Anti-Colonial War Against
Americans May Have Already Begun
Robert Fisk and Amy Goodman
April 23, 2003
spending a month in Iraq, could you describe your thoughts?
my assumption is that history has a way or repeating itself. I was talking
to a very military Shiite Muslim from Nashas about only five days ago
and a journalist was saying to him do you realize how historic
these days are? and I said to him do you realize how history
is repeating itself? and he turned to me and said yes history
is repeating itself, and I knew what he meant. He was referring to the
British invasion or Iraq in 1917 and Lt. Gen. Sir Stanley Maude, when
we turned up in Baghdad and Sir Stanley Maude issued a document saying
we have come here not as conquerors but as liberators to free
you from generations of tyranny. And within three years we were
losing hundreds of men every year in the guerilla war against the Iraqis
who wanted real liberation not by us from the ottomans but by them from
us and I think thats whats going to happen with the Americans
in Iraq. I think a war of liberation will begin quite soon, which of
course will be first referred to as a war by terrorists, by al Qaeda,
by remnants of Saddams regime, remnants (remember that word) but
it will be waged particularly by Shiite Muslims against the Americans
and the British to get us out of Iraq and that will happen. And our
dreams that we can liberate these people will not be fulfilled in this
So what Ive
been writing about these past few days is simply the following. We claim
that we want to preserve the national heritage of the Iraqi people,
and yet my own count of government buildings burning in Baghdad before
I left was 158, of which the only buildings protected by the United
States army and the marines were the Ministry of Interior, which has
the intelligence corp of Iraq and the Ministry of Oil, and I neednt
say anything else about that. Every other ministry was burning. Even
the Ministry of Higher Education/Computer Science was burning. And in
some cases American marines were sitting on the wall next to the ministries
watching them burn.
Science Minister actually talked to the marine, Corporal Tinaha, in
fact, I actually called his fiance to tell her he was safe and well.
So the Americans have allowed the entire core and infrastructure of
the next government of Iraq to be destroyed, keeping only the Ministry
of Interior and the Ministry of Oil. That tells its own story.
On top of that I was one of the first journalists to walk in to the
National Archaeological Museum and the National Library of Archives
with all the Ottoman and state archives and the Koranic Library of the
Ministry of Religious Endowment and all were burned. Petrol was poured
on these documentations over them and they were all burned in 3000 degrees
with all that irony, I managed to rescue 26 pages of the Ottoman documentation,
the Ottoman library. Documents of Ottoman armies, camel thieves, letters
from the sheriff Hussein of Mecca to Ali Pasha (Ottoman ruler of Baghdad)
and when I got to the Jordanian border the Jordanian customs authorities
stole these documents from me and refused to even give me a receipt
for them, a shattering comment Im afraid to say on the Arab world
but particularly on the American occupation of Baghdad.
After the Koranic
Library was set on fire I raced to the headquarters of the Third Marine
Force Division in Baghdad and I said there is this massive Koranic Library
on fire and I said what can you do? And under the Geneva Conventions
the US Occupation Forces have a moral, whatever occupations forces there
are, and they happen to be American, have a legal duty to protect documents
and various embassies. There was a young officer who got on the radio
and said there was some kind of Biblical library on fire,
biblical for heavens sake, and I gave him a map of the exact locations,
the collaterals on the locations to the marines and nobody went there,
and all the Korans were burned, Korans going back to the 16th Century
has an interest in destroying the center of a new government and the
cultural identity of Iraq. Now the American line is these are Saddamite
remnants, remnants of a Saddam regime. I dont believe this. If
I was a remnant of a Saddam regime and say I was given $20,000 to destroy
the library I would say thank you very much and when the regime was
gone I would pocket the money. I wouldnt go and destroy the library,
I dont need to, Ive got the money. Somebody or some institution
or some organization today now is actively setting out to destroy the
cultural identity of Iraq and the ministries that form the core of a
new Iraq government. Who would be behind that and who would permit it
to happen, and why is it that the US military, so famed for its ability
to fight its way across the Tigris and the Euphrates river and come
into Baghdad will not act under the Geneva Convention to protect these
institutions? That is the question. And I do not have the answer to
was a report today that said that the US army ignored warnings from
its own civilian advisors that could have prevented the looting of Baghdads
National Museum-- this is from the London Observer. It said that the
Office of the Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance set up to supervise
reconstruction identified the museum as a prime target for looters in
a memo to army commanders a month ago. The memo said it should be the
second priority for the army after securing the national bank. General
Jay Garner, whos taking over, is said to be livid. One angry reconstruction
official told the Observer we ask for just a few soldiers at each
building or if they feared snipers then at least one or two tanks. The
tanks were doing nothing once they got inside the city, yet the generals
refused to deploy them.
