“…we now have twenty-two times as many military personnel per head of population as the Crusaders had in the twelfth century. You know, what are we doing?”

From: Democracy Now!

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, of course, here, in this country, as the number of US casualties has declined, so has the attention in the media or in the public to the situation in Iraq, and everyone has now bought into the thought that things are getting better.

ROBERT FISK: Ha ha ha, yes. Look, the degree of ethnic cleansing that actually took place—genocidal, in some ways—and the fact that the Americans have now built walls through every community in every major city in Iraq, which has divided between the communities, means that there isn’t, in fact, any free flow of movement. There isn’t a country operating anymore.

But now, I mean, if you stand back a little bit and look at it like this, first of all, we went to Afghanistan, we won the war. Then we rushed off to Iraq and won the war. Then we lost the war in Iraq, or maybe we won it again. And then we’re going back to Afghanistan, where we seem to have lost the war, to win it all over again. And in due course, perhaps we’ll have to go back to Iraq. I mean, in my reports, I’m calling this Iraqistan. And now, we’ve actually got soldiers on foot turning up in Pakistan. I mean, has nobody actually stood back and said, “What on earth are we doing out there?” I mean, I calculated for our Sunday magazine that we now have twenty-two times as many military personnel per head of population as the Crusaders had in the twelfth century. You know, what are we doing?

It was a baker in Baghdad who asked me this very obvious question. He said, “Why are you”—“you” meaning Western military—“Why are you in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, French air base at Dushanbe running close as support for the British in Helmand province in Afghanistan? Why are your people going into Pakistan? Why are you in Afghanistan and Iraq? Why are you in Turkey? Why are you in Jordan and Egypt and Algeria? US Special Forces have a base outside Tamanrasset in the southern Sahara. Why are you in Bahrain? Why are you in Oman? Why are you in Yemen? Why are you in Qatar? Biggest US air base.” I didn’t have a reply.

But I was struck when I was having lunch on the West Coast a few days ago, by a very educated lady sitting next to me, saying, “But the Muslims wanted to take over the world, and they had already taken over France.” I mean, how does this happen? I mean, she might have told me that Martians had landed in New Mexico, only thing you could do to counter that kind of argument. It looks like somehow we’re on a brainwashing trip. And we’ve all bought the narrative. You know, we even have Mrs. Palin talking about victory in Iraq. It doesn’t feel it if you go to Iraq. It doesn’t feel it if you live there.

AMY GOODMAN: She also has talked about Iraq as being God’s war.

ROBERT FISK: Yeah, well, we’ve had some generals who’ve talked about that, too—haven’t we?—and kept their uniform on in church when they said it. You know, more and more, I look back on the early statements by bin Laden, statements we never actually read. The narrative is always “Is this bin Laden?” when he appears. “Is he ill? When did he make the statement? And have the CIA confirmed it’s his voice?” What his voice actually says is never of any interest to us.

But if you remember, he went on and on about crusaders, and he actually made a very important statement before we invaded Iraq, in which he called upon Muslims in Iraq to collaborate with Baath Party officials against the crusaders, on the grounds that Salahadin had collaborated with the non-Muslim Persians against the crusaders in the twelfth century. We missed all this. And this was the detonation that set off the insurgency.

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