I am a Muslim, a Christian, a Jew and a Buddhist too. If you don't like it, then this place is not for you, but as long as you don't force your beliefs on anyone, you're welcome to join in, it doesn't matter if you're a liberal, a republican or just simply you.
You'll find that some things actually did get lost in translation somewhere down the line.
Mr. Sawma, who is a Lawyer specializing in International law and Shariaa law wrote a book in which he explains the reasons why certain things in the Koran don't make sense. He says:
"The Qur'an states that its language is Arabic. But Arab speaking people have difficulty understanding the language of the Qur'an. The difficulty stems from the fact that its language was not and has never been Arabic.The language of the Qur'an has been and still is Aramaic."
The discovery of the Qur'anic manuscripts in Yemen in 1972, better known as the "San'a Manuscripts", is the most important development in the study of the history of the Qur'an. Those manuscripts represent the earliest form of the Qur'anic script, which is different from the script used in modern Qur'an. The script of the Sana'a documents, lack the vowel signs and the diacrtiticals necessary to render accurate vocalization. The process of copying modern Qur'an from the older script resulted in numerous errors.
If you know Arabic and the content of the Koran you'll find that Gabriel Sawma's claims make perfect sense. When I watched The Passion of The Christ, I was surprised at how much I understood of the Aramaic that was spoken in the movie. I started thinking about that German dude who wrote a book under an alias a few years ago claiming pretty much the same things as Mr. Sawma. I remember thinking maybe he was onto something after all.
Asharq Alawsat is great. Read their wonderful review (by Amir Taheri, one of my favorite journalists) of the mammoth of a failure book by Robert Fisk The Great War for Civilization: the Conquest of the Middle East (Knopf, 2005). They come to some of the same conclusions that I have about it, and light it on fire with the written word in a similar spirit to the way I did in a previous post.
It would take a book as long to challenge Fisk’s numerous sensational charges against the “Anglo-Saxons”. But a look at two such charges would show that Fisk’s seething anger might have affected his objectivity as a reporter and amateur historian. ...
The trouble is that Fisk’s doglike determination seems to be selective. While magnifying every real or imagined crime committed by the “Anglo-Saxons” he never took time to expose the illegal prisons and torture chambers maintained by Syrian intelligence in Lebanon, where he has lived for 30 years, or the sources of arms and funds for the Lebanese Hezballah.
A whole chapter is devoted to the story of how Fisk, taking a piece of shrapnel from a missile fired by the Israelis in southern Lebanon, travels to Europe and America to prove that the weapon had been manufactured in the United States. But he shows absolutely no interest in the provenance of the Katyushas fired by Hezballah. He is a crusader for a cause, not a reporter; having chosen his side his task is to help it win the information war.
Nor did Fisk ever bother to find out about liberal and democratic movements in the Arab world or to interview anyone other than officials or anti-Western figures. His claim that he is fighting for truth and justice makes him sound more like an advocate rather than a journalist.
This is also by far one of the most boring chapters in a massive book. I kept falling asleep reading it, which rarely happens when I am reading. He doesn't care about democracy unless it is in opposition to the West. Because the West evil. You know, because it came up with idea, and behaved like all other advanced societies do. So it inherently worse than all others, while Arabs and Persians are nice little innocent noble savages devoid of any sort of character flaws. You know those Persians were never imperialist, neither were the Arabs. Conquering other people lands at one time is different from another.
I love how Taheri takes on the notion that Fisk is some how sympathetic to Arabs and Muslims. Personally, I think he's just skitzo, but he really does sympathize with Arab nationalist/Iranian xenophobia quite a lot. Because it lets him show how evil the West is. But, here's Taheri's take:
Fisk describes the Irish as “the Palestinians of Europe” and relates how, when caught in a tight corner in the Middle East, he claims to be Irish.
Because he sympathises with “Arab grievances”, Fisk adopts virtually all the conspiracy theories concocted in teahouses from Baghdad to Cairo in the hope of blaming others for all that has gone wrong with the Arabs.
