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The Great War For Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East

4.4  ·  Rating details ·  3,446 Ratings  ·  357 Reviews
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 Afghanis ...more
Hardcover, First Edition (U.S.), 1107 pages
Published November 8th 2005 by Alfred A. Knopf (first published October 3rd 2005)
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Daniel Mcbrearty I am currently reading this book. Fisk comes over as an honest reporter - essentially it is an account of the many extraordinary and disturbing things…moreI am currently reading this book. Fisk comes over as an honest reporter - essentially it is an account of the many extraordinary and disturbing things that he has seen over a long career as a reporter. It begins with his account of several pre-911 meetings with Bin Laden, the last deep in the Afghan mountains, and goes on to talk about the UK/US installation of the Shah in Iran (prior to which it seems to have been a progressive democracy, but one that would not play ball because of oil), and the subsequent reign of Khomeini. And so on, and so on.

The book is long, and Fisk has seen so much that there is much to say. It is often hard to deal with as there has been so much terrible violence, and Fisk has seen much of it. And western powers do not come out of the story in a very positive light - not at all. Duplicity and a total failure to learn the lessons of history seem to be the norm. Fisk only needs to recount facts to give this impression.

I am now resorting to speed reading many passages because I want to see where Fisk goes with this, and some of the long descriptions of the awful inhumanity and desolation are frankly hard to take. But, it is a fascinating account of Middle East 20th century history, and I doubt that there can be many who have seen as much of it at first hand.

I may come back to update this review if and when I get through.
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If journalistic chronicle is first draft of history, here's a clarion call of a book that distills more than thirty years of reporting into a veritable micro history of the contemporary Middle East which, despite standing at 1300+ pages, feels too short for the staggering war saga in a state of flux.

This one book taught me more about the forces that shaped - rather misshaped - the Middle East post World War Two than the cacophony of "security experts" keeping publishing industry in business for
Ryan Mishap
I was listening to an interview with Fisk, thirty years a reporter in the Middle East, on Democracy Now when Amy Goodman asked him what gave him hope. Five, ten, fifteen seconds of silence and then one word: nothing. The flat tone and finality of it caused me to choke on tears. Silence, then Goodman, almost incredulous, asked, “Nothing?” Fisk, responding, “No, nothing.” Then, sensing that this isn’t what the audience wanted—or perhaps needed—he back-pedaled and said something about compassionate ...more
Updated 18/06/09 (it's coincidence I finished this book exactly one year ago - currently rereading the chapters on Israel-Palestine)

Sorrow. Indignation. Dismay. Abhorrence. Horror. Disgust. Wrath. All the things that haunt you through the nights.

If there’s one history book that totally changes the way I see the world, it must be this one. It is an extremely hard read, not so much because of its length but the gruesome story told. Robert Fisk leads us through a harrowing journey of tremendous hu
Jun 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
But war is primarily not about victory or defeat but about death and the infliction of death. It represents the total failure of the human spirit.

It would be spurious to suggest that I'm not haunted by this book. Maybe it is a touch of American isolationism, perhaps a hint of xenophobia, that we -- meaning I -- don't peer more into these pages.

Robert Fisk has proven, amongst loftier achievements, to be an audible author. Dozens of times over the past three days I sighed and groaned under the sp
Noble-winged seraphs of the jury, look at this tangle of thorns.

See the eruption of this area in flames, see the piles of skulls disintegrating in the wind, see houses ridden with bullets and children torn apart in martyrdom, see trenches full of soldiers, dead of gas.

I would like to read his thoughts on current events, on new revolutions and civil wars, and faint hopes on democracy, but I doubt, after what he has seen and heard, he has any hope.

This is a fearsome history, scourging and lamentin
I don't know why I read books like this. Or rather, I do--the Middle East is one of the more critical flash points of this century and I think it's important to know how we got to this point. But dammit, I just get so damn angry and depressed when I read such books that I sometimes think it's not worth it.

