAT IS A VERY POOR MEMORIAL TO
THE INNOCENT DEAD.

[Applause]

Robert continues I DIDN'T HAVE
MUCH DOUBT THAT IT WAS OSAMA BIN LADEN.
I KNOW THE CONSPIRACY THEORIES.
I WOULD STILL LIKE TO KNOW THE
DEGREE TO WHICH THE BUSH
ADMINISTRATION KNEW THAT
SOMETHING WAS COMING.
AFTER ALL, MOST OF US IN THE
MIDDLE EAST FELT SOMETHING WAS
COMING.
I'D LIKE TO KNOW WHY THE
CRITICAL INTERCEPTS - "IT'S
TOMORROW, IT'S HAPPENING
TOMORROW" - RECEIVED ON THE 10th
OF SEPTEMBER WERE NOT TRANSLATED
'TIL THE 12th OF SEPTEMBER.
BUT I DIDN'T DOUBT THAT IT WAS
BIN LADEN.
THE THIRD TIME I MET HIM IN
AFGHANISTAN ON A MOUNTAINTOP IN
HIS CAMP, ORIGINALLY OF COURSE,
BUILT BY THE CIA WHEN HE WAS ON
OUR SIDE, HE SAID TO ME, MR.
ROBERT, FROM THIS MOUNTAIN UPON
WHICH YOU'RE SITTING, WE
DEFEATED AND DESTROYED THE
RUSSIAN ARMY AND HELPED TO
DESTROY THE SOVIET UNION.
EXAGGERATION, BUT I THOUGHT
THERE WAS A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF
TRUTH IN IT AND I LET IT GO.
AND THEN HE SAID "MR. ROBERT, I
PRAY TO GOD THAT HE PERMITS US
TO TURN AMERICA INTO A SHADOW OF
ITSELF."
WHEN I WENT
THROUGH MY NOTEBOOKS FOR THE
BOOK, I FOUND THAT I PUT THREE
VERTICAL LINES ON EACH SIDE THIS
PARAGRAPH AND WRITTEN IN THE
MARGIN "RHETORIC, QUESTION
MARK."
BIG MISTAKE.
SHOULDN'T HAVE BEEN A QUESTION
MARK, AND DEFINITELY SHOULDN'T
HAVE BEEN THE WORD RHETORIC.
SO WHEN I WAS ON THE AIRCRAFT I
HAD A PRETTY GOOD IDEA OF WHO IT
WOULD BE.
I WROTE IN A STORY FILED FROM
THAT AIRCRAFT.
YOU KNOW, I DON'T BELIEVE IN
FINGER-POINTING BUT WHEN YOU
HAVE AN INTERNATIONAL CRIME
AGAINST HUMANITY ON THIS SCALE,
IT IS PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE TO
SAY, OR TO ASK, "WHO HAS
DECLARED WAR ON THE UNITED
STATES?"
BIN LADEN HAD, QUITE
SPECIFICALLY.
I MUST SAY THAT WHEN I GOT BACK
TO EUROPE AND I SAW THE TWIN
TOWERS FALL IN THIS BIBLICAL
HORROR, SPREADING THAT FOG OF
SMOKE AND DUST ACROSS LOWER
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK HAS
CERTAINLY BECOME A SHADOW
ITSELF.
BUT I ALSO WROTE A STORY IN
WHICH I - WHICH WENT AT THE TOP
OF THE PAGE IN THE INDEPENDENT -
IN WHICH I SAID, HOLD ON A
SECOND, WE'VE GOT TO SEE THIS IN
THE LATE OF HISTORY.
THE BALFOUR DECLARATION, THE
LIES OF LAWRENCE OF ARABIA,
SYKES-PIKO, OSLO - IT HAS COME
TO THIS.
I SAID THAT IN THE COMING HOURS
AND DAYS AND WEEKS, THE ONE
QUESTION WE WILL NOT BE ALLOWED
TO ASK IS "WHY?"
WE COULD KNOW "WHO" - 19 ARABS
WHO CLAIMED THEY WERE MUSLIMS.
"HOW" AS WE QUICKLY FOUND OUT -
BOX CUTTERS, AIRPLANES, TALL
BUILDINGS.
BUT THE MOMENT I SAID, WE RAISE
THE "WHY" QUESTION THE WORLD
WILL FALL ON OUR HEADS FOR
ASKING THAT QUESTION.
AND INDEED, THAT
EVENING, ONCE I GOT BACK TO
EUROPE, MY MOBILE PHONE CALLING
LIKE A "BUD-JU-GAR" EVERY FEW
MINUTES, AND ITALIAN TELEVISION,
BBC TELEVISION, CBS - I TRIED TO
ASK THE "WHY" QUESTION TO THE
INTENSE EMBARRASSMENT OF
ANCHORMEN AND REPORTERS AT THE
OTHER END.
WHY?
WE NEED TO KNOW WHY.
BEFORE MIDNIGHT ON THE 11th OF
SEPTEMBER I WAS CONNECTED TO AN
IRISH RADIO STATION WHICH HOOKED
ME IN TO A FRIEND, A VERY ANGRY
PROFESSOR AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY
WHO SHALL REMAIN NAMELESS.

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues YEAH, IT WAS
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, OF COURSE, YES.

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues AND HIS REACTION
TO MY "WHY" QUESTION WAS, "MR.
FISK, YOU ARE A DANGEROUS MAN.
TO ASK THE 'WHY' QUESTION' IS TO
BE ON THE SIDE OF TERRORISM.
YOU ARE ANTI-AMERICAN," HE SAID,
"AND THAT IS THE SAME AS TO BE
ANTI-SEMITIC."

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues "AMON DUMFEAR,"
FORMER IRISH FOOTBALLER WHO WAS
ACTUALLY COMPARING THIS SHOW,
PULLED THE PLUG ON DERSHOWITZ,
BUT I GOT THE MESSAGE, TO TRY
AND FIND OUT WHY YOU WERE NAZI,
A RACIST.
FOR MONTHS AFTERWARDS I WAS
GETTING POSTCARDS, MOSTLY FROM
THE UNITED STATES TELLING ME
THAT MY MOTHER, PEGGY FISK WAS
ADOLF IKEMAN'S DAUGHTER.
PEGGY, WHO WAS ALREADY DEAD, I
HAVE TO TELL YOU, WAS A RADIO
REPAIR OPERATOR IN THE ROYAL
AIR FORCE DURING THE BATTLE OF
BRITAIN.
HER JOB WAS TO REPAIR RADIOS AND
SPITFIRES THAT HAD BEEN DAMAGED
DURING FIGHTING WITH THE
[Unclear] BUT THAT DIDN'T
MATTER, SHE WAS ADOLF IKEMAN'S
DAUGHTER.
AND YOU SEE, THIS WAS A VERY
INTERESTING SITUATION.
THE FIRST THING THE COPS DO IF
THEY COME ACROSS A CRIME IN
TORONTO IS LOOK FOR A MOTIVE.
BUT WHEN WE HAD AN INTERNATIONAL
CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY IN NEW
YORK, WASHINGTON, AND
PENNSYLVANIA, THE ONE THING WE
WERE NOT ALLOWED TO DO WAS LOOK
FOR A MOTIVE.
HOW VERY ODD.
I MEAN, 19 ARABS; ARABS COME
FROM THE MIDDLE EAST.
IS THERE A PROBLEM OUT THERE,
HUH?