well the Observer is always quite a bit late on the story. There was
a website set up between American archaeologists and the Pentagon many
weeks ago listing those areas of vital national heritage to Iraq which
might be looted, damaged, stormed, burned. The museum was on that list.
The museum, I have seem physically marked on the satellite pictures
which the marines have to move around in Baghdad. They know its
there, they know what it is. Now, when I got to the museum, which is
far more than a week ago, there were gun battles going on between rioters
and looters, bullets skittering up the walls of apartment blocks outside.
It was quite clear when I walked in that looting was quite clearly
Someone has opened the doors, the huge safe doors of the storeroom of
the museum with a key. The looting was on a most detailed, precise and
coordinated scale. The people knew what the wanted to go for. Those
Grecian statues they didnt want they decapitated and threw to
the floor. Those earrings and gold ornaments and bullring gods that
they wanted to take, they took. And within a few days those priceless
heritage items of Iraqs history were on sale in Europe and in
America. I dont believe that that happened by chance.
Two of the interesting
things: number one is the looters knew exactly what they wanted and
they got it out of a country with a speed that we as journalists cannot
get our stories out of the country. Secondly, a much more serious in
the long term. The arsonists, the men who were going around burning,
they must have had maps, they knew where to go, they knew what would
not be defended by the Americans. In one case, you know this is a city
without electricity, without water, I recognized one of the men who
was burning things. He had a small beard, a goatee beard and he had
a red t-shirt, and the second time I saw him, I looked at him and he
pointed a [inaudible] rifle at me, he realized I recognized him. They
were coming to the scenes of arsonists in blue and white buses. God
knows where these buses were from. They werent city corporation
buses, although city corporation buses were being used by looters. But
the arsonists were an army. They were calculated and they knew where
to go, they had maps, they were told where to go. Who told them where
to go? Who told them where the Americans would not shoot at them or
would not harm them? This is a very, very important question that still
needs to be reconciled and answered. And I do not have an answer. And
none of my colleagues unfortunately have asked the American military
in Qatar, in Doha what the answer is. Somebody told these people where
to go, they had the maps, they knew the places to go and burn, they
knew the American military would not be there and they went there and
they burned. Who gave them those instructions, I dont know the
answer. I really dont know the answer, but there is an answer,
and we should know what this.
Gibson, a leading Mesopotamian scholar from the University of Chicago,
said he has good reason to believe that the looting or the stealing
of the artifacts from the museum with men going in with forklifts and
even keys to vaults
he has good reason to believe this was orchestrated
from outside the country.
is certainly a reason to believe, Amy, that there were keys involved
because some of the vaults I saw were opened with keys and not with
hammers or guns or explosives. Fork lift trucks? They had the ability
to move heavy statues into trucks. When I got there, they had just done
that. But I dont know if they used fork lift trucks, I think that
might be a little too Hollywood. There were men who were guards to the
museum in long gray beards who had taken rifles, [inaudible] Ak-47s
weapons to defend what was left. But if youre saying to me do
I have evidence of fork lift trucks? -- No.