What he does not realise is that by portraying the Arabs as witless pawns in a game they do not understand, he is presenting a new version of the “White Man’s Burden” narrative.
In the original version the “natives”, including the Arabs, must be saved from their own ignorance. In Fisk’s ethnocentric version, the Arabs are helpless victims. In both versions the omnipotent “Imperialist West” can do whatever it pleases with peoples who are mere objects in their own history. In both cases an “us and them” dialectics is at work. This is why Fisk always says “this is what we did” as if the Arabs couldn’t even fix their own kuffiahs. One might wonder how the “Anglo-Saxon” powers that cannot fix the New York traffic jam or the London underground railway system have managed to shape the world, virtually alone, for over a century.
Fisk’s method allows little room for examining let alone understanding the complex forces that have shaped Arab reality, including Arab nationalism, pan-Islamism, the various anti-colonial movements, and more than half a century of Soviet influence.
Fisk’s profession of sympathy for the Arabs turns out to be a cover for disdain. The Arabs, he claims, have no notion of democracy and are in no way prepared to enter the modern world. The best course, therefore, is for “ us”, meaning the West, is to let “them” stew in their juice.
He writes: “ Most Arabs, faced with a reporter’s question would say the first thing that comes into their head for fear that they would appear ignorant if they do not.”
Fisk admires only three Arab figures: the fugitive terrorist Osama bin Laden, the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, and the head of the Lebanese Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah. He states quite nonchalantly that bin Laden is a better representative of Arabs than any of the Arab kings and presidents, a claim that echoes claims by Arab-haters that all Arabs are terrorists.
It's the truth. Fisk's book is probably the most condecending piece of "literature" that I have ever read on the Middle East. It lacks any sort of moral clarity, any sort of objectivity, and any sort of pragmatism. Arabs are perpetual victims that ought to be let alone by this angry Englishman. There are some great works on similar topics by Englishmen, wonderful books. This ain't one of them though. Fisk's anti-Semitic and anti-Western sounds like a Ba`thi pamphlet and a Bin Laden tape on Aljazeera meshed together, yet it is dashed with a bit of white supremacy and irresponsible language that hardens one's heart toward him as an author.
Read the rest of Amir Taheri's review here and don't buy this Ba`thi's book. Don't boycott Denmark, boycott Robert Fisk!
I wrote this review a while ago at my regular blog about the book The Great War for Civilization, I'm reproducing it here.
What to say about Robert Fisk? Fisk is often lauded for his writing, which he should be, and for his reporting, which he should not. There is no doubt in my mind, as I am sure that there cannot be in any other reasonable person’s mind, that he is a talented story teller. But as a journalist, an objective and balanced disseminator of news information to the people of the world, he is not quite as talented. He is overly opinionated, he does not give the news, rather, he gives what Mr. Fisk thinks. His news reports are not anything but opinion reports. This is true too for Mr. Fisk’s history. His work as a historian is mediocre at best. It is filled with wonderful and lucid story telling, but cloudy facts based on not evidence, but opinion. Mr. Fisk seems to stick to what I like to call (it would seem that I am the only one who uses this euphemism) the "French school of history," that is, telling history from your point of view, not history’s. Where history is honest and rather boring, the Frenchman’s is only half true and exciting, emotional.
