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... There seem to have been several Oliver Norths. There was Oliver North the Patriot, whom Robert McFarlane would describe as ‘an imaginative, aggressive, committed young officer’, Ronald Reagan’s personally approved ‘hero’. There was Oliver North the Man of God, the born-again Christian from the charismatic Episcopal Church of the Apostles who believed that the Lord had healed his wounds and who – in the words of one former associate at the National Security Council – ‘thought he was doing God’s work at the NSC ...

Memories of the Mekong

Robert Fisk, 1 October 1981

The Struggle for Afghanistan 
by Nancy Newell and Richard Newell.
Cornell, 236 pp., £9, August 1981, 0 8014 1389 3
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Afghanistan 
by John C Griffiths.
Deutsch, 225 pp., £7.95, June 1981, 0 233 97350 8
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... Soviet troops are not instinctive, rapacious killers nor are they the political descendants of Genghis Khan. The soldiers who put me on board their convoy in the snows of the Hindu Kush last year were polite, confused, under-trained, frustrated, pathetically anxious to appear civilised in a country whose people wanted to kill them. We had already been ambushed by the Mojaheddin north of Charikar and when we had been driving southwards for another five hours, the convoy commander sitting next to me in the Soviet Army truck asked me if I liked Afghanistan ...

Diary

Robert Fisk: Salman Rushdie and Other Demons, 16 March 1989

... First, the necessary caveat. If anyone killed Salman Rushdie, it would be an evil act, a murder that should be condemned by all sane and law-abiding people. It would be a devastating blow at freedom of speech, a disgraceful manifestation of bigotry and fanaticism. May it never happen. Now some less dramatic thoughts about Mr Rushdie’s predicament ...

War Aims

Robert Fisk, 21 February 1991

... What is the new world order?’ a Saudi preacher asked me the other day. Order is something the Saudis like the sound of. The world is an entity from which many Saudis are isolated. ‘New’ is a word which for Arabs has a suspicious, dangerous ring about it. I tried to explain what President Bush might have meant by the phrase, referring to the context in which it first appeared ...

Doers of Mischief on Earth

Robert Fisk, 19 January 1989

The Shah’s Last Ride: The Story of the Exile, Misadventures and Death of the Emperor 
by William Shawcross.
Chatto, 463 pp., £15.95, January 1989, 9780701132545
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... The fall of the Shah was an epic. His downfall had about it something of the Medieval morality play, even something of a Greek tragedy. It might have qualified as Shakespearian tragedy if the Shah had been a truly great man who fell from grace through a single flaw. He was not a great man and his sins were many. Hubris was perhaps his greatest crime, although the Iranians saw things somewhat differently ...

Miles from Palestine

Robert Fisk, 23 June 1988

The Yellow Wind 
by David Grossman, translated by Haim Watzman.
Cape, 202 pp., £10.95, June 1988, 9780224025669
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... Around eight years before the Palestinians began their current uprising against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, a prematurely old Palestinian guerrilla – unshaven, his combat jacket frayed at the sleeves – sat in a breeze-block office in the slums of a North Lebanese refugee camp and told me why he knew he would return to the land which he still called Palestine ...

Poor Khaled

Robert Fisk, 3 December 1992

... Prince Khaled bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, commander-in-chief of all foreign forces in the Gulf War, nephew of King Fahd, and son of the Saudi Defence Minister, Prince Sultan, used to employ an American public relations company to manage his press conferences. Deep in the high-pile carpeted interior of the Saudi Ministry of Defence, an Irish-American of massive build – a certain Mr Lynch from Chicago – would stand just behind Prince Khaled, choosing which journalists should be permitted to ask questions and suggesting to the rather portly Saudi commander how he should reply ...

Remaining Issues

Robert Fisk, 23 February 1995

... This article by Robert Fisk was commissioned by the ‘New Yorker’, who subsequently declined to publish it on the grounds that it was too ‘polemical’ Selma Tawil brought the fifty-year-old keys into the room, sat down in her corner armchair and let them spill out of her hands onto the floor: heavy store-room keys, rusting cupboard keys, keys shaped like backbones for office safes, car keys for an old British-made Hillman, and one larger steel key with a three-and-a-half inch shaft, gun-metal grey with an elegant knot at one end and a broad, worn blade ...

