Robert Fisk in a sweater

Have you ever had that experience when you’re quietly browsing a public library and you (foolishly) strike up a conversation about one of the books on display with one of the other regulars—a slightly intense-looking middle-aged man in a sweater—and you gradually realise you are engaging with someone from the other side of the reality/fantasy interface?

Oh, it’ll start innocently enough:

[points at copy of The Magus] “It’s really not his best, is it? But it does seem to be very popular with a certain type of reader. Every time I got irritated with it I took a disgraceful pleasure in the thought that hordes of obsessives wrote to him, demanding to know its ‘true meaning’.”

Mr Sweater will latch his staring eyes onto yours with the desperate gratitude of a man who has spent a decade being avoided by other human beings. Then he is off:

“It’s about the manipulation of perceptions. It’s about the veil of so-called experience, the veil They draw across our eyes. Life isn’t as simple as it looks on the surface, you know. Everything we read and watch is manipulated in the interests of the Eurocrats and the military-industrial complex…”

And at that moment you wish you were talking to a Bob Dylan otaku about the rumours of post-production overdubs on the notorious Autumn ’05 Ohio concert so-called bootleg.

Anyway, here’s an interview with Robert Fisk:

AB: Why has the US invaded Iraq? Is it for oil?

RF: Well, if the national product of Iraq was asparagus, I don’t think we’d be there, would we? So oil is part of it. But it’s also about power. Last year I was on Highway 8 investigating the murder of a Red Cross worker. As I was talking to an Iraqi family, the road started to vibrate and we could see this huge infantry division coming towards us. Apache helicopters hovered overhead a convoy of m1a1 Abrams tanks, armored vehicles, lorry after lorry with concrete and thousands and thousands of troops, all wearing shades, rifles pointing out the side like porcupines. I sat down on the side of the road in the muck with this family and tried to understand what it meant. Four and a half, five hours later, the convoy was still passing by.

It dawned on me that 2,000 years ago, a little to the west, I would have been sitting on the road watching a Roman legion pass, feeling the vibrations of the centurions’ feet. And I realized that if you are the only superpower, like America, you need to project power. They’re essentially saying, “We will march over the lands of Sumeria and Mesopotamia, and we will go there because we can.

It’s worth comparing the collected content of his answers with the tribute to the great man that I wrote last year.