Do I have evidence
that they knew what they were coming for, yes! Do I have evidence that
this was premeditated, yes! Do I believe that the arsonists were trained
and organized from outside who knew whether or not the Americans would
be present or whether the American military would defend certain buildings,
yes! They undoubtedly did know the Americans would not confront them.
And the Americans did not confront them. I actually got to a point where
I was going around Baghdad a few days ago, and every time I saw a tongue
of flame or smoke Id race off in my car to the area, and the last
place I went to that was burning was the Department of Higher Education/Computer
Science and as I approached it I saw a marine sitting on the wall.
I bounded out
of the car and raced back and thought I had better see this guy and
I took his name down. His name was Ted Nyhom and he was a member of
the Third Marine Fourth Regiment or Fourth Marine Third Regiment. He
gave me the number of his fiancé Jessica in the states. I actually
rang her up and said your man loves you dearly (hes
a real person) and I said how the hell is this happening next door and
he said well, were guarding a hospital and I said
theres a fire next door, a whole bloody government ministry
is burning. And he said, yeah we cant look everywhere at
the same time. I said, Ted, what happened? and he
said I dont know. Now when you go to sit down
was a nice guy, I was happy to ring his fiancé up and tell her
that he was safe. But something happened there. There was a fire, an
entire government ministry was burning down next to him and he did nothing.
It didnt seem strange to him that he wasnt asked to do anything.
Now theres something strange about that. Its not a question
of whether American academic said, you know, is there something wrong
with the moral property of an army that doesnt stop looting and
arson. Theres something terribly wrong there.
army in Basra was also remiss in this way. Our Minister of Defense,
Geoff Hoon, said oh well they were liberating their own property
when people were looting hospitals, for gods sakes. So the British
dont get off on this either, but the Americans were the most remiss.
And in the city of Baghdad against all the international conventions,
particularly the Geneva Convention, which have a specific reference
in fact pillage appears as a crime against humanity
in the Hague Conventions in 1907 upon in which the Geneva Conventions
of 1949 were based. There is a whole reference to pillage and the Americans
did nothing. They did nothing to prevent the pillage of the entire cultural
history of Iraq, of the museum, or the documentary history of the National
Archives, or the Koranic Library of the Ministry of Religious Endowment
or of the 155 other government locations around Baghdad. And one has
to ask the question, why was this permitted to happen. I dont
know the answer.
talking to Robert Fisk, correspondent for the Independent newspaper
in Britain. He has just come out of Iraq where he has spent the last
month. He is back in Beirut where he is based. Robert, the hospitals,
you spent a good amount of time there. Can you describe what you saw
and perhaps what were not seeing. If you can follow our coverage
at all here in the United States.
Fisk: Well as
a matter of fact this afternoon, I took several roles of film
film, not digitized camera film into my film development shop here,
and was looking again at the film of children whod been hit by
American cluster bombs in Hilla and Babylon whom I took photographs
of. Im rather shocked at myself for taking pictures of people
in such suffering. I would have to say, and one must be fair as a correspondent,
that I think that the Iraqis did position military tanks and missiles
in civilian areas. They did so deliberately; they did so in order to
try and preserve their military apparatus in the hope that the Americans
would not bomb civilian areas. The Americans did bomb civilian areas.
They may or may not have destroyed the military targets; they certainly
destroyed human beings and innocent civilians.