As I write this, the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraqi invasion is proceeding apace in the UK. The evidence that has come out so far has been bleak and depressing, and largely corroborates the vi
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fisk'e katılmadığım bazı hususlar olsa da Ortadoğu'da (Afganistan, İran, Irak, İsrail, Filistin ve Cezayir'de) özellikle 1980-2005 arası yaşanan önemli olaylara tanıklık eden bir gazeteci olması nedeniyle Ortadoğu'yu tanımak için okumaya değer bir eser. Fisk yaşananları (savaş, işkence vs.) okuyanları rahatsız edecek şekilde detaylı olarak paylaşmış, okurken sarsıldığınız şeyleri birilerinin yaşadığını düşünmek çok acı.

Kitapla ilgili Goodreads'teki yorumlardan birini (Ryan Mishap isimli kullanıc
Mikey B.
Sep 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A Tour de Force...

This book is a literary opus. It is extremely well-written; and I am talking of a book of 1,000 plus pages. Surprisingly, it is written in the first person; based on interviews and up front experiences. The author has lived in the Middle East for over thirty years and the book is journalistic-history with the emphasis on journalism.

This is a book about war - this is no dry, academic dissertation - it is a personal experience and I suspect somewhat of a catharsis and a labour o
Apr 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superbly written. No punches pulled and harrowing but recommended to anyone trying to make sense of the Middle East and the West's meddling there...

I picked this up in an effort to try to make sense of the turmoil in the Middle East. Robert Fisk, Journalist/Correspondent of the Times and then the Independent shows that it's by no means easy to do that. This is always compelling reading whilst experiencing heartbreak and rage.

We follow his intrepid journeys into “trouble spots”, almost a euphemis
Apr 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"We might be able to escape history. We can draw lines in our lives. The years of 1918 and 1945 created our new lives in the West. We could start again. We think we can recommend the same to the peoples of the Middle East. But we can't. History - a history of injustice - cloaks them too deeply" (1285). In the Gestalt's Web in which we live, the actions taken by living, conscious beings obey the universal laws of growth, cause, effect. They take on a life of their own, and continue to grow down t ...more
Justin Evans
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-etc
I imagine the editor of this book thinking once every two pages "hm... maybe we could cut this out?" and then the very next paragraph being a rant about editorial intervention/dilution/censorship, which leads the editor to think "hm... don't really want to be the subject of one of *those*. I guess I'll just let him ramble on. Which is too bad, because at 800 pages or so this would have been an amazing, amazing book. Without the subtraction of 500 pages, it's just really good.

It's also not reall
Aug 21, 2010 marked it as intermittently-reading  ·  review of another edition
I'd love some day to settle into this behemoth and accompany Fisk through a decades-long recollection of futility, hope, hatred, bravery, cynicism, and internecine strife and betrayal as it uniquely existed, and exists, in the forlorn Middle East. However, I've yet to make that lengthy commitment - in part due to the sheer size of Fisk's monstrosity of a book and in another because of my younger brother's antipathy to TGWFC, which he perceived as a questionably accurate encomium to the British j ...more
Kym Robinson
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that is about Fisk himself as it is about the events that he has witnessed and reported on inside the Greater Middle East. It is not a good book, by that I mean it does not leave the reader feeling pleasant or even satisfied. That is why it is in many ways a great book.