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues [Applause]
AND YOU SEE, THE
LATE EDWARD SAID GOT IT RIGHT.
THERE IS ONE REMAINING TABOO IN
THE UNITED STATES.
YOU CAN TALK ABOUT GAYS,
LESBIANS, BLACKS, BUT YOU DO NOT
TALK ABOUT AMERICA'S
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE MIDDLE
EAST, PARTICULARLY WITH ARABS
AND ISRAELIS.
NO, ISRAEL DID NOT COMMIT THE
INTERNATIONAL CRIMES AGAINST
HUMANITY ON THE 11th OF
SEPTEMBER, 2001.
BUT WE SOMEHOW WERE INVOLVED IN
AND ENVIRONMENT WHICH CREATED
THESE 19 MEN.
WHAT HAPPENED?
HOW DID THIS COME ABOUT?
HOW DID THIS ENVIRONMENT OF THE
MIDDLE EAST - THE ARAB MUSLIM
WORLD, IF YOU LIKE - HOW DID THE
WHOLE MIDDLE EAST PRODUCE THESE
19 MEN, AND MANY MORE I'M SURE,
WHO DIDN'T GET ABOARD THE
PLANES, WHO DIDN'T PULL OUT THE
BOX CUTTERS.
RESEARCHING THIS BOOK WAS A VERY
PAINFUL, DISENCHANTING TO DO.
NOT LEAST BECAUSE I BEGAN TO
REALIZE THE DEGREE TO WHICH, NOT
ONLY JOURNALISTS BUT POLITICIANS
IN GENERAL TOO, HAD FAILED TO
READ THEIR HISTORY BOOKS.
I ALWAYS SAY THAT YOU KNOW,
JOURNALISTS SHOULD CARRY A
NOTEBOOK HERE FOR TAKING NOTES,
AND A HISTORY BOOK HERE.
NEVER HAVE I FOUND IT SO
RELEVANT AS IN WRITING THIS
BOOK.
WE, THE WEST, YOU KNOW WE'RE
ALWAYS GOING TO THE MIDDLE EAST
TO RESCUE ARABS.
NAPOLEON, IN THE FRENCH
EXPEDITION TO EGYPT IN THE 18th
CENTURY, ISSUED A PROCLAMATION
TO THE PEOPLE CAIRO SAYING HE
WAS COMING TO RESCUE THEM FROM
THE PASHAS OF CAIRO WHO HANGED
PEOPLE WHO WANTED TO EXERCISE
FREE SPEECH.
I MEAN, EVEN POPE URBAN II, WAY
BACK IN THE 11th CENTURY, WANTED
TO RESCUE THE CHRISTIANS IN THE
MIDDLE EAST.
BUT I WAS MOST TAKEN BY THE FACT
THAT IN THE AUTUMN OF 1917,
AFTER INVADING ALL OF IRAQ, THE
BRITISH FORCES TOOK OVER
BAGHDAD - AUTUMN OF 1917, AND
GENERAL SIR ANGUS MAUDE, BRITISH
COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE
BRITISH ARMY OF MESOPOTAMIA,
LATER OF COURSE, IRAQ, ISSUED A
PROCLAMATION WHICH HE PASTED TO
THE WALLS OF BAGHDAD.
A YOUNG BRITISH
SOLDIER, PRIVATE CHARLES DICKENS
OF CHESHIRE REGIMENT, PULLED
ONE OF THESE POSTERS FROM THE
WALL, FOLDED IT IN FOUR, PUT IT
IN HIS KNAPSACK 'CAUSE HE
THOUGHT ONE DAY IT MIGHT BE
IMPORTANT.
STAINED WITH HIS PERSPIRATION
THROUGH TWO IRAQI BROILING
SUMMERS--
--HE EVENTUALLY
PASSED IT ON TO HIS DAUGHTER,
WHO AT AN AUCTION IN FEBRUARY
2003 SOLD IT TO ME FOR 2,000 dollars.
VERY POWERFULLY, EXPENSIVE
PROCLAMATION FROM GENERAL MAUDE.
BUT I FRAMED IT AND PUT IT NEXT
TO MY DESK AS I WROTE THIS BOOK,
AND IT WAS A VERY GOOD DECISION.
IT BEGINS WITH THE WORDS, "TO
THE PEOPLE FROM "HUF-A-ZUTH,"
THE GOVERNOR OF BAGHDAD.
WE COME HERE NOT AS CONQUERORS,
BUT AS LIBERATORS TO FREE YOU
FROM GENERATIONS OF TYRANNY.
SIGNED, ANGUS MAUDE.
NOT GEORGE W. BUSH.
ANGUS MAUDE, ALL RIGHT.

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues [Applause]
MAUDE, I SHOULD
ADD, DIED OF CHOLERA A FEW DAYS
LATER BECAUSE HE DIDN'T BOIL HIS
MILK IN THE HEAT OF IRAQ.
IN 1920, AN IRAQI INSURRECTION
BEGAN AGAINST BRITISH
OCCUPATION.
I SHOULD ADD AT THIS POINT THAT
BY THIS STAGE MANY BRITISH
PEOPLE WERE ASKING WHY OUR
FORCES WERE STILL IN IRAQ.
THEY'D BEEN CALLED UP FOR THE
FIRST WORLD WAR - TIME THEY CAME
HOME.
THE FIRST BRITISH CASUALTY WAS
COLONEL LEACHMAN, MURDERED BY AN
IRAQI ARAB AT A VILLAGE CALLED
KHANDHARI NEAR ABU GHRAIB, OUR
FAVOURITE PRISON.
I KNOW KHANDHARI WELL BECAUSE IN
2003 I TRAVELLED THERE TO TRAVEL
THE KILLING OF THE FIRST
AMERICAN SOLDIER KILLED BY A
ROADSIDE BOMB.
I SAW HIS BLOOD ON THE ROAD.
AND AT KHANDHARI I MET THE
GRANDSON OF THE MAN WHO KILLED
COLONEL LEACHMAN, WHO POINTED
OUT TO ME THAT LEACHMAN WAS
MURDERED ONE HUNDRED FEET FROM
THE SPOT WHERE THIS AMERICAN
SOLDIER HAD DIED.
THE BRITISH RETALIATED IN 1920
BY LAYING SIEGE TO A CITY CALLED
FALLUJAH, WHICH WE BOMBARDED
WITH HEAVY ARTILLERY AND
PARTIALLY DESTROYED.
WE THEN WENT ON TO SURROUND A
CITY CALLED NAJAF, WHERE WE
CALLED FOR THE SURRENDER OF A
SHIITE DIVINE CALLED BATA, NOT
SADA, BATA.
WE GOT BATA, THE AMERICANS
DIDN'T GET SADA.

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues BRITISH MILITARY
INTELLIGENCE SENT A TELEGRAM
THAT YEAR IN 1920 TO THE WAR
OFFICE IN LONDON, I'VE SEEN IT.
THEY SAID THAT TERRORISTS WERE
CROSSING THE IRAQI BORDER FROM...

Somebody in the audience says
SYRIA.

Robert says QUITE RIGHT.
SYRIA, THAT'S WHAT THEY SAID, YEAH.
VERY GOOD.

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues YOU'LL GET THE
NEXT ONE TOO.
DAVID LLOYD GEORGE, THE BRITISH
PRIME MINISTER FOR BY THIS TIME
THE CLAIM ACROSS BRITAIN, THERE
WAS A CLAMOURING, "BRING OUR
SOLDIERS HOME.
"WHY ARE THEY DYING FOR NOTHING
IN THE DESERTS OF IRAQ?
WHAT IS THIS PROJECT THE BRITISH
ARE INVOLVED IN?
WHY DO WE HAVE TO STAY IN IRAQ?"
DAVID LLOYD GEORGE, THE BRITISH
PRIME MINISTER, ACCORDING TO THE
TIMES PARLIAMENTARY REPORT,
STOOD UP IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
IN 1920 AND ANNOUNCED THAT IF
BRITISH TROOPS WERE TO LEAVE
IRAQ THERE WOULD BE--
THAT'S RIGHT, CIVIL WAR.
SPOT ON.
YOU'RE GETTING GOOD AT THIS.
THERE ARE MANY OTHER PARALLELS.
BRITISH INTELLIGENCE IN BASRA,
PRIOR TO THE INVASION, INFORMED
MAUDE THAT HIS TROOPS WILL BE
WELCOMED WITH FLOWERS AND SONGS
WHEN THEY ARRIVED IN BAGHDAD.