War is a disgusting,
cruel, vicious affair. You know, I say to people over and over again:
war is not about primarily victory or defeat, its primarily about
human suffering and death. And if you look through the pictures, which
I have beside me now as I speak to you, of little girls with huge wounds
in the side of their faces made by the pieces of metal from cluster
bombs, American cluster bombs, its degoutant, as the French say,
disgusting to even look at. But I have to look at them. I took these
The Iraqi regime,
which was brutal and cruel and is very happy, was very happy in every
sense of the word, to use these pictures as propaganda, must also of
course have its own responsibility for this. But for me, the most appalling
admission came when the civil coalition, which means the Americans,
the British and a few Australians, decided to bomb an area, a residential
area of Monsur, with four 2000-pound bombs. I hate to use these childish
phrases like bunker-busters but these are the same bombs
they dropped on Tora Bora to try and get the caves where Bin Laden was
hiding in 2001 in Afghanistan. And these huge bombs destroyed the lives
of a minimum of 14 civilians [in Monsur]. The central command in Doha,
Qatar said they believed Saddam was there, and that they would send
forensic experts. But I went there a week after the Americans entered
Baghdad and no forensic experts had been sent there indeed. And the
morning I turned up, Im talking about 4 days ago, the decomposing,
horribly smelling body of a little baby was pulled out of the rubble
and I can promise you it wasnt Saddam Hussein, but the Americans
went on insisting their forensic scientists were searching to see if
Saddam Hussein had died there. Well, he did not and nor did their forensic
scientists bother; they didnt even care about going there. Outrageous.
Im sorry to say. Outrageous. I have to be a human being as well
as a journalist.
Again, one needs
to also say that Saddam Hussein was
is Im sure hes
still alive a most revolting man. He did use gas against the
Iranians and against the Kurds. And I also have to say that when he
used it against the Iranians, and I wrote about it in my own newspaper
at the time, the Times, the British Foreign Office told my editor the
story was not helpful because at that stage of course, Saddam Hussein
was our friend we were supporting him. The hypocrisy of war stinks
almost as much as the civilian casualties.
go back to the hospitals. The Americans used cluster bombs in civilian
areas, where they believed there were military targets. Near Hilla,
I think the Iraqis probably did put military vehicles. That does not
excuse the Americans; there are specific references and paragraphs in
the Geneva Conventions to protect what are called protected persons,
that is to say civilians, even if they are in the presence of enemy
combatants. But I think the Iraqis did put military positions amongst
civilians. I can go so far as to say that at the museum, which was looted
to the great disgrace of the Americans, prior to the American entry
into Baghdad, it was clear when I got to the museum after the American
entry, that the Iraqi army had placed gun positions and gun pits inside
the museum grounds, at one point next to a beautiful 3000-year-old statue
of a winged bull. There were other occasions when I could clearly see
SAM-6 mobile tracked missiles parked very close to civilian houses.
The Iraqis did use civilians as cover. And the Americans, knowing they
were there, bombed the civilians anyway. So who is the war criminal?
I think both of them are. There you go. Thats the story.
Fisk, do you have any idea about casualty numbers right now?
Fisk: No, its
impossible. Amy, its impossible. You know, I took my notebook;
I can tell you how many people in each ward were wounded in particular
wards, or in particular hospitals. I can tell you which doctors told
me how many people died in A, B, and C hospitals on certain dates, but
when it comes to the overall figure, the losing side has no statistics,
because of course the statistics die with the regime and the winning
side controls all the figures. Thousands of Iraqis must have died.
There was one
particularly terrible scene on what was known as Highway 8. It was the
main motorway alongside the Tigris river, with some university of Baghdad
on the other side of the river, where for two and a half days, American
soldiers of the 3rd Infantry division were fighting off ambushes, most
of them members of the Republican Guard. They mounted there and I talked
to all sides here. I talked to survivors, I talked to civilians, I talked
to the Americans on the tanks. The ambush began at 7:30 on the last
Monday of the war in the morning. And the motorway was quite busy with
civilian traffic. The American 3rd Infantry Division commander told
me that he saw civilian traffic and he ordered his men to fire warning
shots, which they did he said two or three times, after which they fired
at the cars. And he said I had a duty to protect my men.
I have to be fair and quote what he said. He said I had a duty
to protect my men, to protect my soldiers and we didnt know if
they were carrying RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) or explosives.
But cars which did not stop were fired at by United States tanks of
the 3rd Infantry Division.
