Robert Fisk: Wikis


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Robert Fisk
Robert Fisk, Christchurch, 2008.jpg
Robert Fisk at a book festival in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2008.
Born 12 July 1946 (1946-07-12) (age 63)
Maidstone, Kent, England
Education Lancaster University (B.A., 1968)
Trinity College, Dublin (Ph.D., 1985)
Occupation Middle East correspondent for The Independent
Ethnicity British
Notable credit(s) Jacob's Award, Amnesty International UK Press Awards, British Press Awards, International Journalist of the Year, "Reporter of the Year", David Watt prize, Lannan Cultural Freedom Prize
Official website

Robert Fisk (born 12 July 1946, Maidstone, Kent) is an English writer and journalist. Middle East correspondent of the The Independent, he has been based mainly in Beirut for more than 30 years.[1] Fisk holds more British and International Journalism awards than any other foreign correspondent.[2]



The New York Times once described Robert Fisk as "probably the most famous foreign correspondent in Britain."[3] He reported the Northern Ireland troubles in the 1970s, the Portuguese Revolution in 1974, the Lebanese Civil War, the Iranian revolution in 1979, the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the Iran–Iraq War, the Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. A vernacular Arabic speaker, he is one of few Western journalists to have interviewed Osama bin Laden, three times between 1994 and 1997.[4][5] Awards include being voted International Journalist of the Year seven times.

Fisk has said that journalism must, "challenge authority, all authority, especially so when governments and politicians take us to war." He has quoted with approval the Israeli journalist Amira Hass: "There is a misconception that journalists can be objective ... What journalism is really about is to monitor power and the centres of power." [6]

He has written at length on how much of contemporary conflict has its origin, in his view, in lines drawn on maps: "After the allied victory of 1918, at the end of my father's war, the victors divided up the lands of their former enemies. In the space of just seventeen months, they created the borders of Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia and most of the Middle East. And I have spent my entire career — in Belfast and Sarajevo, in Beirut and Baghdad — watching the people within those borders burn." [7]

Early career

Fisk received a BA in English Literature at Lancaster University in 1968[8] and a PhD in Political Science, from Trinity College, Dublin in 1985.[9] The title of his doctoral thesis was "A condition of limited warfare: Eire’s neutrality and the relationship between Dublin, Belfast and London, 1939–1945".[9] He first worked on the Sunday Express diary column before a disagreement with the editor, John Junor, prompted a move to The Times.[10] From 1972–75 Fisk served as Belfast correspondent for The Times, before becoming its correspondent in Portugal covering the aftermath of the Carnation Revolution. He then was appointed Middle East correspondent (1976–1988). When a story of his was spiked (Iran Air Flight 655) after Rupert Murdoch's takeover, he moved to The Independent, with his first report published there on 28 April 1989.

Lebanon, and other conflicts

Fisk has been living in Beirut since 1976,[11] and was present in Beirut throughout the Lebanese civil war. He was one of the first journalists to visit the scene of the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon, as well as the Syrian Hama Massacre. His book on the Lebanese conflict, Pity the Nation, was first published in 1990. Fisk also reported on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Kosovo war, the Algerian civil war, and the Iran-Iraq War. Fisk suffered partial but permanent hearing loss as a result of his being within close proximity to Iraqi heavy artillery in the Shatt-al-Arab when covering the early stages of the Iran-Iraq conflict.

Osama bin Laden

Fisk is one of the few Western journalists to have interviewed Osama bin Laden - three times (all published by The Independent: December 6, 1993, July 10, 1996, and March 22, 1997). During one of Fisk's interviews with Bin Laden, Fisk noted an attempt by Bin Laden to convert him. Bin Laden said; "Mr Robert, one of our brothers had a dream. He dreamed ... that you were a spiritual person ... this means you are a true Muslim." Fisk replied; "Sheikh Osama, I am not a Muslim ... I am a journalist ... A journalist's task is to tell the truth." Bin Laden replied: "If you tell the truth, that means you are a good Muslim."[12][13]