Ariel the Unlucky

David Gilmour, 5 April 1990

Warrior: The Autobiography of Ariel Sharon 
by Ariel Sharon and David Chanoff.
Macdonald, 571 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 356 17960 5
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The Slopes of Lebanon 
by Amos Oz, translated by Maurie Goldberg-Bartura.
Chatto, 246 pp., £13.95, January 1990, 0 7011 3444 5
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From Beirut to Jerusalem 
by Thomas Friedman.
Collins, 541 pp., £15, March 1990, 0 00 215096 4
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Pity the nation: Lebanon at War 
by Robert Fisk.
Deutsch, 622 pp., £17.95, February 1990, 0 233 98516 6
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... and tore away ‘every illusion’ he had ‘ever held about the Jewish state’. And for Robert Fisk, who no longer had illusions about that or anything else, it was a year in which he escaped death a score of times and lived to produce some of the most memorable journalism of the decade. Sharon’s book is a surprise, for it contains little ...

De Valera and Churchill

John Horgan, 21 July 1983

In Time of War 
by Robert Fisk.
Deutsch, 566 pp., £25, April 1983, 0 233 97514 4
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... interested in exploring this now apparently pivotal aspect of Anglo-Irish relations will find Robert Fisk’s book both absorbing and provocative. Subtitled ‘Ireland, Ulster and the Price of Neutrality’, it begins its main narrative in 1938, with a brief look back to 1921, when the British military authorities insisted on the retention of the ...

One for water, one for urine

Stephen Smith, 3 December 1992

An Evil Cradling 
by Brian Keenan.
Hutchinson, 297 pp., £16.99, September 1992, 0 09 175208 6
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Hostage: The Complete Story of the Lebanese Captives 
by Con Coughlin.
Little, Brown, 461 pp., £16.99, October 1992, 0 316 90304 3
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... of the captives of Lebanon, the George Harrison of the hostage scene, the other one. The reporter Robert Fisk has confessed to him how he failed to follow up a dubious tip-off about where he was being kept in 1988. When Keenan was held hostage in Beirut journalists found themselves asking what the story was. I am not referring to the international news ...

As seen on TV

Keith Kyle, 26 September 1991

From the House of War 
by John Simpson.
Hutchinson, 390 pp., £13.99, August 1991, 0 09 175034 2
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In the Eye of the Storm 
by Roger Cohen and Claudio Gatti.
Bloomsbury, 342 pp., £16.99, August 1991, 0 7475 1050 4
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... the military side of the invasion (though not the political) looked to Simpson’s BBC colleague Robert Fox, among others, to have been too carefully prepared an operation for that to be the case. Secondly, and quite contrary to the general belief, Simpson holds that Iraq was never a suitable case for treatment by economic sanctions. This is important ...

Effing the Ineffable

Glen Newey: Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century by Jonathan Glover, 25 November 1999

Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century 
by Jonathan Glover.
Cape, 469 pp., £18.99, October 1999, 0 224 05240 3
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... You can follow the same trail that led to a network ban in the US on the repeat showing of a Robert Fisk documentary criticising Israel. If enough powerful people – which means enough people with control over the major public communications in the US – make enough noise on behalf of victims in their team (more deserving of interest and concern ...

Issues of Truth and Invention

Colm Tóibín: Francis Stuart’s wartime broadcasts, 4 January 2001

The Wartime Broadcasts of Francis Stuart 
edited by Brendan Barrington.
Lilliput, 192 pp., £25, September 2000, 1 901866 54 8
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... was that the writer was an elderly man whose name carried with it an uncertain stigma. In 1983 Robert Fisk published In Time of War: Ireland, Ulster and the Price of Neutrality 1939-45 and this seemed to settle the argument about what Stuart had been doing in Germany. Fisk’s account of the episode was based on ...

No Intention of Retreating

Lorna Scott Fox: Martha Gellhorn’s Wars, 2 September 2004

Martha Gellhorn: A Life 
by Caroline Moorehead.
Vintage, 550 pp., £8.99, June 2004, 0 09 928401 4
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... to say that the pioneer of a kind of war reporting epitomised today by Pilger, Maggie O’Kane and Robert Fisk did not receive the recognition that was her due, when it was due. Instead there was more pain and guilt in store for Gellhorn, as her mother slowly died and she couldn’t give what she felt, and her love-starved son went increasingly off the ...

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