Robert Fisk’s latest book, irritatingly called The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2005), is history from Mr. Fisk’s perspective. It is Mr. Fisk’s history of why everything that happens in the "Middle East" (he considers North Africa to be the Middle East, as he does Afghanistan, though the BBC would disagree, as would most scholars of geography, culture and history, the former is part of Africa and perhaps the Middle East if you truly want it to be, and the later is South Asian, so Mr. Fisk is really talking about the conquest of Muslim nations and those peoples "associated" with Muslims, such Armenians through their tragic genocide, and so on) is the fault of the West in one way or another. There are numerous problems with this history, firstly, and most irritatingly, its total and unrepentant lack of any sort of objectivity, and reports that Mr. Fisk made up, or deliberately falsified, certain parts of it. Equally obnoxious are his errors in transliteration, as other reviewers have pointed out, of things that one would think Fisk, as an advocate of "the victim" would not mistake, such as the word "an-nakba," (النكبة) basically "catastrophe" in English, referring to the expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland, which in Fisk’s terrible book is "nakhba," having no meaning whatever. Apparently for Fisk of Arabia, the difference between a kaff and a khaa is negligible. Damn Westerners, they don’t understand anything about the plight of the Arabs! Another problem is Fisk’s constant allusion (most offensively to me) to the Algerian war of liberation as being similar to the Iraq War of today. This is not even remotely similar. The Civil War is certainly similar, frighteningly so, but I am going to use this post to destroy Mr. Fisk’s misuse and abuse Algerian history to drive home his idiotic idea of history.
Let us begin with Mr. Fisk's ever constant notion that all problems in the Middle East are due to some colonial aspect of the region. This is perfectly illustrated in his profuse allusion that the corrupt F.L.N regime in Algeria was colonial, an accusation often made by Islamists and leftists. Mr. Fisk a leftist and (judging from his portrayal of the Islamists, which is disgustingly sympathetic) an Islamist sympathizer, just a little bit. Fisk tells us that F.L.N rigged elections because they followed the example of their old colonial master, not because of their own flaws or from the Middle Eastern autocrats that they were so close to (in Egypt and Syria, where many were educated and given refuge):
The French, after all, had taught the Algerians that elections could be rigged. The French historian Annie Rey-Goldzeiguer has described how "we really contaminated the Algerians. We taught them that they could play with democracy, cheat democracy...We were first-rate professors of anti-democracy." And while the Algerian authorities played the role of their former French governors, the Islamist opponents of the Algerian regime mimicked, over and over again, the activities of the old FLN. (pp. 523)
This passage echoes one of Fisk's oldest ideas, that the West is a disease. It ruins the innocent negroes and Arabs who, before their encounter with the Western devil, are devoid of societal and moral flaws. We those noble savages sipping our tea in the little huts along the country side, romantically, as if in a post card, peacefully worshiping our gods and respecting our elders. Algerians would never have learned how to cheat in elections, had the French not taught them to. It is not power that corrupts for Fisk, or absolute power that corrupts absolutely, rather, it is contact with the West. The problems facing Algeria at the dawn of the 1990's then are not the fault of the failings of Algerians, but rather the bad example we were given by the French. The notion that the Algerian authorities rigged elections because they learned it from the French is ridiculous. They did it because that's what one party states do and it is the behavior of the autocratic animal in his natural habitat.
Another problem is Fisk's ever present and foolish comparison of the Algerian war of liberation to the Iraq War. This is especially pronounced in this passage:
Just as the original French claim to have invaded Algeria to "liberate" its people has a painfully contemporary ring,so too do the appeals for support advanced by the French government to the U.S. administration during the Algerian war of independence. France, the Americans were told, was fighting to defend the West against jihad, against "Middle Eastern Islamic fanaticism." This, the French claimed was a clash of civilizations. They were wrong, of course -- the French were fighting a nationalist insurgency in Algeria, just as the Americans found themselves fighting a national insurgency in Iraq -- but the Islamic content of the 1954-62 independence struggle has long been ignored, not least by the Algerian government that found itself fighting an Islamist enemy in the 1990s. (pp. 521-22) (all emphasis mine)
Read that again. Carefully. This passage is so totally off the mark on such a variety of levels it made me, as I read it in the book store before I purchased it, want to take the massive over 1,100 page book and throw it through the windows of my local Barnes and Noble and into the parking lot as the crowd watched.
