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During the thirty years that award-winning journalist Robert Fisk has been reporting on the Middle East, he has covered every major event in the region, from the Algerian Civil War to the Iranian Revolution, from the American hostage crisis in Beirut (as one of only two Western journalists in the city at the time) to the Iran-Iraq War, from the Russian invasion of Afghanistan to Israel’s invasions of Lebanon, from the Gulf War to the invasion and ongoing war in Iraq. Now he brings his knowledge, his firsthand experience and his intimate understanding of the Middle East to a book that addresses the full complexity of its political history and its current state of affairs.
Passionate in his concerns about the region and relentless in his pursuit of the truth, Fisk has been able to enter the world of the Middle East and the lives of its people as few other journalists have. The result is a work of stunning reportage. His unblinking eyewitness testimony to the horrors of war places him squarely in the tradition of the great frontline reporters of the Second World War. His searing descriptions of lives mangled in the chaos of battle and of the battles themselves are at once dreadful and heartrending.
This is also a book of lucid, incisive analysis. Reaching back into the long history of invasion, occupation and colonization in the region, Fisk sets forth this information in a way that makes clear how a history of injustice “has condemned the Middle East to war.” He lays open the role of the West in the seemingly endless strife and warfare in the region, traces the growth of the West’s involvement and influence there over the past one hundred years, and outlines the West’s record of support for some of the most ruthless leaders in the Middle East. He chronicles the ever-more-powerful military presence of the United States and tracks the consequent, increasingly virulent anti-Western—and particularly anti-American—sentiment among the region’s Muslim populations.
Fisk interweaves this history with his own vividly rendered experiences in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Algeria, Israel, Palestine and Lebanon—on the front lines; behind the scenes; in the streets of cities and villages; and inside military headquarters, the hideouts of guerrillas, the homes of ordinary citizens. Here, too, are indelible portraits of Osama bin Laden, Ayatollah Khomeini and Yassir Arafat, among others—all of whom he has met face-to-face—revelatory in their apprehension of the individuals and the ideologies they represent.
Finally, The Great War for Civilisation is the story of journalists in war: of their attempts to report the first, impartial drafts of history, to monitor the centers of power, to challenge authority (“especially . . . when governments and politicians take us to war”) and to battle an increasingly partisan worldwide media in their determination to report the truth.
Unflinching, provocative, brilliantly written—a work of major importance for today’s world.
“Notable for [its] depth of observation and insight and for the vividness of [its] descriptions of particular events and people. [Fisk has] a strong affection and respect for the suffering majority of Palestinians and Israelis inexorably caught up in the storm of violence, fear, mythology, and hatred that the former territory of Palestine has become . . . His extraordinarily readable book depicts a vast historical landscape . . . For all his erudition and his passion for the subject, Fisk is primarily a journalist, and his book, among many other things, is an important account of what a journalist actually does or tries to do, especially during wars . . . Fisk’s powers of observation make his war reporting particularly vivid [and he] has developed a network of friends and acquaintances throughout the region who provide background and depth for his stories . . . Shocking . . . Deeply moving.”
—Brian Urquhart, New York Review of Books
“Combining a novelist’s talent for atmosphere with a scholar’s grasp of historical sweep, foreign correspondent Fisk has written one of the most dense and compelling accounts of recent Middle Eastern history yet . . . Fisk, who has lived in and reported on the Middle East since 1976, first for the (London) Times and now for the Independent, possesses deep knowledge of the broader history of the region . . . It is his capacity for visceral description—he has seen, or tracked down firsthand accounts of, all the major events of the past 25 years—that makes this volume unique . . . A stunning achievement.” —Publishers Weekly
“In the course of 30 years as Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk has filled a lot of notebooks with a lot of stories. Many of them are excellent . . . Mr. Fisk is a gifted writer and an accomplished storyteller, so those who have not read him before will enjoy the famous correspondent’s colorful narrative [and] the wealth of hard-won narrative detail accumulated over the decades of intrepid reporting.”
“Fisk hardly needs introduction. A veteran journalist who has received multiple awards and is respected by his peers and experts on the Middle East, he is uniquely qualified to write this book. He has produced what amounts to the most comprehensive survey of 25 years of Middle Eastern conflict.” —Library Journal
“An epic account . . . A rich tapestry of the contemporary Middle East [and an] engagingly thorough tour of the region’s turmoil.”