AMY GOODMAN: Robert Fisk is our guest, war correspondent for more than 30 years. Your response, once again, to the issue of the planting of stories?
ROBERT FISK: Well, I'm surprised the military have to plant stories, because I find that an awful lot of my colleagues are quite happy to go along with stories planted or otherwise. You’ve only got to see the number of times on the front page of the New York Times or the L.A. Times or the Washington Post when the phrase “American officials say” appears, particularly the L.A. Times. I can give an example of that, in which a whole story is repeatedly sourced, after 2003, when we know there weren’t any weapons of mass destruction, when we know the press was misled totally in the United States and went along with the war party.
Still we see everything being sourced and re-sourced back to American officials, as if the U.S. administration is the center of world truth. I’ll give you an example. I was actually doing the book tour in Los Angeles, picked up my morning L.A. Times. Here’s a story about Zarqawi, who may or may not exist, of course. “U.S. authorities say,” “U.S. officials said,” “Said one Justice Department counterterrorism official,” “U.S. authorities say,” “officials said,” “U.S. officials said.” It turns to page B-10. It gets worse and worse. Look. “Several U.S. officials said,” “those officials said,” “U.S. officials confirmed” -- stop me when you want -- “American officials complained,” “U.S. officials stressed,” “U.S. authorities believe,” “Said one U.S. senior intelligence official,” “U.S. officials said,” “Jordanian officials said” -- Amy, see, there’s a slight difference here -- “Several U.S. officials said,” “U.S. officials said,” “U.S. officials say,” “say U.S. officials,” “U.S. officials said,” “The American officials said,” “One U.S. counterterrorism official said.” Welcome to American journalism today in Iraq. This is what’s wrong.
AMY GOODMAN: How would you write the story?
ROBERT FISK: I wouldn’t write that for start, because I don't believe this particular story, which is claiming that Zarqawi has better intelligence than the United States. He doesn’t. It’s just that the United States military doesn’t know how to use intelligence, because it doesn’t understand what the war is about. But anyway, also I'm not sure that Zarqawi is alive, and this story claims that he is and he’s the mastermind -- he’s supposed to be the al-Qaeda mastermind.
AMY GOODMAN: What indicates to you that he isn’t? The latest story we have, the possibility --
ROBERT FISK: That he’s been killed?
AMY GOODMAN: That he has been forced to step down, so an Iraqi could step forward.
ROBERT FISK: Ah, yes. “According to American officials.” I remember the story came out, yeah. Look, Zarqawi has not been seen by anyone other than “U.S. officials say” ever since the beginning of the war. I think it’s possible, and many Iraqis think this, that he was killed in one of the initial air raids on Iraq in the northeastern area, in the Kurdish area, and that his I.D. has somehow come to be used by some other institution.
He has a wife of whom he was very possessive, who is now so poor. In the town of Zarqa, she has to get out to work. When his mother died more than a year ago, he didn't even send condolences to the family, or so the family have informed me, unlike a man --
AMY GOODMAN: And the family lives --?
ROBERT FISK: In Zarqa, hence his name Zarqawi, of course. In Jordan. But, you know, the problem is that if this man believes he’s a true Muslim, why didn't he send sorrowful greetings to his family on the death of his mother. Very, very weird. And over and over again we hear American military officials say or they think they can identify him in a videotape. This is a guy wearing a hood, right? I don’t know. Maybe he is alive, or maybe he’s a creation, but I’ve never met anyone who’s met him recently in Iraq, which surprises me, because I do meet a lot of people in Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: Robert Fisk, the latest news out of Baghdad, a suicide bomber inside a Shiite mosque in Baghdad and another outside blew themselves up, killing at least 40 people today. The blast also wounded 45 people. The mosque in northern Baghdad belonged to SCIRI, the most powerful party inside Iraq’s ruling Shiite Alliance.
ROBERT FISK: Somebody wants a civil war in Iraq. I don't think the Iraqis do. You know, we have this story again, and it’s a sort of the narrative that’s been laid down, that all the Sunnis are rushing around blowing up Shiite mosques and all the Shiites are burning down Sunni mosques. And that’s not the Sunnis and the Shiites I’ve met in Iraq.
