Two weeks ago I came over a new book by Robert Fisk, Britain's well-known Middle East correspondent, called The Age of the Warrior - Selected Writings. The book is a selection of articles written by Fisk for the British newspaper The Independent. Most of the articles, with some exceptions, are written between 2005 and 2007. The articles are arranged according to theme rather than chronological. Since most of the articles are written within such a short period of time makes it, combined with the length of the book (500 pages), slightly repetitive. Fisk repeats himself quite often, and even if it's naturally due to the nature of his self-reflecting articles, it gets a bit boring when you read all of them at once. That Fisk does not like Tony Blair (frequently referred to as Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara), George W. Bush or the Internet gets a bit tiring to read about on every other page.
Despite some of the negative aspects of the book there are positive ones. Since I've only read a handful of Fisk's articles before (two or three of them printed in this book), it is interesting to read more about Fisk's different reflections on different things, everything from handwriting, Internet and modernity to journalism, death and destruction.
It is enjoyable to read Fisk's articles, and they sometimes provide you with some interesting facts. For example that 20,000 Brazilian troops fought against the Axis Powers in the Italian campaign during the Second World War (454 of them died) and that many of the Titanic dead came for a Lebanese village called Kfar Mishki. Despite these fun facts the book, for obvious reasons, brings little or nothing new to the table. Most of what Fisk covers in these articles will be well-known for most people interested in the Middle East, both the stories and their different aspects.
This makes The Age of the Warrior an interesting read, but unfortunatly not a must-read. I have the feeling that Fisk's articles are best served, and read, fresh. Most of Robert Fisk's articles for The Independent can be found here.
One of the most interesting articles is the one from where Fisk got the title for his book, "The US military and its Cult of Cruelty." In this article, called "Age of the Warrior" in the book, he talks about the change from 'soldier' to 'warrior' in the US Army based on a letter he recieved. The terms seem similar, but there are apparently some crucial differences according to Fisk. Read the article and notice the difference between the offical US Army's "Soldier's Creed" (drawn up after the Vietnam war) and it's 2003 replacement, the socalled "Warrior Ethos":
"I am an American soldier. I am a member of the United States Army - a protector of the greatest nation on earth. Because I am proud of the uniform I wear, I will always act in ways creditable to the military service and the nation that it is sworn to guard ... No matter what situation I am in, I will never do anything for pleasure, profit or personal safety, which will disgrace my uniform, my unit or my country. I will use every means I have, even beyond the line of duty, to restrain my Army comrades from actions, disgraceful to themselves and the uniform. I am proud of my country and it's flag. I will try to make the people of this nation proud of the service I represent for I am an American soldier."
"I am an American soldier. I am a warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the Unites States and live the Army values. I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade. I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself. I am an expert and I am a professional. I stand ready to deploy, engage and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat. I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life. I am an American soldier."