Amy Goodman Interviews
on Democracy Now
Goodman: After spending a month in Iraq, could you
describe your thoughts?
Fisk: Well, my assumption is that history has a way
or repeating itself. I was talking to a very military Shiite Muslim
from Nashas about only five days ago and a journalist was saying to
him "do you realize how historic these days are?" and I said to him
"do you realize how history is repeating itself?" and he turned to
me and said "yes history is repeating itself", and I knew what
he meant. He was referring to the British invasion or Iraq in 1917
and Lt. Gen. Sir Stanley Maude, when we turned up in Baghdad and Sir
Stanley Maude issued a document saying "we have come here not as conquerors
but as liberators to free you from generations of tyranny." And within
three years we were losing hundreds of men every year in the guerilla
war against the Iraqis who wanted real liberation not by us from the
ottomans but by them from us and I think that's what's going to happen
with the Americans in Iraq. I think a war of liberation will begin
quite soon, which of course will be first referred to as a war by
terrorists, by al Qaeda, by remnants of Saddam's regime, remnants
(remember that word) but it will be waged particularly by Shiite Muslims
against the Americans and the British to get us out of Iraq and that
will happen. And our dreams that we can liberate these people will
not be fulfilled in this scenario.
So what I've been writing about these past few days
is simply the following. We claim that we want to preserve the national
heritage of the Iraqi people, and yet my own count of government buildings
burning in Baghdad before I left was 158, of which the only buildings
protected by the United States army and the marines were the Ministry
of Interior, which has the intelligence corp of Iraq and the Ministry
of Oil, and I needn't say anything else about that. Every other ministry
was burning. Even the Ministry of Higher Education/Computer Science
was burning. And in some cases American marines were sitting on the
wall next to the ministries watching them burn.
The Computer Science Minister actually talked to
the marine, Corporal Tinaha, in fact, I actually called his fiance
to tell her he was safe and well. So the Americans have allowed the
entire core and infrastructure of the next government of Iraq to be
destroyed, keeping only the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry
of Oil. That tells it's own story. On top of that I was one of the
first journalists to walk in to the National Archaeological Museum
and the National Library of Archives with all the Ottoman and state
archives and the Koranic Library of the Ministry of Religious Endowment
and all were burned. Petrol was poured on these documentations and
they were all burned in 3000 degrees of heat.
Ironically, with all that irony, I managed to rescue
26 pages of the Ottoman documentation, the Ottoman library. Documents
of Ottoman armies, camel thieves, letters from the sheriff Hussein
of Mecca to Ali Pasha (Ottoman ruler of Baghdad) and when I got to
the Jordanian border the Jordanian customs authorities stole these
documents from me and refused to even give me a receipt for them,
a shattering comment I'm afraid to say on the Arab world but particularly
on the American occupation of Baghdad.
After the Koranic Library was set on fire I raced
to the headquarters of the Third Marine Force Division in Baghdad
and I said there is this massive Koranic Library on fire and I said
what can you do? And under the Geneva Conventions the US Occupation
Forces have a moral, whatever occupations forces there are, and they
happen to be American, have a legal duty to protect documents and
various embassies. There was a young officer who got on the radio
and said "there was some kind of Biblical library on fire," biblical
for heavens sake, and I gave him a map of the exact locations, the
collaterals on the locations to the marines and nobody went there,
and all the Korans were burned, Korans going back to the 16th Century
So, somebody has an interest in destroying the center
of a new government and the cultural identity of Iraq. Now the American
line is these are Saddamite remnants, remnants of a Saddam regime.
I don't believe this. If I was a remnant of a Saddam regime and say
I was given $20,000 to destroy the library I would say thank you very
much and when the regime was gone I would pocket the money. I wouldn't
go and destroy the library, I don't need to, I've got the money. Somebody
or some institution or some organization today now is actively setting
out to destroy the cultural identity of Iraq and the ministries that
form the core of a new Iraq government. Who would be behind that and
who would permit it to happen, and why is it that the US military,
so famed for its ability to fight its way across the Tigris and the
Euphrates river and come into Baghdad will not act under the Geneva
Convention to protect these institutions? That is the question. And
I do not have the answer to it.
