February 23, 2004


Your special guest Fisker of the following news item is none other than Robert Fisk himself, who will provide an alternative to the bloodthirsty war-lusting analysis usually found here. Take it away, Robert:

Dhia al-Hariri returned to Iraq after decades in exile to reclaim his father's beloved home, only to find Saddam Hussein's regime had turned it into a house of horrors.

The last time I visited my childhood home in Squalidton, North Puke, it had been turned into an Halal butcher shop. Times change. Live with it.

What was once the back yard is now a dark maze of iron-doored cells. One bedroom has a hook in the ceiling from which interrogators hung prisoners, breaking their arms and giving them electric shocks.

Back in the days when you could depend on a reliable electricity supply ...

"This was my grandmother's bedroom," al-Hariri, 54, said Saturday, standing in a room barren except for the remains of iron bars embedded in the floor where lines of prisoners were chained.

”Were”. Past tense. Where are they now? Can’t find them, huh? Just like the so-called weapons of mass destruction!

For years, neighbors on the street of walled homes heard screams at night from the house down the lane and saw handcuffed men being led in and out.

The key words here are: “and out”. They were able to leave! Ever hear of a torture chamber where people just wandered in and out, as they pleased?

Saddam's security agents seized the house in 1980, after al-Hariri's family fled the country, and for the next 23 years, it was used as a secret interrogation center for political prisoners.

If it’s so secret, how come we’re reading all about it?

The house was the realization of a dream for al-Hariri's father, Kadhem. He built it in 1968, a one-floor modernist home in a neighborhood of doctors in Baghdad's upper-class Mansour district.

As the world recoiled at the horrors of Vietnam, and Paris erupted in revolt, this “upper class” doctor only dreamed of a “modernist home”. And we’re expected to feel sorry for him?

Abu Muhammed said he was hung by his arms from the ceiling hook, then pulled down until his shoulders dislocated. Electrodes then were put on his earlobes. The next room down, a tiny space by the stairs up to the roof, was where they held women, he said.

We’ve all heard these urban myths about “rooms” where “women” are allowed to be gently “held”.

One day, the interrogators brought in another prisoner, a man in his 60s. They threw alcohol on him and set him ablaze.

Alcohol? In a Muslim country? I don’t think so!

In the grandmother's room, Abu Muhammed was handcuffed, crouching, to the iron bar on the floor, with the burned man chained next to him. "Over the next few days they would take him away and bring him back. Then one day, he didn't return," he said.

Because he’d been freed!

Abu Muhammed, 39, was arrested in 1984 and held at the house for a month, accused of belonging to a Shiite Muslim opposition group, the Dawa Party. He estimated that several hundred prisoners - Shiites, communists and other activists - passed through the house just during the time he was there.

In my student days I lived in many houses where communists and other activists were always “passing through”. In fact, the same is true of my newspaper. Big deal.

"Who knows how many were here over the years? Maybe a third died in torture. A third were taken out and executed, and a third got out alive," al-Hariri said.

These numbers are fuzzy at best. Maybe only a quarter died in torture, or were taken out and executed. Or just a fifth.

"We would always hear screaming," said the neighbor, Zeini. "It became very ordinary for us. What could we do?"

See? Screaming was ordinary. We impose our western values on these people, and it distorts everything.

Al-Hariri, who had 10 relatives killed by Saddam's regime, has hired lawyers to start the long process of reclaiming the house. In the meantime, a cousin stays there to keep away looters.

Thank you very much, George W. Bush.

On the way out, he motioned to the front yard with one more memory. "Here we planted azaleas," he said. Now, it's covered with concrete. "They put that there. God only knows what's buried underneath."

Let me guess: azaleas?

Posted by Tim Blair at February 23, 2004 02:52 AM

Bush lied! Azaleas died!

Posted by: Andrea Harris at February 23, 2004 at 03:20 AM

Am I humor impaired? I'm not sure I get the point of this.

Posted by: Mike Rentner at February 23, 2004 at 03:26 AM

Sometimes you're not funny.

Posted by: Fred Boness at February 23, 2004 at 03:47 AM

Just to be clear -- this is an article by Fisk, and not your take on how Fisk _would_ right such an article?

Posted by: Richard McEnroe at February 23, 2004 at 03:55 AM

Pretty good Tim, you made a typo though; mispelled "These".

I hope he turns the place into a museum.

Posted by: aaron at February 23, 2004 at 03:56 AM

Tim, I think this is hilarious, and in a satisfyingly righteous way. I don't understand how anyone could miss your point. I'll spell it out for those who are having trouble: who in the world could read the linked article and not be horrified, and glad that Saddam is gone? Answer: Robert Fisk.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at February 23, 2004 at 04:02 AM

Tim! How dare you!!

Robert Fisk is one of the finest writers of our time. He is a giant among men....who are you to trash his work.....

Why Fisk is a legend in his own mind....a genius, the likes of which we haven't seen since Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass...er.. retired....

Is it too much then....for Fisk to expect our respect?

