Much of what journalist Robert Fisk writes strikes a congruent cord with me; however, there are patches of his writing where he brays discordantly. In his recent article,1 Fisk launched into an ad hominen-laced tirade against Libyan Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Writes Fisk, “Gaddafi is a fruitcake and … he probably does occasionally chew carpets as well” and “Gaddafi is completely bonkers, flaky, a crackpot on the level of Ahmadinejad of Iran and Lieberman of Israel…” Yes, Fisk did add in Lieberman, but the implication is that Arab rulers are flakes while flakes do not become rulers in Israel.
Fisk avers that seldom do fruitcakes rule in Europe: “The Middle East seems to produce these ravers – as opposed to Europe, which in the past 100 years has only produced Berlusconi, Mussolini, Stalin and [Hitler] …”
Fisk acknowledges that “there is a racist element in all this.”
And for Fisk, the apple does not fall far from the tree, as he describes Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, as “crazed” and states the father-son “should meet their just rewards, along with their henchmen?”
Did Fisk ever write that Bush Sr and Bush Jr “should meet their just rewards, along with their henchmen?” Does Fisk ever describe the mercenaries2 of the US, UK, Canada, etc. as “henchmen?” Is this not tendentious reporting, if not racist?
When did Fisk become a psychologist?
What makes western rulers such as George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Barack Obama, David Cameron, Stephen Harper saner than Gaddafi? Was aggressing Iraq on a contrived pretext and slaughtering upwards of a million Iraqis and forcing millions more to become refugees sane?
Can mass murders be sane? Is not mass murder the apical quintessence of sociopathology? Meanwhile, the killing continues under Obama whose sanity Fisk has never called into question.
Fisk’s entire piece is tinged with bias and demonization. For example, he writes of “Gaddafi’s tanks,” but would he write of “Blair’s tanks,”3 Cameron’s planes, or Obama’s warships?
What are readers supposed to deduce from Fisk’s superfluous ad hominem? Has he lost a journalistic marble or two?
That Arabs are saddled with authoritarian rulers is immensely due to western states foisting such rulers upon the people, as Fisk well knows.
Instead of rabbiting on about the mental delusions of Arab or Iranian rulers, Fisk might define sanity for his readers and what makes western rulers such as Bush, Blair, Cameron, Obama sane versus Middle Eastern rulers. Otherwise, he is casting stones from a glasshouse.
Fisk realizes that the invasion of Libya now is “a Nato force committed to regime-change…”; however, he does not delve much into the more important matter of whether regime change is legitimate or sane.
He does address whether “we” should be the ones to invade. In doing so he neglects recent history when he writes: “However bad our behaviour in the past, what should we do now?” He finds such a question is too late. Late or not, surely a retreat into a distant past is unnecessary when invasions/occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti and succor to coups in Honduras and Venezuela are current history. And there is the decades-old, ongoing western — overt and tacit — support for the dispossession of, discrimination against, and killing of Palestinians.
Gaddafi may well be mentally unbalanced, but he is not launching insane massive invasions of far-flung countries. Criticizing his long tenure as a “leader” in Libya is also fine; however, this criticism should be applied equally to other countries. There is virtually no US criticism of the unelected Abdullahs in Jordan or Saudi Arabia, the unelected king Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in Bahrain, nor was there of the despotic ruler of Egypt — Hosni Mubarak.
Surely what “we” should not be doing now is focusing on psychologically assessing the mental fitness of rulers from afar, while giving free passes to “our” own rulers who are, at a minimum, accomplices in mass killing. As for colonially created nation states, I submit what they should do now is try to undo the monumental crimes they committed against Indigenous peoples whose land they stole and remain in occupation of before passing judgement on others.
- Robert Fisk, “First it was Saddam. Then Gaddafi. Now there’s a vacancy for the West’s favourite crackpot tyrant,” Independent (UK), 19 March 2011. [↩]
- Mercenary is arguably an apt term for fighters in western “volunteer” militaries because surely a number of them enlisted for a paycheck [↩]
- My internet search turned up nothing attributable to Fisk on this nor for “Blair’s warships,” “Blair’s ships,” “Blair’s planes,” and since the British public is Fisk’s main readership, this search was deemed sufficient. I leave it to more diligent readers to try and snoop out such a quotation. [↩]