Fisk on ISIS: mind your language!

August 23, 2014 at 1:24 pm (apologists and collaborators, fascism, genocide, grovelling, Human rights, iraq, islamism, jerk, Jim D, kurdistan, language, Syria, terror, Uncategorized, United States)

Robert Fisk, Christchurch, 2008.jpg

Above: Fisk says ‘apocalyptic’ talk is “childish”

An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 Yazidis driven onto Mount Sinjar to escape genocide; 130,000 other Yazadis fleeing to Kurdistan or Irbil; 100,000 Assyrian Christians in flight for their lives; 20,000 Shia Turkmen residents of Amerli besieged for two months and at risk of massacre and/or starvation; countless women and girls kidnapped, raped and sold into slavery; massacres, beheadings, crucifictions, forced conversions …

… I’d say that was a pretty apocalyptic picture, warranting strong action by those of us who care about human rights and democracy.

But for The Independent‘s Robert Fisk, not only is strong action unwarranted: even strong language is to be deplored.

Yesterday, Fisk’s characteristic combination of sneering and preaching was directed at Obama’s use of language:

‘Foley’s murder [has been turned] into a further reason to go on bombing the Isis “caliphate” . And what else did they provoke from us – or at least from America’s vacationing President/ A battle on strictly religious terms … Yes Barak Obama … informed the world that “No just God would stand for what they [Isis] did yesterday and for what they do every single day.” So there you have it: Obama turned the “caliphate’s” savagery into an inter-religious battle of rival Gods, “ours” [ie the West’s] against “theirs” [the Muslim God, of course]. This was the nearest Obama has yet come in rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 in which he said that “we” are going to go on a “Crusade”.’

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that any serious commentator on Isis would have more important things to fulminate about than Obama’s use of language? Never mind the fact that Fisk’s interpretation of what Obama said and the comparison with Bush’s use of the word “crusade” is plainly nonsense, and even Fisk himself goes on to admit as much in his next paragraph. So what point, exactly, is this so-called “expert” on Middle Eastern affairs trying to make? Who knows, except that it’s all “our” (ie the West’s, the US’s, Britians’s, Europe’s, etc, etc) fault, perhapd because of “our” use of language. But cutting through Fisk’s verbose waffle is a difficult task, and I for one actually prefer the straightforward ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ western self-hatred of, say,  Seumas Milne, and the Stop The War Coalition’s simple formula that everything’s the fault of the ‘West’.

And Fisk’s linguistic concerns continue: in today’s Indepenedent he once again deplores the Yanks’ use of strong language when describing Isis/Islamic State:

‘”Apocalyptic.” “End-of-days strategic vision.” “Beyond anything we have ever seen.” “An imminent threat to every interest we have.” “Beyond just a terrorist group.” “We must prepare for everything.”

‘So are they Martians? Alien invaders from Planet X? Destroyer spacecraft from the movie Independence Day?

‘The word movie is the clue. Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. It only needed Tom Cruise at their press conference to utter the words “Mission impossible”. Who writes this God-awful script? Can’t the US Defence Secretary and his joint chiefs chairman do better than this?

It would be interesting to witness this educated, cultured Brit Arabist and Middle East “expert” explain to the Yazidis, the Assyrian Christians, the Shias of Amerli and the many other victims of Isis/Islamic State, just why the “apocalyptic” language used by Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey, is so inappropriate. And why it’s the main issue that should concern us when discussing a fascist movement.

Iraq map


  1. Jim Denham said,

    Another strange, rambling article by Fisk, in today’s Indie:

    Note, in particular, this:

    “But those who have arrived in al-Baghdadi’s realm from the world of the internet and the website have come from abroad. They are the hi-tech jihadists, id you like, who understand they will never receive a fair hearing from the West’s largely supine and unquestioning media but who are prepared to create their own.”


  2. Jim Denham said,

    I’ve just seen this on Facebook:

    Donatella Barbarella

    Robin Yassin-Kassab:
    If you read those who dominate the liberal-left press – Cockburn, Fisk, Milne, Owen Jones, Steele, Tariq Ali, Pilger – you would believe that the Free Army never existed, the Syrian people gassed themselves, Assad is a secularist and anti-imperialist, the revolution was a sectarian and foreign plot from the start, that the West must ally with Assad to stop extremism, etc… Lots of people believe this shit because they trust these shit-mongers. Fisk’s journalism is now unalloyed embedded Assadist propaganda. The others utter plain untruths, what are usually called lies. All of them are entirely ignorant of what’s actually happening, or, worse, they ignore reality in favour of their pre-existent (West-centric) story. I have never been more disgusted with journalism or more despairing of its ability to inform people. And these criminals against meaning, as I said, are of the liberal-left. These fantasists who think they’re radical, these pro-fascists who think they’re revolutionary, these (LRB) conspiracists and racists who think they’re intellectuals – these are the very worst filth, so much worse than those who staff the Mail, Telegraph or Times.

  3. Suhayl Saadi said,

    Arguing that the USA, UK et al directly arming ‘the rebels’ early on would have had any kind of different outcome – as Yassin-Kassab has done – is another pipe-dream. He also argued for a NATO attack on Syria on the context of the use – by one or more groups – of chemical weapons. His assumption was that it could only have been the Syrian Government, that the ‘rebels’ were incapable to using them. Not everyone is so certain of that analysis. Not everyone was so certain of arming the ‘rebels’ and of the military action (aka destruction of the infrastructure of a functioning state and overthrowing the regime under the cloak of ‘humanitarian’ action in Libya), either. And that too was a great ‘success’, as we can see today; Libya now is a failed state. Iraq is another exemplar of the benefits of Western Military Intervention. Syria would be an utter disaster with or without overt Western military intervention.

    And the fact is, our militaries and those of our allies have been active for a very long time in and around Syria. We indeed have been ‘intervening’ extensively. Still now, we seek to instrumentalise ISIS rather than destroy it. It is useful for our purposes. But suggest any of these points to people like Yassin-Kassab invites little more than a torrent self-righteous of abuse and vitriol. One is accused of supporting the brutal (and it is a brutal) Baathist regime, of apologising for mass murder and so on. The hard truth is that we largely are allied strategically with Sunni Islamist movements and paramilitaries and with the states – Saudi Arabia/UAE/Qatar/Turkey/Pakistan et al – which back them. From time-to-time, we may attack some of these Islamist groupings, when they do not seem to be furthering our goals and of course there are turf wars within our own power nodes, there is always jostling for maximum advantage. But they basically are ‘our mad dogs’ (and when I say, ‘our’, I include all the aforementioned regimes, not just Western ones) in the Middle East. Of course, Iran has its own clerical fascist mad dogs. And that, sadly, is that.

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