// Robert Fisk: For the Muslim World, It Will Make No Difference Who Wins the Elect
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cheese
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« on: Oct 08, 2008 08:24 PM »


Robert Fisk: For the Muslim World, It Will Make No Difference Who Wins the Election

By Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now!. Posted October 6, 2008.

"We use phrases like 'victory.' We should be using phrases like 'justice for the people of the Middle East.'"
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Juan Gonzalez: The U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is back in the news. The British ambassador to Afghanistan has been quoted in a French newspaper as saying that the American military strategy in that country is "destined to fail." Ambassador Sherard Cowper-Coles's critical comments about the NATO operation in Afghanistan were part of a leaked memo from a French diplomat. He also said, "The coalition presence -- particularly the military presence -- is part of the problem, not the solution."

The British ambassador's leaked statements were published just as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan called for three additional combat brigades -- that is, over 10,000 soldiers -- to be immediately deployed to Kabul. General David McKiernan told reporters in Washington, D.C. Wednesday that Americans were facing a "tough fight" in Afghanistan that "might get worse before it gets better."

Amy Goodman: As the U.S.-led wars in the Middle East show no sign of abating, we turn now to a man who has chronicled eleven major wars in this part of the world and shows no sign of abating, himself. Robert Fisk is Britain's most celebrated foreign correspondent, has borne witness to countless tragedies in the Middle East for over three decades.

Robert Fisk has been named British Press Awards' International Journalist of the Year seven times. He is currently the Middle East correspondent for The Independent of London. His previous books include Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon and The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East. His latest is a collection of his essays and articles from The Independent; it's called The Age of the Warrior. Robert Fisk joins us here in New York in our firehouse studio.

Welcome to Democracy Now!


"We use phrases like 'victory.' We should be using phrases like 'justice for the people of the Middle East.'"
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But I was struck when I was having lunch on the West Coast a few days ago, by a very educated lady sitting next to me, saying, "But the Muslims wanted to take over the world, and they had already taken over France." I mean, how does this happen? I mean, she might have told me that Martians had landed in New Mexico, only thing you could do to counter that kind of argument. It looks like somehow we're on a brainwashing trip. And we've all bought the narrative. You know, we even have Mrs. Palin talking about victory in Iraq. It doesn't feel it if you go to Iraq. It doesn't feel it if you live there.

AG: She also has talked about Iraq as being God's war.

RF: Yeah, well, we've had some generals who've talked about that, too, haven't we, and kept their uniform on in church when they said it. You know, more and more, I look back on the early statements by bin Laden, statements we never actually read. The narrative is always "Is this bin Laden?" when he appears. "Is he ill? When did he make the statement? And have the CIA confirmed it's his voice?" What his voice actually says is never of any interest to us.

But if you remember, he went on and on about crusaders, and he actually made a very important statement before we invaded Iraq, in which he called upon Muslims in Iraq to collaborate with Baath Party officials against the crusaders, on the grounds that Salahadin had collaborated with the non-Muslim Persians against the crusaders in the 12th century. We missed all this. And this was the detonation that set off the insurgency.

JG: I'd like to ask you, at the debate, the presidential debate last Friday, we had the situation where the so-called candidate of peace, Barack Obama, is talking about, well, we took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan, as if this is a game here that's being played and we made a mistake in the game. And so, now we must go back to Afghanistan and possibly even into Pakistan.

RK: Look, I think you have to realize -- and the Arabs do not, and I've been trying on Al Jazeera Arabic service to say this -- it's not going to make any difference who is the next president of the United States, as far as Southwest Asia and the Muslim world is concerned. I was in Qatar, actually, in the Al Jazeera Arabic studios when Obama made his famous Middle East trip. You know, he gave 45 minutes to the Palestinians, 24 hours to the Israelis. And the Arabic anchorman turned to me. He said, "So, Robert, do you think Obama will win the election?" I said, "He'll win the election for the Israeli Knesset. I don't know if he's going to get the presidency of the United States." You know, we've got here a one-track policy into the Middle East by the United States, and it's not going to change.