I walked down
the line of cars which were torn apart by American tank shells. There
was a very young woman burned black in the back of one car. Her husband
or father or brother beside her, dead. There was the leg of a man beside
another car which had been blown clean in half by an American M1-A1
tank. There were piles of blankets covering families with children who
had been blown to pieces by the Americans. It was a real ambush. They
were fired at by RPG -7s. In one case, one tank I saw (the American
commander took me around) whod received five hits, one of them
on the engine. And he had opened fire at a motorcycle carrying two members
of the Iraqi Republican Guard. One had died instantly. I found his body
beside the road with his blood dribbling into the gutter. The other
was wounded and the American brought him back to the tank, gave him
first aid and sent him off to a medical company. The American commander
the same commander who told his tank crew to open fire on the
civilian cars told me that he saved the life of the second Republican
Guard who was on the motorcycle and the guy survived. I have to assume
thats correct. I didnt see him. But three days later, the
bodies were still, including the young woman, were still lying in the
cars. And bits of human remains were lying around in blankets. The stench
was terrible. There were flies everywhere. The American officer then
told me that he had asked the Red Crescent, the Muslim equivalent of
the Red Cross, to move the bodies and the cars were removed. But they
were still there, along with the bodies the next day. Thats a
fact. I saw.
about the journalists? It looks like there is the highest percentage
of foreign journalists, as a percentage of foreign casualties, that
we have seen in a long time. It looks like the number at this point
is 14 journalists killed as well as the shelling of the Palestine Hotel.
I think that the number of journalists covering war indeed, the
number of journalists in general is increasing all the time.
And so I suppose, its not a very romantic thing to say, but I
suppose that as the number of journalists increase, the number of casualties
among journalists will increase as well. There were a number of incidents
which we seem to have understood. The ITV reporter, who got north of
the American lines near Basra, was returning and got shot by US Marines,
along with his crew. Another British reporter who may or may not have
committed suicide, I dont know, which has nothing to do with the
Americans or the Iraqis per se, if thats the case. We have the
Palestine hotel, which is one of the more serious cases of all. That
particular day began with the killing of the journalist from Al Jazeera,
the Qatari/Doha television chain, which of course became famous in Afghanistan
for producing tapes and airing tapes of Osama bin Laden. I had by chance,
four days before Tariq [Ayoub]s death, on the roof of that television
station, been giving a broadcast myself live to Doha. And while I was
broadcasting, a cruise missile went streaking by behind the building
and literally moved over the bridge on the right and carried on up the
river Tigris and there was an airstrike behind me. And I said to Tariq
afterwards, I think this is the most dangerous bloody newspaper office
in the history of the world, you know? Youre in really great danger
here. There were gun pits on the right. And he agreed with me. And four
days later, while he was on the roof preparing to do a broadcast, an
American jet came in so low, according to his colleagues downstairs,
they thought it would land on the roof, and fired a single missile at
the generator beside him and killed him. About three and a quarter hours
later, an American M1A1 Abrams tank on the Jumeirah River bridge, about
three quarters of a mile from the Palestine Hotel where the journalists
were staying, fired a single round, a depleted uranium round, as I understand,
at the office of Reuters where they were filming the same tanks on the
I was actually
between the tank and the hotel, when the round was fired. I was trying
to get back from a story, an assignment Id been on, what Id
put myself on. And the shell with an extraordinary noise swooshed over
my head and hit the hotel
bang! Tremendous concussion. White Smoke.
And when I got there, two of my colleagues, one from Reuters and one
from Spanish Television, both of whom were to die within a few hours,
the first one within half an hour, were being brought out in blood-soaked
bed-sheeting. And a Lebanese colleague, a woman, Samia, with a piece
of metal in her brain. She recovered. She had brain surgery. Shes
married to the London Financial Times correspondent here in Beirut.