On the last occasion, in 1997, Osama informed Fisk of his intention to attack America: "Mr Robert, I pray that God permits us to turn America into a shadow of itself."[14]


Fisk condemned the September 11, 2001 attacks, describing them as a "hideous crime against humanity". He also denounced the Bush administration's response to the attacks, arguing that "a score of nations" were being identified and positioned as "haters of democracy" or "kernels of evil", and urged a more honest debate on U.S. policy in the Middle East. He argued that such a debate had hitherto been avoided "because, of course, to look too closely at the Middle East would raise disturbing questions about the region, about our Western policies in those tragic lands, and about America's relationship with Israel."[15]

In August 2007 Fisk expressed personal doubts about the official historical record of the September 11 attacks. In an article for The Independent, he claimed that, while the Bush administration was incapable of successfully carrying out such attacks due to its organisational incompetence: "I am increasingly troubled at the inconsistencies in the official narrative of 9/11." He proceeded to raise his concerns about a lack of aircraft debris, the melting point of steel, the collapse of World Trade Center 7, misidentified suicide-hijackers, the authenticity of correspondence attributed by the CIA to Mohamed Atta, and other familiar questions that have circulated within the 9/11 Truth Movement. He added that he does not condone the "crazed 'research' of David Icke [...] I am talking about scientific issues".[16] Fisk had earlier addressed similar concerns in a speech at Sydney University in 2006.[17] During the speech, Fisk said: "Partly I think because of the culture of secrecy of the White House, never have we had a White House so secret as this one. Partly because of this culture, I think suspicions are growing in the United States, not just among Berkeley guys with flowers in their hair[...] But there are a lot of things we don’t know, a lot of things we’re not going to be told[...] perhaps the plane was hit by a missile, we still don’t know."[18]

War in Afghanistan

After the U.S. launched its attack on Afghanistan, Fisk was for a time transferred to Pakistan to provide coverage of that conflict. While reporting from there, he was attacked and beaten by a group of Afghan refugees fleeing heavy bombing by the United States Air Force. He was saved from this attack by another Afghan refugee. In his graphic account of his own beating, Fisk pardoned the attackers of responsibility and pointed out that their "brutality was entirely the product of others, of us — of we who had armed their struggle against the Russians and ignored their pain and laughed at their civil war and then armed and paid them again for the 'War for Civilisation' just a few miles away and then bombed their homes and ripped up their families and called them 'collateral damage.'"[19]

Iraq War

During the 2003 Iraq War, Fisk was stationed in Baghdad and filed many eyewitness reports. He has criticized other journalists based in Iraq for what he calls their "hotel journalism", literally reporting from one's hotel room without interviews or first hand experience of events.[20] His opposition to the war brought criticism from the Irish columnist and senator, Eoghan Harris[21] and Guardian columnist Simon Hoggart.[22] Fisk has criticised the American handling of the sectarian violence in post-invasion Iraq, and argued that the official narrative of sectarian conflict is not possible: "The real question I ask myself is: who are these people who are trying to provoke the civil war? Now the Americans will say it's Al Qaeda, it's the Sunni insurgents. It is the death squads. Many of the death squads work for the Ministry of Interior. Who runs the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad? Who pays the Ministry of the Interior? Who pays the militia men who make up the death squads? We do, the occupation authorities[...]We need to look at this story in a different light."[23]


In 1991, Fisk won a Jacob's Award for his RTÉ Radio coverage of the first Gulf War.[24] He received Amnesty International UK Press Awards in 1998 for his reports from Algeria and again in 2000 for his articles on the NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999. In 1999 Fisk won the Orwell Prize for journalism.[25] He received the British Press Awards' International Journalist of the Year seven times, and twice won its "Reporter of the Year" award.[26] In 2001, he was awarded the David Watt Prize for "outstanding contributions towards the clarification of political issues and the promotion of their greater understanding" for his investigation into the Armenian Genocide by the Turks in 1915.[27] In 2002 he was the fourth recipient of the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. More recently, Fisk was awarded the 2006 Lannan Cultural Freedom Prize along with $350,000.[28]

