Phillip asked:

I'm troubled by this book. Robert Fisk has many critics, and some who know what they are talking about. I am trying to get a picture of what is happening in the Middle East. I will finish this book, but am not sure that it is the definitive account of what is actually happening.

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 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.
Matthew Jankowski I've read about 25% of the book. So far, I'm not seeing much that is actually 'questionable' or even 'new', besides the addition of the author's personal experience. My takeaways so far have more to do with seeing the history all in one place and piecing it all together:
Something like:
1978: US. Embassy in Tehran Occupied. Hostages taken.
1980: The First Persian Gulf War started between Iraq and Iran. Eventually involving nearly all Middle Eastern Countries. Eventually, Iraq started using Chemical Weapons.
~1984: War escalates to involve the destruction of tankers in the gulf. US. sends ships to defend tankers.
1988: Iran Air Flight 655 shot down by USS Vincennes. Lockerbie bombing.
1991: US Invasion of Iraq.

I find this book an exhausting read. I'm sure it will be even more so as the narrative moves further towards 9/11 and beyond. I wish I had such a resource as I tried to understand 9/11 back in 2001.

The personal vignettes about Robert Fisk's father draw parallels between the early 20th century European experience and the constant Middle Eastern turmoil. I've read enough about the Great War lately to find his inclusion of personal history apropos.

His reportage includes numerous facts which could be readily proven true or false. I'd be curious to find a resource that takes him to task.

Mr. Fisk finds state sponsored violence difficult to justify. Many would probably take him to task just for that.
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