AG: But, Robert, is that true? On the one hand, you have, yes, they don't sound that different when it comes to, for example, Afghanistan. They agree that's the main site of the war, the main candidates. But I guess it's the question of what could happen next and what approach McCain or Obama would take.

RF: Look, the Taliban now control half of Afghanistan, not just at night, but in the day -- during the day, too. There's no doubt that Petraeus has got it right when he talks about things are going to get worse.

AG: Petraeus.

RF: Petraeus. And there's no doubt, too, that the famous British ambassador, Mr. Cowper-Coles -- by the way, he's in my book, and he's the guy who persuaded the British, when he was ambassador to Saudi Arabia, not to continue with the bribes inquiry by the British fraud squad into arms sold to Saudi Arabia. He's the guy who actually advised the fraud squad people to drop it.

AG: And this involved Bandar Bush. This involved the former Saudi ambassador to the United States.

RF: Absolutely, it's the same guy. I should add -- I should just add that more than 20 years ago, a young diplomat in the Egyptian embassy -- in the British embassy in Cairo advised me to drop one of our stringers in the region and take on another stringer who was rather favorable to the foreign office. I didn't do as I was told. But that man was also Cowper-Coles. What a strange career he has!

However, let's go back to your Obama thing. Look, at the end of the day, we cannot win in Afghanistan. The Taliban are not crossing porous borders. They don't even acknowledge the border, because, for them, it's Pashtunistan. The border was drawn by a British civil servant called Sir Mortimer Durand in the Victorian age, and no one there, apart from us, accepts that it's there -- and, I suppose, the Pakistani army.

And the fact of the matter is that we have no policy there. The Karzai government is totally discredited. Karzai himself only rules his palace, with the help of American mercenaries to protect him. His government is full of drug barons, warlords and criminals. And that includes the people down in Kandahar, which is virtually a lost city. The troops cannot enter Kandahar anymore. It's gone, effectively, especially at night. You can't go there. No Westerner can walk through the streets of Kandahar. And you don't see any women, except in Kabul, who are not wearing burqas. You remember the famous liberation of women, equality, gender equality was coming? It's all turned out to be totally false. And we're going to win there? We're going to win there?


"We use phrases like 'victory.' We should be using phrases like 'justice for the people of the Middle East.'"
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Also in War on Iraq

As More Troops Refuse to Deploy, Getting Conscientious Objector Status is an Uphill Battle
Sarah Lazare

Revealed: "Secret" Executions Being Carried Out in Saddam's Old Intelligence Headquarters
Robert Fisk

New Evidence Shows Bush Had No Plan to Catch bin Laden After 9/11
Gareth Porter

The End of Iraq's "Awakening"?
Robert Dreyfuss

At Least Saddam Protected the Rights of Religious Minorities
Fatih Abdulsalam

The Secret Lives of Contractors
Allen McDuffee
More stories by Amy Goodman Juan Gonzalez

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JG: Well, and, of course, the issue of Pakistan, to me, is the most frightening one of all, because --

RF: Absolutely.

JG: -- you're talking about a country that is really almost a failed state at this point.

RF: We've been told that -- the narrative is that the mad mullahs with black turbans and the crackpot Ahmadinejad of Iran -- and he is a crackpot -- are going to destroy Israel, and then, of course, they're going to destroy the Palestinians, and they'll get destroyed with all these nuclear weapons.

I've been saying for more than two years there is one nation in Southwest Asia, which is packed with Taliban supporters and al-Qaeda supporters, and it's got a bomb, and it's totally corrupted, from the shoeshine boy to the president, via its intelligence services and army, and it's called Pakistan. And only now are we beginning to see Pakistan pop up. I bet you if you run a computer check in the next few months, Iran will go right down to the bottom of the page, unless Israel chooses to bomb it, and up will go Pakistan.