He was made an honorary Doctor of Laws by the University of St Andrews on June 24, 2004. The Political and Social Sciences department of Ghent University (Belgium) awarded Fisk an honorary doctorate on March 24, 2006. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the American University of Beirut in June 2006. Trinity College Dublin awarded him a second, honorary, Doctorate in July 2008.[29]

Fisk gave the 2005 Edward Said Memorial lecture at Adelaide University.[30]


The blogosphere term fisking[31] refers not to what Fisk does but to what is done to him, and others; the fisker begins by copying text from the fiskee, and then constructs a point-by-point criticism of the text. "The fisker can without too much trouble make the fiskee look ridiculous."[32] The term originated from attacks on Fisk's credibility,[33] but has been extended to others, even the Archbishop of Canterbury.[34]

Personal life

Fisk is a pacifist and has never voted.[35]

Books and other works


Fisk has published a number of books. His 2005 work, "The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East", with its criticism of Western and Israeli approaches to the Middle East, was well-received by critics and students of international affairs, and is perhaps his best-known work.

  • The Point of No Return: The Strike which Broke the British in Ulster (1975). London: Times Books/Deutsch. ISBN 0-233-96682-X
  • In Time of War: Ireland, Ulster and the Price of Neutrality, 1939-1945 (2001). London: Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 0-7171-2411-8 — (1st ed. was 1983).
  • Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War (3rd ed. 2001). London: Oxford University Press; xxi, 727 pages. ISBN 0-19-280130-9 — (1st ed. was 1990).
  • The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East (October 2005) London. Fourth Estate; xxvi, 1366 pages. ISBN 1-84115-007-X
  • The Age of the Warrior: Selected Writings (2008) London, Fourth Estate ISBN 978 0 00 727073 6

Video documentary

Fisk produced a three-part series titled From Beirut To Bosnia in 1993 which Fisk says was an attempt "to find out why an increasing number of Muslims had come to hate the West."[36] Fisk claims that The Discovery Channel did not show a repeat of the films, after initially showing them in full, due to a letter campaign launched by pro-Israel groups such as CAMERA.[36][37]

Forgery misattributed to Robert Fisk

  • Saddam Hussein - From Birth to Martyrdom (2007). Egypt: Ibda; 272 pages. (forged authorship[38])


