Monday, May 19, 2008

The Great War for Civilisation...Book Review

The Great War for Civilisation Robert Fisk.2005.Harper Perennial.1286 pages.

This hefty paperback covers the author's 30 or so years covering Middle East affairs.He writes of places such as Afghanistan,Algeria,Iraq,Iran,Israel and Syria and figures such as King Hussein,Arafat,Blair,Bush and Bin Laden among others.
It is also part autobiographical as he writes of his upbringing and his parents.
While noting firstly,that I lack the necessary historical background,first hand knowledge and experience to authoritatively question his views and secondly,this blog is hardly the place to debate weighty matters of state,some things are worth mentioning.
Fisk has strong views on the role of journalists and their freedom to report and criticise as they see fit."Our job is to record,to point the finger when we can,to challenge those centres of power..."pg1280.He doesnt seem a big fan of embedded journalism and decries the practice of "hotel journalism"pg 1239.

He's also critical of the way that language can be manipulated and how a word like "terrorism" can be misused."Terrorism" is a word that has become a plague on our vocabulary,the excuse and reason and moral permit for state-sponsored violence-our violence..."pg464.He writes of skewed semantics where some incidents are reported as "tragedies" and others as "massacres".
Theres also an interesting chapter on what Fisk calls the First Holocaust( Chapter 10,page 388) and the usage of the word Holocaust.Does one use a capital 'H' only for the Jewish Holocaust?

I found his accounts of the civilian casualties,particularly those of children harrowing.Equally horrific were his graphic descriptions of various forms of torture.It seems there is no end to the creativity and methods used to inflict pain upon one's enemies.
In the final paragraph of the book he sums up his thoughts thus.."In the end we have to accept that our tragedy lies always in our past,that we have to live with our ancestors' folly and suffer for it,just as they in turn,suffered,and as we,through our vanity and arrogance ensure the pain and suffering of our own children"pg 1286.

All in all I found this an interesting albeit difficult read.If you are interested in one insiders views about the politics and background to the Middle East situation today then this book provides a very good basis to begin.Theres a select bibliography that also provides sources for further study.

No comments: