Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk is Middle East Correspondent of the Times and has been based in Beirut for five years, covering the Middle East and Afghanistan. He is the author of The Point of No Return, on contemporary Ulster, and is writing a study of Anglo-Irish relations in the Second World War.

Remaining Issues

Robert Fisk, 23 February 1995

Selma Tawil brought the fifty-year-old keys into the room, sat down in her corner armchair and let them spill out of her hands onto the floor: heavy store-room keys, rusting cupboard keys, keys shaped like backbones for office safes, car keys for an old British-made Hillman, and one larger steel key with a three-and-a-half inch shaft, gun-metal grey with an elegant knot at one end and a broad, worn blade. Aunty Selma picked this key up in a hand spotted with age. She is 90 now and her facial skin hangs in folds, but her grey hair is pinned back in a neat bun and though her hearing is impaired, her memory is as sharp as it was the day she left Palestine. The key in her hand was the front-door key of her home in Haifa.

Poor Khaled

Robert Fisk, 3 December 1992

Prince Khaled bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, commander-in-chief of all foreign forces in the Gulf War, nephew of King Fahd, and son of the Saudi Defence Minister, Prince Sultan, used to employ an American public relations company to manage his press conferences. Deep in the high-pile carpeted interior of the Saudi Ministry of Defence, an Irish-American of massive build – a certain Mr Lynch from Chicago – would stand just behind Prince Khaled, choosing which journalists should be permitted to ask questions and suggesting to the rather portly Saudi commander how he should reply.

War Aims

Robert Fisk, 21 February 1991

‘What is the new world order?’ a Saudi preacher asked me the other day. Order is something the Saudis like the sound of. The world is an entity from which many Saudis are isolated. ‘New’ is a word which for Arabs has a suspicious, dangerous ring about it. I tried to explain what President Bush might have meant by the phrase, referring to the context in which it first appeared. The Cold War was over, Eastern Europe was free. The Americans obviously thought that these winds of change applied to the Middle East as well. Dictators were no longer going to be tolerated – certainly not dictators who opposed the wishes of the United States.’

First, the necessary caveat. If anyone killed Salman Rushdie, it would be an evil act, a murder that should be condemned by all sane and law-abiding people. It would be a devastating blow at freedom of speech, a disgraceful manifestation of bigotry and fanaticism. May it never happen.

Doers of Mischief on Earth

Robert Fisk, 19 January 1989

The fall of the Shah was an epic. His downfall had about it something of the Medieval morality play, even something of a Greek tragedy. It might have qualified as Shakespearian tragedy if the Shah had been a truly great man who fell from grace through a single flaw. He was not a great man and his sins were many. Hubris was perhaps his greatest crime, although the Iranians saw things somewhat differently. Yet they sensed this mythic element about their revolution even before the King of Kings piloted his personal Boeing out of Mehrebad airport for the last time on 16 January 1979.

There seem to have been several Oliver Norths. There was Oliver North the Patriot, whom Robert McFarlane would describe as ‘an imaginative, aggressive, committed young officer’, Ronald Reagan’s personally approved ‘hero’. There was Oliver North the Man of God, the born-again Christian from the charismatic Episcopal Church of the Apostles who believed that the Lord had healed his wounds and who – in the words of one former associate at the National Security Council – ‘thought he was doing God’s work at the NSC.’ There was Oliver North the Man of Action, able to work 25 hours in every 24, dubbed ‘Steelhammer’ by Senator Quayle’s buddy Robert Owen, firing off memos from his state-of-the-art crisis centre in the White House.’

Miles from Palestine

Robert Fisk, 23 June 1988

Around eight years before the Palestinians began their current uprising against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, a prematurely old Palestinian guerrilla – unshaven, his combat jacket frayed at the sleeves – sat in a breeze-block office in the slums of a North Lebanese refugee camp and told me why he knew he would return to the land which he still called Palestine. The rain had been guttering down into the filth and mud of the streets of Nahr el-Bared all day and I recall that as this ageing functionary of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine went on and on, a thin tide began to edge its way under the wooden door of the hut.

Memories of the Mekong

Robert Fisk, 1 October 1981

Soviet troops are not instinctive, rapacious killers nor are they the political descendants of Genghis Khan. The soldiers who put me on board their convoy in the snows of the Hindu Kush last year were polite, confused, under-trained, frustrated, pathetically anxious to appear civilised in a country whose people wanted to kill them. We had already been ambushed by the Mojaheddin north of Charikar and when we had been driving southwards for another five hours, the convoy commander sitting next to me in the Soviet Army truck asked me if I liked Afghanistan. It was a beautiful country, I replied with a journalist’s discretion. But what did he think of the Afghans?

I don’t think one should let Rafael Ruppin’s historical revisionism go unchallenged. He states that I claimed ‘that the Christian Lebanese militiamen who perpetrated the massacre of Palestinians at Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Beirut were sent by the Israelis.’ And continues: ‘To the contrary, when it became apparent to Israeli commanders what was happening, they...

Ariel the Unlucky

David Gilmour, 5 April 1990

1982 was a critical time for the authors of all four of these books. It was the year of Ariel Sharon’s most sanguinary foreign venture, which ended in massacre, failure, and a measure of...

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De Valera and Churchill

John Horgan, 21 July 1983

When Michael Heseltine launched a not-too-oblique attack on Irish neutrality in the course of a visit to Northern Ireland on 4 May, he was – presumably – unaware of the fact that he...

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