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues PRISONERS OF THE
BRITISH, [Unclear] PRISONERS WHO
ACTUALLY WERE ARABS FROM
MESOPOTAMIA, IRAQI ARABS,
FIGHTING OF COURSE, IN TURKISH
UNIFORM, WERE SENT TO INDIA
WHERE THEY WERE ABUSED.
THE PARALLELS ARE FRIGHTENING.
FINGERPRINT, CORRECT, ACCORDING
TO THE PRESIDENT.
BUT SOMEHOW WE DIDN'T LOOK UP
THE HISTORY BOOKS, NOR DID THE
AMERICANS, NEITHER OUR
POLITICIANS NOR OUR JOURNALISTS
READ THEM.
I DON'T THINK I MENTION THIS
OCCUPATION 'TIL AFTER THE
AMERICANS AND BRITISH WERE IN
OCCUPATION [Unclear].
A VERY STRANGE SITUATION.
YOU KNOW, IN AUGUST, I WAS IN
THE BRITISH MILITARY CEMETERY IN
BAGHDAD.
OUR SOLDIERS IN 1920 COULDN'T BE
BROUGHT HOME.
THERE WERE NO REFRIGERATION; WE
DIDN'T HAVE COFFINS COMING BACK
WITH FLAGS ON THEM.
THEY WERE BURIED WHERE THEY
FELL, IN THE NORTH WALL CEMETERY
IN BAGHDAD.
AND THEY'RE THE SAME AGES - 18,
19, 20, 21 - AS THE AMERICAN
BRITISH SOLDIERS COMING HOME
TODAY TO BE BURIED IN BRITAIN
AND AMERICA.
I SAW, WHEN I WAS IN THE
CEMETERY TAKING PICTURES, AN
AMERICAN PATROL ENTER THE
GRAVEYARD--
--AND START
WALKING THROUGH THE LONG GRASS.
NOW YOU DON'T APPROACH AMERICANS
THESE DAYS IN BAGHDAD BY
BOUNDING UP AND SAYING, "HALLO,
HALLO."
EVERY VEHICLE USED BY THE
AMERICANS IN IRAQ CARRIES ON THE
BACK THE LEGEND IN ENGLISH AND
IN ARABIC:
"STAY FIFTY
METRES AWAY; DEADLY FORCE WILL
BE USED."
MY OWN FISK METHOD OF
APPROACHING AMERICAN TROOPS, WHO
ARE ACTUALLY QUITE HAPPY TO TALK
ONCE YOU REACH THEM SAFELY, IS
TO PUT A BIG PIPE IN MY MOUTH
AND TO APPROACH WITH THE WORDS
"GOOD MORNING, GENTLEMEN."

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues WHICH I THINK IS
POSSIBLY NOT ZIKE HOW WE SPEAK.

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues THE SERGEANT WAS
VERY POLITE.
"GOOD MORNING, SIR."
[Laughs]
I SAID, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"
HE SAID, "LOOKING FOR WEAPONS,
SIR."
I SAID, "IN A CEMETERY?"
"YES, SIR."
I SAID, "DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS
PLACE IS?"
"IT'S A CEMETERY."
I SAID, "YEAH SURE, BUT HAVE YOU
READ THE GRAVESTONES?
YOU SHOULD.
SAME AGE AS YOU.
THESE ARE OUR DEAD.
THIS IS OUR INSURGENTS HERE."
INTERESTINGLY, THE OTHER
SOLDIERS STARTED LOOKING AT
GRAVESTONES.
THEY'D A PRETTY GOOD IDEA WHAT
WAS GOING ON.
VERY INTERESTING IN IRAQ TODAY,
UP TO AND INCLUDING THE RANK OF
COLONEL, USUALLY INCLUDING THE
RANK OF COLONEL, AMERICAN FORCES
KNOW VERY WELL WHAT'S HAPPENED.
THEY KNOW IT'S A HELL DISASTER,
IT'S FAILURE, WE'VE LOST IRAQ,
AND THEY TALK ABOUT IT.
QUITE FRANKLY THEY'RE VERY OPEN
ABOUT IT.
YOU KNOW, THESE ARE INTELLIGENT
PEOPLE; THEY'RE NOT STUPID.
UP FROM COLONEL TO GENERAL AND
ALMOST TO THE PENTAGON, WE'RE
DOING GREAT; DEMOCRACY ON ITS
WAY, BEACON OF LIGHT FOR THE
WORLD--

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues --REFERENDUM,
CONSTITUTIONS, THE THIRD
ELECTIONS IN TWELVE MONTHS.
INCREDIBLE.
INCREDIBLE.
BUT AT LEAST THE AMERICAN
SOLDIERS KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON.
AND HEREIN YOU SEE, LIES A
TERRIBLE TRAGEDY, FOR THE IRAQIS
PRINCIPALLY, BUT ALSO FOR US,
THE WEST.
I ALWAYS REFER TO THIS EQUATION:
AMERICAN TROOPS MUST LEAVE IRAQ
AND AMERICAN TROOPS
WILL
LEAVE IRAQ, BUT AMERICAN TROOPS
CAN'T
LEAVE IRAQ, AND
THAT IS THE EQUATION THAT TURNS
SAND INTO BLOOD.
YOU KNOW, OUR COVERAGE OF THIS
TRAGEDY IS SO DEEPLY FLAWED NOW;
I DON'T KNOW IF WE JOURNALISTS
CAN RECOVER FROM IT.
OVER AND OVER AGAIN WE PROJECT
OUR SUFFERING, OUR SOLDIERS,
BRITISH AND AMERICAN.
THEY HAVE IDENTITIES, PICTURES,
WIDOWS, WE KNOW THEIR NAMES, HOW
MANY CHILDREN THEY HAVE, WHAT
THEIR CHILDREN'S NAMES ARE, AND
WHERE THEY WENT TO SCHOOL.
BUT THE IRAQIS WE KNOW NOTHING
OF.
NO SUCH FIGURES.
WE DON'T KEEP STATISTICS OF
IRAQI DEATH, BECAUSE I THINK WE
DON'T CARE ABOUT IRAQIS.
WE HAVE A MANDATE TO PROTECT
THEM BUT I DON'T THINK WE CARE
ABOUT IRAQIS.

[Applause]

Robert continues HOW DO WE DEAL
WITH IRAQ?
IN THIRTY YEARS I HAVE NEVER
BEFORE NOW DOUBTED WHETHER I CAN
CONTINUE AN ASSIGNMENT.
I'LL PROBABLY GO BACK TO BAGHDAD
DECEMBER OR JANUARY.
OUR OFFICE WAS DESTROYED FIVE
DAYS AGO IN A DOUBLE SUICIDE
BOMBING.
OUR CORRESPONDENT THERE WAS
LUCKY; HE WAS LYING IN BED
READING.
IF HE'D BEEN STANDING UP THE
WINDOW WOULD HAVE GONE THROUGH
HIM.
I'M NOT SURE WHETHER THE RISK IS
ANY LONGER WORTH THE STORY, OR
WHETHER THE STORY IS ANY LONGER
WORTH THE RISK.
MANY OF MY COLLEAGUES NOW
PRACTICE WHAT I CALL HOTEL
JOURNALISM.
THEY FLY INTO THE AIRPORT,
THEY'RE GIVEN A PASS TO FLY AN
AMERICAN HELICOPTER FROM THE
AIRPORT TO THE GREEN ZONE, THE
VAST PRESIDENTIAL PALACE AREA
OF SADDAM HUSSEIN, WHICH IS NOW
HEAD QUARTERS TO THE AMERICAN
EMBASSY, THE BRITISH EMBASSY,
THE IRAQI GOVERNMENT, NUMEROUS
MERCENARIES AND AMERICAN
GENERALS.
FROM THERE, HEAVILY ARMED MEN -
EX-S.A.S. MEN, EX-SPECIAL FORCES
MEN - TAKE THEM TO THEIR HOTELS.
NBC, FOR EXAMPLE, NOW LIVES
CAGED SEVEN FLOORS UP IN A
HOTEL, ALLOWED TO GO TO THE CAFE
DOWNSTAIRS BUT NOT TO THE
SWIMMING POOL, WHICH IS
OVERLOOKED BY A BUILDING WHICH
IS OCCUPIED BY IRAQIS.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS LIVES
BEHIND TWO STEEL WALLS IN THE
PALESTINE HOTEL.
TO GO AND SEE THEM IT TAKES
ALMOST TEN MINUTES TO CLEAR
SECURITY.
THE NEW YORK TIMES LIVES IN A
STEEL AND CONCRETE STOCKADE
BESIDE THE TIGRIS RIVER WITH
FOUR WATCH TOWERS AND IRAQI
MILITIA MEN WITH KALASHNIKOV
RIFLES TO GUARD IT, EACH OF WHOM
WEARS A T-SHIRT WITH THE WORDS
"NEW YORK TIMES" PAINTED ON IT.

