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Last updated on August 5th, 2017 at 04:10 pm
“When did the sands run out for us journalists?” asks Robert Fisk, pondering the kidnapping of reporters by Middle Eastern goons. “When did the moment of immunity pass away?”
Robert wonders if immunity was lost when journalists wore flak jackets during the 1990 Gulf War, or due to “cancerous, repetitive use” of the word “terrorism” in news reports, or “when we grew used to what Martin Bell calls the ‘two palm trees’, the Monty Python-like shrubbery that stands as a back-lot to almost every BBC report from the roof of its Baghdad office”.
Familiarity with palm trees provokes abductions? Talk about your root causes. But Fisk is just biding time before his default blame-apportioner kicks in:
Neither the Americans nor the British want us scurrying around unsupervised in Iraq, nosing out the lies of our governments, uncovering the dirty deeds of the US air force in Iraq or, for that matter, in Afghanistan.
Fisk knows they’re lying even before he’s found the evidence. According to Fisk, he enjoyed easy travel throughout the Middle East before 1983, after which negotiations with local gunmen became fraught (“America kills Muslims. Why you want to kill Muslims? Are you a spy?”). Now the poor fellow can’t go anywhere:
We cannot move in most of Iraq for fear of being butchered by our countries’ enemies. We cannot move in southern Afghanistan. Italian journalists might be ransomed by their governments. Afghan journalists – I am thinking of the reporter/translator of the Italian who was kidnapped – simply have their heads chopped off.
Note: by Fisk’s formulation, this is the fault of the West, not of the people actually killing journalists. They’re mere reactive lifeforms, like territorial insects.
Never has reporting been so circumscribed by these terrors. Never have we been so poorly informed.
Well, not since Fisk’s previous column, anyway. Fisk asked at the top of this piece: “When did the moment of immunity pass away?” Now he supplies an answer – during World War II:
When an AP correspondent was dropped with American troops behind enemy lines, the Germans executed him along with their other prisoners.
But that doesn’t count:
This is not the Second World War. Nor is it – Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara, please note – World War Three. We are illegally fighting wars across the Middle East, supporting occupation and – by our frivolous support for the most objectionable governments – killing tens of thousands of innocents.
Fisk doesn’t identify these “most objectionable governments”. Hmmm.
As journalists we can oppose this. We can raise our voices against these great injustices. But only if we are free. Yes, of course, I add my voice to those demanding the release of Alan Johnston. His imprisonment is a disaster for the Palestinians and for all the Arabs of the Middle East.
It’s more of a disaster for Alan Johnston, but Fisk is looking at the big picture:
As long as he is held, how can we cover the atrocities of Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Gaza?
(Via Chris T., who observes that Fisk doesn’t mention Daniel Pearl.)