Goodbye to Robert Fisk, the rebel journalist who knew how to defy the powers and portray the wars in the Middle East

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Considered the most experienced war correspondent in the West, the British chronicler died on October 30. The legacy of an exemplary pen.

She had fallen in love with Lebanon and Beirut, which before the civil war left it in ruins, was called “The Paris of the Middle East.” That love marked the life of Robert Fisk, perhaps the West’s most experienced journalist and war correspondent. His death, on October 30, leaves that troubled area of ​​the planet “without one of its most honest and brilliant analysts.” That is what the president of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, in a pained farewell.

Fisk was not Irish, he was born in 1946 in Maidstone, Great Britain, but decided to adopt that citizenship after covering the conflict in Northern Ireland, also in the 70s. He did the same with what became known as “The Carnation Revolution”, in Portugal, in 1974, baptized in such a strange way because the Portuguese placed carnations in the rifles of the troops raised against decades of dictatorship .

Fisk covered these and many other war conflicts; was part of that strange tribe that unites the war correspondents, who they go to combat with joy with no weapons other than eyes and pen, who always debate how to take only controlled risks, but never agree on where that control begins and ends.

Fisk also He charged whenever he could against the powers on duty. And always could. In a 2010 documentary, “This is not a movie,” by director Yung Chang, he is heard saying one of his many blunt definitions: “The old idea that journalism should be neutral and not never taking sides with either side is just rubbish. As a journalist, your neutrality and impartiality must be exercised from the side of those who suffer ”. It was a message also addressed to those powers that demand that journalistic objectivity be a result and not what it is, a conduct.

For Fisk, rebellion came from the cradle. He was the son of a British military man, expelled from the army for refusing to command a firing squad that was supposed to execute a British soldier. He once said that he had inherited a passion for history from his father, but that he had moved away from him as it became, Fisk, “more nationalistic, almost fascist.”

When your editors The Times” His stark chronicles about the battles in Northern Ireland were “shot” and modified without his consent, he planted the newspaper after having been a Middle East correspondent based in his beloved Beirut for thirteen years and having covered the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the war between Iraq and Iran from 1980 to 1988, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and writing, in September 1982, tremendous chronicles about the massacres in the Sabra and Shatila camps, where Christian militias murdered, in cold blood and over two days to hundreds of Palestinian refugees.

The slam of the “Times”, and the stupidity of the editors who think that battles are better seen from afar and without moving the back of the chair, led him The Independent in 1989, they immediately put him in charge of his Beirut correspondent.

His option for those who suffer led him into trenches that many judged wrong. He was accused of some acquiescence towards the brutal Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad, who always allowed him to enter areas of Syria that were closed to other journalists. Fisk even doubted that the Assad regime was the author of the chemical weapons attacks against the civilian population of the Douma neighborhood, Damascus.

Brilliant Arabist, knowledgeable of Arabic culture, customs and language, was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Laden in depth, and in his mountainous refuge in Afghanistan when he was still a stranger fighting the Russians with the support of the CIA. After the 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers, Fisk was attacked by a group of Afghan refugees on the border with Pakistan. “I realized – he said to summarize the incident – that all of them were men and boys whose brutality was the product of others. From us, who armed them to fight the Russians, but we ignore their suffering and laugh at their civil war.

He always defended the Palestinian cause in his articles and the dialogue between the countries of that region, including the State of Israel; but it was very critical, acid and provocative of western governments, especially with the United States and Israel. However, he did not hesitate to equally denounce the massacres of the Algerian civil war, the murders committed by the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, the Israeli repression of the Palestinian Intifada and the unsanctified activities of the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He is a seven-time recipient of the British International Journalist of the Year Award, the Amnesty International Press Award and is the author of several acclaimed books, including “The Great War for Civilization”, “The Conquest of the Middle East” and “Pity The Nation : Lebanon at War (Lament for the Nation: Lebanon at War ”).

In recent years it was a harsh critic of Donald Trump’s policy in Syria. He described Washington’s plans for today’s opponents of Assad, united in the “Free Syrian Army” as a “shameful betrayal”.

“He was a brave, uncompromising guy, committed to discovering the truth at all costs: the best journalist of his generation. This is how Christian Broughton, director of The Independent.

Fisk’s last wish was only partially fulfilled. Anyone would have said that he wanted to die in his beloved Beirut. But no: “I don’t want to die from a stray bullet in Cairo, or from a sniper in Malula, or from an explosion in Beirut. I want time to finish my book on World War II. My father lived to be 90 years old. I want to live much longer to enjoy my marriage and see the squirrels in my garden in Dublin, ”he told Syrian journalist Ziad Haidar of the daily Al Watan a couple of years ago.

It was in Dublin, yes, but at his young 74 years. Some sources cite a “suspected stroke” as the cause of his death. Others speak of “heart failure.” Fisk would have railed against such imprecision.

CB

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