She survived. The initial reaction was very interesting because the
BBC went on air saying it was an Iraqi rocket-propelled grenade. Someone
wanted to frighten the press. Then it emerged, thanks be to God for
the attempt to get the truth, that TV3, a French channel, had recorded
the tanks movements and I actually rushed to their Bureau and
they showed me the videotape and you saw the American tanks for five
minutes beforehand, in complete silence there was nothing happening
going onto the bridge, moving its turret, and then firing at
the hotel. The camera shakes and pieces of plaster and paint fall in
front of the camera. Clearly, its the same shot. Four or five
minutes in which nothing is happening. Now I was in between the tank
and the hotel and there was complete silence. And when initially the
Americans said they knew nothing about it, when it became clear the
French had a film, before the Americans realized how long the film was
running for prior to the attack, they said that the tank was under persistent
sniper and RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) fire which is not true. I
would have heard it because I was close to the tank and the hotel and
it would have been picked up on the soundtrack, which it wasnt.
This statement was made by General Buford Blount, the same 3rd Infantry
Division commander who boasted that hed be using depleted uranium
munitions during the war in an interview with Le Monde in March, a month
ago. And he then said that there had been sniper fire and after the
round was fired by the American tank, the sniper fire had ceased. In
other words, the clear implication was that the gunfire had come from
the Reuters office, which was a most mendacious, vicious lie by General
Blount. General Blount lied in order to cover up the death of journalists.
It was interesting that when indeed the Americans actually arrived in
central Baghdad within a day, no journalists were raising these issues
with the Americans whod just arrived. They should have done
did actually. And in fact two days later, I was on the Jumeirah bridge,
and climbed onto the second tank and asked the tank commander whether
he fired at the journalists and he said I dont know anything
about that, sir. Im new here. Which he may well have been.
How do I know if he was there before or not? But that tank round was
fired deliberately at the hotel and General Blounts counterfeit
- the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division - was a lie. A total lie.
And it was a grotesque lie against my colleagues. Samia Mahul had a
piece of metal in her brain, A young woman whos most bravely reported
the Lebanese civil war. And against the Ukrainian cameraman for Reuters
and against the Spanish cameraman in the room upstairs. It was a most
disgusting lie. And as a journalist, I have to say that. And General
Blount has not apologized for it. So far he has gotten away with his
lie. Im sorry to say.
Observatoure, the French Newspaper, is reporting that a US Army captain
named Captain Wolford said unlike what the military reported, he did
not see sniper fire from the Palestine hotel. But he did see what he
thought was light glinting off of binoculars from one of the hotels
balconies. He said he had never been told the Palestine Hotel was the
home base for almost all the international journalists in Baghdad and
assumed the ----
yeah Ive heard this story. I know this. Well, if American commanders
in the field are not told the intelligence information about where people
are in what hotels, it doesnt say much about the American military.
Look I dont think the American military people are inherently
wrong or awful or bad. You know, I met lots of American soldiers and
Marines of course. Marines insist on telling me theyre not soldiers,
which is an odd thing for a Brit to hear, but I have to accept it. They
were decent people. One young Marine came up to me. He wanted to use
my mobile phone to call his home and I let him, of course. And he said
Im really sorry, sir, about the death of your colleagues.
Like he meant it. I dont think these are intrinsically bad people.
I think the idea that theres some ghastly, you know, evil moving
among the American military is not true. I dont believe that.
I think theyre decent people and I think they want to be decent
people. When their generals lie, it must be hard, as Buford Blount lied.
General Blount lied about the journalists. He lied. He was a [inaudible]
But the ordinary
soldiers I met, I think they were quite sympathetic. I think they understood.