  1. ^ "Robert Fisk". The Independent. Retrieved 2006-07-19. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Bronner, Ethan (2005-11-19). "A Foreign Correspondent Who Does More Than Report". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-07-19. 
  4. ^ Robert Fisk: The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle Eastpp.1-39 ISBN 184115007X
  5. ^ "Honoured War Reporter Sides With Victims of Conflict". New Zealand Press Association. 2005-11-04. 
  6. ^ Miles, Oliver (2005-11-19). "The big picture". Guardian Unlimited.,6121,1645908,00.html. Retrieved 2006-07-19. 
  7. ^ Robert Fisk, The Great War for Civilisation, 2005
  8. ^ "Robert Fisk lecture", LU News (Lancaster University), November 2006,, retrieved 2008-10-14 
  9. ^ a b "Former postgraduate students". Trinity College, Dublin. Retrieved 2008-07-26. 
  10. ^ Robert Fisk (26 July 2008). "My days in Fleet Street's Lubyanka". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-07-26. 
  11. ^ Fisk, Robert (2006). The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East. London: Harper Perennial. pp. 973. ISBN 978-1-84115-008-6. 
  12. ^ Ben Naparstek, The Listener, Watching the warriors, August 30-September 5 2008 Vol 215 No 3564
  13. ^ Fisk, Robert (2007). The Great War For Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East. Vintage. pp. 29–30. ISBN 9781400075171. 
  14. ^ Fisk, Robert. Robert Fisk on Bin Laden at 50, The Independent. 4 March, 2007.
  15. ^ Fisk, Robert. One year on: A view from the Middle East, The Independent, 11 September, 2002.
  16. ^ Fisk, Robert (2007-08-25). "Even I question the 'truth' about 9/11". The Independent. Retrieved 2007-08-25. 
  17. ^ Are they all mad?, Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun, 29 March 2006
  18. ^ Robert Fisk at Sydney Ideas 2006Robert Fisk, ABC News Australia, Sunday 26 March 2006
  19. ^ Fisk, Robert (2001-12-10). "My beating by refugees is a symbol of the hatred and fury of this filthy war". Retrieved 2006-07-19. 
  20. ^ Fisk, Robert (2005-01-17). "Hotel journalism gives American troops a free hand as the press shelters indoors". [1]. Retrieved 2006-07-19. 
  21. ^ Air-kissing the terrorists - call it Luvvies Actually - Analysis, Opinion -
  22. ^ Hoggart, Simon. A war cry from the pulpit, The Guardian, November 17, 2001.
  23. ^ Robert Fisk shares his Middle East knowledge Tony Jones, ABC Australia, 02/03/2006
  24. ^ The Irish Times, "In the wars", November 19, 1991
  25. ^ "Robert Fisk – The Independent". The Orwell Prize. Retrieved 2009-10-29. 
  26. ^ ""Times reporter wins award"". The Times. 1987-12-15. 
  27. ^ ""Fisk wins award for political journalism"". The Independent. 2001-07-20. 
  28. ^ ""2006 Lannan Cultural Freedom Prize awarded to Robert Fisk"". Lannan Foundation. 
  29. ^ ""Five recipients to receive honorary degrees at Trinity College Dublin"". 
  30. ^ "About the Edward Said Memorial Lecture". University of Adelaide. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  31. ^ Word detective, 2003
  32. ^ Fisking as a Rhetorical Construct
  33. ^ Blargon, The New York Times, February 19, 2006.
  34. ^ "Archbishop on end of a good fisking", Observer, June 19, 2005
  35. ^ Robert Fisk and Martin Bell. (10 November 2009) The lost art of reportage The Independent. 15:48–15:52 minutes in. Retrieved 2009-12-08.
  36. ^ a b David Wallis, ed (2004). Killed: great journalism too hot to print. Nation Books. pp. 388. ISBN 978-1-56025-581-9. 
  37. ^ Trager, Robert; Donna Lee Dickerson (1999). Freedom of expression in the 21st century. Pine Forge Press. pp. 80. ISBN 978-0-8039-9085-2. 
  38. ^ Fisk, Robert (2008-02-01). "Robert Fisk: The curious case of the forged biography". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk (born July 12 1946) is a British journalist and war correspondent.



The Great War of Civilization (2005)

