July 23, 2003


So they are dead. Or are they? Even Baghdad exploded in celebratory, deafening automatic rifle fire at the news.

Who else could it be but superjournalist Robert Fisk, master of the “What the hell?” introductory paragraph. “Even Baghdad” might be celebrating the news that Uday and Qusay Hussein are (or are not!) dead, but Robert is far from happy:

The burned, bullet-splashed villa in Mosul, the four bullet-ridden corpses, America's hopes - however vain - that the death of Saddam Hussein's two sons, Uday and Qusay, will break the guerrilla resistance to Iraq's US occupation troops, all conspired to produce an illusion last night: that the unidentified bodies found after a four-hour gun battle between Iraqi gunmen and US forces must be those of the former dictator's sons - because the world wants them to be.

It’s not looking like much of an illusion now.

Of course, they might be dead. The two men are said to bear an impressive resemblance to the brothers. A 14-year-old child killed by the Americans - one of the four dead - might be one of Saddam's grandsons.

Or it might be one of the thousands of kids Saddam had killed over the years, just left lying around the house for laughs. Fisk doesn’t mention those kids very often.

Qusay was a leader of the Special Republican Guard, a special target of the Americans. The two men obviously fought fiercely against the 200 American troops who surrounded the house.

Brave little guys! Battling overwhelming odds! My heroes! Swoon!

The Americans used their so-called Task Force 20 to storm the pseudo-Palladian villa on a main highway through Mosul. Task Force 20 combines both special forces and CIA agents. But this is the same Task Force 20 that blasted to death the occupants of a convoy heading for the Syrian border earlier this month, a convoy whose travellers were meant to include Saddam himself and even the two sons supposedly killed yesterday. The victims turned out to be only smugglers.

Were they smuggling antiquities? You know, from the musuem that was totally looted and everything?

And American intelligence - the organisation that failed to predict events of 11 September, 2001 - was also responsible for the air raid on a Saddam villa on 20 March, which was supposed to kill Saddam. And the far crueller air raid on the Mansour district of Baghdad at the end of the air bombardment in April which was supposed to kill Saddam and his sons but only succeeded in slaughtering 16 innocent civilians. All proved to be miserable failures.

Like practically every one of Fisk’s predictions since September 11. Quagmire in Afghanistan! Quagmire in Iraq! Muslim uprisings! Gophers winning spelling bees! Edible magnets! Underpants that teach you first aid!

And in a family obsessed, with good reason, with their own personal security, would Uday and Qusay really be together? Would they allow themselves to be trapped. The two so-called "lions of Iraq" (this courtesy of Saddam) in the very same cage?

Robert’s careful acknowledgement kept him out of Baghdad’s infamous plagiarist torture cells.

Saddam's early life was spent on the run. But he always travelled alone. In adversity, the family had learned to stay apart ...

I hope Kenny Rogers never reads this. He’ll have a song composed in minutes.

Even if DNA testing proves that the corpses are those of Saddam's sons, will Iraqis believe it?

They might, if The Great Fisk deigns to tell them.

Though Uday was both a cruel man and a psychopath ...

A cruel man and a psychopath? What are the the odds of that?

... they were appendages to the king, mere assistants in the monster's cave. Saddam lives. And his voice is still heard on tape throughout Iraq. It is his fate of which Iraqis are waiting to hear.

They seemed happy enough to hear about Queasy and eBay. The celebrations for Saddam’s death will probably be audible in Alaska.

Secondly, and far more importantly, there is a fundamental misunderstanding between the American occupation authorities in Iraq and the people whose country they are occupying. The United States believes that the entire resistance to America's proconsulship of Iraq is composed of "remnants" of Saddam's followers, "dead-enders", "bitter-enders" - they have other phrases to describe them. Their theory is that once the Hussein family is decapitated, the resistance will end.

The only way to prove a theory is to test it.

But the guerrillas who are killing US troops every day are also being attacked by a growing Islamist Sunni movement which never had any love for Saddam. Much more importantly, many Iraqis were reluctant to support the resistance for fear that an end to American occupation would mean the return of the ghastly old dictator.

Prepare now for some Advanced Fisk Logic:

If he and his sons are dead, the chances are that the opposition to the American-led occupation will grow rather than diminish - on the grounds that with Saddam gone, Iraqis will have nothing to lose by fighting the Americans.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? One minute everybody is celebrating the deaths of the tyrant family that enslaved them, and the next minute they’re thinking: “Hey, you know what would be really cool? Killing the Americans who killed Ubie and Quozy! Let’s rock!”