We keep hearing about people being kidnapped by men wearing police uniform or police stations being taken over by men wearing army uniform. Well, do you mean to tell me there’s a warehouse in Fallujah with 8,000 police uniforms made to measure for insurgents? I don’t believe it. I think the policemen are real policemen. I think the men wearing army uniforms are real soldiers. I think that the military on the Iraqi side has been thoroughly infiltrated by the insurgency, and I think there are despots working on behalf of government ministries. We know the Interior Ministry has a death squad, and now some of those corpses that I see in the mortuaries, including women blindfolded, hands tied behind their back, shot in the head, these are not being gunned down by insurgents on the roadways or blown up by bombs; they're victims of death squads.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about what is happening in Israel and Palestine, the Hamas elections. Latest news, European Commission has temporarily halted direct aid payments to the Palestinian government.
ROBERT FISK: They voted for the wrong people, Amy. They voted for the wrong people. They misused democracy, you see? This is what happened in Algeria -- isn’t it? -- in 1990. The people were given democracy. They voted for the FIS, so the military canceled the second round of elections. We didn't want democracy to begin with in Iraq. Then, we worried the Iraqi Shiites would join in the insurgency. So we had democracy, and we’ve got an Islamic government in Iraq, as well. Believe me, it is Islamic. It is effectively an Iranian government, because SCIRI and Dawa, the two main linchpins of the government, they grew up, they were the creation of Iran. In Lebanon, we’ve now got, democratically elected, a Hezbollah minister in the Cabinet, whom the Americans can’t talk to, of course, because again they elected the wrong people.
We’ve got this problem in the West Bank. There’s a story here somewhere. You know, the Muslim Brotherhood get 88 seats in the Egyptian Assembly elections. We’ve got Hamas in power. We’ve got an Islamic government still in Iran, of course. And what's going to happen if Syria disappeared or the Syrian government went? You know, at some point, we’re all going to have to face up to the fact that if people do have a genuinely democratic election, we’ve got to talk to the people they elect, not the people they elect if they’re the people we want them to elect. And that’s the big problem for us in the Middle East at the moment.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is going to happen with the Hamas government?
ROBERT FISK: The Hamas government will talk to the Israelis, and they probably already are. I remember when the Hamas officials, who were all in those days “terrorists,” were thrown out of Israel into southern Lebanon, and I was talking to them on this hillside. Most of them or some of them have been blown up since by the Israelis, of course, and I remember I was saying to these guys, you know, “Well, actually, I’m going to be going to Israel tomorrow via Cyprus or via Jordan.” I can’t remember which way I went from Lebanon.
And one of these guys, Hamas people, bounded down the hill and said, “Ah, Mr. Robert, you might like Shimon Peres's home telephone number.” And it was Shimon Peres’s home telephone number, because, of course, these people all talk to each other.
I remember, after the Oslo Agreement, being in Jerusalem and discovering -- and it was on the front page the next day of the Jerusalem Post -- that the Israeli army had actually sat down and been negotiating with Hamas officials after the Oslo Agreement on the White House lawn, the famous shaking of hands between Rabin and Arafat. So, these contacts have continued between Hamas and the Israelis. This business, ‘oh, we don’t talk to terrorists,’ this is for children and journalists.
AMY GOODMAN: Your most recent piece, “Another Brick in the Wall,” you say we’ve been conned again. The Israeli elections, we’re told, mean that the dream of greater Israel has finally been abandoned. West Bank settlements will be closed down, just as the Jewish colonies were uprooted in Gaza last year. The Zionist claim to all of biblical Israel has withered away.
ROBERT FISK: Well, this is my point, that it’s not correct. What’s happened is that the war, which we prefer to call a security barrier or a fence -- see you New York Times -- it has taken away 10% of the 22% of mandate Palestine was left to negotiate over for the Palestinians. The Jordan Valley has gone. The roads that run like concrete ribbons across the territory, which is the so-called viable Palestinian state to come, are not going to be moved.
And the major Jewish settlements or colonies, which is what they would -- colonie in French -- at least they use the right words in the French press -- are going to remain. Ma’aleh Adumim, this vast concrete semi-circle which divides East Jerusalem -- or what was Arab East Jerusalem -- off in the West Bank, that, effectively, along with the wall -- and it is a wall as tall, if not taller than the Berlin Wall or the “Berlin Fence,” as they would have called it if built by the Israelis.
This effectively means there is not going to be a Palestinian state. So the idea that Mr. Olmert is going to suddenly invent new frontiers, and we're all going to accept it, is pie in the sky. I can't see how the U.N. can accept a new frontier. I can’t see how the E.U. can. I can’t see how even our own dear Mr. Blair is going to accept that. I'm sure Mr. Bush will manage a way, though.