The first sentence of this paragraph tries to establish a link between the French claim to a civilizing mission in Algeria and, it is presumed, the American invasion of Iraq (which was done ideologically to bring liberal democracy to an Iraq under the boot of a fascist Ba'thi dictator). Fair enough. Fisk however ignores the part of history here that exposes the less than noble intentions and motivations between the French invasion of Algeria in 1830. In a previous passage, Fisk boils the invasion down to being "intended to distract attention from the domestic problems of the Bourbons and avenge a slight to the French consul," he then compares the invasion to the British invasion of Iraq, and then the more recent Anglo-American invasion of the same country (pp. 517). Fisk makes little effort to differentiate between the state of French democracy in 1830 and English or American democracy in 1917 and 2003. His analogy is entirely flawed because of the fact that French democracy in 1830 was seriously lacking and that the French never made any serious effort to include the native population in the political culture of Algérie française. Further harming his analogy is the fact that the Americans, and the British, did and have, as much as they can or could have tried to include the Iraqi people in their political process. In his hate for America and Western interventionism, Fisk entirely misses the part of history where Iraq was made after the British mandate, an independent state, and after the American invasion remained one, and where Algeria was absorbed into France.
The fact that Mr. Fisk's comparison is totally invalid for these reasons is something which Mr. Fisk, in his adolescent fury, cannot seem to fathom.
The second problem with this paragraph, which I have emboldened because it is especially infuriating, is that it compares a genuine, and almost entirely, nationalist struggle in Algeria with the mostly Islamic extremist struggle in Iraq. The majority of fighters in Iraq are not Iraqis at all, but instead are foreign Arab Islamist fighters who wish to drive out the Americans and establish some sort of Islamic state. Islamism and nationalism are two different things, and Mr. Fisk, after all the time that he has spent in the Middle East, should understand this. Fisk even quotes an Algerian Islamist and nationalist (the fact that this gentleman can be said to be both simultaneously illustrates that point well) who states that during the liberation war among Algerians who were Islamically oriented, "In our case, our nationalist feelings were not as strong as our Islamic feelings." (Fisk, pp. 524) This tells us that fighting for nationalism is different than fighting for Islam. They are different feelings and different causes. Fisk ignores this, and makes the same mistake he accuses the Algerian government, and other historians, of making in ignoring the Islamic character of a struggle.
But is Fisk's accusation even true? Do historians and government personalities really "ignore" the Islamic content of the Algerian revolution? This is false. Algerian nationalism itself is the product of Islamic/Muslim identity. The first Algerian nationalists, if they can even really be called that, were Islamic leaders, not secular ones. The defining aspect of just what an "Algerian" was, as opposed to a Frenchman or European, was that he was a Muslim. If a native wanted to join the French polity, he was required to undress himself of Islam. The French gave citizenship to the native Jews of Algeria, but not the Muslims. It was the Muslims who were swept to the side, not native Jews or newly arrived Christian Europeans. Thus we are told in the revolutionary rhetoric that Algerians are Muslims. Algerian nationalism grew from the territory brought under the rule of Algiers in a common Muslim state by the Ottomans (creating a partia for Algerian Muslims) and the alienation of the Muslim community in Algeria by the French (creating a polis). Islam, or the overwhelmingly Islamic character of the Algerian population, was what made it different from the French colons and what gave Algerians their rationale for rebellion. Every single full discussion of the Algerian War of Independence that I have read, in English, in Arabic, and in French discusses the Islamic character of Algerian nationalism and the influence of the uléma on Algerian political thought. A healthy survey of historical writings on Algeria will provide anyone with an adequate understanding of Islam in relation to the Algerian revolution and nationality. If Mr. Fisk was not able to find any sources that detail this, I suggest that he read The Agony of Algeria by Martin Stone, Modern Algeria by John Reudy or The Call from Algeria by Robert Malley. In addition, he should also take a look at the index of A History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani and look for "Algeria." Hourani's book provides a brief, yet comprehensive discussion of this topic. Mr. Fisk could even do a nice little Google search for "Islam Algeria Revolution" and find a wealthy of information. The topic is hardly ignored in literature. Any acceptable history of Algeria must include a discussion of the Islamic reformers of Algeria just leading up to the liberation war, especially the Association des Ulémas. Either Mr. Fisk is simply itching to seem "cutting edge" in his narrative, or he is just not very good at research.