Goodman: There was a report today that said that
the US army ignored warnings from its own civilian advisors that could
have prevented the looting of Baghdad's National Museum-- this is
from the London Observer. It said that the Office of the Reconstruction
and Humanitarian Assistance set up to supervise reconstruction identified
the museum as a prime target for looters in a memo to army commanders
a month ago. The memo said it should be the second priority for the
army after securing the national bank. General Jay Garner, who's taking
over, is said to be livid. One angry reconstruction official told
the Observer "we ask for just a few soldiers at each building or if
they feared snipers then at least one or two tanks. The tanks were
doing nothing once they got inside the city, yet the generals refused
to deploy them.
Fisk: Yeah, well the Observer is always quite a bit
late on the story. There was a website set up between American archaeologists
and the Pentagon many weeks ago listing those areas of vital national
heritage to Iraq which might be looted, damaged, stormed, burned.
The museum was on that list. The museum, I have seen physically marked
on the satellite pictures which the marines have to move around in
Baghdad. They know it's there, they know what it is. Now, when I got
to the museum, which is far more than a week ago, there were gun battles
going on between rioters and looters, bullets skittering up the walls
of apartment blocks outside. It was quite clear when I walked in that
looting was quite clearly.... Someone has opened the doors, the huge
safe doors of the storeroom of the museum with a key. The looting
was on a most detailed, precise and coordinated scale. The people
knew what the wanted to go for. Those Grecian statues they didn't
want they decapitated and threw to the floor. Those earrings and gold
ornaments and bullring gods that they wanted to take, they took. And
within a few days those priceless heritage items of Iraq's history
were on sale in Europe and in America. I don't believe that that happened
Two of the interesting things: number one is the
looters knew exactly what they wanted and they got it out of a country
with a speed that we as journalists cannot get our stories out of
the country. Secondly, a much more serious in the long term. The arsonists,
the men who were going around burning, they must have had maps, they
knew where to go, they knew what would not be defended by the Americans.
In one case, you know this is a city without electricity, without
water, I recognized one of the men who was burning things. He had
a small beard, a goatee beard and he had a red t-shirt, and the second
time I saw him, I looked at him and he pointed a [inaudible] rifle
at me, he realized I recognized him. They were coming to the scenes
of arsonists in blue and white buses. God knows where these buses
were from. They weren't city corporation buses, although city corporation
buses were being used by looters. But the arsonists were an army.
They were calculated and they knew where to go, they had maps, they
were told where to go. Who told them where to go? Who told them where
the Americans would not shoot at them or would not harm them? This
is a very, very important question that still needs to be reconciled
and answered. And I do not have an answer. And none of my colleagues
unfortunately have asked the American military in Qatar, in Doha what
the answer is. Somebody told these people where to go, they had the
maps, they knew the places to go and burn, they knew the American
military would not be there and they went there and they burned. Who
gave them those instructions, I don't know the answer. I really don't
know the answer, but there is an answer, and we should know what this.
Goodman: Maguire Gibson, a leading Mesopotamian scholar
from the University of Chicago, said he has good reason to believe
that the looting or the stealing of the artifacts from the museum
with men going in with forklifts and even keys to vaults...he has
good reason to believe this was orchestrated from outside the country.
Fisk: There is certainly a reason to believe, Amy,
that there were keys involved because some of the vaults I saw were
opened with keys and not with hammers or guns or explosives. Fork
lift trucks? They had the ability to move heavy statues into trucks.
When I got there, they had just done that. But I don't know if they
used fork lift trucks, I think that might be a little too Hollywood.
There were men who were guards to the museum in long gray beards who
had taken rifles, [inaudible] Ak-47's weapons to defend what was left.
But if you're saying to me "do I have evidence of fork lift trucks?"
Do I have evidence that they knew what they were
coming for, yes! Do I have evidence that this was premeditated, yes!
