|| Date: 21-01-19 || Back to index ||
|| Tag: book-summary ||
|| Author: Robert Fisk ||

The Great War for Civilisation by Robert Fisk

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Less than 17 months after World war One, the allied forces carved up Yogoslavia, Ireland, and the entirety of the middle east

7 years after the last Russian soldier left Afghanistan, 4 years after the communist government of Mohamed Najibullah had been overthrown, the leftover Afghan Mujahideen started killing each other

Afghanistan produced no less than 2200 as of 1998 of Opium, 80% of western Europe’s heroin. Local government and the Ulema tried to dissuade the farmers with corn and wheat, but it didn’t sell as well and as lucrative.

Osama was not happy at all than in 14 centuries, foreign boots came to Saudi and the holy sites. The Saudis let the Americans in and gave them 25 billion dollars to take care of Saddam in the Gulf war. A further 60 billion dollars to Iraq. To Osama, the most important date was 1990, when the 82nd American airborne division entered Saudi Arabia when Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait.

Americans originally supported Osama against the Russians. Later, he became public enemy number 1 to them. Now, the Taliban was being courted. It looks like the US is pretty anxious to keep creating enemies

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, it was the time of Brezhnev. The author went to the border of SU and Afghanistan to cover the story. The Soviets were there to stay. they were not planning to retreat.

Pakistan, in the Islamic leadership of General Zia Ulhuq, was funded heavily by the USA when the Soviets invaded.

There was a story here when Author crossed Pakistan borders since his visa was about to expire in Afghanistan. A shop owner with a gun asked him if he was Russian. Author said “Inglstan, Inglstan!”. The shopkeeper asked him if his country is occupied by Russians. He said, “No, Inglstan is free, free. They would fight the Russians if they came!”. The shopkeeper broke into smiles and even gave him food.

chapter 3: Choirs of Kandahar

The author’s days in Afghanistan were numbered. His visa expired and he did have to go to Pakistan for refuge. He was able to sneak 48 hours in Afghanistan on the borders in a city called Kandahar before leaving. This was in 1980.

When asked, shopkeepers echoed unanimously the same sentiment that most Arabs before and after them felt in the same situation: things will have to get worse before they get better.

The cliche tells us life is cheap. Untrue. Death is cheap. It is easy and terrible and utterly unfair

Schoolchildren were sick because of the rebels, as claimed by the government, but sulfur in the water supply.

Regardless of who did it, that was too much.

One Tajik Soviet soldier removed the hammer and sickle from his fur hat.

Over 1 million afghans would die in the fight against the Russians over 9 years.

6 million became refugees

The Soviets spent 35 billion dollars on this war, while the Americans spent 10 billion.

Carpet Weavers

The author met with “Monty” Woodhouse in 1997. Woodhouse was one of the orchestrators of the Shah Coup in 1952. He said that within half a century, the fall of the Shah occurred, so the entire operation was just an imminent buffer zone.

Mohammed Mosadeq was the last democratically elected prime minister, before the Shah’s coup.

The Shah was an aggrandizing man who tortured and terrorized his people with his secret police. in 1977 the red cross entered the Iranian prisons and found 125 people dead from torture. The rest had chemical burns, been sodomized, and were in an overall horrible position.

Author and Woodhouse said the coup occurred for two reasons and only two reasons:

The fall of Mosadeq began a new era of interventionism in Iran, which radicalized them to pick someone like Khomeini that promised something that resonated with the people. There was even a law, which was condemned in 1964 by Khomeini, in which an American soldier can commit a crime in Iran and not be prosecuted.

After the 1977 revolution, the Shah was jumping from one country to another in exile. He settled in Cairo when he died.

The Shah was a pretty extravagant person, thinking he’s the next Cyrus the great. His Savak soldiers (secret police) ran rampant with the prisoners, rousting them in acid and electrocuting them, and raping them. Even the CIA flew them to secret American military bases to learn from them.

Just as the Americans believed 24 years later that the death of Saddam Hussein would bring peace, the Iranian revolutionary also believed that the death of the Shah will finally seal the revolution

The path to War - Chapter 5

This was the name of a summit held on 4 December 1977 with Gaddafi, Saddam, Hussein of Jordan, Assad of Syria, Arafat of PLO, and Algeria. The idea was to affirm that Sadat is a traitor to the Arabs because of his visit to Israel 10 days before that.