It's not his fault that his writing is shite...journalism just isn't his field.....but ask him to support a worthy cause (ie anything the civilised world rejects as demonic) and he is front and centre......perhaps the Telegraph found some of his papers lying around Iraq...

Naw but seriously folks I put up a monument to Robert Fisk in my very own home....visit it just before I go to bed....remember to flush before I retire for the night.

Posted by: Traps at February 23, 2004 at 04:24 AM

Tim, you scare me, in a sputtering-coffee-all-over-my-keyboard-wondering-"why-the-Hell-can't-I-write-that-way?" sort of way :)

Of course, having read this spoof, I'm forced to ask the following question:

Do you have a picture of you and Robert Fisk in the same room at the same time? Inquiring minds want to know ;)

Posted by: Emperor Misha I at February 23, 2004 at 05:34 AM

I'd be careful about trying to channel Robert Fisk, Tim. I know I wouldn't want his thoughts rattling around in my brain, even if they're just pretend Fisk thoughts. Some doors are best left unopened.

Posted by: Randal Robinson at February 23, 2004 at 05:36 AM

I'm with the first guys up there. It took me a while to figure out what the hell Tim was doing here. That being said, by all means, stick to Fisk who would (from all I have seen) gladly downplay the endless horrors of the Saddam regime, and philosophically help others to do the same.

But this post isn't entirely clear where it's going. Tim, I expect better flavor for my free ice cream! ;-)

Posted by: Andrew X at February 23, 2004 at 07:30 AM

That's "stick IT to Fisk".... (grumble)

Posted by: Andrew X at February 23, 2004 at 07:31 AM

Very clever writing. The irony was so thick it could have been sliced up and sold in cubes.
Pieces like this one are why I'm hooked on this blog. Please keep 'em coming.

Posted by: JG at February 23, 2004 at 08:19 AM

Sounds like the knobs at the aus.motorcycles newsgroup

Posted by: Tex at February 23, 2004 at 08:37 AM

Fisk was on WORT radio (Madison, Wisconsin)shortly after the liberation of Baghdad. He predicted none of the 55 "deck of cards" would be captured.

Posted by: Robobubba at February 23, 2004 at 08:48 AM

Now he's reduced to fishing around for stories about Iraqis who were 'brutalised'.

Well, how would you feel if somebody called you Barry Hall or Wayne Carey?

Posted by: ilibcc at February 23, 2004 at 09:52 AM

Is this meant to be funny or clever or something?

Posted by: huh? at February 23, 2004 at 10:14 AM

No, "huh?" -- it's totally like serious! Fisk rools d00d! (Psst: hey, everyone, don't tell him.)

Posted by: Andrea Harris at February 23, 2004 at 10:56 AM


I've got to get off the internet more. I just found your blog and read through the entire thing before I was sure if you were serious or not.

Posted by: Sailorette at February 23, 2004 at 11:23 AM

Like any other joke, if you have to explain it...

Posted by: charles austin at February 23, 2004 at 11:52 AM

Tim this was so funny I almost cried ... I showed it to a lefty chick I was with and even she thought it was funny :)

(In a kind of sick way....)

Posted by: Oney at February 23, 2004 at 02:24 PM

You just might be a liberal...if you don't understand "Fisked by Fisk".

Posted by: Jim Robertson at February 23, 2004 at 03:52 PM

"Alcohol? In a Muslim country? I don’t think so!"

Maybe he meant methylated spirits, or something similar?

Posted by: kae at February 23, 2004 at 04:46 PM

Tim Blair's School of Humor:

Separating the short bus kids from the long bus kids.

Posted by: Tongue Boy at February 24, 2004 at 12:03 AM

Very good parody, Tim. As they say in Wisconsin, a hoot and a half. I look forward to your next.

Posted by: Paul Stinchfield at February 24, 2004 at 04:32 AM

There's only one thing you forgot, Tim: you need to have something about the "warm smiles of the friendly and hospitable Iraqis, urging me to drink more tea under the shade of beautiful, flowering trees that grow in this lovely and ancient land where human civilization began, as they told me story after story about all the relatives the American bombs had killed." Then it would be Truly Fiskadelic.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at February 24, 2004 at 12:08 PM

No no no, Andrea, it's

"I remember the warm smiles of the friendly and hospitable Iraqis, urging me to drink more tea under the shade of beautiful, flowering trees that grew in this lovely and ancient land where human civilization began, as they told me story after story about all the relatives the American bombs had killed in 1991.

That is all gone now, the flowering trees, the sweetened tea and the hospitable Iraqis. Gone in a flash of fire and the smell of high explosive. Gone, precipitously, unilaterally, without warning, just so Bush the Younger could avenge his Father.

We are witnesses at the death, nay, the murder, of an ancient civilisation."

Heck, that's not right...even Fisk wouldn't say "nay."

Posted by: Timothy Lang at February 24, 2004 at 03:46 PM

Is this right? You are now impersonating a left wing journalist in order to have something to wirte about?

Real life cannot have let you down that badly, surely?

Posted by: Lornquist at February 25, 2004 at 03:30 AM