Do I believe that the arsonists were trained and organized from outside
who knew whether or not the Americans would be present or whether
the American military would defend certain buildings, yes! They undoubtedly
did know the Americans would not confront them. And the Americans
did not confront them. I actually got to a point where I was going
around Baghdad a few days ago, and every time I saw a tongue of flame
or smoke I'd race off in my car to the area, and the last place I
went to that was burning was the Department of Higher Education/Computer
Science and as I approached it I saw a marine sitting on the wall.
I bounded out of the car and raced back and thought
I had better see this guy and I took his name down. His name was Ted
Nyhom and he was a member of the Third Marine Fourth Regiment or Fourth
Marine Third Regiment. He gave me the number of his fiancÚ Jessica
in the states. I actually rang her up and said "your man loves you
dearly" (he's a real person) and I said how the hell is this happening
next door and he said "well, we're guarding a hospital" and I said
"there's a fire next door, a whole bloody government ministry is burning.
And he said, "yeah we can't look everywhere at the same time." I said,
"Ted, what happened?" and he said "I don't know." Now when you go
to sit down...he was a nice guy, I was happy to ring his fiancÚ up
and tell her that he was safe. But something happened there. There
was a fire, an entire government ministry was burning down next to
him and he did nothing. It didn't seem strange to him that he wasn't
asked to do anything. Now there's something strange about that. It's
not a question of whether American academic said, you know, is there
something wrong with the moral property of an army that doesn't stop
looting and arson. There's something terribly wrong there.
My country's army in Basra was also remiss in this
way. Our Minister of Defense, Geoff Hoon, said 'oh well they were
liberating their own property' when people were looting hospitals,
for god's sakes. So the British don't get off on this either, but
the Americans were the most remiss. And in the city of Baghdad against
all the international conventions, particularly the Geneva Convention,
which have a specific reference to pillage... in fact pillage appears
as a crime against humanity in the Hague Conventions in 1907 upon
in which the Geneva Conventions of 1949 were based. There is a whole
reference to pillage and the Americans did nothing. They did nothing
to prevent the pillage of the entire cultural history of Iraq, of
the museum, or the documentary history of the National Archives, or
the Koranic Library of the Ministry of Religious Endowment or of the
155 other government locations around Baghdad. And one has to ask
the question, why was this permitted to happen. I don't know the answer.
Goodman: We're talking to Robert Fisk, correspondent
for the Independent newspaper in Britain. He has just come out of
Iraq where he has spent the last month. He is back in Beirut where
he is based. Robert, the hospitals, you spent a good amount of time
there. Can you describe what you saw and perhaps what we're not seeing.
If you can follow our coverage at all here in the United States.
Fisk: Well as a matter of fact this afternoon, I
took several roles of film...real film, not digitized camera film
into my film development shop here, and was looking again at the film
of children who'd been hit by American cluster bombs in Hilla and
Babylon whom I took photographs of. I'm rather shocked at myself for
taking pictures of people in such suffering. I would have to say,
and one must be fair as a correspondent, that I think that the Iraqis
did position military tanks and missiles in civilian areas. They did
so deliberately; they did so in order to try and preserve their military
apparatus in the hope that the Americans would not bomb civilian areas.
The Americans did bomb civilian areas. They may or may not have destroyed
the military targets; they certainly destroyed human beings and innocent
War is a disgusting, cruel, vicious affair. You know,
I say to people over and over again: war is not about primarily victory
or defeat, it's primarily about human suffering and death. And if
you look through the pictures, which I have beside me now as I speak
to you, of little girls with huge wounds in the side of their faces
made by the pieces of metal from cluster bombs, American cluster bombs,
it's degoutant, as the French say, disgusting to even look at. But
I have to look at them. I took these pictures.