Another problem with his contention is that the actions of the Algerian state towards the Islamist sectors of the revolution, which he himself describes rather well. The Algerian state consistently made efforts to silence Islamic opposition because it knew that it was incompatible with the vision of the ruling F.L.N. clique. The government made many concessions to Islamically oriented factions often, even to the point of calling the state's economic program "Islamic socialism." The fact that Boumediene made so many efforts to silence the Islamist opposition tells us that he was well aware of it and felt threatened by it. It is curious that Fisk cannot pick up on this as he quotes the tactics used by early Islamic activists (Abdul-Hadi Sayah):
We purposely didn't give our movement a name because Boumedienne's military security apparatus was very strong and it would have been easier for them to arrest us if they could identify us all in one way." (pp. 524)
Another instance where it may easily be deduced that Boumediene and the F.L.N. did not ignore the Islamist presence in the Revolution is the fact that the so-called "exteriors" (which included Boumediene and Ben Bella) too the reigns of the Revolution so quickly from abroad, in fears that the more "backward" and Islamically oriented currents would take the Revolution in a different direction. Fisk discusses this fact (that the exteriors dominated the Revolution), but does not at all consider that the regime was constantly struggling to keep its power away from various factions of Berbers, Islamists, liberals, and more hardline military types. Hell, even Ben Bella wrote an article about Islam and the Algerian Revolution! All of this goes over Mr. Fisk's head. His analysis of this topic is shallow at best.
Another moronic assertion is that the Iraqi "resistance" is Iraqi. Time and time again, we are shown that the fighters in Iraqi are not Iraqi, showing us that the insurgency is not "national" or nationalist, but Islamic (the insurgents shout about defending Islam, not about Iraq). This assertion is made when Fisk talks about how the Algerian government tried to fabricate evidence that the Algerian Islamist fighters were foreign in origin, he does not hide his idiocy here:
The Algerians searched everywhere -- anywhere -- for some way of proving that the Algerian insurgency was not Algerian. Like the Americans in Iraq ten years later, their enemies had to be foreigners, aliens, dark figures who had crossed the frontiers to fight the forces of democracy. (pp. 528)
Sure Mr. Fisk, the fighters in Iraq are not foreigners. Those are Iraqis that are murdering the children, blowing up mosques and raping young girls. This idea is especially dangerous because Mr. Fisk dries to debase the idea that the Islamist groups had any foreign influence or support. Fisk denies fact with this. He only briefly discusses the Algerian involvement in the Afghan War against the Soviets, in fact, so briefly that he limits it to part of one paragraph on one page (pp. 526) and to two paragraphs on another (pp. 535). He says that the Islamist-Iranian connection (which was both a material and moral fact) is a "fantasy" because one French author erroneously fabricated a story about the G.I.A. meeting in Tripoli, Lebanon with Hamas (Palestine), Hezb Allah and Iranian officials. The Algerian Islamists had the moral support of Iranian Ayatollahs and political officials, during their election campaign (they received between 2 and 3 million USD from Iran during the electoral campaigns) and afterward. While Iran at meetings of the Islamic Conference publically condemned the massacres and rapes, it steadfastly supported the insurgency under the table, offering refuge to Islamist politicians and leaders (for more on the Iranian-Islamist connection in Algeria, see Islamic Fundamentalism: the New Global Threat by Mohammad Mohadessin, Seven Locks Pres, Washington D.C., 2001).