On another note, this summit was meant to also affirm the rejection of UN security council resolutions 242 and 343. the first called for the recognition of the borders in the states but they did not even address “Palestinians”. The second was to call the end of the Yom Kippur war. Syria is conditionally accepted if there Israel withdrew. they didn’t and Syria didn’t accept.


Saddam’s Baathi party was a murderous regime but the West liked it since it gave them a “bastion in the middle east” that controlled Iran and was okay with playing dirty.

If monsters ever existed, they were bred in Abu Ghraib. The horrors there were unspeakable. Nuclear physicist Hussain Shahshistani was the leading man there and Saddam tortured him for 8 years when he refused to build him an atom bomb.

Prime ministers knew, back in 1979, the power of Islamic Sectarianism and EVEN RECOMMENDED that, if Saddam ever decided to invade Iran, they should enrage the Shiite population in Iraq. This was a recommendation by the Iran Foreign Minister.

The situation in Afghanistan was going from bad to worst in the 1980s. Soviets were no longer advisors but tyrants.

Ch7 war against war

We’re still in the Iran-Iraq war. Saddam launched his attack in Basra in 1980. The Iraqis figured almost immediately that they bit off more than they could chew, even though all the Arab states, including the US poured money into the Iraqi war fund.

The Iraqis used poison gas. It was forbidden, of course, but the Americans and the Arab states silently ignored it. Whatever gets Khomeini and his Mullahs off his chair. Let the “Bastion of the Arabs”, Mr. Saddam, take care of business.

In 1984, Saddam saw that his land war is not bringing profit anymore. He decided to establish maritime “exclusion zones” that guarantee any plane or boat to be shut down if they cross it. This was mainly to economically hinder Iran’s oil exports. Iran did something similar too.

The Arab states, especially the emirate Dubai and Bahrain, profited in millions from repair costs for half-destroyed ships and freighters. They were, like Churchill said about Ireland in WW2, “At war, but skulking”. To them, it was all about money and they didn’t care one way or another who won.

In 1987, the USS Stark incident happened: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Stark_incident

An Iraqi Mirage F1 fighter (French) was patrolling Saddam’s exclusion zone. It found the USS Stark, which was an American freighter that was anchored in Doha but patrolling the seas. Reagan famously said that Iraqi’s are friendlies, so the Stark turned off its automated anti-air guns so they won’t shoot the wrong plane.

The Iraqi pilot had a “shoot first, ask questions later” attitude, which is an interview between the author and a friend of the pilot it was said endorsed and standard procedure.

The Stark was almost destroyed by French Exocet missiles. The Iraqi pilot didn’t shoot the freighter by intention. An investigation looked into the cause and found it was the Iraqi pilot, not the Iranians who attacked.

That being said, Reagan almost immediately went on television and said that Iraqis are friendlies and they would never do that. Iran was blamed regardless for not respecting a ceasefire agreement that Saddam asked for. US senators used this opportunity to say that Iran was a belligerent that knows no limits.

Listening to Reagan words, one might have thought that Iran had started the war by invading Iraq in 1980, that Iran had been using chemical weapons against Iraq, that Iran had initiated the maritime exclusion zone in 1984 which started the tanker war in the gulf, which the Stark was indirectly a victim. It was an interesting precedent: when Iraq almost sank an American freighter, Iran was to blame. when al Qaeda attacked the US 14 years later, Iraq was to blame.

Ch 8: a poisoned chalice

in July 1988, a civilian airliner carrying 250 passengers was shut down by a US ground-to-air missile from a US battleship.


The immediate response was that the airliner pilot suicided by crossing the no-fly zone. Later the story changed that the airliner was sending dispatch signals that resemble fighter pilots. then it was said that the pilot did not respond to any alerts.

The annoying thing is that Reagan was calling Iran a barbarous country and only apologized and the settlement reached 8 years later, in 1996. If this was a Norwegian airliner, the case would be very different.

Up then, the Times and Newsweek called the pilot of the airliner a suicide pilot. Our journalist wanted to resign because of it and join the Independent.

