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

Robert Fisk, Author . Knopf $35 (1107p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4151-0

Combining a novelist's talent for atmosphere with a scholar's grasp of historical sweep, foreign correspondent Fisk (Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon ) has written one of the most dense and compelling accounts of recent Middle Eastern history yet. The book opens with a deftly juxtaposed account of Fisk's two interviews with Osama bin Laden. In the first, held in Sudan in 1993, bin Laden declared himself "a construction engineer and an agriculturist." He had no time to train mujahideen, he said; he was busy constructing a highway. In the second, held four years later in Afghanistan, he declared war on the Saudi royal family and America.

Fisk, who has lived in and reported on the Middle East since 1976, first for the (London) Times and now for the Independent , possesses deep knowledge of the broader history of the region, which allows him to discuss the Armenian genocide 90 years ago, the 2002 destruction of Jenin, and the battlefields of Iraq with equal aplomb. But it is his stunning capacity for visceral description—he has seen, or tracked down firsthand accounts of, all the major events of the past 25 years—that makes this volume unique. Some of the chapters contain detailed accounts of torture and murder, which more squeamish readers may be inclined to skip, but such scenes are not gratuitous. They are designed to drive home Fisk's belief that "war is primarily not about victory or defeat but about death and the infliction of death." Though Fisk's political stances may sometimes be controversial, no one can deny that this volume is a stunning achievement. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/10/2005
Release date: 11/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 934 pages - 978-0-307-42871-4
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