It is important that Fisk ignores the Algerian involvement in the Afghan conflict. This is, after all, where most of the Islamist terrorist in Algeria got their field experience prior to the war, and a large number of the leaders of the Islamist militas, as well as the most famous G.I.A. were fighters there. Ahmed Rashid in his excellent book Taliban, tells us that
GIA was led by Algerian Afghans -- Algerian veterans from the Afghan war -- who were neo-Wahabbis and set an agenda that was to plunge Algeria into a bloodbath, destabilize North Africa and lead to the growth of Islamic extremism in France. Algeria was only a foretaste of what was to come later. Bombings carried out in Egypt by Islamic groups were also traced back to Egyptian veterans trained in Afghanistan. (pp. 135-36, Rashid, Ahmed, Taliban, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2000)
The Afghan War was a watershed in the history of Muslim politics. Algeria's connection to this conflict is undeniable and the fact that Mr. Fisk attempts to is terribly disappointing. Another discussion of the Afghan veterans in Algeria on the insurgency can be found (in spectacular detail) in Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America, and International Terrorism by John K. Cooley, Pluto Press, 2000, on pages 202-206. Cooley names names and deeds. It would do Mr. Fisk quite a bit of good to give these two books a thorough reading. Fisk even goes as far as to deny the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood on the thinking of the Algerian Islamists in his quest to legitimize the "insurgency." Shame on you Mr. Fisk. Shame.
Another problem to be found in his narrative is his erroneous comparison of Mohamed Boudiaf to Charles de Gaulle. There are many allusions to the overall comparison of the F.L.N. regime to the French colonial regime in Fisk's chapter on Algeria. This comparison is telling of Mr. Fisk's view of Algeria. I have grown to believe, through reading his articles on the Civil War during the 1990's that he is sympathetic to the Islamist cause. After all, didn't Mr. Fisk once tell us that reporting should be from the view point for the "victim," and since the Islamists were "cheated" of their place in Algerian democracy, are they not victims? Welcome to Mr. Fisk's planet. Mr. Fisk tells us that "Over and over, the Algerian government followed the tragic path of the old French administrations." (pp. 523) Fisk tells us that
Just as de Gaulle had returned from Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, so Mohamed Boudiaf, veteran of the 1954-62 war and one of the founders of the FLN, must come back to Algeria. He told his people he understood their needs, just as de Gaulle said he understood the French Algerians. There be no Islamic republic in Algeria. (pp. 529)
So then, Boudiaf is de Gaulle and the Algerian people are colons. Thus begins in earnest Mr. Fisk's legitimization of the "insugency." The F.L.N. is bad, Fisk tells us, it stole Algerian democrcay, was corrupt and bad (to use Mr. Fisk's newspeak). The Islamists, the F.I.S., they are victims, they had their election stolen and represent the common people, they may want an Islamic republic while not all Algerians do (which Fisk is mature enough to admit), but nevertheless, they are more of the people than the F.L.N., thus, we must tell the story through their eyes. The government is colonial. Boudiaf is de Gaulle. And so on.
Mr. Fisk tells this story, this tragedy, through the life of Mustafa Bouyali, a notorious Algerian Islamist. Why? Why no a villager? Or a boy or young man from the slums of Algiers? Bouyali, in the eyes of Mr. Fisk, is a victim, that's why. Seething with hatred Mr. Fisk told listeners on Democracy NOW!, a left-wing radio/television program, about problems in American journalism:
Well, this is the same problem that's existed all along with American journalism. And that is this osmotic, parasitic relationship between the press or journalists, in general, and power, where to criticize your country's foreign policy, especially when it's war, is seen as a form of unpatriotic behavior and thus of potential subversion. Add to this the sort of American school of journalism, where everyone has to have 50% of each story, each side, which is ridiculous. The victims should be the subject of the story if we have any kind of compassion at all as human beings. When we reach this stage, I think, you know, journalism ceases to perform its function.
Here, Fisk is essentially telling us that journalism should not be objective and that it should not be fair. It should be one sided, the victims are the subject, not anything else. Everything else is a villan. Mr. Fisk takes this philosophy to Algeria as he tells us the story of the country from the eyes of the Islamists. But, personally, I am at a loss to how the Islamists are the victims; are not the people they together with the regime decapitated, raped, guillotined, robbed, and blew up the victims of their poisonous ideology? In other words, aren't the Algerian people the victims here? Aren't the common, every day people the real victims in war?