The Iraqi regime, which was brutal and cruel and
is very happy, was very happy in every sense of the word, to use these
pictures as propaganda, must also of course have its own responsibility
for this. But for me, the most appalling admission came when the civil
coalition, which means the Americans, the British and a few Australians,
decided to bomb an area, a residential area of Monsur, with four 2000-pound
bombs. I hate to use these childish phrases like "bunker-busters"
but these are the same bombs they dropped on Tora Bora to try and
get the caves where Bin Laden was hiding in 2001 in Afghanistan. And
these huge bombs destroyed the lives of a minimum of 14 civilians
[in Monsur]. The central command in Doha, Qatar said they believed
Saddam was there, and that they would send forensic experts. But I
went there a week after the Americans entered Baghdad and no forensic
experts had been sent there indeed. And the morning I turned up, I'm
talking about 4 days ago, the decomposing, horribly smelling body
of a little baby was pulled out of the rubble and I can promise you
it wasn't Saddam Hussein, but the Americans went on insisting their
forensic scientists were searching to see if Saddam Hussein had died
there. Well, he did not and nor did their forensic scientists bother;
they didn't even care about going there. Outrageous. I'm sorry to
say. Outrageous. I have to be a human being as well as a journalist.
Again, one needs to also say that Saddam Hussein
was...is - I'm sure he's still alive - a most revolting man. He did
use gas against the Iranians and against the Kurds. And I also have
to say that when he used it against the Iranians, and I wrote about
it in my own newspaper at the time, the Times, the British Foreign
Office told my editor the story was not helpful because at that stage
of course, Saddam Hussein was our friend - we were supporting him.
The hypocrisy of war stinks almost as much as the civilian casualties.
But let's go back to the hospitals. The Americans
used cluster bombs in civilian areas, where they believed there were
military targets. Near Hilla, I think the Iraqis probably did put
military vehicles. That does not excuse the Americans; there are specific
references and paragraphs in the Geneva Conventions to protect what
are called 'protected persons', that is to say civilians, even if
they are in the presence of enemy combatants. But I think the Iraqis
did put military positions amongst civilians. I can go so far as to
say that at the museum, which was looted to the great disgrace of
the Americans, prior to the American entry into Baghdad, it was clear
when I got to the museum after the American entry, that the Iraqi
army had placed gun positions and gun pits inside the museum grounds,
at one point next to a beautiful 3000-year-old statue of a winged
bull. There were other occasions when I could clearly see SAM-6 mobile
tracked missiles parked very close to civilian houses. The Iraqis
did use civilians as cover. And the Americans, knowing they were there,
bombed the civilians anyway. So who is the war criminal? I think both
of them are. There you go. That's the story.
Goodman: Robert Fisk, do you have any idea about
casualty numbers right now?
Fisk: No, it's impossible. Amy, it's impossible.
You know, I took my notebook; I can tell you how many people in each
ward were wounded in particular wards, or in particular hospitals.
I can tell you which doctors told me how many people died in A, B,
and C hospitals on certain dates, but when it comes to the overall
figure, the losing side has no statistics, because of course the statistics
die with the regime and the winning side controls all the figures.
Thousands of Iraqis must have died.
There was one particularly terrible scene on what
was known as Highway 8. It was the main motorway alongside the Tigris
river, with some university of Baghdad on the other side of the river,
where for two and a half days, American soldiers of the 3rd Infantry
division were fighting off ambushes, most of them members of the Republican
Guard. They mounted there and I talked to all sides here. I talked
to survivors, I talked to civilians, I talked to the Americans on
the tanks. The ambush began at 7:30 on the last Monday of the war
in the morning. And the motorway was quite busy with civilian traffic.
The American 3rd Infantry Division commander told me that he saw civilian
traffic and he ordered his men to fire warning shots, which they did
he said two or three times, after which they fired at the cars. And
he said 'I had a duty to protect my men.' I have to be fair and quote
what he said. He said "I had a duty to protect my men, to protect
my soldiers and we didn't know if they were carrying RPGs (rocket-propelled
grenades) or explosives.' But cars which did not stop were fired at
by United States tanks of the 3rd Infantry Division.