And I think that in some cases, they were very upset about what had
happened to our colleagues, but they were also upset about civilian
casualties whom theyd caused. You know, when on Highway 8, I was
interviewing the American tank commander whod given the order
to fire at the civilian cars on the road, I thought he was a decent
person. I have to say that when I read my notes afterwards, and I reflected
upon the fact that the bodies of the innocents were still lying in the
cars three days later, I was less inclined to be kind to him. I was
less inclined to think he was a nice person. But I dont think
that the American soldiers were bad people. I think they believed in
what they were doing, up to the point that you can. I think that they
believed that their war was an honorable one, even though I dont
think it was. But I think that they had been previously misled and I
think something has gone wrong with the leadership of the American military
when you can have a general like Blount lying about the press. If to
see a flash of what appears to be a camera or some kind of reflecting
instrument in a window is to be the signal for capital punishment for
those who are legitimately filming the war for an international news
agency, something has gone terribly wrong. I think the real problem
at the end of the day lies in the White House, with President Bush.
There were a
number of American Marines and soldiers I met who were very helpful
to me in understanding what was happening. At one point, I was next
to an American tank that came under fire I dont know where
from and I thought the soldiers behaved with great restraint.
They could have shot at civilians. In some cases, I know in other places
in Baghdad, they did and killed people and I think it was a war crime
to have done so. But in the American tank I was close to, they did not.
And those soldiers behaved admirably. I have to say that. I think they
were frightened, I think they were tired. They hadnt washed etc.
but Im sorry, I dont get too romantic about soldiers who
invade other peoples countries. But I thought their discipline
was probably pretty good, to be frank. In other places, it was not.
But again, you know, war is primarily about suffering and death, not
about victory and defeat and not about presidents who oh, Im
so tired of talking about your president. Or indeed the president of
Iraq whos a pretty vicious man frankly if hes still alive.
Where is he? That should be your last question, Amy: Where is Saddam
Im not there yet. But you mentioned your colleague ----
going to ask me where he is, arent you?
where is he?
Fisk: You know
what, I have this absolute fixation that hes in Belarus, the most
horrible ex-Soviet state that exists: Minsk. I tell you why I think
this. This is long before the Iran sorry, Freudian slip
long before the Iraq war, I had this absolute obsession that Minsk
Ive been to Minsk; its a horrible city! Its full of
whiskey, corruption, prostitutes and damp apartments. Very, very favorable
to the Baath party of Iraq. And I noticed in the local newspaper
here in Beirut, I fear about six or seven weeks ago an article that
said that the Olympic committee of Belarus in Minsk had invited Uday
Hussein, beloved son of the great ruler of Iraq, to a chess
tournament in Minsk and I thought, My God, this is where theyre
going to go. And if you think of all the stories which may be complete
hogwash of how they got out by train with the Russian ambassador through
Syria, where else to go but Minsk? I actually mentioned it to my foreign
desk and my foreign editor said Off you go to Belarus! and
I said No please, please, not Belarus! Ive been there before.
Its awful! But I do have this kind of suspicion maybe hes
there. But there you go. He may be in Baghdad. He may be captured tonight.
I really have not the slightest idea.
Fisk, you mentioned your Lebanese colleague who has shrapnel in her
head and said she covered the civil war in Beirut, which brings us to
a piece you did about questioning whether what were going to see
in Iraq is the beginning of a civil war between the Sunni and the Shiia.
What do you think now?
if its not the beginning of a civil war between the Sunni and
the Shiia in Iraq, it will be the beginning of a war of liberation by
the Sunni and the Shiia themselves against the Americans. My feeling
is that there will be a war it may already have begun
against the Americans by the Iraqis. The Kurds will play a different
role for all kinds of reasons, but the Sunnis and the Shiias may well
find some unity in trying to get rid of their occupiers. You know, one
cant help in the Middle East but be struck by the ironies of history.