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues "I KID THEE NOT."
AS CAPTAIN CREED SAID IN MUTINY
ON THE BOUNTY.
THIS IS NOT THE KIND OF
JOURNALISM IN WHICH WE FRANKLY
WANT TO THINK OF EVERYDAY.
NOW I DON'T BLAME THESE
JOURNALISTS, I DON'T BLAME THEM
FOR WANTING TO STAY SAFE - NOT
THAT HOTELS ARE SAFE ANYMORE.
REMEMBER, THE PALESTINE WAS
ATTACKED AS WELL.
AND I DON'T BLAME THEM WHEN
THEY'RE OBEYING ORDERS FROM
THEIR EDITORS, OR THEIR SECURITY
GUARDS, OR THE ARMED MEN, OR THE
EX-S.A.S. MEN.
WHAT I DO OBJECT
TO IS THE FACT THAT THEY DON'T
TELL THEIR READERS AND THEIR
VIEWERS, AND THEIR LISTENERS
THAT THEY DON'T LEAVE THEIR
HOTEL ROOMS.
IF ALL THEY CAN DO IS USE A
MOBILE PHONE...
...FROM A HOTEL
ROOM TO THE GREEN ZONE TO TALK
TO THE AMERICANS OR BRITISH - I
COULD DO THAT FROM LITTLE ITALY
HERE IN TORONTO AND CALL ON A
MOBILE PHONE TO THE GREEN ZONE
AND GET THE SAME INFORMATION.

[Audience laughter]
[Applause]

Robert continues WHEN THE
AMERICANS SAY 142 TERRORISTS
KILLED IN TAL AFAR, AND THEY SAY
AMERICAN OFFICIALS SAY - I THINK
THAT SHOULD BE THE TITLE OF THE
NEW YORK TIMES, "AMERICAN
OFFICIALS SAY."

[Audience laughter]
[Applause]

Robert continues OR AS THE LOS
ANGELES TIMES, AND I'LL SHOW YOU
PROOF OF THAT IN JUST A MOMENT.
BUT YOU SEE, HAVING GIVEN THE
IMPRESSION THAT THEY CAN MAKE A
TOUR D'HORIZON OF THE AREA TO
CHECK THESE STORIES OUT, THEY
DON'T TELL ANYONE THAT THEY
CAN'T.
THIS IS A BIG PROBLEM.
THE AMERICANS AND BRITISH ARE
VERY HAPPY REPORTERS DON'T GO
OUT CHECKING OUT THEIR BOMBING
RATES; OF COURSE THEY ARE.
OF COURSE THEY ARE.
AND WHAT'S THE ALTERNATIVE?
WHAT I CALL MOUSE JOURNALISM,
WHICH PATRICK COCKBURN MY
COLLEAGUE ON THE INDEPENDENT
PRACTICES, WHICH THE FT
PRACTICES, FINANCIAL TIMES,
WHICH I PRACTICE, WHICH THE
GUARDIAN DID UNTIL THEIR
CORRESPONDENT WAS KIDNAPPED FOUR
WEEKS AGO, AND MERCIFULLY
BRIEFLY, AFTER A BRIEF PERIOD
WAS RELEASED.
THE GUARDIAN HAS NOW SAID IT
WILL NOT SEND IN REPORTERS BACK
TO BAGHDAD.
ANOTHER VICTORY FOR THE
INSURGENTS AND THE AMERICANS AND
THE BRITISH.
HOW THEY MUST ALL RUB THEIR
HANDS AT THIS.
DON'T HAVE ANY ROMANTIC
ILLUSIONS ABOUT THE INSURGENTS;
THEY WANT TO KILL US TOO.
WE ARE ALSO PART OF THE
COLLABORATION ENVIRONMENT AS FAR
AS THEY'RE CONCERNED, THE
OCCUPATION.
WHAT IS MOUSE JOURNALISM?
I GO OUT IN THE CAR AFTER A
SUICIDE BOMBING AT AL-NAHDA BUS
STATION IN AUGUST WITH TWO IRAQI
COLLEAGUES AND A BEAT UP OLD
CAR.
LIKE PATRICK, I STILL GO OUT IN
THE STREETS AND I ARRIVE AT
AL-NAHDA BUS STATION, AND SO
MANY INFURIATED IRAQIS AROUND I
CAN'T GET OUT OF THE CAR.
I CAN SEE SOME SMOULDERING
VEHICLES.
PEOPLE APPROACH THE CAR,
AMERICAN HUM-V'S PINNED IT, WE
RACE AWAY.
[High voice imitating a mouse]
MOUSE JOURNALISM.
OH, I GOT A FEW HUNDRED WORDS I
COULD WRITE.
I SAW THE SCENE, I SAW THE
SMOULDERING BUSES, I SAW DEAD
BODIES, BUT IS THAT REALLY
JOURNALISM WROTH YOUR LIFE, YOU
KNOW?
I ASK THIS QUESTION.
OTHER TIMES IT CAN WORK.
I WENT TO THE MORTUARY, THE
CENTRAL MORTUARY IN BAGHDAD IN
AUGUST.
I KNOW THE STAFF THERE VERY
WELL.
FOR MONTHS, AND MONTHS, AND
MONTHS, I'VE GONE IN THE
MORTUARY IN THE HEAT AND THERE'S
FLIES EVERYWHERE - YOU CAN
IMAGINE THE SMELL - AND COUNTED
THE CORPSES.
ONE MONDAY AT 9:00 THERE WERE 9
DEAD; AT 12:00 26 DEAD,
INCLUDING A YOUNG WOMAN, HANDS
TIED BEHIND HER BACK, SHOT THREE
TIMES IN THE BRAIN; A BABY SHOT
IN THE FACE.
FOR SOME REASON, THE MORTUARY
ATTENDANTS TOLD ME, WHEN
AMERICANS BRING IN A BODY,
THEY'RE NOT ALLOWED TO CARRY OUT
AN AUTOPSY.
I DON'T KNOW WHY.
BUT CERTAINLY, WHAT WAS
IMPORTANT WHEN I WENT BACK
AGAIN, TWENTY MINUTE TRIPS ONLY.
TWENTY MINUTES IS THE MINIMUM
TIME POSSIBLE WE RECKON FOR AN
IRAQI WITH A MOBILE PHONE TO
SUMMON A CAR WITH THREE GUNMEN
TO TAKE AWAY STRANGE GREY-HAIRED
WESTERNERS HANGING AROUND THE
MORTUARY.
YOU KNOW, ALL OUR NIGHTMARES, WE
ALL HAVE SIMILAR NIGHTMARES WE
JOURNALISTS IN BAGHDAD.
THE VIDEOTAPE.
ROBERT FISK BLINDFOLDED, HANDS
TIED.
PLEASE MR. BLAIR, WITHDRAW ALL
BRITISH TROOPS BY FRIDAY.

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues ALONG WITH A
KNOWLEDGE OF THE SMILE THAT
WOULD CROSS TONY BLAIR'S FACE.
POOR OLD BOB, YOU KNOW.