Posted by Tim Blair at July 23, 2003 09:03 PM

You are the undisputed Fiskmaster!

Posted by: Werner at July 23, 2003 at 09:29 PM

"happy enough to hear about Queasy and eBay" ... now there's something to ponder on :-)

Posted by: George at July 23, 2003 at 09:48 PM

That article is so bad, I thought it was a spoof

Posted by: JohninLondon at July 23, 2003 at 10:08 PM

Yes, nothing like killing the leaders to make a resistance movement grow. Why, when we killed Hitler back in '45, who knew that we would still be fighting a guerrilla war in Bavaria against third-generation Nazis.

Posted by: T. Hartin at July 23, 2003 at 10:12 PM

I love Fisk. 'The Americans used their so-called Task Force 20…' What a winner this guy is. Task Force 20 is what they're called, melonhead. If they'd tagged themselves 'Hell's lead-spitting avengers', then 'so-called' would have done the job. I wish I knew enough about the English language to be a big journalist like Robert 'so-called' Fisk, which I propose we rename him immediately.

Posted by: Mark Gullick at July 23, 2003 at 10:17 PM

Germany is still a quagmire. US troops haven't left yet. As is Korea. US troops still there after 50 years. (The bits about it being a quagmire is sarcasm, but as far as I can tell, US troops have been in Germany and Korea for that long).

Robert’s careful acknowledgement kept him out of Baghdad’s infamous plagiarist torture cells.

The Iraqi government watched their media very closely. Hey, are there any links with David Marr we've failed to dig up?

Posted by: Andjam at July 23, 2003 at 10:45 PM

Mark's suggestion is excellent. I also propose the Iraqis be encouraged to celebrate the deaths of Usay and Quday by beating Fisk. It's been awhile, after all, and surely they don't want to be outdone by the Afghans, do they?

Posted by: ilyka at July 23, 2003 at 11:14 PM

Ralph Peters's comments on the death of Saddam's heirs:

For the long-suffering people of Iraq, the deaths of Uday and Qusay matter more, on a practical level, than even Saddam's confirmed death one day will. With his sons alive, Saddam remained a threat to the future. With both of them dead - as well as his eldest grandson, perhaps - he's only a broken tyrant on the run.

Saddam remains a symbol, but a hollow one. His power to make himself feared required sons to extend his reign. And the symbolism of American soldiers scoring the kill makes it unmistakably clear who holds the upper hand and how little Saddam's campaign of assassinating our troops achieved.

He killed America's sons. And we killed his.

In the Middle East, family trumps all other worldly connections and obligations. And sons are the most important part of an Arab family. Saddam's visions of himself as a successor to the great rulers of the golden age of the Arabs are void without sons to carry on the line. He hoped to create a hereditary throne. Now the would-be caliph sits amid empty chairs.

Saddam cherished his sons so blindly that he tolerated their monstrous excesses. Uday was wildly vicious, Qusay coldly murderous. Together, they seemed to guarantee the enduring power of the House of Hussein - perhaps even beyond the American occupation.

Now the chain is broken.

Saddam feels, at last, the pain he inflicted upon countless Iraqi families.


Posted by: ZsaZsa at July 23, 2003 at 11:33 PM

Too bad Fisk wasn't in that villa doing an interview with his two "so-called heroes". Then he could have demonstrated his "so-called courage" against the "so-called Task Force 20". This "so-called journalist" is nothing more than a mewling coward, rooting on from the sidelines the attacks on coalition soldiers. He'd stain his shorts if he were ever looking down the barrel of an M-16.

Posted by: nobody important at July 24, 2003 at 12:01 AM

I think Mark is on to something. Wasn't there this thing about Baghdad Bob and some toilet paper? So, how 'bout this new title for the King of Crap:

So-Called "25 Rolls"

Posted by: Tongue Boy at July 24, 2003 at 12:18 AM
... there is a fundamental misunderstanding between the American occupation authorities in Iraq and the people whose country they are occupying.

And this so-called Fisk character really understands the Iraqi people, eh?

But the guerrillas who are killing US troops every day are also being attacked by a growing Islamist Sunni movement which never had any love for Saddam.