Appearently not, the most radical sectors are. Mr. Fisk dismisses the idea that there was any credibility in the liberal rejection of the Islamists and their support for the regime during 1990-1992 during the coup. He recalls a conversation with an elderly F.L.N. supporter and young F.I.S. supporters. He quotes the old man:
"You people want to talk about democracy," the old FLN man says -- he was a student at the start of the war of independence -- "but this is not a philosophy lesson for us. If the FIS came to power, there would be a civil war in Algeria. There would be terrible bloodshed. We are having to deal with a real problem. How wonderful it would be, you might think, to have an Islamic republic in Algeria. How democratic of you! But we cannot allow a civil war to take place. We have a responsiblity to our country, to our people."
This sums up the view of most of the supporters of the 1992 coup. The old man's younger friend tells us that "These people really want an Islamic republic and our people will not accept this. The FIS will be dictators. They use the system of the Nazis." Mr. Fisk, for the first time in this entire chapter, allows himself to see a different point of view than his own. But he show cases his ignorance of Algeria when he says that along with alienating the Algerian middle class, the population of educated and liberated women in the cities, those who did not want an Islamic state and the Berbers "who speak Tamazirte and who are not Arabs." (pp.536) Yes, Berbers speak Tamazirte. And of course, Berbers are a monolith. The whole 25% of them were not on the side of the FIS. And, despite the fact that the Kabyle provinces were the biggest exception to the rule during the elections, not going to the FIS, while almost every other province did, Mr. Fisk cannot differentiate between Kabyles and Chouia or Mzobites or other Berbers. They're all the same. Mr. Fisk seems to trip up often in his arrogance.
But Mr. Fisk, in just a few pages is able to make another foolish argument for the sake of siding with the victim. He discusses the massacres of the Islamists, and then moves on to those of the government. He does no seem infuriated by the Islamist massacres, but he certainly is by those of the government. The crimes of the government are some how worse than those of the Islamists. He refuses to call the Islamist militias death squads, this term only comes up in relation to the actions of the government. We are told of the government "taking no prisoners," but we are not told that this was the policy of the Islamists all along! He uses the ever-childish use of quotation marks to make actions of the government look foolish, thus, "already the army was using tanks and helicopters against 'Islamist' units in the mountains of Lakhdaria." (pp. 545). Why are there quotations here? I am not sure. Mr. Fisk then discusses the Algerian government's usage of Syrian and Egyptian anti-Islamist tactics, especially those used at Hamma. He then goes on an out of context rant about how Israelis have used the tactics of France in Algeria during the liberation war on Palestinians, as if this had any relevance whatever to the Civil War in Algeria. He turns this chapter, briefly, into a way to make Israel look bad. Constantly as he discusses the savagry of the Islamists in Algeria, he alludes to Iraq. Constantly Mr. Fisk tells us that "ten years later" he would see this in Iraq, because Iraq in Mr. Fisk's mind is Algeria, in every way. The Battle of Algiers is what makes Americans torture Iraqis. Pentagon officials screened the film calling it a way to "Win the war against terrorism and lose the war of ideas." To Mr. Fisk this of course means that those viewing the film were being told that they should torture to win the war on terror and were not all being taught that these tactics were in the general sense ineffective in winning what the United State government was trying to. Mr. Fisk just can't get Iraq off his mind. The rate at which he references Iraq makes one want to grab this author and shake him violently, and shout "Me dire de l'Algérie!" Mr. Fisk talks about the crimes of the army, as he should. But he refuses to use his critical eye on the Islamists. He is the friend of Bouyali, not a historian. Mr. Fisk throughout this chapter does not treat the Islamists and the army the same way. They are not equally atrocious. The army is the bad guy, the Islamist is the modern independence fighter. Mr. Fisk quotes himself at one point, summing up his disgusting and pathetic stance towards Islamists (this is also used to demonize the United States, after the U.S. Justice Department quoted one of his articles in a press release as to why they deported a F.I.S. leader in the U.S.):