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues WHAT WAS
INTERESTING ON ONE OF MY TRIPS
TO THE MORTUARY, HOWEVER, WAS
WHEN THEY LET ME LOOK AT THE
COMPUTER.
NOW, AMERICAN AND BRITISH
ADVISORS TO THE MINISTRY OF
HEALTH HAVE INSTRUCTED ALL
OFFICIALS THAT THEY MUST NOT
GIVE DETAILS OF IRAQI DEAD TO
THE PRESS.
COULD YOU ASK FOR A MORE RACIST
DECISION?
OUR DEAD ARE PRECIOUS - NAMES,
IDENTITIES, FLAGS ON THE COFFIN
BUT NOT THE IRAQIS.
WE MUST NOT KNOW THEIR
SUFFERING.
WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO KNOW THEIR
SUFFERING, SO WHEN THEY PULLED
ON THE COMPUTER AND SAID, "MR.
ROBERT, COME AND HAVE A LOOK AT
THIS" AND THE OFFICIAL FIGURE
SHOWED THAT IN JULY ALONE, JUST
IN BAGHDAD ALONE, 1,200 IRAQIS
HAD DIED BY VIOLENCE.
THERE ARE VAST DEATH SPOTS IN
IRAQ NOW, IN BAGHDAD ESPECIALLY.
WHAT WAS ONE TO THINK?
1,100 - THIS WAS THE REAL FIGURE
OF VIOLENT DEATH IN BAGHDAD JUST
IN JULY THIS YEAR.
THAT'S MORE THAN HALF THE TOTAL
AMERICAN DEAD SINCE MARCH-APRIL
2003.
MY EDITOR, WHO NOW CALLS THE
INDEPENDENT, SIMON KELNER, CALLS
THE INDEPENDENT A FUSEPAPER,
RATHER THAN NEWSPAPER.
AND WE PUT THIS ON THE FRONT AS
A POLITICAL FACT: 1,100 IRAQI
DEAD, AND WE WEREN'T ALLOWED TO
KNOW.
AGAIN, YOU SEE, WE DON'T CARE
ABOUT IRAQIS.
IF WE DID, WE WILL BE TELLING
EVERYONE THIS FIGURE.
WE DON'T CARE.
YOU KNOW, I DON'T THINK -- WE
TRY TO ESCAPE HISTORY IN THE
WEST. WE TRY TO ESCAPE HISTORY.
I DON'T THINK MIDDLE EAST PEOPLE CAN.
YOU KNOW, WE CAN LOOK ON OUR
HISTORY AND SAY: END OF THE
SECOND WORLD WAR, DEATH OF
HITLER, DEATH OF MUSSOLINI,
DESTRUCTION OF JAPAN, FOUNDATION
OF THE UNITED NATIONS, THE
BEGINNING OF WHAT WAS TO BECOME
THE EUROPEAN UNION, END OF THE
COLD WAR, FALL OF THE BERLIN
WALL; 9-11 I SUPPOSE AT SOME
POINT WILL FIT IN THERE.
BUT WE CAN CLOSE THE DOORS OF
HISTORY, OR OPEN THEM TO NEW
HISTORY FOR THE FUTURE.
IN THE MIDDLE EAST YOU CAN'T DO
THIS.
THERE ARE
ISRAELIS WHO WILL POINT OUT TO
YOU QUITE CORRECTLY.
THE BALFOUR DECLARATION GAVE
BRITAIN SUPPORT FOR [Unclear] IN
PALESTINE, NOT JUST THE
LEFT-HAND BIT OF IT.
AND OF COURSE,
THERE ARE THE PALESTINIANS WHO
WILL POINT OUT THAT BALFOUR
DECLARATION INSISTED ON THE
PROTECTION OF THE RIGHTS OF THE
ARAB INHABITANTS OF PALESTINE
AND WE BETRAYED THEM ALL.
TWO MILES FROM MY HOME, MOHAMMED
ABU ADINER, A PALESTINIAN WHO
LIVES IN THE SABRA AND SHATILA
REFUGEE CAMP, WHOSE FATHER AND
SISTER WERE KILLED DURING THE
MASSACRE, AND HIS MOTHER DIED IN
THE CAMPS LATER IN THE HANDS OF
SHIITE MILITIAS.
HE GETS UP IN MUCK AND FILTH
EVERY MORNING.
FOR HIM THE BALFOUR DECLARATION
IS NOT 1917, IT WAS LAST NIGHT,
THIS MORNING, AN HOUR AGO.
AND WE STILL GO TO THE MIDDLE
EAST THINKING WE CAN TELL THE
ARABS OF THE MIDDLE EAST, AND
INDEED THE ISRAELIS, THAT THEY
CAN START HISTORY ALL OVER
AGAIN.
I DON'T THINK THEY CAN.
I THINK IT'S VERY ARROGANT OF US
TO THINK THAT THAT'S THE CASE.
WHY DID WE INVADE IRAQ?
WELL YES, OF COURSE, WE INVADED
FOR OIL.
HAD THE NET MAJOR EXPORTER OF
IRAQ BEEN ASPARAGUS, OR CARROTS,
OR CAULIFLOWER, DO YOU REALLY
THINK THE EIGHTY SECOND AIRBORNE
WOULD BE MOSUL?
OR THE THIRD INFANTRY DIVISION
IN BAGHDAD?
NO, THEY WOULD NOT, WOULD THEY
FRANKLY.

[Applause]