I walked down the line of cars which were torn apart
by American tank shells. There was a very young woman burned black
in the back of one car. Her husband or father or brother beside her,
dead. There was the leg of a man beside another car which had been
blown clean in half by an American M1-A1 tank. There were piles of
blankets covering families with children who had been blown to pieces
by the Americans. It was a real ambush. They were fired at by RPG
-7's. In one case, one tank I saw (the American commander took me
around) who'd received five hits, one of them on the engine. And he
had opened fire at a motorcycle carrying two members of the Iraqi
Republican Guard. One had died instantly. I found his body beside
the road with his blood dribbling into the gutter. The other was wounded
and the American brought him back to the tank, gave him first aid
and sent him off to a medical company. The American commander - the
same commander who told his tank crew to open fire on the civilian
cars - told me that he saved the life of the second Republican Guard
who was on the motorcycle and the guy survived. I have to assume that's
correct. I didn't see him. But three days later, the bodies were still,
including the young woman, were still lying in the cars. And bits
of human remains were lying around in blankets. The stench was terrible.
There were flies everywhere. The American officer then told me that
he had asked the Red Crescent, the Muslim equivalent of the Red Cross,
to move the bodies and the cars were removed. But they were still
there, along with the bodies the next day. That's a fact. I saw.
Goodman: What about the journalists? It looks like
there is the highest percentage of foreign journalists, as a percentage
of foreign casualties, that we have seen in a long time. It looks
like the number at this point is 14 journalists killed as well as
the shelling of the Palestine Hotel.
Fisk: Well, I think that the number of journalists
covering war - indeed, the number of journalists in general - is increasing
all the time. And so I suppose, it's not a very romantic thing to
say, but I suppose that as the number of journalists increase, the
number of casualties among journalists will increase as well. There
were a number of incidents which we seem to have understood. The ITV
reporter, who got north of the American lines near Basra, was returning
and got shot by US Marines, along with his crew. Another British reporter
who may or may not have committed suicide, I don't know, which has
nothing to do with the Americans or the Iraqis per se, if that's the
case. We have the Palestine hotel, which is one of the more serious
cases of all. That particular day began with the killing of the journalist
from Al Jazeera, the Qatari/Doha television chain, which of course
became famous in Afghanistan for producing tapes and airing tapes
of Osama bin Laden. I had by chance, four days before Tariq [Ayoub]'s
death, on the roof of that television station, been giving a broadcast
myself live to Doha. And while I was broadcasting, a cruise missile
went streaking by behind the building and literally moved over the
bridge on the right and carried on up the river Tigris and there was
an airstrike behind me. And I said to Tariq afterwards, I think this
is the most dangerous bloody newspaper office in the history of the
world, you know? You're in really great danger here. There were gun
pits on the right. And he agreed with me. And four days later, while
he was on the roof preparing to do a broadcast, an American jet came
in so low, according to his colleagues downstairs, they thought it
would land on the roof, and fired a single missile at the generator
beside him and killed him. About three and a quarter hours later,
an American M1A1 Abrams tank on the Jumeirah River bridge, about three
quarters of a mile from the Palestine Hotel where the journalists
were staying, fired a single round, a depleted uranium round, as I
understand, at the office of Reuters where they were filming the same
tanks on the bridge.
I was actually between the tank and the hotel, when
the round was fired. I was trying to get back from a story, an assignment
I'd been on, what I'd put myself on. And the shell with an extraordinary
noise swooshed over my head and hit the hotel...bang! Tremendous concussion.
White Smoke. And when I got there, two of my colleagues, one from
Reuters and one from Spanish Television, both of whom were to die
within a few hours, the first one within half an hour, were being
brought out in blood-soaked bed-sheeting. And a Lebanese colleague,
a woman, Samia, with a piece of metal in her brain. She recovered.
She had brain surgery. She's married to the London Financial Times
correspondent here in Beirut. She survived. The initial reaction was
very interesting because the BBC went on air saying it was an Iraqi
rocket-propelled grenade. Someone wanted to frighten the press. Then
it emerged, thanks be to God for the attempt to get the truth, that
TV3, a French channel, had recorded the tanks' movements and I actually
rushed to their Bureau and they showed me the videotape and you saw
the American tanks for five minutes beforehand, in complete silence
- there was nothing happening - going onto the bridge, moving its
turret, and then firing at the hotel. The camera shakes and pieces
of plaster and paint fall in front of the camera. Clearly, it's the
same shot. Four or five minutes in which nothing is happening. Now
I was in between the tank and the hotel and there was complete silence.