If we cannot blow the whistle on a navy that shoots civilians out of the sky, then we make future killings of the same kind as ‘understandable’ as Mrs. Thatcher found this one. Delete the Americans’ panic and incompetence – all of which would be revealed in the months to come – and pretend an innocent pilot is a suicidal maniac, and it’s only a matter of time before we blow another airliner out of the sky. Journalism can be lethal.

There was a potential coup in Iran in 1988, right after Khomeini accepted the UN security council resolution for a ceasefire. It was done by the “National Liberation Army”. They were soldiers on the front lines.

Around 22000 of them were hanged, with their families, wives, and children. They were called monafiqeen in Friday prayers.

Vietnam war lasted almost the same amount that the Iraq-Iran war did: 8 years.

Americans lost 56000 soldiers. Iraq lost over half a million

Chapter 10: first holocaust

In 1915, Turkey decided to cleanse all the Armenians from Asia Minor since they were Christians and have Turkey be a fully Muslim nation, extending to what is today post-soviet Armenia.

This was fueled, in Churchill’s own words, by the Gallipoli campaign where Turkey won against the Allies.

The author says that the parallels between this genocide and the Jewish holocaust are very close: the first gas chamber was technically made in 1915 when Turkish forces forced 5000 Armenians each time in a cave and asphyxiated them by lighting a fire in front of the cave.

Even the Kurds helped the Turks kill.

I was twelve years old in 1915 and lived in Balajik on the Euphrates. I had four brothers. My father was a barber. What I saw on the day the Turkish police came to our village I will never forget. I had not yet lost my eyesight. There was a marketplace in Balajik which had been burned down and there were stones and building bricks on the ground. I saw with my own eyes what happened. The men were ordered to leave the village – they were taken away and never seen again. The women and children were told to go to the old market. The soldiers came then and in front of the mothers, they picked up each child – maybe the child was six or seven or eight – and they threw them up in the air and let them drop on the old stones. If they survived, the Turkish soldiers picked them up again by their feet and beat their brains out on the stones. They did all this, you see? In front of their mothers. I have never heard such screaming … From our barber’s shop, I saw all these scenes. The Turkish soldiers were in uniform and they had the gendarmerie of the government with them. Of course, the mothers could do nothing when their children were killed like this. They just shouted and cried. One of the children was in our school. They found his school book in his pocket which showed he had the highest marks in class. They beat his brains out. The Turks tied one of my friends by his feet to the tail of a horse and dragged him out of the village until he died. There was a Turkish officer who used to come to our shop. He sheltered my brother who had deserted from the army but he said we must all flee, so we left Balajik for the town of Asma. We survived then because my father changed his religion. He agreed to become a Muslim. But both my father and my mother got sick. I think it was cholera. They died and I was also sick and like a dead person. The deportations went on and I should have died but a Turk gave me food to survive. I was taken to an orphanage. They bathed me but the water was dirty. There had been children in the same bath who had glaucoma. So I bathed in the water and I too went blind. I have seen nothing since. I have waited ever since for my sight to be given back to me. But I know why I went blind. It was not the bath. God took mercy on me and took my eyesight. No human should see what I saw and continue as they were. God took mercy on me by making me blind.

The Turks made maps to show where concentration camps would be built and where caravans and railroad lines would go just as well and as detailed as the Germans.

Chapter 13: Planet Damnation

In 1992, Iraq invaded Kuwait. They did this under the pretense that they were sapping oil from their land, as well as decreasing oil prices which “crippled” the Iraqi economy.

When that happened, Saudi king Fahd asked for American protection for both Kuwait and themselves against the Iraqi army. The 82nd airborne division was there to assist, just 1000km away from Mecca. They landed they a magnificent force, tanks, aircraft, and battleships. They were under strict orders by the Saudi commander Abdul Aziz not to test fire or even calibrate their weapons so they don’t scare the civilian population.

The US even came with their media chief: a commander that headed the JIB (Joint information Beaureu). They allowed over 1300 newspapers to come in and interview the soldiers, have dinner with the fighters, and even go on camel market tours. Everything they needed, as long as they show how well-prepared and powerful the US military-industrial complex is.