Robert continues BUT I THINK
THERE'S ANOTHER REASON.
MONTHS AGO NOW I WAS ON HIGHWAY
EIGHT, THE MOST DANGEROUS
THROAT-CUTTING HORRIBLE
INSURGENT ROAD IN IRAQ THAT RUNS
FROM BAGHDAD DOWN TO MAHMOUDI,
ISKANDARIYAH, AND THEN TO NAJAF
AND KARBALA.
I WAS INVESTIGATING THE MURDER
OF A POOR RED CROSS DRIVER WHO
WAS KILLED IN HIS VEHICLE ON THE
ROAD, AND TALKING TO AN IRAQI
FAMILY WAY OUT IN THE
COUNTRYSIDE ON THIS ROAD, WHOM I
THINK, I RATHER SUSPECTED SEEING
THE GUNMAN WHO KILLED HIM.
WHEN THE GROUND BEGAN TO SHAKE -
TREMBLE MONT DE TERRE
AS THE FRENCH SAY, EARTHQUAKE -
AND UP THE ROAD, COME POWERING
UP THE ROAD, CAME THE BIGGEST
MILITARY CONVOY I'VE EVERY SEEN
IN MY LIFE.
FOUR AND A QUARTER HOURS IT TOOK
TO PASS.
AMERICAN ABRAMS M1A1 TANKS
[Unclear] FIGHTING ARMOURED
VEHICLES.
HUM-V'S, HUM-V'S, HUM-V'S.
HUNDREDS OF TROOP TRUCKS WITH
TENS OF THOUSANDS OF LINE TROOPS
INFANTRY, ALL OF THEM, THEIR
RIFLES POINTING OUT THE SIDE OF
THE LORIES LIKE PORCUPINE
QUILLS.
APACHE HELICOPTERS LIKE GIANT
RODENTS OVER THE PALM GROVES,
BACK OVER THE TRUCKS, OVER THE
VEHICLES, BACK OVER THE PALMS--
THIS WAS A HUGE MILITARY
MANOEUVRE.
THE LARGEST MOVEMENT OF MATERIAL
SINCE THE THE SECOND WORLD WAR,
AS IT TURNED OUT.
FOUR AND A QUARTER HOURS.
AND I SAT IN THE MUCK WITH A
IRAQI FAMILY BY THE SIDE OF THE
ROAD AND JUST WATCHED THIS.
WHAT ON EARTH DID THIS MEAN?
AND OF COURSE, IT DID DAWN ON ME
THAT 2000 YEARS AGO, A LITTLE
BIT FURTHER TO THE WEST IN SYRIA
OR LEBANON, WE WOULD HAVE BEEN
SITTING BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD
AS IF TRAMP OF ROMAN LEGIONS
MOVED PASSED US.
ODDLY ENOUGH, THE ROMANS,
EXPANDING AS EVER WENT OUT INTO
THE SYRIAN DESERT.
WAY, ALMOST AS FAR AS WHAT IS
TODAY THE IRAQI BORDER.
CRASSUS, THE GREAT ROMAN
BILLIONAIRE GENERAL, THE MAN WHO
BEAT SPARTACUS AND THE BATTLE OF
THE RIVER SOLARIS IN 72 B.C.
REMEMBER THE MOVIE.
KURT DOUGLAS.
CRASSUS PLAYED BY LAURENCE
OLIVIER.
HE TOOK THE ROMAN LEGIONS WAY
OUT TOWARDS WHAT IS NOW THE
IRAQI FRONTIER WHERE THEY WERE
SURROUNDED BY PARTHIAN HORSEMEN.
PARTHIAN'S WERE SYRIANS OF
COURSE, AND THEY WERE CUT DOWN,
AND EVENTUALLY CRASSUS WAS
INVITED TO ENTER THE PARTHIAN
TENT TO DISCUSS SURRENDER TERMS.
AND WHEN HE ENTERED THEY CHOPPED
OFF HIS HEAD AND FILLED IT FULL
OF GOLD AND SENT IT BACK TO
ROME.
ALWAYS THE SAME STORY.
THE BRITISH EMPIRE WENT TOO FAR.
BECAUSE YOU SEE, IT OCCURRED TO
ME VERY LATE IN THE DAY AS I
WATCHED THIS CONVOY, THAT YOU
KNOW SUPER POWERS WHO MAKE VERY
BAD PEACEKEEPERS HAVE AN ALMOST
VISCERAL PHYSICAL NEED TO
PROJECT MILITARY STRENGTH.
IF YOU'RE GOING TO BE AN EMPIRE
YOU MUST DO THAT.
WE CAN GO TO BAGHDAD, SO WE WILL
GO TO BAGHDAD, AND WE'LL TOPPLE
SADDAM, AND WE'LL CROSS SUMARIA
AND THE "KHAL-U-FATES" AND ALL
THE LAND WHERE "CIVILIZATION."
SUPPOSEDLY BEGAN...
INTO THE WILDERNESS OF
OCCUPATION.
WE DO THIS.
BUT YOU KNOW, IF YOU'RE AN IRAQI
IT LOOKS A BIT DIFFERENT.
AN IRAQI ASKED ME NOT LONG AGO,
HE SAID TO ME - WE'RE SITTING IN
BAGHDAD, AND HE SAID TO ME, "MR.
ROBERT, I WANT YOU TO ANSWER ME
A QUESTION."
IT WAS A BAD THING BAGHDAD.
HE SAID, "CAN YOU TELL ME WHY
THE AMERICANS--."
HE MEANT, ANY YOU KNOW, SPECIAL
FORCES, AIR FORCE, LINE TROOPS,
INFANTRY, WHATEVER.
"--WHY THE AMERICANS ARE NOW IN
KAZEKSTAN, UZBEKISTAN,
AFGHANISTAN, IRAQ, TURKEY,
ISRAEL, JORDAN, EGYPT,
ALGERIA - THE SPECIAL FORCES NOW
HAVE A FORTRESS IN [Unclear] IN
THE SOUTHERN ALGERIAN SAHARA -
OMAN, YEMEN, QATAR, BAHRAIN,
KUWAIT - STILL PART OF SAUDI
ARABIA.
"WHY ARE THEY THERE?" HE ASKED.
AND INDEED, YOU CAN GO FURTHER
NORTH.
YOU CAN START GREENLAND,
ICELAND, BRITAIN, GERMANY,
BOSNIA - YUGOSLAVIA NOW OF
COURSE - ITALY, GREECE, AND
JOINS UP AT TURKEY.
FROM ICECAP TO THE BORDERS OF
SOMALIA, THERE IS NOW AN
AMERICAN IRON CURTAIN.
IN PAKISTAN TOO.
WHY?
WHAT LIES ON THE OTHER SIDE?
INDIA, CHINA, RUSSIA.
WHY IS THAT LINE THERE?
WHAT IS THAT IRON CURTAIN FOR?
STILL I'M NOT SURE OF THE
ANSWER, BUT THESE ARE THE
QUESTIONS WE SHOULD BE ASKING.
INSTEAD OF
WORRYING ABOUT HOW MANY PEOPLE
WERE KILLED AT TAL AFAR, HOWEVER
IMPORTANT THAT MAY BE.
BUT WE DON'T ASK THOSE
QUESTIONS.
WE SHOULD.
YOU KNOW, WE
KEEP HEARING, "OH, WILL THEY GET
BIN LADEN?"
"WHY CAN'T THEY FIND HIM?"
"WHERE IS HE?"
IT'S IRRELEVANT NOW.
IT'S TOTALLY IRRELEVANT.
BIN LADEN HAS CREATED AL QAEDA.
THE MONSTER EXISTS.
IT'S LIKE SAYING, "OH, WELL,
THERE'S A NUCLEAR BOMB, LET'S
ARREST ALL THE NUCLEAR
SCIENTISTS THAT MADE IT."
ONCE THE BOMB IS THERE, THAT'S
IT.
IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT HAPPENS
IF BIN LADEN'S KILLED TONIGHT.
HE'S ALREADY CREATED THE
MONSTER, IT'S THERE.
HOW DO WE DEAL WITH IT?
YOU KNOW, I THINK WE GO ON ABOUT
DEMOCRACY - I DON'T THINK WE
WANT DEMOCRACY, WE NEVER WANTED
IT.
EVEN WHEN THERE WAS A SERIOUS
OPPOSITION, THE EGYPTIAN
PARLIAMENT IN THE 1930'S THE
BRITISH ARRESTED ALL THE
OPPOSITION.
WHEN THERE WAS DEMOCRATIC
OPPOSITION TO FRENCH RULE IN
LEBANON, ALL THE CABINET MEMBERS
WERE ARRESTED AND CHUCKED INTO
PRISON IN RASHIA.
SO IT BECAME A TRADITION IN THE
ARAB WORLD OF GOING UNDERGROUND
IF YOU WANTED TO BE IN
OPPOSITION BECAUSE IF YOU WERE
LEGALLY IN OPPOSITION YOU'D BE
ARRESTED.
THOSE IN BROTHERHOOD CAN TELL
YOU ABOUT THAT IN EGYPT TODAY.
SO, IN A SENSE YOU SEE, I DON'T
BELIEVE THAT DEMOCRACY IS
SOMETHING WE'RE INTERESTED IN.
I THINK ARABS WOULD LIKE SOME OF
OUR DEMOCRACY.
I THINK THEY'D LIKE A COUPLE OF
BOXES OF HUMAN RIGHTS OFF OUR
WESTERN SUPERMARKET SHELVES.
BUT I THINK THEY'D ALSO LIKE
ANOTHER KIND OF FREEDOM.
I THINK THEY'D LIKE FREEDOM FROM
US.

[Applause]

Robert continues THAT DOESN'T
MEAN WE CAN'T BE IN THE MIDDLE
EAST.
I LIVE IN WEST BEIRUT; IT'S A
MUSLIM AREA OF BEIRUT.
I DON'T EVEN THINK OF THE
RELIGION OR THE ORIGINS OF MY
LANDLORD WHO'S ADRUS, OR MY
DRIVER WHO'S A SUNNI-MUSLIM, OR
ONE OF MY CLASSICAL ARABIC
TRANSLATORS WHO'S A SHIA-MUSLIM;
IT'S TOTALLY IRRELEVANT TO ME.
AND MY RELIGION, WHATEVER IT
MIGHT BE, AND I GUESS IT'S
AGNOSTIC, SCEPTICAL - WELL, MY
RELIGION IS JOURNALISM.
[Laughs]

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues UM, BUT HE
DOESN'T CARE ABOUT THAT EITHER.
WE CAN BE AT HOME IN THE MIDDLE
EAST.
YOU KNOW, AS IN OMAN IT'S SAID,
IF YOU SEE ANOTHER MAN, HE'S
EITHER YOUR BROTHER IN RELIGION
OR YOUR BROTHER IN HUMANITY.
THAT OFFICIALLY IS WHAT WE IN
THE WEST BELIEVE BUT I DON'T
THINK SO.
I LISTENED THE OTHER DAY, IN THE
COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS IN
NEW YORK WHERE I WAS SPEAKING TO
A FORMER AMERICAN MILITARY
OFFICER WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE
BATTLE OF FALLUJAH IN NOVEMBER,
WHO SAID IF THE SUNNIS DON'T
UNDERSTAND AND PARTICIPATE IN
DEMOCRACY, THEY'LL BE OCCUPIED
BY THE IRAQI ARMY, MOST OF WHOM
ARE SHIITES.
WELL THANK YOU VERY MUCH, I
THOUGHT.
THAT'S A GOOD WAY FOR LIGHTING
THE MATCH, ISN'T IT, HUH?
THIS IS AMERICAN MILITARY POLICY
NOW EXPLAINED BY A MAN WHO
PARTICIPATED AS AN OFFICER IN
THE BATTLE OF FALLUJAH.
INCREDIBLE.
EVERYBODY - EVERY WESTERNER I
COME ACROSS NOW: JOURNALISTS,
PENTAGON SPECIALISTS, PEOPLE
FROM THE TINK THANKS LIKE THE
BROOKINGS INSTITUTE - I CALL
THEM TINK THANKS BY THE WAY.