Fisk has lived in Lebanon and reported on the events of the Middle East since the late 1970s, he was on the ground when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, he was there when they left and the nation was wracked with ca
Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cold-war, middle-east
While I agree with many facets of his argument, I was distracted by how disorganized his writing was. At 1041 pages, this book is 300-400 pages too long. Furthermore, some of the stuff Fisk brought up, particularly the belabored connection he was trying to make between his father - a WW1 Vet- and the current situation in the Middle East, was irrelevant to his argument. Additionally, the veracity of his argument is at times hindered by flagrant historical inaccuracies. Mind you, these inaccuracie ...more
Aug 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Before reading this, I had a very limited knowledge of the history of the Middle East, or the issues that still affect it today. I feel I have a much better (although of course not comprehensive) understanding now. This book had me alternating between rage and tears on numerous occasions, and as other reviewers have said, it's not easy to read: at times I was left with such a feeling of responsibility and helplessness. I've been growing progressively more cynical in relation to the media as I've ...more
محمد الهاشمي
احتجت لبعض الوقت لاستعادة رأيي في الكتاب. فيسك هو افضل من يكتب في المؤامرة وسياسات الشرق الاوسط حاليا. السبب انه صحفي من طراز رفيع. وهذا الكتاب يقدم لكل من يريد ان يشعر ان الغرب شيطان كل المبررات مع بعض الأدلة. امتعني لكن الإكثار من هذه الكتب تجعلك غارقا في شعور انك ضحية لمؤامرة
Mar 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Started reading this during my previous summer traveling through Australia/South-East Asia.
Could not put it down.
I want to declare that this book gave me a complete re-awakening in my thoughts about global geo-politics.
For a few years, I had grown utterly contempt with global politics. I focused inward, to my job, the meaning of life.
This book hit me like a lightning bolt, and has ignited that spark in me, as I once had it.
The phrase, "truth is stranger than fiction" comes to mind to descri
Jack Radey
Jun 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A big honking thick tome, not pleasant reading. Author is a war correspondent, of the non-embedded type, covers from Algeria to Afghanistan, with stops in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, and a little expedition in time to cover the Armenian genocide in Turkey. No noticeable good guys. Except maybe the US sergeant who, after a State Dept or CIA type told him to turn back refugees fleeing Saddam's repression following King Bush I's first Gulf War, told the suit to go fuck himself and let the peopl ...more
Liam Howley
May 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was watching what is sometimes called "the news" earlier today when I was reminded of having read this book. A life lived! I remember being invited by a friend to an amnesty lecture. Robert Fisk was the speaker. He spoke eloquently for sometime, his primary message being a journalists obligation to speak truth to power. There are some in his profession, who fulfill this obligation with courage and conviction, but unfortunately they have become an ever smaller exception.

This book is a monument.
Dec 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Very good info, but .... needs an editor for organization!

First, let me say that Fisk is a very good journalist, and it shows through in the personal details he records. He knows how to both write well and ask good questions. He also knows how to connect the dots well. And, he has stuck his head out -- a lot -- to get real war stories while refusing to "embed," whether with American troops, British ones, or any other forces.

Second is that he has what will probably seem to most Americans to be a
Sep 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction


I don't quite know what to say. It's taken me absolutely ages to read this book, because I had to stop every couple of pages so as not to break down in tears or fly into an - and this is quite important - impotent rage.

It's as close as you can get to an unbiased source of the history of the conflict in the Middle East. Small disclosure: I'm in my early twenties. I never had much interest in the American wars in the Middle East prior to September 11. I bought
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The most eye opening book to the horrors that exist in this supposed democratic world. It has changed my understanding of not only the Middle-East but of how the West has raped, pillaged and bullied its way into the dwindling finances and boarders of the Middle-East and how a constant spiral of betrayal and false promises is inflicted upon the Jew, Christian and Muslim public.

It has made me sick and angry at my own governments (U.K) treacherous policies from as far back as the First World War. I
Feb 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, middle-east
I bought this book many years ago when I first started reading non fiction literature. I started and stopped twice... Its sheer size and the density of information daunted me. But third time's a charm and I finally read this staggering work and am better for it.
In "The Great War For Civilisation" Robert Fisk, a British foreign correspondent, gives an overview of the many conflicts in the Middle East in the past 3 or 4 decades. This isn't a history book per sé. Fisk has condensed 30 years of jou
Cassie Allen
Jun 20, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am about halfway through this book. Had to step away from it for awhile after reading the chapter about Algeria. Robert Fisk is a war correspondent and this book consists mainly of dispatches he has filed over the years regarding conflicts in the Middle East. There are no heartwarming human-interest stories in here although a number of the people he encounters during travels through conflict zones stand out as examples of humanity sometimes rising over brutality. This book is hard to read but ...more
Apr 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A phenomenal book. Made me swear to never engage in any more debates on the Middle East with fools who get their info from TV news. A terrible indictment on all the role-players in the clusterfuck that is now the Middle East.
Mar 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
As a person who has spent much of the last decade attempting to understand the complexities of the Muslim World, Fisk's memoir is an epiphany. Compiled from thirty years of reporting from every major conflict to affect the region, Fisk offers a compelling, and often uncomfortable, portrait of the Middle East.
If you're offended by harsh criticism of the West, this is probably one to skip because successive American and British administrations take it on the chin in Fisk's narrative. Through met
Jun 03, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating book and clarified for me many of the issues that led to the state that the modern Middle east finds itself in. I also found it interesting as in 2003 I found myself as part of the "Army of Occupation", to which Robert Fisk refers, in Iraq.

