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Old 03-25-2003, 01:51 PM   #1
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Robert Fisk Interview on Democracy Now

http://www.democracynow.org/fisk.htm

Robert Fisk, journalist from The Independent, is currently in Baghdad and was interviewed this morning on Democracy Now!. I just read this transcript and found it really interesting. It's long but really worth it.

Here is a lenghthy excerpt:

Jeremy Scahill, Democracy Now! Correspondent: Robert Fisk, you wrote in one of your most recent articles, actually, the title of it was "Iraq Will Become a Quagmire for the Americans" and I think many people within the US administration were surprised to find the kinds of resistance they have in places like Nasiriya. We have the two Apache helicopters that have apparently been shot down and many US casualties so far. Do you think the Americans were caught by surprise, particularly by the resistance in the south where everyone was saying that the people are against Saddam Hussein?


RF: Well, they shouldn’t have been caught by surprise; there were plenty of us writing that this was going to be a disaster and a catastrophe and that they were going to take casualties. You know, one thing I think the Bush administration has shown as a characteristic, is that it dreams up moral ideas and then believes that they’re all true, and characterizes this policy by assuming that everyone else will then play their roles. In their attempt to dream up an excuse to invade Iraq, they’ve started out, remember, by saying first of all that there are weapons of mass destruction. We were then told that al Qaeda had links to Iraq, which, there certainly isn’t an al Qaeda link. Then we were told that there were links to September 11th, which was rubbish. And in the end, the best the Bush administration could do was to say, “Well, we’re going to liberate the people of Iraq”. And because it provided this excuse, it obviously then had to believe that these people wanted to be liberated by the Americans. And, as the Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said a few hours ago, I was listening to him in person, the Americans expected to be greeted with roses and music- and they were greeted with bullets.

... Saddam did not get knocked off his perch straight away, and I think that, to a considerable degree, the American administration allowed that little cabal of advisors around Bush- I’m talking about Perle, Wolfowitz, and these other people—people who have never been to war, never served their country, never put on a uniform- nor, indeed, has Mr. Bush ever served his country- they persuaded themselves of this Hollywood scenario of GIs driving through the streets of Iraqi cities being showered with roses by a relieved populace who desperately want this offer of democracy that Mr. Bush has put on offer-as reality.

And the truth of the matter is that Iraq has a very, very strong political tradition of strong anti-colonial struggle. It doesn’t matter whether that’s carried out under the guise of kings or under the guise of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath party, or under the guise of a total dictator. There are many people in this country who would love to get rid of Saddam Hussein, I’m sure, but they don’t want to live under American occupation.

The nearest I can describe it- and again, things can change- maybe the pack of cards will all collapse tomorrow- but if I can describe it, it would be a bit like the situation in 1941- and I hate these World War II parallels because I think it’s disgusting to constantly dig up the second world war- Hitler is dead and he died in 1945 and we shouldn’t use it, but if you want the same parallel, you’ll look at Operation: Barbarosa, where the Germans invaded Russia in 1941 believing that the Russians would collapse because Stalin was so hated and Communism was so hated. And at the end of the day, the Russians preferred to fight the Germans to free their country from Germany, from Nazi rule, rather than to use the German invasion to turn against Stalin. And at the end of the day, a population many of whom had suffered greatly under Communism fought for their motherland under the leadership of Marshal Stalin against the German invader. A similar situation occurred in 1980 when Saddam himself invaded Iran. There had just been, 12 months earlier, a revolution in Iran and the Islamic Republic had come into being. It was believed here in Baghdad that if an invasion force crossed the border from Iraq- supported again in this case by the Americans- that the Islamic Republic would fall to pieces; that it would collapse under its own volition; that is couldn’t withstand a foreign invasion. I actually crossed the border with the Iraqi forces in 1980, I was reporting on both sides, and I remember reaching the first Iranian city called Horam Shar and we came under tremendous fire; mortar fire, sniper fire, and artillery fire, and I remember suddenly thinking as I hid in this villa with a number of Iraqi commandos, “My goodness, the Iranians are fighting for their country”. And I think the same thing is happening now, and, obviously, we know that with the firepower they have the Americans can batter their way into these cities and they can take over Baghdad, but the moral ethos behind this war is that you Americans are supposed to be coming to liberate this place. And, if you’re going to have to smash your way into city after city using armor and helicopters and aircraft, then the whole underpinning and purpose of this war just disappears, and, the world- which has not been convinced thus far, who thinks this is a wrong war and an unjust war- are going to say, “Then what is this for? They don’t want to be liberated by us.” And that’s when we’re going to come down to the old word: Oil. What’s quite significant is in the next few hours the Oil Minister in Iraq is supposed to be addressing the press, and that might turn out to be one of the more interesting press conferences that we’ve had, maybe even more interesting, perhaps, than the various briefings from military officials about the course of the war.
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Old 03-25-2003, 02:46 PM   #2
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Wow, thanks for posting the article.