Just over a week before no, two weeks before America invaded
Iraq, a document went on auction. Its a public auction in Britain
at Swinden in southwestern England. And I made a bid for it. As a matter
of fact, I found out it was going to go on sale and it was the official
British document issued by Lieutenant General Sir Stanley Maude after
he invaded Iraq with the British Army in 1917. And it was his proclamation
to the people of the Zilayah, thats to say the governerate of
Baghdad. And I quote from the first paragraph: We come here not
as conquerors, but as liberators to free you from the tyranny of generations,
just like President Bush says hes come now. I actually wrote about
this document in the newspaper and said it was going to come up for
auction which was a very bad mistake because the auctioneers rang me
up from Swinden, England to Beirut when I was actually interviewing,
ironically enough, three Iraqi refugees here in Beirut. And they said
do you want to bid for it, the bidding has started. I said yes I will
bid for it. And it was originally going to go for US $156. And so many
readers of the Independent whod read my article turned up
it actually went for $2000. And God spare me, I bought it. So now I
am the owner of Sir Stanley Maudes document, telling the people
of Baghdad that the new occupiers, the British Army of 1917, had come
there as liberators, not as conquerors, to free them from the tyranny
of generations of tyrants and dictators. And now, you know, a few weeks
later, there I am in Baghdad, listening to the American Marine Corps
issuing an identical document, telling the people theyd come not
as conquerors, but as liberators, and I wonder sometimes whether people
ever, ever read history books.
talking to Robert Fisk, the correspondent for The Independent. He is
tired. He has just come out of Iraq after a month
definitely tired, Amy. Hes very definitely tired, yeah.
I wanted to ask you about you might have heard about Judith Millers
report in the New York Times, saying a former Iraqi scientist has told
a US military team that Iraq destroyed chemical weapons and biological
warfare equipment only days before the war began and also said Iraq
secretly sent unconventional weapons and technology to Syria starting
in the 80s and that more recently
how very fortunate that that special
report should come out now. Listen, every time I read Judith Miller
in the New York Times, I nod sagely and smile. Thats all Im
going to say to you, Amy. Im sorry. Dont ask me to even
comment upon it. Its not a serious issue.
let me ask you about the targeting of Syria right now.
Syria will not be invaded by the United States because it doesnt
have enough oil. It will be threatened by the United States, on Israels
behalf perhaps, but it doesnt have sufficient oil to make it worth
invading. So the answer is: Syria will not be invaded.
you leave Iraq and you look back at what you saw, what are key areas
that you see as different, for example, than the Persian Gulf War and
what happened afterwards and what are you going to pursue right now?
weve got the first occupation of an Arab capital by a Western
army since General Allenby entered Jerusalem and since Sir Stanley Maude
entered Baghdad. We did have the brief period of French and American
armies entering Damascus and indeed Beirut in the second World War.
But that was part of a Vichy French Allied War. It wasnt part
of a colonial war. We now have American troops occupying the wealthiest
Arab country in the world. And the shockwaves of that are going to continue
for decades to come, long after you and I are in our graves, if thats
where we go. And I dont think we have yet realized I dont
think that the soldiers involved or the Presidents involved have yet
realized the implications of what has happened. We have entered a new
age of imperialism, the life of which we have not attempted to judge
or assess or understand.
56 now maybe Ill never see the end of it, I probably wont.
But my goodness me, Ive never seen such historical acts take place
in the 27 years Ive been in the Middle East. And the results cannot
be good. I dont believe weve gone to Iraq because of weapons
of mass destruction. If wed done that, we would have invaded North
Korea. I dont believe weve gone there because of human rights
abuses because we connived at those abuses for many years when we supported
Saddam. I think weve gone there for oil. And though we may get
the oil, I think the price will be very high. More than that, I dont
know. You know, my crystal ball, as I always say, has broken a long
time ago. But Ill keep on watching the story, I guess, because
like my father who was much older than my mother, was a soldier in the
first World War, I want to keep watching history happen. I would, however,
yet again, for the umpteenth time on your program, Amy, quote Amira
Haas, that wonderful journalist for Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper,
who said the purpose of journalism is to monitor the centers of
power and we still do not do that, and we must monitor the centers
of power and we must try to question why governments do the things that
they do and why they lie about it. And we dont do that. We dont
Robert Fisk, I want to thank you for doing that.