In its highly mendacious "evidence," (*note: for deporting F.I.S. representative Anwar Haddam from the U.S.) the U.S. government quoted an article from The Independent -- filed by me from Algiers on 8 March 1995 -- in which I wrote that photographs of murdered Algeria intellectuals were "enough to make you hate them [Islamists], despise them, deprive them of any human attribute, let alone human rights -- which was, of course, the intention, provided you could forget how many people voted for the FIS in the elections which the government anulled." The U.S. Justice Department failed to see the irony in the last line -- nor the clear implication that the pictures had been published as part of an Algerian government propaganda campaign. (pp. 581-82)
I won't dispute Mr. Fisk that the pictures were released for propaganda purposes. But the fact that he says that the political actions of the government are enough to make one no longer hate the Islamists for what they did to innocent people, often times really good people, is odious and obscene. Mr. Fisk seems to lack moral clarity here. Fisk is totally blinded by his hatred for the "colonial" regime to truely sympathize with the Algerian people.
Mr. Fisk seems to be able to sympathize with Algerians only when it allows him to vent his hatred for another group of people, the French, the Americans or the Israelis. He sees France and Iraq in the Civil War, not Algeria. He ends this despicable chapter by telling us that the world ignored Amnesty International's calls for investigations into mass graves found in Algeria and he grumbles angrily about how the U.S. sponsored Flintlocke operations in the Sahara, where "the very men who were suspected of crimes against humanity were now working with the Americans to hunt down those responsible for crimes against humanity." (pp. 585) This we are led to believe is again a part of Western corruption in the Middle East. Mr. Fisk however does not talk about the Algerian murderers who fight in Iraq or have found refuge in the Gulf, Germany, France and Italy, because of appeals by his beloved "human rights" organizations. These people fled Algeria, in the same way that Khaled Nezzar, the murderous general, went to France and left after the families of victims raised a legal case against him and escaped justice. He does not call at all for even handed justice; he wants to punish France, America and the Algerian regime, which was only evil because it was taught to be that way by the French. Where Mr. Fisk is your anger at the G.I.A.? Where is your anger at those who rape girls for, as you yourself quote newspapers for saying, being beautiful (pp. 565)? I find it very disturbing that as Mr. Fisk is able to pen in such detail, the decapitation, rape, and hacking apart of so many Algerian women, school children and elderly people, he is not able to bring himself to speak against the Islamists. Why Mr. Fisk, are the lives of our innocents not worth your out rage? Why do you care more about the election, about an Islamic republic, than you care about these people's lives who you saw for yourself in the scapbooks and killing fields? How?
Mr. Fisk is an ideological terrorist with this book. He rapes the practice of history and journalism at the same time, and manages to insult the memory of hundreds of thousands of Algerians in the process. Mr. Fisk's book is filled with chapters like this one. He is the friend of those who fight authority, seemingly at any juncture, no matter how heinous their methodology. The Great War for Civilization is really Mr. Fisk's Great War against History.
Addendum: I should add that Fisk's characterization of the F.L.N. (especially Boudiaf) as "colonial" and as a 1990's equivalent to France under de Gaulle with the Algerian people as its pied noir constituency, allows him to rationalize and sympathize with the pathological monsters that were the G.I.A. and Co. During the Revolution, it was ok, so we were told by Frantz Fanon and leftists (Mr. Fisk included), to kill settlers and to mutilate enemy soldiers. This terrorism was some how different from the terrorism of the O.A.S. and the French military. So long as we don't agree with the "colonials," their lives are worth less than those of who we sympathize with. This is why Mr. Fisk's writing is so dangerous because, through it, he allows (and encourages) his readers to become just as callous as his in regards to the "colonials".