“I don’t know why people keep bringing it up. We are not here for oil. We’re here to prevent the raping of territories from Iraqi hands,” said General Schwarzkopf of the US army, who headed the 82nd airborne division. The US was not in Saudi lands when the Iran-Iraq war happened. They were here with ray-ban sunglasses when “their oil lands” were threatened. Another reason was to show the might of the US. Another reason was to put their foot in middle-east soil.

American soldiers were getting bored, but they won’t be for too long. The Saudi sheiks were not happy westerners were in the Kingdom. In November 1990, our author met with a local mosque sheik: he told him “when are the Americans leaving?”.

Our author said the Americans were there long before they landed: the airbases and helicopters were American, for both Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Even the English accents were American: they were taught in American Universities. The 1988 Al yamamah arms deal, which was personally supervised by Margaret Thatcher brought over 200 airplanes to Saudi Arabia.

When the three largest Christian nations in the world were launching a war against a Muslim nation from another Muslim Nation which contained Islam’s holiest two sisters, this was not time to draw parallels with the second world war.

The Americans landed in Saudi Arabia with their JIB (joint information bureau): a bunch of commanders that would Organize the 1300 newspapers that landed with them to report the war. The Americans came prepared. they house the journalists in ‘pools’ and would restrict their movements to limit and control the flow of info

When Bush Senior said it, what did it mean? Our author says it means the cold war is over and its wind will pass over the middle east. the West will use the excuse of dictatorship to invade and harvest the area to its needs and anyone who opposes it will be labeled against the order, against new, and a new Hitler.

The same hating energy passed through the soldiers of the US when a high-ranking commander of them was being interviewed and said that Iraqis are like cockroaches. The journalist and the soldier both agreed, which makes it worse. Journalists loved that stuff.

Iraq lost the war by declaring a ceasefire in 1991 November. The Americans killed countless people by shelling them needlessly in locations that destroyed the infrastructure rather than kill military personnel.

One incident where the Almanyra bunker was destroyed, killing 400 civilians. Commander Schwarzkopf said that it was a “target-rich environment”, and that they heard it had military personnel. In reality, it was a bunker where high-ranking families of Baathi party members hid. They incinerated those women and children for no reason other than spite.

If, and I say if, there were civilians in there, which there wasn’t, It is only logical that we feel sorry for them – Schwarzkopf

Our author spoke to few Iraqi soldiers who were captured by the Kuwaiti resistance movement. One of them said that the Kuwatt-al-khassa, the special forces, the death squads, would come to them and take them to execution grounds and tell them “if you desert, you’ll be next”. The Iraqi soldier said the American shelling was just about flexing muscles: we wanted to surrender but we couldn’t. there was never a point where we could.

So you have an army that is shelling needlessly the living hell out of a country and destroying it completely, and another country that wants to surrender, but can’t, with a terrifying leader who refuses to say no. The Americans came here to kill from a distance, not to engage in war.

It was disgusting. They didn’t even treat the enemy properly: an apache attack helicopter crewman said “Say hi to Allah” right before he incinerated civilians on the Euphrates bridge.

Not ready for refugees from Iraq to Kuwait Kuwait soldiers beating Palestinians in Kuwait insurgents from Basra killing Kuwaitis in Kuwait liberation was not supposed to look like this. the embassy men and leaders didn’t have a clue

The situation so far was quite bleak: The ceasefire was brokered. Refugees from Iraq to Kuwait were mostly refused entry. Some heroic figures from the US army did accept them, but most of the commanders wanted nothing with them.

The deserters of the army of Iraq were shot and executed and hanged from tank turrets by the Iraqi death squads. Saddam hunted down the Kurds. Kuwaiti soldiers beat up and killed Palestinians in Kuwait since they were “sympathizers”. There were insurgents from Basra killing Kuwaitis in Kuwait.

The US set the region on fire and had no plans and no idea how to work with what they had left. they came on a holy crusade to “liberate Kuwait” and they ended up alienating most of the region and turning the rest into refugees.

Just like the Soviets did to the poles in 1944 to surface the polish nationalists from their hiding places, the CIA surfaced the Iraqi Islamist insurgents by making a “Voice of Free Iraq” radio station that called for a free Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam. Saddam killed all those insurgents and the US was left with the remains.

