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4.8 out of 5 stars
Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War
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on 25 June 2014
I came late to Robert Fisk - and I believe he is primarily responsible for changing my Middle East position and allegiances 180 degrees over the last few years. I can thoroughly recommend this book and the much longer, but absolutely essential, The Great War for Civilisation - The Conquest of the Middle East [2005]. Mr Fisk has proved himself both personally and ethically fearless over his long career and his uncompromised voice rasps the truth - for those that have ears to hear!
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on 13 August 2015
Read this if you are in any doubt about Lebanon. Many stories here that will shock you, all written with intelligence and passion. Absolutely beyond belief, what has been done in that region, and with the West choosing to look the other way. No wonder there is still so much hatred, and the story is far from over. We never seem to learn and really try to change things. A fantastic book, and I look forward to reading more by Robert Fisk.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Robert Fisk writes superbly well and reports at first hand his experiences in Lebanon. He witnessed many horrors and reported the brutal facts with clarity and passion. He is in tune with the people and gives the reader a thoughtful insight into the reality of the region's conflict.
This book is required reading for anyone who wishes to see through the propaganda and mythology which typifies Israeli style occupation and indiscriminate punishment of civilians who dare to resist. This purchase replaced an earlier copy which had become worn out through rereading so many brilliantly written chapters.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 18 October 2002
Its hard to know where to begin when reviewing this book. 1000 Words are not enough to do it justice, so I'll keep it brief.
If you want to know about what happened in 20th Century Lebanon, read this book. If you want a fair, impartial account, read this book. If you want an author who shows equal disgust for all acts of terrorism, whether committed by a state or a guerrilla group, read this book. If you have ever heard "people killed in Lebanon" on the news reports, and wondered what was going on out there, read this book. If you want a book with intelligent analysis, accuracy, informed opinions, compassion for the people on the ground, read this book.
If you want your eyes opened, read this book.
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on 17 February 2014
This man is a personal hero: his tenacity, determination and journalistic ability leave me wondering if I'll ever be this good at anything (I doubt it, sadly)

That said, this book is just breathtaking in its depth and detail. What more could anyone want from such an award winning journalist on the Middle-East.

Buy two copies, give them to friends. You owe it to the world.
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on 8 April 2014
I knew very little about the origins of the events surrounding the Lebanese civil war prior to reading this book. I certainly felt better informed having finished the book. I found that Robert Fisk writes in an entertaining style that makes it possible to digest the great amount of detail he presents, A must read for those interested in Lebanon's history.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 13 March 2010
Robert Fisk is renowned as one of the world's best foreign correspondents today, in particular on Middle Eastern issues. He has lived in Lebanon for a long time, and in "Pity the Nation" he has written the second of his magisterial chronicles which set out to describe and explain the devastation and strife in the region of the last decades. (The other one is The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.) The title is based on a poem by Khalil Gibran, which describes wonderfully well the degeneration of the great states and civilizations of that area under the pressures of imperialism, religious sectarianism and poverty. Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as a hero, and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful...

Fisk's narrative is about the three great successive wars that have struck Lebanon like biblical plagues in the past period: The first civil war, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and the second civil war. All of these followed each other in rapid succession as the multireligious and multicultural state of Lebanon tore itself to shreds, destroyed its unity and its dignity, and in the end barely left one stone standing on the other in what had been a relatively developed and cosmopolitan part of the Middle East. Fisk applies the stylistic techniques and attitude that make his other works so impressive as well: his refusal to take sides, his utter lack of excusing cruelties and violence as being justified by the ends, his dry observing style which allows his indignance to come forth when truly deserved all the stronger, and his careful attitude towards his own position in the whole as a foreigner and a journalist. The people of Lebanon and their destruction of each other and their country are central to the story, not the opinions or ego of Western journalists and the foreign desks of newspapers, as is so often the case with 'popular' reporting by foreign correspondents. This means necessarily that the focus is in particular on the warring parties, and that as a result other groups, whether simply nonbelligerents or (say) the Armenian diaspora in Lebanon, get less attention. But Fisk's greatest asset, his humanity including his refusal to be cynical, allow the damage done to the civilian population to be ever present in the background as the real tragedy, regardless of who wins or loses the political battle.

Like Fisk's other works, this is not for the faint of heart: he describes a great amount of cruelty, violence and destruction with very little hope or improvement in sight at any point of the book, and pulls no punches. Whether it be the massacres at Sabra and Chatila or the wars between Druze and Falangists, or the many bombardments of Beirut, Fisk holds nothing back and limbs fly about. Yet he never indulges the violence or enjoys it: he consistently maintains a clear perspective, showing the reader the true meaning of the wars and struggles that opportunistic politicians and religious sectarians unleash on the world when they declare that one simply needs to defeat the enemy and then all the good things will happen. He clearly has very little sympathy for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and perhaps a deal more for the Palestinian perspective, and this has been controversial. But it is nonetheless fully justified by the course of events since 1947, as long as one does not forget that Palestinian 'leaders' are just strongmen and crooks too for the most part, something many pro-Palestinian authors are inclined to neglect, but which Fisk does not. This is yet another indication of how (relatively) trustworthy and balanced his perspective on events tends to be. That he has a tendency to risk his life by staying in dangerous areas to report, without exaggerating his own heroism in the process, just adds to this.

The book is of course very long and detailed, and some people may find it getting repetitive over time. The whole basically reads as neverending hatred and war, and this can wear out even the most inveterate fan of international politics, as long as she still has a working conscience. Nonetheless, it is highly worth it. There is no better history of the Lebanese wars, and a great number of people and organisations mentioned in it are still relevant and affecting events today, often even posthumously. The book ends around 1990, and that makes it somewhat dated of necessity, but the compromise in Lebanon is led by many of the sons and followers of the leaders in this book, and it is undermined by great instability and a range of assassinations. If in the future war breaks out there again, which is not inconceivable at all, many people will look for a guide, and should find it in this book. A thorough index of names will help dispel some of the difficulty with remembering all the different parties and individuals, but it helps while reading to try and keep a list of who belongs to whom and which alliances exist - these shift easily in the dust of the Levant.
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Read this many years ago and I still go back to it.

History they say is written by the victors, well thankfully just occasionally we get a Robert Fisk who writes the history as it happens. Even more poignant when you realise that he lived, and lives, in Beirut.
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30 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on 25 August 2001
The best foreign journalist of our times spent 15 years in war-destroyed Beirut, and this is the book that came out of it.
Life, massacre, insanity, bravery, pain and death: also comedy and political insight. A masterpiece of a book, the first page will ensnare you.
Ten years old and as fresh as next year, Fisk's book is well worth a read
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on 25 August 2014
One of the most comprehensive books written on the lebanese tragedy. Very factual and well written by a correspondant who has lived it first hand. A very wellcome addition to my library.
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