It's is great to hear from someone still in Bagdad, that isn't American or Iraqi.
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Old 03-25-2003, 04:54 PM   #3
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One of my major concerns from the start of all this, as I argued with Sting a month ago was that we needed more legitimacy through the UN. When Sting (WHERE ARE YOU) responded he said we had a broad enough coalition.

I did not think then, and I do not think now, that we do. Not because we did not have the UN but because we do not have the support of the ARAB world. That, I believe was the only way we would get legitimacy from the people living in Iraq. Currently the Arab league among others has overwealmingly stated they oppose this. This is why I believe we are possibly in big trouble.

The president commirtted us to this. He needs to forget winning a PR War over this. Iraq kicked our ass in the PR War before this started and the strategy of wearing civilian clothes is going to lead to us losing it again. How do you prove it was a military person you were firing at? I do not know. I only know it is time to fight to win and forget PR.

Peace
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Old 03-25-2003, 05:01 PM   #4
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I agree with you, Dread...

Edit: Actually, I don't agree with you ... I agree with you about not having the support of the Arab world but I can't agree with the rest as I am still against this war.

And on another note, I found this part of the article interesting with regard to the media coverage in the US:

AG: Do you think Saddam Hussein is in control?

RF: Oh yes, absolutely. There have been a few incidents, I mean there was a little bit of shooting last night and there were the rumors that people had come from Saddam City and there were clashes with security forces or security agents, and rumors of a railway line being blown up, which was denied by the authorities, but there is no doubt Saddam is in control. It’s very funny sitting here, in a strange way, I suppose, if you could listen to some of the things that were said about the United States here, you’d laugh in America, but I’ve been listening to this uproariously funny argument about whether Saddam’s speech was recorded before the war and whether they have look-alikes. So, that in fact, the speech that Saddam made 24 hours ago, less than 24 hours ago, a speech that was very important if you read the text carefully and understand what he was trying to do, it has been totally warped in the United States by a concentration not on what he was saying, but whether it was actually him that was saying it. The American correspondent was saying to me yesterday morning, “This is ridiculous, we simply can’t report the story, because every time we have to deal with something Saddam says, the Pentagon claims it’s not him or it’s his double or it was recorded 2 weeks ago”. So, the story ceases to be about what the man says, the story starts to be this totally mythical, fictional idea that it really isn’t Saddam or it’s his double, etcetera. I watched this recording on television, all his television broadcasts are recordings because he’s not so stupid as to do a live broadcast and get bombed by the Americans while he’s doing it. The one thing you learn if you’re a target is not to do live television broadcasts, or radio for that matter, or, indeed telephone. But if you listen and read the text of what Saddam said, it has clearly been recorded in the previous few hours, and I can tell you, having once actually met the man, it absolutely was Saddam Hussein. But that’s the strange thing, you see, that in the US, the Pentagon only has to say it’s not Saddam, that it’s a fake, it was recorded years ago, or that it’s a double, and the Hollywood side of the story, which is quite rubbish, it’s not true- it is him, then takes over from the real story, which is ‘What the hell is this guy actually saying?’.
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Old 03-26-2003, 03:23 AM   #5
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interesting stuff, joyfulgirl. thanks for posting it.
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Old 03-26-2003, 04:53 AM   #6
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Interesting article indeed. However, keep in mind that this is a report from a journalist in Baghdad. So, you have to be cautious with all he said. As the BBC disclaimer from eye-witness accounts says:
Quote:
The movements of BBC reporters in Baghdad may be restricted and their reports are monitored by the Iraqi authorities.
It's not that I immediately want to dismiss the report, but there is a big war going on. The truth is hard to find and many parties selectively present information (this concerns both Iraq as the USA).

Still, as I said, it is an interesting viewpoint.

C ya!