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues ALL TELL US
THERE'S GOING TO BE CIVIL WAR IF
WE LEAVE.
THERE'S NEVER BEEN A CIVIL WAR
IN IRAQ.
IT'S NOT A SECTARIAN SOCIETY,
IT'S A TRIBAL SOCIETY, THEY
INTER-MARRY.
I WENT TO THE FUNERAL OF A
SUNNI-MUSLIM DOCTOR IN BAGHDAD
ALMOST CERTAINLY KILLED BY
SHIITE MILITIA MEN BECAUSE HE
OPPOSED TO BUILDING A
"VER-HU-SIN-IAN" MOSQUE AT THE
END OF THE STREET.
AND AFTER THE FUNERAL, I WAS
INVITED TO THE FUNERAL FEAST AT
THE FLOOR OF HIS HOUSE, AND I
SAT ON THE FLOOR NEXT TO HIS
BROTHER, ALSO OF COURSE, A
SUNNI-MUSLIM.
AND I BECAME THE ARCHETYPE ON
THE NEW YORK TIMES REPORTER.
TELL ME, WILL THERE BE A CIVIL
WAR IN IRAQ?
HE SAID, "WHY DO YOU WESTERNERS
ALWAYS WANT US TO HAVE CIVIL
WAR?"
HE SAID, "I'M MARRIED TO A
SHIITE, YOU WANT ME TO KILL MY
WIFE?"

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues THIS IS A REAL
IRAQI VOICE, NOT THE STATE
DEPARTMENT EXPERT OR THE
BROOKINGS INSTITUTE.
YOU KNOW, I MEAN REALLY, THE
FIRST PERSON I EVER HEARD
MENTION CIVIL IN IRAQ WAS DAN
SENOR, SPOKESMAN FOR THE
OCCUPATION POWERS IN 2003.
I REMEMBER THINKING, WHAT IS
THIS, THIS CIVIL WAR?
IF WE MENTIONED CIVIL WAR WE'D
BE CALLED IRRESPONSIBLE.
WERE WE TRYING TO FRIGHTEN THE
IRAQIS INTO OBEDIENCE, I ASK
MYSELF.
SOMEBODY WANTS A CIVIL WAR IN
IRAQ.
SOMEBODY WHO'S SETTING OFF THE
BOMBS SHIITE MOSQUES, AND
SHIITE MARKETPLACES, AND SHIITE
BUS STATIONS.
THEY WANT A CIVIL WAR, BE SURE
OF THAT.
BUT HOW DO THESE THINGS HAPPEN?
ZARQAWI, ZARQAWI, ZARQAWI.
IS HE ALIVE?
WE'RE TOLD HE'S THE MASTERMIND,
SURE, BUT IS HE ALIVE?
HE MAY HAVE BEEN ALIVE, I'M SURE
HE WAS AT THE BEGINNING OF THE
ANGLO-AMERICAN INVASION IN 2003,
BUT IF YOU GO TO ZAKKAR YOU'LL
FIND HIS WIFE OF WHOM HE WAS
VERY POSSESSIVE, HAS TO GO OUT
TO WORK NOW.
HIS MOTHER DIED LAST YEAR, NO
CONDOLENCES FROM ZARQAWI.
VERY ODD FOR A MAN WHO CLAIMS
HE'S SUCH A OBEDIENT AND PROUD
MUSLIM, ISN'T IT?
I DON'T KNOW.
MAYBE ZARQAWI IS ALIVE?
BUT WE'RE FACED
NOW BY THESE CONSTANT MYSTERIES,
WHICH OF COURSE, EVEN IF WE CAN
ROAM A LITTLE BIT IN THE STREETS
OF BAGHDAD, APART FROM THE
LITTLE FRAGMENTS OF REALITY WE
CAN PICK UP, WE HAVE NO
KNOWLEDGE.
PART OF THIS
PROBLEM I'M AFRAID, COMES FROM
SPECIFICALLY AMERICAN
JOURNALISTS, AND THOUGH TO SOME
EXTENT BRITISH TOO.
THE WAY IN WHICH WE ACCEPT THE
WORD OF AUTHORITY, THE WAY IN
WHICH IN AMERICA PARTICULARLY,
THE UNITED STATES I MEAN, GOT TO
BE CAREFUL, I KNOW THAT, THERE'S
AND OSMOTIC PARASITIC
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE
JOURNALIST IN POWER, WHERE THE
STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPOND, THE
PENTAGON CORRESPOND, THE
WHITEHOUSE CORRESPOND - IT
BECOMES A KIND OF ECHO CHAMBER
FOR THE SPOKESMAN.
AMERICAN OFFICIALS SAY.
I'LL GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE FROM IT.

He takes out an old newspaper, unfolds it, and shows it to the audience.

Then, he says
UM, HERE'S THE LOS ANGELES TIMES.
I WAS IN L.A. BEFORE I CAME IN
SAN FRANCISCO.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 16.
IN A BATTLE OF WITS IRAQ'S
INSURGENCY MASTERMIND SAY IT
STAYS A STEP AHEAD OF THE U.S.
AMERICAN MILITARY MAKING EXCUSES
FOR WHY THEY HAVEN'T CAUGHT THIS
MAN WHO MAY NOT EVEN BE ALIVE.
LET ME READ YOU THE SOURCING FOR
THIS STORY.
PAGE ONE, BY JOSH MAYER AND MARK
MAZZETTI, WASHINGTON.
DESPITE THE RECENT ARREST OF ONE
OF HIS WOULD-BE SUICIDE BOMBERS
IN JORDAN AND SOME TOP AIDS IN
IRAQ, INSURGENCY MASTERMIND ABU
MUSAB ZARQAWI HAS ELUDED
CAPTURE, THE U.S. AUTHORITIES
SAY.
STILL ON COLUMN ONE, U.S.
OFFICIALS SAID.
COLUMN TWO PAGE ONE, OFFICIALS
SAID, U.S. AUTHORITIES SAY,
U.S. OFFICIALS SAID.
WE TURN TO PAGE A10, SOURCING
COLUMN ONE, SEVERAL U.S.
OFFICIALS SAID, THOSE OFFICIALS
SAID, OFFICIALS CONFIRMED,
AMERICAN OFFICIALS COMPLAINED,
THEY SAID, YOU--

[Applause]

Robert continues LADIES AND
GENTLEMEN WE'VE ONLY REACHED
COLUMN TWO.

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues THEY SAID, U.S.
OFFICIAL STRESSED.
U.S. AUTHORITIES - SORRY, COLUMN
THREE - U.S. AUTHORITIES
BELIEVE.
SAID ONE SENIOR U.S.
INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL.
U.S. OFFICIAL SAID.
JORDANIAN OFFICIAL SAID.

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues AT LEAST WE'VE
GOT A LITTLE BIT OF NATIONAL
VARIATION THERE.
COLUMN FOUR.
ANYONE THAT DOESN'T BELIEVE
THIS, HERE'S THE PAPER, COME AND
LOOK AT IT AFTER WORDS.
COLUMN FOUR, SEVERAL U.S.
OFFICIALS SAID.