And suddenly, how do we deal with this country? It will be a whole crazed mixture, which is already symbolized by the fact that, first of all, we put troops in on the ground in Pakistan and infringed its sovereignty. Then, when the Marriott Hotel blows up, the FBI offers its help in finding out the criminals. I mean, are we friends, or are we enemies of Pakistan? We don't even know that.

And we start talking, using phrases like "victory." We should be talking about phrases like "justice for the people of the Middle East." If you have justice, you can build democracy on it, and then we can withdraw all these soldiers. We're always going -- promising people in the Middle East democracy and packages of human rights off our supermarket shelves, and we're always arriving with our horses and our Humvees and our swords and our Apache helicopters and our M1A1 tanks. The only future in the Middle East is to withdraw all our military forces and have serious political, social, religious, cultural relations with these people. It's not our land.

AG: Robert Fisk, just before we went on air, this came over AP: suicide bombers targeted Shia worshippers as they left morning prayers at two Baghdad mosques, killing 19 people, injuring 50 others. In a separate attack, gunmen fatally shot six people as they traveled in a minibus at Wajihiyah, a town 60 miles north of Baghdad.

RF: Yeah, well, and we won, and the surge was successful, and everything's going back to ordinary life, and people -- I mean, that map which we saw, the two maps coming up -- it's preposterous. I mean, I get phone calls from Iraqis in Damascus, when I'm in Beirut, saying, you know, "Can you help us stay in Syria? Can we come to Lebanon? We cannot go back to Baghdad." And they're still getting calls saying, you know, "If you come back to your house, you'll be murdered." This is not a success; it's a hell disaster for all the peoples of the Middle East. I mean, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, southern Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank -- I mean, is no one waking up to say that there is no hope there at the moment? You know, there's no light at the end of the tunnel out in the Middle East.

JG: I'd like to ask you, you mentioned the West Bank, obviously, the original center of this entire conflict. The --

RF: I'm not sure it is the center anymore, by the way, but, yeah.

JG: Right. But the comments recently by Ehud Olmert, saying that --

RF: Look, Ehud Olmert is a has-been. He's gone.

AG: But he is prime minister.

RF: Just.

AG: And he said you should give back the West Bank.

RF: Yes, but he's going, Amy. He's going. This is the same as all your generals who go out to fight in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and when they're asked to comment to the press, they say, "Everything is going fine; it may be a tough battle," and they salute and click their heels to Rumsfeld, or they did. And the moment they retire, they demand Rumsfeld's resignation and say it's all gone wrong. I mean, if only just one of them, just one, would say it in a press conference when they still had their uniform on, we might see a few changes coming about, but they don't. They keep their -- they go heel.
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« Reply #1 on: Nov 10, 2008 04:50 PM »

Robert Fisk:

Obama has to pay for eight years of Bush's delusions

He will have to get out of Iraq, and he will have to tell Israel a few home truths

Saturday, 8 November 2008

How is Barack Obama going to repair the titanic damage which his vicious, lying predecessor has perpetrated around the globe and within the US itself?

 

American lawyers defending six Algerians before a habeas corpus hearing in Washington this week learned some very odd things about US intelligence after 9/11. From among the millions of "raw" reports from American spies and their "assets" around the world came a CIA Middle East warning about a possible kamikaze-style air attack on a US navy base at a south Pacific island location. The only problem was that no such navy base existed on the island and no US Seventh Fleet warship had ever been there. In all seriousness, a US military investigation earlier reported that Osama bin Laden had been spotted shopping at a post office on a US military base in east Asia.