Marty
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Old 03-26-2003, 05:24 AM   #7
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Thanks, joyfulgirl.


foray
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Old 03-26-2003, 08:03 AM   #8
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Yesterday we blew up Iraqi television building. I guess it held Sadaam and Republican guards running the camera's

Dreadsox,
I feel for you and me. What a tragic mistake IMO.
The guerilla's are a confusing issue. They may well be civilians that have taken up their guns. If we were attacked by another country threatening my way of life, sucky as it might be, I would also defend my city and my home with my husbands bunny gun (thank God he never uses it).
No matter what we do now, we are screwed. World opinion has only been strengthened against us.
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Old 03-26-2003, 08:16 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by Scarletwine
Yesterday we blew up Iraqi television building. I guess it held Sadaam and Republican guards running the camera's
Don't underestimate the power of media. In most wars, broadcast facilities are knocked out immediately, and they were targeted in Kosovo as well. You know full well why it was knocked out; to effectively "silence" Saddam. And that's precisely what they should have done all along.

Melon
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Old 03-26-2003, 08:20 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon


Don't underestimate the power of media. In most wars, broadcast facilities are knocked out immediately, and they were targeted in Kosovo as well. You know full well why it was knocked out; to effectively "silence" Saddam. And that's precisely what they should have done all along.

Melon


I am trying to comprehend why they were allowed to be up for a week, unless it was to figure out if Saddam was alive.
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Old 03-26-2003, 10:49 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by Popmartijn
Interesting article indeed. However, keep in mind that this is a report from a journalist in Baghdad. So, you have to be cautious with all he said. As the BBC disclaimer from eye-witness accounts says:


It's not that I immediately want to dismiss the report, but there is a big war going on. The truth is hard to find and many parties selectively present information (this concerns both Iraq as the USA).

Still, as I said, it is an interesting viewpoint.

C ya!

Marty
Hey Marty--I don't know if you clicked on the link and read the whole article, but just in case I thought I'd post a lengthy section where he talked about this. I guess I should've just posted the whole article instead of just the link and excerpts but I thought its length might be intimidating! Anyway, here you go:

***

There is actually more detail being given out by the Iraqis than by the Americans or the British, which is quite remarkable, it’s the first time I’ve ever known this. Now, again, it may be plausible to think that all this information is accurate- when the Iraqis first said they had taken American prisoners, we said, “Oh, more propaganda”- then up comes the film of the prisoners. Then they said they’d shot down a helicopter, and the journalists here in the briefing sort of looked at each other and said, “There’s another story”, and suddenly we’re seeing film of a shot down helicopter- then another film of a shot down helicopter. Then they said they had attacked and destroyed armored personnel carriers belonging to the US armed forces, and we all looked at each other and said, “Here we go again, more propaganda”, and then we see film on CNN of burning APCs.

So, there’s a good deal of credibility being given to the Iraqi version of events, although I’d have to say that their total version of how many aircraft have been shot down appears to be an exaggeration. So, we do have a moderately good idea, in that sense, of what’s actually happening. There are Iraqis moving around inside Iraq and arriving in Baghdad and giving us accounts of events that appear to be the same as accounts being given by various authorities. And no journalist can leave Baghdad to go to the south to check this out, but I do suspect that will happen in due course, I do think they will get journalists to move around inside Iraq providing they can produce a scenario that is favorable to Iraq. But frankly, any scene that a journalist sees that is opposition to the United States would be favorable to Iraq. But, it may well be that, with the Americans only about 50 miles away from where I am, if they’re going to try to enter Baghdad or if a siege of Baghdad begins, of course the Iraqis have boasted for a long time that this would be a kind of Stalingrad- here come the World War II references again- we won’t have to go very far to see the Americans fighting the Iraqis, we’ll see them with our own eyes. The Americans won’t be arriving close to Baghdad; they already are close.

When we’ll be moving around- you asked me about reporting- it’s not nearly as claustrophobic as you might imagine. I can walk out from my hotel in the evening, and, if I can find a restaurant open, I can get in a cab and go to dinner, no one stops me. When I’m traveling around during the day, if I want to go and carry out any interviews, if I want to do anything journalistic, I have a driver and I have what is called a minder; a person provided by the ministry to travel with me. This means that nobody I speak to is able to speak freely. I’ve gone up to people in the streets-shopkeepers- and talked to them, but it’s quite clear that there’s a representative of the authority with me, and I, in fact, don’t do any interviews like that any more, I think it’s ridiculous. Many of my colleagues continue to point microphones at these poor people and ask them questions which they cannot possibly respond to freely. So I simply do not do interview stories, I think it’s too intimidating to the person one is talking to, it is unprofessional and it is unethical to travel with anyone else on an interview of that kind.