Tell me if I'm reading this wrong, but doesn't this sentence say that the guerrillas are being attacked by a growing Islamist Sunni movement? That would have nothing to do with the previous "America doesn't understand the Iraqis" paragraph, and would in fact be very good news. Doesn't he mean that a growing Islamist Sunni movement is also attacking US troops?

If he's right, I wonder where he gets his info.

Posted by: another tom at July 24, 2003 at 12:23 AM


Explain to me again why anybody reads this idjit. I just don't get it.

Posted by: mojo at July 24, 2003 at 01:08 AM


If Mr. Fisk gets around to writing his biography he could borrow the title of Buckminster Fuller's work: "I Seem to be a Verb".

Posted by: Person of Choler at July 24, 2003 at 01:18 AM

Is anybody paying this ratbag for his demented scribble?

I continue to be amazed that a single word of his verbal diarrhroea makes a legitimate paper.

Posted by: Pete at July 24, 2003 at 01:21 AM

This is one of the funniest fiskings I've ever read. Of course, Fisk makes it easy. It's almost as if he's intentionally playing a caricature of himself. 'Fess up, Tim, is he your straight man?

Posted by: Mike Smith at July 24, 2003 at 01:32 AM

Why do people still care about what Fisk has to say? This is the same man who the day before the Americans entered Baghdad made it look like the Iraqui defences were indestructible, and sure death was to befall the imperialist dogs where they to try and come into the city. Not to mention the fact that he supposedly saw "no American forces in the outskirts of the city", or something like that. He's a dictator loving asshole, pure and simple.

Posted by: PortugueseGuy at July 24, 2003 at 01:34 AM

"But the guerrillas who are killing US troops every day are also being attacked by a growing Islamist Sunni movement which never had any love for Saddam."

How ridiculous, Saddam was a Sunni and favoured them in positions in the Baath party. They are revolting for their loss of privledges, perhaps he means the Shi'ite muslims?

Posted by: Geoff at July 24, 2003 at 01:40 AM


I'm planning a revival of Laugh In, with me and Robert co-hosting. The man's a riot!

Posted by: tim at July 24, 2003 at 02:00 AM

Fisk writes for the lefties that want their worldview confirmed despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. He's a psychosis enabler.

Posted by: ruprecht at July 24, 2003 at 02:11 AM

Dental and medical records confirm that Uday and Qusay bought it yesterday:


Nice work, Fiskie!

Posted by: Damian P. at July 24, 2003 at 02:19 AM

You know, with their death, this will be a great blow to the spam mail industry by Qusay about the billions in foreign banks that he needed to transfered out with the help of a well compensated theird party.

Posted by: Bigfire at July 24, 2003 at 02:31 AM

That's okay, fisk away on dear old Fiskie.

If he treats you as well as he treats Afghan mobs, he'll probably concede in his next column that it was well deserved.

No, he's not dumb, nor is he corrupt.

He's just possessed of an insatiable desire to be humiliated that you ordinarily don't see in anyone other than a Tory M.P.

Posted by: Omnibus Bill at July 24, 2003 at 02:31 AM

The Independent expects people to pay to read this drivel. Yet you can read it for free online from a New Zealand paper.

The people who run the Independent are not very smart, are they?

Posted by: Irene A. at July 24, 2003 at 02:39 AM

Fisk, as usual, has it back-asswards. The deaths of these two rats is a huge win for the coalition - Iraqis will be more inclined to turn in Saddam if they know his sons cannot seek revenge on them. And that hereditary tribal culture will see that the dynasty is over. Saddam is finished, Fisk is in mourning.

Posted by: Latino at July 24, 2003 at 03:13 AM

Trouble is, Fisk is impervious to proof that his writings are the delusions of a true believer. When he claimed to have been standing behind the man who started chopping at the Saddam statue in Baghdad on liberation day, I sent his editors at the Independent photographs from AP taken head-on to the bloke. No Fisk in view in any of the photos from any of the news agencies. Silence from the Independent; silence from Fisky-Baby.

He lives in an impenetrable world of delusion. Remember when he shilled for a Saudi "Peace Plan" that would have guaranteed the so-called (Aaargh! it's contagious!) "Right of Return" for Palestinians? He wanted to Chair a Peace Conference----The Guardian (that other fair and balanced newspaper, which has its own home-grown 'Fisk-er' in Polly Toynbee), fresh from its meddling on behalf of the terrorists of the IRA, backed the idea and offered to convene the conference at the same place as their Irish love-fest. When that didn't come to anything, Fisk whined about "dark forces" thwarting his noble aims.