  • War is primarily not about victory or defeat but about death and the infliction of death. It represents the total failure of the human spirit.
    • Preface (page XIX)
  • I don't like the definition 'war correspondent'. It is history, not journalism, that has condemned the Middle East to war. I think 'war correspondent' smells a bit, reeks of false romanticism: it has too much of the whiff of Victorian reporters who would view battles from hilltops in the company of ladies, immune to suffering, only occasionally glancing towards the distant pop-pop of cannon fire.
    • Preface (page XXI)
  • In just one year in Bosnia, thirty of my colleagues died. There is a little Somme waiting for all innocent journalists.
    • Preface (page XXI)
  • I suppose, in the end, we journalists try - or should try - to be the first impartial witnesses of history. If we have any reason for our existence, the least must be our ability to report history as it happens so that no one can say: 'we didn't know - no one told us.'
    • Preface (page XXIII)
  • And I think, in the end, that is the best definition of journalism I have heard; to challenge authority - all authority - especially so when governments and politicians take us to war, when they have decided that they will kill and others will die.
    • Preface (page XXIII)
  • When we journalists fail to get across the reality of events to our readers, we have not only failed in our job; we have also become a party to the bloody events that we are supposed to be reporting. If we cannot tell the truth about the shooting down of a civilian airliner - because this will harm 'our' side in a war or because it will cast one of our 'hate' countries in the role of victim or because it might upset the owner of our newspaper - then we contribute to the very prejudices that provoke wars in the first place. If we cannot blow the whistle on a navy that shoots civilians out of the sky, then we make future killings of the same kind as 'understandable' as Mrs Thatcher found this one. Delete the Americans' panic and incompetence - all of which would be revealed in the months to come - and pretend an innocent pilot is a suicidial maniac, and it's only a matter of time before we blow another airliner out of the sky. Journalism can be lethal.
    • Chapter 8: Drinking the Poisoned Chalice (page 333)
  • And history`s fingers never relax their grip, never leave us unmolested, can touch us even when we would never imagine their presence.
    • Chapter 9: 'Sentenced to Suffer Death' (page 373)
  • '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 - which is now used on the innocent of the Middle East ever more outrageously and promiscuously. Terrorism, terrorism, terrorism. It has become a full stop, a punctuation mark, a phrase, a speech, a sermon, the be-all and end-all of everything that we must hate in order to ignore injustice and occupation and murder on a mass scale. Terror, terror, terror, terror. It is a sonata, a symphony, an orchestra tuned to every television and radio station and news agency report, the soap-opera of the Devil, served up on prime-time or distilled in wearyingly dull and mendacious form by the right-wing 'commentators' of the America east coast or the Jerusalem Post or the intellectuals of Europe. Strike against Terror. Victory over Terror. War on Terror. Everlasting War on Terror. Rarely in history have soldiers and journalists and presidents and kings aligned themselves in such thoughtless, unquestioning ranks. In August 1914, the soldiers thought they would be home by Christmas. Today, we are fighting for ever. The war is eternal. The enemy is eternal, his face changing on our screens. Once he lived in Cairo and sported a moustache and nationalised the Suez Canal. Then he lived in Tripoli and wore a ridiculous military uniform and helped the IRA and bombed American bars in Berlin. Then he wore a Muslim Imam's gown and ate yoghurt in Teheran and planned Islamic revolution. Then he wore a white gown and lived in a cave in Afghanistan and then he wore another silly moustache and resided in a series of palaces around Baghdad. Terror, terror, terror. Finally, he wore a kuffiag headdress and outdated Soviet-style military fatigues, his name was Yassir Arafat, and he was the master of world terror and then a super-statesman and then again, a master of terror, linked by Israeli enemies to the terror-Meister of them all, the one who lived in the Afghan cave.

