October 11, 2005

Robert Fisk on terrorism and Iraq.

During the US-led invasion of Iraq and the early days of the occupation, one of the reporters most often cited in blogs like this one was Robert Fisk of the UK Independent. Fisk was one of the first reporters to dispute the various rationales put forward for toppling the Saddam Hussein government and, for a while, almost the only journalist who consistently pointed to the incompentence and corruption that marked the occupation. Fisk isn't cited much any more, largely because the Independent put him behind a pay firewall, making access to his reports too expensive for most bloggers. [Are we seeing the future of the NY Times' Paul Krugman here?] Nonetheless, his reporting is still as sharp — and controversial — as ever, and it's a shame it's not more widely read outside the UK.

About a week ago, Fisk was interviewed by ABC [Australia] journalist Tony Jones for the program Lateline. Here's part of that interview:

TONY JONES: Alright. Let's go to the burning issue of the day, which is Iraq. How do you see that ending? I know that one of your — in one of your recent interviews, you've essentially said the only way it can end is for a new government to be dually constituted in Iraq and for them to basically force the Western troops out.

ROBERT FISK: Well, look, the equation in Iraq is this: The Americans must leave. The Americans will leave. But the Americans can't leave. That's the equation that turns sand into blood. How do you get a situation where you have an Iraqi state which runs itself, but which doesn't feel it is living under occupation, which it is. There are 135,000 American troops there. We both know that if the national export of Iraq was asparagus or carrots, they wouldn't be there. It's because it's an oil state. We wouldn't have again there if asparaguses were the national export. The reality is that we have vast numbers of Western troops in a Muslim country with total anarchy, except in the far north in the Kurdish areas, and we can't stop the anarchy or produce security. We are having Wal-Mart suicide bombers. I mean, it is worse than you are making it out to be. I remember when the Hezbollah were fighting Israelis in southern Lebanon, it was one a month, then with the Palestinians and the Israelis, it was one a week, and now it is seven a day. I mean, I don't know where they come from — Saudi Arabia, if you want to say literally — but how do you deal with this? The Americans can't control Iraq. The British can't control Iraq. Look at the pictures we saw the other day from Basra. Certainly the Australians are having to protect Japanese in Iraq. We have here a hell of a disaster and it needs to be brought under control. Instead of that, what are we doing? We say things are getting better. The path to freedom is opening. More democracy is coming. I remember Bush saying, "Very soon the Arab states will all want to imitate Iraq". No they won't.

TONY JONES: You tell us your view on how to make things better, how time prove the situation which is clearly deteriorating day by day?

ROBERT FISK: Well, that's an admission. Look, the first thing that must happen is - the first thing that will happen is that the Americans will talk to the insurgents. In small scale ways, they already are. In places like Mosul, you are finding a marine sergeant talking to a local guy saying "We won't do our patrols tonight if you don't mortar us". That's how it begins. The real problem for the Americans is how you make the connection. You know in the Algerian war when the French were trying to get away from Algeria, they constantly looked for mediators. (Speaks French) Turns out the French murdered most of them so they couldn't find a way out. But with the Americans, they need to find a way of negotiating with the resistance, insurgents, call them what you will, so they could find an avenue out. It is actually my belief, after a lot of work on the subject, there is a faction of the insurgents within the present Iraqi government. The Americans can do it within the structure of democracy that was set up by the elections that took place on January 30th this year, which I was present for in Baghdad. If that can happen, if we can have a narrative dialogue between the Americans and some of those who are involved in resisting violently the presence of foreign troops, then we can see the beginning of some kind of structure by which the Americans can get out and the government of Iraq can say, "We would like all foreign troops to leave by January 23rd", you name the day. At which point the Americans can say, "We have victory — democratic government. We can leave." They go. It will not produce the government we want. It will not produce human rights. It will not produce protection for women, I'm sorry to say. But it will end up with a government that has a kind of insurgency, fragile partly democratically elected government, authority. It certainly is not what I would like to see in Iraq. It's not what you would like, but it's probably the only way out at the moment.

You can read a full transcript of the interview here at the ABC [Australia] website.

Posted by Magpie at October 11, 2005 12:27 PM | Iraq | Technorati links |

Once again Robert Fisk hits the spot. A few other journalists are prepared to draw attention to the self-defeating absurdity of what is being done to Iraq by the foreign fighters (American, British, etc), but not many. I am old enough now to remember the words of a song by Phil Ochs, in the early 1970's, regarding another stupid campaign of aggression:

"We're fighting in a war we lost before the war began,
We're the white boots marching in a yellow land."

It's a pity that the blood has to flow again to service the needs of fundamentalists and oil-heads in the White House and their toadies elsewhere. That's one of the problems with the democracy we have: dreck like Bush and his backers have found ways to coopt it for reactionary, mass murderous ends.

The right to choose our own representatives is a fine thing compared with other known options: but how come psychopaths persistently seem best able to operate and prosper through it?

David (London)

Posted by: david at October 11, 2005 02:37 PM