But, you know, as I say, I can get into a car without a minder and go to a grocery shop and pick up groceries, bottles of water, biscuits, vegetables- I don’t need to travel around with a minder in that case and nobody minds. In other words, it’s not as though you’re under a great oppressive watch. Television reports now, by and large, when reporters are making television interviews, or when they’re being interviewed by the head offices, now require a ministry minder to sit and listen. It doesn’t mean they are being censored, but it means that they bite their lip occasionally. I will not do any television interviews with minders present so I don’t appear on television here. The odd thing is that there is no control at all attempted over written journalism or radio journalism. While I’m talking to you now, I’m sure this phone is being listened to, but whether they have the ability to listen to every phone call in Baghdad, but I doubt very much. I can say anything I want, and I do. And when I write, I’m not worried at all about being critical of the regime here and I am. It’s really a television thing here that I think the authorities are more fixated with and the actual presence of the minder, who, in my case is a pleasant guy who does not have a political upbringing particularly. It’s more of a concern, which I suppose one could understand if you saw it through Iraqi eyes or the eyes of the regime, that the reporter is not doing some kind of dual purpose.

Obviously, there is a tradition that journalists sometimes, unfortunately, turned out to work for governments as well as for newspapers or television, and I think the concern of the Iraqis is that some vital piece of information doesn’t get out to what is referred to by them as the enemy, and, secondly, that reporters are what they say they are. But, you know, this happened in Yugoslavia when I was covering the Serbian war. I was in there from the beginning of the war and most journalists were thrown out but I managed to hang on. And at the beginning, one couldn’t travel anywhere in Serbia or Yugoslavia at all without a government official. And, after days and weeks went by, and you turned out to be who you said you were, and you were not at all interested in working for anyone but your editor and your newspaper, a form of trust build up where they know that you disapprove of their regime, but they vaguely know you’re going to tell the truth, even if it’s critical towards Britain or America or whoever. And they leave you alone, by and large.

I have been to Iraq many times and I know a lot of people here, both in authority and civilians. I think people generally realize that The Independent really is an independent newspaper. So, there’s no great attempt to influence me or force me to praise the regime, for example, which is kind of a Hollywood version of what happens in these places. I’ve written very critically, with condemnation of Saddam and the regime and of all the human rights abuses here and the use of gas in Halabja and so on. And I think there’s a sort of understanding that as long as you’re a real journalist you will have to say these things, and indeed one has to, one should, but that doesn’t mean that we are laboring under the cruel heel—to use Churchill’s phrase—of some kind of Gestapo. Again, this is not a free country, this is a dictatorship, this is a regime that does not believe in the free speech that you and I believe in. One has to do ones best to get the story out.
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Old 03-26-2003, 10:58 AM   #12
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Hello Joyfulgirl,

No, I had not clicked on the link. Sorry, my bad (I thought that the lengthy excerpt covered nearly all as it was lenghty, but it now seems that the lengthy excerpt is just a small excerpt of the whole article). Anyway, thanks for the clarification.

C ya!

Marty
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Old 03-26-2003, 11:15 AM   #13
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btw, joyfulgirl, I did go read the whole article and liked it so much that I sent the link to my parents. lol. It seemed the least I could do after their constant forwarding of conspiracy theory "russia and France have secret deals with Iraq so we shouldn't listen to them" news stories.
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Old 03-26-2003, 11:24 AM   #14
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Well, we don't want to talk about my Mom, who thinks that Nixon and Reagan were the last of a dying breed of honorable Presidents.
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Old 03-26-2003, 10:52 PM   #15
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Thanks for the link, joyfulgirl! I had the privilege of hearing Robert Fisk speak at my university last year shortly after September 11. He really opened up my eyes as to how far news organizations in the US go to slant the truth. While he mainly used examples concerning Israel and Pakistan, the same principles can be applied to the "War on Terror" and "Operation Iraqi Freedom." I can't watch CNN anymore without wondering about the accuracy or integrity of their reporting.
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