Mr Fisk's years as a foreign correspondant, living and working among the people about whom he is writing, have meant that he has been able to gain an insight that many would not. It also gives him some authority when he speaks about so ma
Dec 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am not quite done with this 1300+ page book, but am finally very close to the end. I have been slugging along for more than a year now at about the rate of a chapter a month. Part of the reason for the slow pace is the subject matter, it isn't exactly rosy, but the book is as thorough as it gets. Robert Fisk has had a long distinguished career as a Middle East news reporter, and gos through his knowledge of the region in the 20th century incident by incident, country by country. In between he ...more
Mar 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First off, this book is monstrous. However, through its length, the author is able to create a complete understanding of the recent history of the middle-east. And this book does just that. It is a compilation of Fisk's gathered knowledge from 30 years of reporting and even includes his own interviews with Osama bin Laden. Fisk's experience as a reporter in the middle-east is fully evident when reading this book. Not only is Fisk well informed, but he also offers great insight and personal opin ...more
I'm not the type to read massive tomes by grand old lions of journalism, with their self-aggrandizing, bullet-dodging tales, but I made an exception for this one. It is by no means a complete history, but it's an excellent sent of dispatches from the Middle East and reports on the grim fruits of the imperial endeavor in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Armenia, Afghanistan, Algeria, Palestine, and other parched and unhappy places much abused by the Balfour Declaration and the machinations of Messrs. Rumsfeld ...more
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Robert Fisk is an English writer and journalist. As Middle East correspondent of The Independent, he has primarily been based in Beirut for more than 30 years. He has published a number of books and has reported on the United States'war in Afghanistan and its 2003 invasion of Iraq. Fisk holds more British and International Journalism awards than any other foreign correspondent. The New York Times ...more
More about Robert Fisk...
“Terrorism” is a word that has become a plague on our vocabulary, the excuse and reason and moral permit for state-sponsored violence— our violence—which is now used on the innocent of the Middle East ever more outrageously and promiscuously. Terrorism, terrorism, terrorism. It has become a full stop, a punctuation mark, a phrase, a speech, a sermon, the be-all and end-all of everything that we must hate in order to ignore injustice and occupation and murder on a mass scale. Terror, terror, terror, terror. It is a sonata, a symphony, an orchestra tuned to every television and radio station and news agency report, the soap-opera of the Devil, served up on prime-time or distilled in wearyingly dull and mendacious form by the right-wing “commentators” of the American east coast or the Jerusalem Post or the intellectuals of Europe. Strike against Terror. Victory over Terror. War on Terror. Everlasting War on Terror. Rarely in history have soldiers and journalists and presidents and kings aligned themselves in such thoughtless, unquestioning ranks.” 27 likes
“Soldier and civilian, they died in their tens of thousands because death had been concocted for them, morality hitched like a halter round the warhorse so that we could talk about 'target-rich environments' and 'collateral damage' - that most infantile of attempts to shake off the crime of killing - and report the victory parades, the tearing down of statues and the importance of peace.
Governments like it that way. They want their people to see war as a drama of opposites, good and evil, 'them' and 'us', victory or defeat. But war is primarily not about victory or defeat but about death and the infliction of death. It represents a total failure of the human spirit.”
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