And when initially the Americans said they knew nothing about it,
when it became clear the French had a film, before the Americans realized
how long the film was running for prior to the attack, they said that
the tank was under persistent sniper and RPG (rocket-propelled grenade)
fire which is not true. I would have heard it because I was close
to the tank and the hotel and it would have been picked up on the
soundtrack, which it wasn't. This statement was made by General Buford
Blount, the same 3rd Infantry Division commander who boasted that
he'd be using depleted uranium munitions during the war in an interview
with Le Monde in March, a month ago. And he then said that there had
been sniper fire and after the round was fired by the American tank,
the sniper fire had ceased. In other words, the clear implication
was that the gunfire had come from the Reuters office, which was a
most mendacious, vicious lie by General Blount. General Blount lied
in order to cover up the death of journalists. It was interesting
that when indeed the Americans actually arrived in central Baghdad
within a day, no journalists were raising these issues with the Americans
who'd just arrived. They should have done...I did actually. And in
fact two days later, I was on the Jumeirah bridge, and climbed onto
the second tank and asked the tank commander whether he fired at the
journalists and he said "I don't know anything about that, sir. I'm
new here." Which he may well have been. How do I know if he was there
before or not? But that tank round was fired deliberately at the hotel
and General Blount's counterfeit - the commander of the 3rd Infantry
Division - was a lie. A total lie. And it was a grotesque lie against
my colleagues. Samia Mahul had a piece of metal in her brain, A young
woman who's most bravely reported the Lebanese civil war. And against
the Ukrainian cameraman for Reuters and against the Spanish cameraman
in the room upstairs. It was a most disgusting lie. And as a journalist,
I have to say that. And General Blount has not apologized for it.
So far he has gotten away with his lie. I'm sorry to say.
Amy: Nouvelle Observatoure, the French Newspaper,
is reporting that a US Army captain named Captain Wolford said unlike
what the military reported, he did not see sniper fire from the Palestine
hotel. But he did see what he thought was light glinting off of binoculars
from one of the hotel's balconies. He said he had never been told
the Palestine Hotel was the home base for almost all the international
journalists in Baghdad and assumed the ----
Fisk: Well, yeah I've heard this story. I know this.
Well, if American commanders in the field are not told the intelligence
information about where people are in what hotels, it doesn't say
much about the American military. Look I don't think the American
military people are inherently wrong or awful or bad. You know, I
met lots of American soldiers and Marines of course. Marines insist
on telling me they're not soldiers, which is an odd thing for a Brit
to hear, but I have to accept it. They were decent people. One young
Marine came up to me. He wanted to use my mobile phone to call his
home and I let him, of course. And he said "I'm really sorry, sir,
about the death of your colleagues." Like he meant it. I don't think
these are intrinsically bad people. I think the idea that there's
some ghastly, you know, evil moving among the American military is
not true. I don't believe that. I think they're decent people and
I think they want to be decent people. When their generals lie, it
must be hard, as Buford Blount lied. General Blount lied about the
journalists. He lied. He was a [inaudible] soldier.
But the ordinary soldiers I met, I think they were
quite sympathetic. I think they understood. And I think that in some
cases, they were very upset about what had happened to our colleagues,
but they were also upset about civilian casualties whom they'd caused.