Other sources

  • Clinton has changed all that. By endowing bin Laden with his new title (i. e. America's Public Enemy Number One), he has given the Saudi dissident what he sought: recognition as the greatest enemy of Western "corruption," the leader of all resistance against US policy in the Middle East. It would be funny if it weren't so tragic, the way America now treats its opponents as if they were Hollywood bandits. Robert Fisk talks about Usama bin Ladin, September 21, 1998
  • And where, for God’s sake, does that wretched, utterly dishonest phrase “coalition forces” come from? There is no “coalition” in this Iraq war. There are the Americans and the British and a few Australians. That’s it. Anglo-American Lies Exposed, March 24, 2003
  • So here’s a question from one who believed, only a week ago, that Baghdad might just collapse, that we might wake up one morning to find the Baathist militia and the Iraqi army gone and the Americans walking down Saadun Street with their rifles over their shoulders. If the Iraqis can still hold out against such overwhelming force in Umm Qasr for four days, if they can keep fighting in Basra and Nassariyeh — the latter a city which briefly rose in successful revolt against Saddam in 1991 — why should Saddam’s forces not keep fighting in Baghdad? Anglo-American Lies Exposed, March 24, 2003
  • Two missiles from an American jet killed them all – by my estimate, more than 20 Iraqi civilians, torn to pieces before they could be 'liberated' by the nation that destroyed their lives. Who dares, I ask myself, to call this 'collateral damage'? 'It was an outrage, an obscenity', March 27, 2003
  • So it's a "truly remarkable achievement, is it? General Tommy Franks says so. Everything is going "according to plan, according to the British. So it's an achievement that the British still have not "liberated" Basra. It is "according to plan" that the Iraqis should be able to launch a scud missile from the Faw peninsula – supposedly under "British control" for more than a week. It is an achievement, truly remarkable of course, that the Americans lose an Apache helicopter to the gun of an Iraqi peasant, spend four days trying to cross the river bridges at Nasiriyah and are then confronted by their first suicide bomber at Najaf. The monster of Baghdad is now the hero of Arabia, April 1, 2003
  • Sitting in Baghdad, listening to the God-awful propaganda rhetoric of the Iraqis but watching the often promiscuous American and British air attacks, I have a suspicion that what's gone wrong has nothing to do with plans. Indeed, I suspect there is no real overall plan. Because I rather think that this war's foundations were based not on military planning but on ideology. The monster of Baghdad is now the hero of Arabia, April 1, 2003
  • Yet there is one achievement we should note. The ghastly Saddam, the most revolting dictator in the Arab world, who does indeed use heinous torture and has indeed used gas, is now leading a country that is fighting the world's only superpower and that has done so for almost two weeks without surrendering. Yes, General Tommy Franks has accomplished one "truly remarkable achievement". He has turned the monster of Baghdad into the hero of the Arab world and allowed Iraqis to teach every opponent of America how to fight their enemy. The monster of Baghdad is now the hero of Arabia, April 1, 2003
  • At the time, I was working for The Times. My story ran in full. Then an official of the Foreign Office lunched my editor and told him my report was "not helpful". Because, of course, we supported President Saddam at the time and wanted revolutionary Iran to suffer and destroy itself. President Saddam was the good guy then. I wasn't supposed to report his human rights abuses. And now I'm not supposed to report the slaughter of the innocent by American or RAF pilots because the British Government has changed sides. The ministry of mendacity strikes again, April 4, 2003
  • In reality, an American siege and occupation of the city would take weeks, perhaps months, but capture of the airport would allow troop-carrying aircraft to land. Since the city is 27 miles wide, an all-out assault could be an operation of epic proportions. Allies 'seize most of Baghdad airport', April 4, 2003
  • The New York Times "last month announced that the Syrian-supported Hizbollah resistance in Lebanon had 10,000 missiles that could fly to Tel Aviv and "leave in their wake devastation more terrible than anything Israel has ever known". The missiles are a myth – I travel the roads of southern Lebanon every two weeks and there are no such missiles, as the UN force there will confirm – but this doesn't matter. Would President Assad invite a cruise missile to his palace?, 15 April, 2003
  • If you stand up to people, they'll respect you for it. I had an e-mail from a Cambridge University American law student, and he said, 'You are an evil f------ man,' so I called him up - he put his telephone number on it - and I said, 'I'm going to call the police if I have any more messages like this from you. This is an abusive, threatening letter.' And he invited me to give a lecture. I couldn't do it, but I would have done it if I'd had the time. A reporter who thinks objective journalism is a synonym for government mouthpiece, November 2, 2003
  • Now quite apart from the fact that many Iraqis -- along with myself -- have grave doubts about whether [abu Marsab al-] Zarqawi exists and that al-Qaida's Zarqawi, if he does exist, does not merit the title of "insurgency mastermind,... All the news that's fit to slant, March 21, 2006
  • I do truly treasure this story. It proves my point that the Los Angeles Times -- along with the big East Coast dailies -- should all be called U.S. OFFICIALS SAY. March 21, 2006: , March 21, 2006
  • We have been conned again. The Israeli elections, we are told, mean that the dream of "Greater Israel" has finally been abandoned...But it is a lie. Another Brick in the Wall, April 4, 2006
  • I can't help wondering today how many of the innocents slaughtered in Haditha took the opportunity to vote in the Iraqi elections -- before their "liberators" murdered them. The way Americans like their war, June 4, 2006

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