Book Report: Great War for Civilization the Conquest of the Middle East

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Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East

Nicole Gomez

International Relations of the Middle East

The Great War for Civilisation

Robert Fisk's book, the Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East is a comprehensive description of the Middle East region and its ongoing struggles. Fisk who is an established correspondent for the Independent newspaper in the United Kingdom has covered the vast region and its conflicts since 1976. Fisk has witnessed firsthand numerous wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Algeria, Israel, Palestine and Lebanon, and as a child, whose father fought the Great War, seems excessively knowledgeable in his historical accounts.

Robert Fisk commences his book March 1997 outside the Spinghar Hotel in Jalalabad, a town in eastern Afghanistan. Outside of the hotel, waiting for Fisk, is an Afghan man who will direct him to Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden. In doing so, Fisk eloquently illustrates his extensive and arduous journey through the mountainous region of Afghanistan leading him to a tent under a cliff where he would meet Bin Laden. Here, in what seems to be the most important piece of information, Bin Laden exposes his notion as to why Americans are in the region other than for the obvious oil, but mainly because of the American Zionist alliance, who fear Islam's rise to power could "down Israel" (31). Bin Laden states that "we shall kill the Jews in Palestine" and "triumph against the American forces" (31). In retrospect, Fisk also gives unequivocal accounts of his first meeting and brief interview with the Al-Qaeda leader back in the Islamic Summit held in the capital of Sudan, Khartoum in 1993. At that time, Bin Laden spoke to Fisk about the Soviets invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and of how much Bin Laden had been disappointed by the Saudi prince lack of perseverance with the Arab Legion. Simultaneously, Fisk brings to light his second interview back in 1996 with Bin Laden where he briefly spoke about "the evils of the Middle East," (20) and how they came to surface because of "America's attempt to take over the region" and from its support of Israel. Bin Laden further stated that "Saudi Arabia had turned into an "American colony" (20), all which he despises. Finally, towards the end of chapter, Fisk discloses the meaning behind the naming of his chapter, "One of Our Brothers Had a Dream . . ." Around the third time Fisk met with Bin Laden, he mentions that an Al-Qaeda solider had dreamt with the attempt of recruiting Fisk as one of their own, "a true Muslim" (29). Fisk, who is known to be one of the few foreign reporters to have interviewed Bin Laden, was petrified by this idea and kindly disavowed.

By Chapter 2, "They Shoot Russians," Fisk raises a parallel with a book that is handed down by his father, William Fisk, when he died in 1992. The book titled, "Tom Graham. V.C.A tale of the Afghan War" by William Johnston is about an adventure, as Fisk describes it, of a young man who grows up in the United Kingdom and is forced into labor and the British Army, after his father's death. While in the army, the young boy travels to India and fights in the Second Afghan War.

Chapter three is practically meant to demonstrate the fact that the foreign efforts in Afghanistan gradually materialized into the growth of the mujahedeen forces. In spite of the fact that the Afghan government previously managed to control the insurgents, matters rapidly changed as more and more people came to see the mujahedeen as a power fighting for their well-being. Religious faith stood as one of the main reasons for which the mujahedeen took up arms against the invaders, as it virtually fueled them in their desire to get revenge and what they considered to be justice. The Afghanistan War stands as proof that no one could ever have imagined the situation to take on such proportions.

The Carpet-Weavers provides information in regard to the interference of the British and American forces in conditions in Iran. Considering the discarded evidence pointing towards the belief that foreign forces were unwilling to support a democratically elected government in the country, Fisk emphasizes the fact that outside powers were actually interested in seizing control over the Middle East. The Iranian revolution and anti-western feelings emerged as a result of the fact that the West appeared to be more interested in exploiting Iran rather than being concerned about supporting the country's democracy.

Chapter 5, the Path to War, puts across the tension in the Middle East during the first decades of the twentieth century. As foreign influences came to be felt in countries like Iran and Iraq, the locals became increasingly nationalist in character and expressed their concern about imposing their power in the area. With influential leaders like Saddam growing in power, matters became more and more critical, especially given that the Saddam showed great determination in executing whoever he felt would become a threat to his autocratic leadership.

The Whirlwind War shows Iran and Iraq as they struggle to eliminate internal problems while trying to lead a war against each-other. With Iran's relationship with the U.S. being weakened by the Iranian revolution and with Iraq seeming to be a worthy ally in the eyes of American leaders, the war was in favor of Saddam and conditions became critical for the Iranians. Moreover, it appears that it was mainly because of the American influences that Iraq unleashed devastating forces upon Iran, leaving numerous dead behind as a result of chemical weapon attacks.

Chapter 7 shows Iran in a delicate stage, as it has to deal with fighting some of the world's greatest forces with little to no allies to support its war efforts. In spite of being severely weakened as a result of the fact that Iraq received significant support from the U.S., Iran grows in power because of its peoples' dedication to defend their country regardless of the consequences.

Drinking the Poisoned Challice proves that Western powers were generally unwilling to support media operators interested in presenting the world with the truth about the Iraq-Iran War. In spite of their efforts during the war, the Iraqis did not experience great successes and were left with nothing but numerous casualties and expenses. The U.S. further demonstrates that it holds no concern about civilians and lives lost in the war by shooting down Iran Air 655, a civilian airliner that was supposedly considered to be a fighter plane.

Sentenced to Suffer Death is apparently meant to present the writer's father, Bill Fisk, and his family as a whole as they went through a series of episodes that challenged their conditions as humans and that influenced them in criticizing warfare and everything related to it.

Chapter 10, the First Holocaust, deals with events having happened during the early twentieth century, as the Turks attempted to exterminate the Armenian population, hence the name for the chapter -- a reference to the fact that society somewhat tends to favor particular events in history. In order to provide readers with more information on the matter, Fisk presents them with data collected from people who actually survived the genocide. The writer's main intention in writing this chapter is to criticize contemporary Turkey for the fact that it does not express any concern about the event and because it virtually ignores it. Fisk critique is also directed at Great Britain, Israel, and several other countries for having shown no interest in recognizing the horrible character of the Armenian genocide, especially when compared to the Nazi-caused Holocaust.

Chapter 11, Fifty Thousand Miles from Palestine, presents the Arab-Jewish situation during the recent decades and how it came to be influenced by events happening during the twentieth century. With Israel coming to posses more and more power and the Arab states starting to be seen as evil by the rest of the world, conditions have become critical in the territory. The Palestinians in particular suffered greatly as a result of the fact that they were robbed of their lands and practically pulled into a conflict that caused terrible damage, both from a material perspective and from a moral point-of-view. Extremism started to arise as numerous Arabs came to consider that they would only succeed in their mission of fighting for their country through performing terrorist acts. Fisk considers that in spite of the apparent dedication that Yasser Arafat put across toward his country, the Palestinian leader had actually been more concerned about exploiting the situation in order to gain as much profits as possible.

Chapter 12 demonstrates that the Arabs did not appreciate Arafat's position during the last years of his ruling, as they were reluctant to accept peace as long as they were oppressed by the Israelis. The situation grew tensed as the Arabs continued to perform terrorist acts while Israel kept its policies in regard to Palestine. Arafat's support for his country gradually… [END OF PREVIEW]

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