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues THE U.S.
OFFICIALS SAID.
COLUMN FIVE, SEVERAL AMERICAN
OFFICIALS SAID.
COLUMN SIX, OFFICIALS SAY, SAY
U.S. OFFICIALS, U.S. OFFICIALS
SAID, ONE U.S. COUNTER TERRORISM
OFFICIAL SAID.

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues AND THAT
GENTLEMEN IS JOURNALISM.
YOU SEE THE PROBLEM LADIES AND
GENTLEMEN, DON'T YOU.
YOU SEE THE PROBLEM.
IF YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE THIS
KIND OF JOURNALISM, THEN WE
DON'T HAVE NEWSPAPERS OR
TELEVISION ANYMORE.
THERE'S A BIG PROBLEM.
AS I SAY, THIS IS ALSO A PROBLEM
IN BRITAIN BUT NOT THIS BAD.
YOU CAN SEE THE RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN JOURNALISTS IN POWER IF
YOU LOOK AT ANY PRESIDENTIAL
PRESS CONFERENCE IN WASHINGTON.
MR. PRESIDENT, MR. PRESIDENT,
MR. PRESIDENT!
YES, JOHN.
YES, BOB.

[Audience laughter]
[Applause]

Robert continues BUT YOU'RE CLOSE
TO POWER, IT'S OKAY.
YOU SEE.
AND TO SOME EXTENT THE PROBLEM
IS CAUSED BY WHAT I CALL THE
SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM.
EVERYBODY MUST HAVE A SHARE IN
YOUR STORY - FIFTY PERCENT TO
EACH SIDE, YOU GOT TO BE FAIR.
BUT WOULD WE, COVERING THE SLAVE
TRADE, GIVE THE SLAVE SHIP
CAPTAIN FIFTY PERCENT OF OUR
STORY?
NO, WE'D GIVE IT TO THE VICTIMS,
THE SLAVES.
THEY GET THE LION'S SHARE OF THE
STORY.
THE VICTIMS ARE THE PEOPLE WE
MUST WRITE ABOUT, IN ORDER TO
CHALLENGE AUTHORITY AND MONITOR
THE CENTERS OF POWER.
IF WE'RE PRESENT AT THE
LIBERATION OF A CONCENTRATION
CAMP, ARE WE GOING TO GIVE FIFTY
PERCENT OF OUR STORY TO THE
SPOKESMAN FOR THE S.S.?
ABSOLUTELY NOT.
WHEN I WAS IN JERUSALEM, CLOSE
TO THE BOMBING OF THE SBARRO
PIZZERIA RESTAURANT IN AUGUST OF
2001.
WHEN I GOT THERE I FOUND AN
ISRAELI WOMAN, 22 ISRAELI DEAD.
ISRAELI WOMAN WITH PART OF A
TABLE LEG THROUGH HER; A CHILD
WITH HIS EYES BLOWN OUT; MORE
THAN HALF THE 22 WERE CHILDREN.
WAS I SUPPOSED TO GIVE FIFTY
PERCENT OF MY STORY TO THE HAMAS
MOVEMENT?
WHEN I WAS PRESENT IN THE
SABRA AND SHATILA MASSACRES ON
THE 18th OF SEPTEMBER WHEN THE
MURDERERS WERE STILL IN THE
CAMP, WAS I SUPPOSED TO GIVE
FIFTY PERCENT OF MY STORY TO THE
SPOKESMAN FOR THE MILITIA
WORKING FOR THE ISRAELIS, OR FOR
THE IDF WHO WERE WATCHING THE
MASSACRE AS WE KNOW WITH OUR OWN
EYES, AND AS THE KAHAN
COMMISSION ISRAELI REPORT MADE
CLEAR IN 1983?
NO, OF COURSE NOT.
I THINK, YOU KNOW, IF YOU SEE
AND ATROCITY, WHETHER YOU BE
ACADEMICS, BUS DRIVERS, BANK
CLERKS, YOU FEEL THINGS.
YOU FEEL ANGER, FURY.
YOU KNOW WHO'S DONE IT.
WE JOURNALISTS SHOULD BE ALLOWED
EMOTIONS TOO.
YOU KNOW, ONE OF THE STRANGEST
THINGS IS THAT I GO OUT TO LUNCH
OR DINNER WITH AMERICAN
JOURNALISTS OCCASIONALLY.
SOMETIMES I EVEN PAY FOR THE MEAL.

[Audience laughter]

Robert continues AND YOU KNOW,
THEY'RE VERY GOOD.
THEY KNOW THEIR STUFF.
THEY'VE WORKED VERY HARD.
I MEAN, I DISAGREE THAT THEY
HAVE TO GO TO THE AMERICAN
EMBASSY FOR THEIR BRIEFINGS ALL
THE TIME, WHERE I THINK THEY ARE
BRIEFED AS WELL, AND THEY DO
THEIR OWN BRIEFING SOMETIMES,
ALTHOUGH THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW
IT.
THE REAL PROBLEM IS, THAT WHEN -
THEY'RE VERY INTERESTING TO TALK
TO.
BUT WHEN YOU READ THEIR REPORTS
IN THE MORNING, THEY'RE DEADLY
DITCH-WATER DULL.
AND AGAIN, FOR AN OPINION, IN
COMES THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE.
THE GUY IN BAGHDAD IS RINGING UP
SOMEONE IN WASHINGTON.
INCREDIBLE.
THIS IS NOT JOURNALISM.
WE HAVE TO HAVE - WE ARE THE
NERVE ENDINGS OF A NEWSPAPER.
NO, WE MUSTN'T LIE, WE MUSTN'T
CHANGE THE FACTS.
WE MUST SAY WHAT WE SEE, AND IF
WE FEEL THAT OUT THERE SOMEWHERE
THERE'S SOMEBODY LYING TO US, WE
SAY THAT.
BUT WE'VE GOT TO TELL IT HOW IT
IS; THAT'S WHAT JOURNALISM USED
TO BE.
WE'VE GOT TO TELL YOU WHAT WE
SEE AND WHAT WE THINK.
I TRY TO WRITE MY ARTICLES LIKE
A LETTER TO A FRIEND.
I SAY LOOK, WOULD YOU BELIEVE
WHAT I SAW THIS MORNING.
BUT ALAS, I DON'T THINK WE DO
THAT, UNFORTUNATELY.
I'D FOUND THAT WRITING OF THIS
BOOK, AS I INDICATED TO YOU, A
VERY DEPRESSING EXPERIENCE.
I NEVER WANT TO WRITE A BOOK
LIKE THIS AGAIN.
IT'S A VERY
UNHAPPY BOOK.
AND AS I SAY, I LOOK BACK NOW
AND I REMEMBER THINKING WHAT A
PRIVILEGE IT WAS TO WATCH
HISTORY.
THAT'S WHY I
STILL GO BACK TO BAGHDAD.
AND I GUESS THE BEST WAY OF
DESCRIBING THE LIFE OF A FOREIGN
CORRESPONDENT WHO'S TRYING TO DO
HIS JOB IS IT'S A BIT LIKE
READING THIS EPIC BOOK AT NIGHT.
YOU'RE TIRED BUT YOU WANT TO
FINISH THE CHAPTER, JUST ONE
MORE CHAPTER BEFORE MIDNIGHT.
AND BEFORE YOU KNOW IT, YOU'VE
STARTED THE NEXT CHAPTER.
IT'S ONE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING
AS YOU READ ON.
AND THEN YOU LOOK UP AND
SUDDENLY YOU SEE DAWN IN THE
CRACK BETWEEN THE CURTAINS.
THAT'S WHAT IT'S LIKE BEING A
MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT.
JUST ONE MORE CHAPTER.
BUT I HAVE TO SAY TO YOU, THAT I
THINK THE PRIVILEGE OF LIVING
HISTORY AND WATCHING IT HAS
BECOME A CURSE FOR ME AND I FEAR
THAT MY BOOK IS A STORY OF THE CURSE.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.

[Long applause]

Watch: Robert Fisk on his book The Great War For Civilisation