You know, when on Highway 8, I was interviewing the American tank
commander who'd given the order to fire at the civilian cars on the
road, I thought he was a decent person. I have to say that when I
read my notes afterwards, and I reflected upon the fact that the bodies
of the innocents were still lying in the cars three days later, I
was less inclined to be kind to him. I was less inclined to think
he was a nice person. But I don't think that the American soldiers
were bad people. I think they believed in what they were doing, up
to the point that you can. I think that they believed that their war
was an honorable one, even though I don't think it was. But I think
that they had been previously misled and I think something has gone
wrong with the leadership of the American military when you can have
a general like Blount lying about the press. If to see a flash of
what appears to be a camera or some kind of reflecting instrument
in a window is to be the signal for capital punishment for those who
are legitimately filming the war for an international news agency,
something has gone terribly wrong. I think the real problem at the
end of the day lies in the White House, with President Bush.
There were a number of American Marines and soldiers
I met who were very helpful to me in understanding what was happening.
At one point, I was next to an American tank that came under fire
- I don't know where from - and I thought the soldiers behaved with
great restraint. They could have shot at civilians. In some cases,
I know in other places in Baghdad, they did and killed people and
I think it was a war crime to have done so. But in the American tank
I was close to, they did not. And those soldiers behaved admirably.
I have to say that. I think they were frightened, I think they were
tired. They hadn't washed etc. but I'm sorry, I don't get too romantic
about soldiers who invade other peoples' countries. But I thought
their discipline was probably pretty good, to be frank. In other places,
it was not. But again, you know, war is primarily about suffering
and death, not about victory and defeat and not about presidents who
- oh, I'm so tired of talking about your president. Or indeed the
president of Iraq who's a pretty vicious man frankly if he's still
alive. Where is he? That should be your last question, Amy: Where
is Saddam Hussein?
Goodman: Well. I'm not there yet. But you mentioned
your colleague ----
Fisk: You're going to ask me where he is, aren't
Goodman: OK, where is he?
Fisk: You know what, I have this absolute fixation
that he's in Belarus, the most horrible ex-Soviet state that exists:
Minsk. I tell you why I think this. This is long before the Iran -
sorry, Freudian slip - long before the Iraq war, I had this absolute
obsession that Minsk - I've been to Minsk; it's a horrible city! It's
full of whiskey, corruption, prostitutes and damp apartments. Very,
very favorable to the Ba'ath party of Iraq. And I noticed in the local
newspaper here in Beirut, I fear about six or seven weeks ago an article
that said that the Olympic committee of Belarus in Minsk had invited
Uday Hussein, beloved son of the 'great ruler of Iraq', to a chess
tournament in Minsk and I thought, My God, this is where they're going
to go. And if you think of all the stories which may be complete hogwash
of how they got out by train with the Russian ambassador through Syria,
where else to go but Minsk? I actually mentioned it to my foreign
desk and my foreign editor said "Off you go to Belarus!" and I said
"No please, please, not Belarus! I've been there before. It's awful!"
But I do have this kind of suspicion maybe he's there. But there you
go. He may be in Baghdad. He may be captured tonight. I really have
not the slightest idea.
Goodman: Robert Fisk, you mentioned your Lebanese
colleague who has shrapnel in her head and said she covered the civil
war in Beirut, which brings us to a piece you did about questioning
whether what we're going to see in Iraq is the beginning of a civil
war between the Sunni and the Shiia. What do you think now?
Fisk: Well, if it's not the beginning of a civil
war between the Sunni and the Shiia in Iraq, it will be the beginning
of a war of liberation by the Sunni and the Shiia themselves against
the Americans. My feeling is that there will be a war - it may already
have begun - against the Americans by the Iraqis. The Kurds will play
a different role for all kinds of reasons, but the Sunnis and the
Shiias may well find some unity in trying to get rid of their occupiers.
You know, one can't help in the Middle East but be struck by the ironies
of history. Just over a week before - no, two weeks before America
invaded Iraq, a document went on auction. It's a public auction in
Britain at Swinden in southwestern England. And I made a bid for it.
As a matter of fact, I found out it was going to go on sale and it
was the official British document issued by Lieutenant General Sir
Stanley Maude after he invaded Iraq with the British Army in 1917.