The Kurds had an issue: so the Kurds started raising in Iraq, which made Saddam kill them quite swiftly. This made the US make more haven camps for the Kurds and even negotiate with “The government in Baghdad” (you can’t say “Saddam” anymore since now you’re asking a favor from him) to not kill all the Kurds.

So Saddam doesn’t like the Kurds because of a failed nationalism instigated by the CIA. the Turks REALLY don’t like what they’re seeing in Iraq and are afraid this is gonna hit their home too. This makes the Turks start attacking Kurdish refugee camps. Our author was in a Kurdish refugee camp and there was a standoff between the British marines and the Turks over the Turks stealing fucking blankets and water jugs from Kurdish refugee camps.

All of this went on and the Arab nations knew about it and did nothing. Saddam kept killing the Kurds and using them as Kruschev used Berlin against the Allies: the balls he can squeeze whenever he wants extra pressure.

So, Saddam didn’t want to get inspectors from the UN to investigate his nuclear facilities to make sure he didn’t have chemical weapons. Why? He clearly said those inspectors are American and he wants non-American inspectors. UN didn’t comply and withdrew its inspectors from Iraq, which gave way in 1998 for a huge PR nightmare and more sanctions on Iraq.

It actually turns out that the US AND UK both had inspector spies embedded there. Saddam got it right. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Special_Commission.

The US spent 12 Million dollars on the CIA for covert operations in Iraq. Clinton back in the day was fighting the impeachment by Monica’s skirt and he needed to appear “tough” on the bedouin Saddam, so he gave him more sanctions.

Basra and the Kuwaiti fighting grounds became a slum, infested with Depleted uranium rounds (DU). In 1991, there was a report made by the British Ordnance of Nuclear Energy that showed that 25,000 kilos of DU were dropped on Kuwaiti and Iraqi battlefields (in Iraq, it was residential areas like Basra). This can cause up to 500,000 deaths potentially and infecting the area for centuries.

Children’s cancer wards were filling up and even the common cold mutated to become something extraordinary, with encephalitis.

When asked about it, a US army lieutenant said, in a very meticulous way, they’ll replace DU rounds with something more lethal but less hazardous to the environment when they can.

Chapter: Even to Kings, he comes

This chapter was about Syria. In 1970, the Correctionist Movement, a bloodless coup by General Hafez to overtake the government with his apparatus of secret police took over.

Syria was described by our author as a “mild” dictatorship. Coming from Saddams’ Iraq, you’d consider it a liberal democracy. Coming from the UK, you’d consider it a dictatorship.

There’s a nice story where our author asked the editor of Syria Times– a magazine that is very much supporting everything Hafez has ever done– if he can buy the magazine, just to put it out of print. The editor perked up and said, “I don’t understand your comment”. He then smiled and our author smiled and both understood the context silently. That magazine has a picture of our president reading a newspaper (not the Syria times) and drinking coffee on the front-page, every day.

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”, said Rumsfeld when asked if he would invade Iraq on a “possibility” of having WMD. The US administration did everything they could, along with Tony Blair, to convince everyone that Saddam was a terrorist. He prepared 6 demands, one of them was to allow UN inspectors to check for WMD (disregarding the fact that in 1991, they also did the same and rigged the UN inspection). One ridiculous claim was to “end terrorism”. what the devil does that mean? Iraq didn’t do 9/11.

One other claim was to make proper civil rights for your people: the same people that are being happily prosecuted by their jailers in Jedda, Amman, Damascus, and Palestine.

The last straw they (Blair, Bush) brought was the “Nuclear Holy Warriors” they need to become to destroy terror once and for all.


The same thing that happened to Iraq happened before in Egypt: a country undergoing economical trouble (Before the UK, now the US) decided to reformat its entire relationship with a country for economical reasons (the US called Saddam Hitler, Anthony Eden called Nasser Mossoulini of the Nile). In 2003, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush all wanted nothing but oil and power. Eden was ill and was not willing to accept that Algeria is slipping away, as well as Egypt.

The main trigger occurred when Nasser decided to nationalize the Suez Canal. Troops entered the company, which was mainly dominated by German and French engineers. They said: “You are working for an Egyptian company now”. that was all. there was no bloodshed.