That this nonsense was disseminated around the world by those tasked to defend the United States in the "war on terror" shows the fantasy environment in which the Bush regime has existed these past eight years. If you can believe that bin Laden drops by a shopping mall on an American military base, then you can believe that everyone you arrest is a "terrorist", that Arabs are "terrorists", that they can be executed, that living "terrorists" must be tortured, that everything a tortured man says can be believed, that it is legitimate to invade sovereign states, to grab the telephone records of everyone in America. As Bob Herbert put it in The New York Times a couple of years ago, the Bush administration wanted these records "which contain crucial documentation of calls for a Chinese takeout in Terre Haute, Indiana, and birthday greetings to Grandma in Talladega, Alabama, to help in the search for Osama bin Laden". There was no stopping Bush when it came to trampling on the US Constitution. All that was new was that he was now applying the same disrespect for liberty in America that he had shown in the rest of the world.

But how is Barack Obama going to repair the titanic damage which his vicious, lying predecessor has perpetrated around the globe and within the US itself? John F Kennedy once said that "the United States, as the world knows, will never start a war". After Bush's fear-mongering and Rumsfeld's "shock and awe" and Abu Ghraib and Bagram and Guantanamo and secret renditions, how does Obama pedal his country all the way back to Camelot? Our own dear Gordon Brown's enthusiasm to Hoover up the emails of the British people is another example of how Lord Blair's sick relationship with Bush still infects our own body politic. Only days before the wretched president finally departs from us, new US legislation will ensure that citizens of his lickspittle British ally will no longer be able to visit America without special security clearance. Does Bush have any more surprises for us before 20 January? Indeed, could anything surprise us any more?

Obama has got to close Guantanamo. He's got to find a way of apologising to the world for the crimes of his predecessor, not an easy task for a man who must show pride in his country; but saying sorry is what – internationally – he will have to do if the "change" he has been promoting at home is to have any meaning outside America's borders. He will have to re-think – and deconstruct – the whole "war on terror". He will have to get out of Iraq. He will have to call a halt to America's massive airbases in Iraq, its $600m embassy. He will have to end the blood-caked air strikes we are perpetrating in southern Afghanistan – why, oh, why do we keep slaughtering wedding parties? – and he will have to tell Israel a few home truths: that America can no longer remain uncritical in the face of Israeli army brutality and the colonisation for Jews and Jews only on Arab land. Obama will have to stand up at last to the Israeli lobby (it is, in fact, an Israeli Likud party lobby) and withdraw Bush's 2004 acceptance of Israel's claim to a significant portion of the West Bank. US officials will have to talk to Iranian officials – and Hamas officials, for that matter. Obama will have to end US strikes into Pakistan – and Syria.

Indeed, there's a growing concern among America's allies in the Middle East that the US military has to be brought back under control – indeed, that the real reason for General David Petraeus' original appointment in Iraq was less to organise the "surge" than it was to bring discipline back to the 150,000 soldiers and marines whose mission – and morals – had become so warped by Bush's policies. There is some evidence, for example, that the four-helicopter strike into Syria last month, which killed eight people, was – if not a rogue operation – certainly not sanctioned byWashington or indeed by US commanders in Baghdad.

But Obama's not going to be able to make the break. He wants to draw down in Iraq in order to concentrate more firepower in Afghanistan. He's not going to take on the lobby in Washington and he's not going to stop further Jewish colonisation of the occupied territories or talk to Israel's enemies. With AIPAC supporter Rahm Emanuel as his new chief of staff – "our man in the White House", as the Israeli daily Maariv called him this week – Obama will toe the line. And of course, there's the terrible thought that bin Laden – when he's not shopping at US military post offices – may be planning another atrocity to welcome the Obama presidency.

There is just one little problem, though, and that's the "missing" prisoners. Not the victimswho have been (still are being?) tortured in Guantanamo, but the thousands who have simply disappeared into US custody abroad or – with American help – into the prisons of US allies. Some reports speak of 20,000 missing men, most of them Arabs, all of them Muslims. Where are they? Can they be freed now? Or are they dead? If Obama finds that he is inheriting mass graves from George W Bush, there will be a lot of apologising to do.

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