And it was his proclamation to the people of the Zilayah, that's to
say the governerate of Baghdad. And I quote from the first paragraph:
"We come here not as conquerors, but as liberators to free you from
the tyranny of generations," just like President Bush says he's come
now. I actually wrote about this document in the newspaper and said
it was going to come up for auction which was a very bad mistake because
the auctioneers rang me up from Swinden, England to Beirut when I
was actually interviewing, ironically enough, three Iraqi refugees
here in Beirut. And they said do you want to bid for it, the bidding
has started. I said yes I will bid for it. And it was originally going
to go for US $156. And so many readers of the Independent who'd read
my article turned up - it actually went for $2000. And God spare me,
I bought it. So now I am the owner of Sir Stanley Maude's document,
telling the people of Baghdad that the new occupiers, the British
Army of 1917, had come there as liberators, not as conquerors, to
free them from the tyranny of generations of tyrants and dictators.
And now, you know, a few weeks later, there I am in Baghdad, listening
to the American Marine Corps issuing an identical document, telling
the people they'd come not as conquerors, but as liberators, and I
wonder sometimes whether people ever, ever read history books.
Goodman: We're talking to Robert Fisk, the correspondent
for The Independent. He is tired. He has just come out of Iraq after
Fisk: He's definitely tired, Amy. He's very definitely
Goodman: Well, I wanted to ask you about - you might
have heard about Judith Miller's report in the New York Times, saying
a former Iraqi scientist has told a US military team that Iraq destroyed
chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment only days before
the war began and also said Iraq secretly sent unconventional weapons
and technology to Syria starting in the 80's and that more recently...
Fisk (overlapping): How amazing....how amazing...how
very fortunate that that special report should come out now. Listen,
every time I read Judith Miller in the New York Times, I nod sagely
and smile. That's all I'm going to say to you, Amy. I'm sorry. Don't
ask me to even comment upon it. It's not a serious issue.
Goodman: Then let me ask you about the targeting
of Syria right now.
Fisk: Look, Syria will not be invaded by the United
States because it doesn't have enough oil. It will be threatened by
the United States, on Israel's behalf perhaps, but it doesn't have
sufficient oil to make it worth invading. So the answer is: Syria
will not be invaded.
Goodman: As you leave Iraq and you look back at what
you saw, what are key areas that you see as different, for example,
than the Persian Gulf War and what happened afterwards and what are
you going to pursue right now?
Fisk: Well, we've got the first occupation of an
Arab capital by a Western army since General Allenby entered Jerusalem
and since Sir Stanley Maude entered Baghdad. We did have the brief
period of French and American armies entering Damascus and indeed
Beirut in the second World War. But that was part of a Vichy French
Allied War. It wasn't part of a colonial war. We now have American
troops occupying the wealthiest Arab country in the world. And the
shockwaves of that are going to continue for decades to come, long
after you and I are in our graves, if that's where we go. And I don't
think we have yet realized - I don't think that the soldiers involved
or the Presidents involved have yet realized the implications of what
has happened. We have entered a new age of imperialism, the life of
which we have not attempted to judge or assess or understand.
Well, I'm 56 now - maybe I'll never see the end of
it, I probably won't. But my goodness me, I've never seen such historical
acts take place in the 27 years I've been in the Middle East. And
the results cannot be good. I don't believe we've gone to Iraq because
of weapons of mass destruction. If we'd done that, we would have invaded
North Korea. I don't believe we've gone there because of human rights
abuses because we connived at those abuses for many years when we
supported Saddam. I think we've gone there for oil. And though we
may get the oil, I think the price will be very high. More than that,
I don't know. You know, my crystal ball, as I always say, has broken
a long time ago. But I'll keep on watching the story, I guess, because
like my father who was much older than my mother, was a soldier in
the first World War, I want to keep watching history happen. I would,
however, yet again, for the umpteenth time on your program, Amy, quote
Amira Haas, that wonderful journalist for Ha'aretz, the Israeli newspaper,
who said "the purpose of journalism is to monitor the centers of power"
and we still do not do that, and we must monitor the centers of power
and we must try to question why governments do the things that they
do and why they lie about it. And we don't do that. We don't do that.
Goodman: Well Robert Fisk, I want to thank you for