The Independent once was a real newspaper---now, for integrity and trust-worthiness it compares unfavourably with the Socialist Workers Party house organ, "The Militant".

Posted by: Dick Duggan at July 24, 2003 at 04:05 AM

Fisk is obviously banking on the success of the Big Bad Sunni Guerilla Movement so that he can take over the job of Information Minister in the new regime.

Posted by: fish at July 24, 2003 at 05:40 AM

Like that Olive Garden fellow, the so-called Robert Fisk is a cricket reporter at heart. He's perpetually distressed that the Americans use overwhelming force and seem to care about nothing but winning. It's just not sporting to never let the little fellow have a chance. It's not cricket.

As a color commentator, the so-called Fisk feels obliged to come up with angles -- however unlikely -- that make the match look competitive. Now that the Shiite Fanatics and Iraqi Nationalists have fizzled and the Baathist Deadenders are mostly dead, he's touting a new team of unknowns, the Sunni Guerrillas. Can they stand up to the unbeaten Occupiers? Well, no, but he's got to stir up interest somehow or he'll be out of sports reporting.

Posted by: Joanne Jacobs at July 24, 2003 at 06:59 AM

I prefer to say, "Farewell, Queesy and OD. We'll always have Paris."

Posted by: Mongo at July 24, 2003 at 08:52 AM

Am I the only one that thinks that Sadaam is dead?

Posted by: ErikZ at July 24, 2003 at 10:40 AM

Joanne Jacobs: excellent! I reckon you're onto something there.

Although I think the "Olive Garden Fellow" has some genuine bile that he laces his sports commentary with.

Posted by: The at July 24, 2003 at 11:04 AM

Why is "so called" used so frequently by so many so called journalists? I think they should be accompanied by a large tattooed thug at all times, and zapped on the bollocks (or the beef curtains for that matter) with a cattle prod everytime they utter or type "so called".
Aversion therapy is the only answer.

Posted by: Habib Bickford at July 24, 2003 at 11:38 AM

I just read (as much of) the Fisk article (as I could stomach), and the feeling that swept over me was: Robert seems devastated that Saddam's sons have been killed! But then he is always devastated by events that the Iraqi people clearly desire.

Posted by: Tom at July 24, 2003 at 12:05 PM

What the US must immediately do:

1) release pictures of the 2 dead bodies - failure to do this is positive proof that the fascist, unelected US military dictatorship is actually carrying out a sinister sneaky public relations plot as it always does

2) respect the privacy of the family of the deceased, who as human beings, are subject to UN conventions regarding military casualties - to release pictures of the dead bodies would be a gross violation of human rights and proof of the immoral double standards of the US which complains when one of their own soldiers is shown on Iraqi TV.

Posted by: Tom at July 24, 2003 at 12:13 PM

This is Fisky's finest piece. How did he manage it? The only amazing thing is that the Indy continues to run his stuff after the complete horlicks of his "war" coverage, when he was actually not only spectacularly wrong about significant stories, but was caught out inventing a trip to a "cluster-bombed" town, when he and other reporters were on the same non-stop bus to Baghdad. IE, no such trip could have taken place.

Stephen Glover, former Indy on Sunday editor and a longtime Fisk admirer -- v antiwar -- was moved to comment in his Evening Standard column that Robert had had a "bad war", and allowed his emotions to get the better of him. Well, I knew that, we knew that, but when one of his greatest admirers says it ...

The Indy presents Robert's stuff as "Argument" or something like that. Trouble is that lots of papers run it as "news".

Posted by: Dave F at July 24, 2003 at 08:52 PM

Give Fisk a break...he may be a bit mad and he's a few wrong outcomes in his predictions lately, but he's got integrity and he's a honest journo. The allegation about him making up the trip to the cluster-bombed town first appeared in Private Eye - and was contradicted in the very next issue. Fisk *had* been driven past the town, as had the other journos who were no doubt asleep at the time. Sadly for Fisk, only the first allegation has been given wide publicity, not the answer to it.
Knock Fisk for being pro-Arab if you want (not that there's anything wrong with a by-lined reporter having an opinion - it's a time-honoured tradition in the trade, despite what readers might think). Knock him for being boring sometimes. Knock him for being spectacularly wrong on occasion in the Mystic Meg-stakes. But don't accuse him of making up stories when he didn't.

Posted by: Norm at July 31, 2003 at 07:15 PM