ROBERT FISK ON OSAMA BIN LADEN + HOW AL QAEDA’S MURDER-IN-CHIEF LIVED LONG ENOUGH TO SEE HIS OWN IRRELEVANCE; WHY US CYBER-SPYING THE MUSLIM WORLD IS USELESS; THE GREATEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EAST AND WEST (MF GALAXY 139)


WHY JOURNALISTS HAVE SUCH A PERVERTED VIEW OF HISTORY AND POLITICS

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In the world of journalism, Robert Fisk is a rock star not just for the “songs” he’s written but for the people he’s shared the stage with, including Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Osama Bin Laden, whom he interviewed three times. Based in Beirut since 1976, Fisk currently writes for London’s Independent, and over four decades he’s covered the Iranian Revolution, the Lebanese civil war, the USSR’s occupation of Afghanistan, and virtually every war or conflict in West and Central Asia.

Having authored five books including his classic Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War, and having received more British and international awards than any other English-language journalist, Fisk frequently defines his role not to “write the first draft of history,” but, by quoting Israeli journalist Amira Hass, “to monitor the centres of power.”

A few years ago Robert Fisk was touring Canada on behalf of Canadians for Peace and Justice in the Middle East. On January 31, 2013, I spoke with Fisk at the Union Bank Hotel in Edmonton before he addressed the University of Alberta’s International Week, delivering a talk called “Arab Awakening, But Are We Hearing the Truth?” The day before he arrived, Russia and Iran claimed that Israel had bombed Syria, with CBC claiming the target was an arms convoy headed to Lebanon.

In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Robert Fisk discusses:
  • The posturing and transparent face-saving of Middle Eastern governments following Israeli air strikes
  • Why the Israeli military doesn’t want war with Iran, whatever the Israeli government says
  • What Osama bin Laden was like in person and how far Fisk was willing to push Al Qaeda’s murderer-in-chief during an interview
  • How Bin Laden reacted during the Arab Spring to seeing that his personality and programme were irrelevant to the overwhelming majority of Arabs
  • Why Bin Laden eventually supported allying his supporters with the remnants of Iraq’s Baath party, which he’d always opposed and despised
  • Why France invaded Mali and who was fighting its government
  • Why US intelligence can’t make adequate use of the giant amount of electronic surveillance it performs on the Muslim world
  • Why journalists have such a short memory of history that perverts their view of contemporary politics, and
  • What he thinks is the greatest and most beguiling difference between the global European empire and the remnants of the Islamic one in the east
Along the way, Fisk mentions Timbuktu, one of the most famous and ancient cities in the world, an historic seat of learning and wisdom in Mali. Note that Fisk spoke with me just a few months before DAESH, known in the West as ISIL or the IS, declared itself to be a state or Caliphate. Fisk also uses the Arabic word “mahdi” which means, essentially, the prophesied final redeemer before the end of the world.

Finally, while discussing Bin Laden’s claim that the United States was heading towards civil war, Fisk recounts that he told the fanatic to his face that his idea was “rubbish.” Chillingly, the chief jihadi’s prediction no longer seems so unbelievable.

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