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In a Warrior's Age -- Author Decries U.S. Terror War

New America Media, News Report, Viji Sundaram Posted: Sep 30, 2008

BERKELEY, Calif. Britains arguably most celebrated Middle East journalist Robert Fisk was in town this week to promote his new book, The Age of the Warrior.

Alternatively reading from the book a collection of his essays from 2002 to 2007 which have appeared in the British daily, The Independent and recalling his experiences, the award-winning journalist launched into a tirade against Western governments, Britain and the United States in particular, for their assaults on Muslim nations, ostensibly to snuff out terrorists.

Had Iraq been rich in asparagus and carrots, instead of oil, he told the sellout crowd at the MLK Middle School auditorium here Sept. 25, President Bush and his allies would not have invaded the land. The invasion has claimed the lives of nearly one million Iraqis and forced some two-and-a-half million more to flee the country.

Fisk said the code for U.S. army forces, originally drawn up to prevent any more Vietnam atrocities, has changed from Soldiers Creed that strictly forbade acts that would disgrace the uniform, to Warriors Ethos, where soldiers are encouraged to be ready to destroy the enemies of the United States in close combat.

He criticized the United States for condemning Iran for its secrecy about its nuclear programs. He suggested that the West should worry more about Pakistan than about Iran.

Iran has not got the bomb, but it is Pakistan, Fisk asserted, pointing out that Pakistans newly installed president, Asif Zardari, his administration and the Inter-Service Intelligence (the federal spy agency) are so corrupt that it would not be in the United States interests to continue cozying up to them.

All the institutions in Pakistan are heavily corrupted, Fisk warned, adding: The present president is not a Bhutto, hes a widower of Bhutto.

Although the late Benazir Bhutto had her own shortcomings, she was determined to restore democracy in Pakistan, and died trying to do that, he observed.

In his hour-long speech, Fisk came down heavily on President Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The moment they get elected, they no longer represent us, thereby creating a break in governance, he said.

Fisk recalled how Bush, about a year ago, when asked how many Iraqis he believed had been killed in the Iraq war, had answered, Forty thousand or thereabouts. Fisk said all hell would have broken loose in the Western media had he spoken in such a cavalier manner about American soldiers who had died in the war. Those soldiers names, as well as those of their wives, parents and children are meticulously reported each day in the Western newspapers, Fisk pointed out, lambasting the Western media for their reporting style.

We (Western journalists) like to follow the narrative laid down by our governments, Fisk said, adding: Fawning of leadership by the press which the leadership loves, has become commonplace in the Western media. Little wonder that national newspapers in the United States are experiencing a fall in circulation, he said.

Journalists in the mainstream papers are largely middle-class college graduates, not reporters who come up the hard way like (Seymour) Hershs street reporting in Chicago in his early days, he says in his book. They have no connection to the immigrants society.

He singled out the New York Times for what he called its incomprehensible coverage of the Middle East.

In his book, Fisk says that American journalists in general report in so craven a fashion from the Middle East, so fearful of Israeli criticism that they turn Israeli murder into targeted attacks and illegal settlement into Jewish neighborhoods.

VIDEO: Robert Fisk on the role of journalism

He said the Middle East is a tragedy of great bloodshed and should not be reported like a football match.

He criticized journalism schools for instilling into students minds the importance of viewing everything with objective eyes, which he called a great sickness of our media.

Fisk has walked into war zones in such countries as Iran, Afghanistan and Palestine and seen body parts of women and children scattered all around. When covering such issues, Fisk said, journalists should be on the side of the suffering and not worry about devoting 50 percent of the report to one side and the other half to the other.

I believe journalists should be on the side of the suffering, Fisk asserted, noting that for journalists, being objective is to avoid telling the truth.

Asked by a member of the audience what he believed was the best course now for Bush and his allies to follow in Iraq, Fisk unequivocally said: I believe strongly that we must withdraw our troops because it is not our land. He dismissed as guff reports in the U.S. media that a withdrawal at this point would bring the jihadis into the West.

But he added in what appeared to be only partly in jest: Ive often thought that the one sure way of closing down Iraqs war would be to give American citizenship to every Iraqi, in just the same way that the Romans made their conquered people citizens.

Viji Sundaram is an editor at New America Media

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