December 20, 2006

Out of Lebanon

by Michael J. Totten

MJT on Mt Lebanon.jpg
Photo copyright Noah Pollak

I’m back from a three-week under-the-radar trip to Beirut and South Lebanon. I wanted to write about events there while they were happening. But I went to Hezbollah’s southern “capital” of Bint Jbail, and also to their blasted-apart command and control center in the dahiyeh, the suburb south of Beirut. I’m on their “list,” so to speak, and it was both easier and safer to work without announcing my presence and giving them the chance to run interference.

I felt slightly ridiculous, like I was being too paranoid – the odds that Hezbollah would actually hurt me were miniscule. They haven’t committed any violence toward Westerners for many years. But they could have broken or confiscated my equipment and kicked me out of their area. Fortunately they did neither.

MJT with Aoun and Gemayel.jpg
Photo copyright Noah Pollak

The last three days of my trip were spent in Herzilya, Israel, at a media conference. I’m home again now and will begin writing and posting photographs as soon as I spend a little time with my wife and recover from jet lag.

Many thanks to Abu Kais for doing a terrific job guest-blogging while I’ve been out of the country. I couldn’t have picked a better person to fill in for me, especially while Lebanon was in turmoil and I had to keep quiet.

Stay tuned.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 20, 2006 01:28 PM
Comments

Welcome back, Michael. Looking forward to your posting on your trip.

Posted by: Dave Ruddell at December 20, 2006 01:35 PM

I knew you had something up your sleeve! Welcome back. Glad you're safe and sound. Can't wait to read your reports.

Zak

Posted by: Zak at December 20, 2006 01:36 PM

Welcome back, Michael. Looking forward to your Lebanon stories.

Posted by: Abu Kais at December 20, 2006 02:08 PM

Michael, welcome back.
I am hungry for leb news. Who do you think is winning in Beirut?

Posted by: Gaby at December 20, 2006 02:31 PM

Welcome back, Michael!

Can't wait for your posts!

Posted by: harrison at December 20, 2006 04:34 PM

Welcome back! Can't wait to read the stories!

Posted by: bad vilbel at December 20, 2006 04:39 PM

Dude, you are seriously paranoid and your post is nothing but absurd alarmist rhetoric. As if Hezbollah would waste their time on a nobody like you.

They have more important things to do, like fight for real democracy and against the American hegemony and tutelage over Lebanon which the Americans impose through their March 14 gang of puppets, convicted war criminals (Jaajaa), admitted feudal landlords and warlords(Junblatt), and thieves (every last one of them topped by Saad's daddy (RIP) and Sanyura).

Posted by: Lebanese at December 20, 2006 04:57 PM

Welcome back, Michael. Depressurize and unpack for a few days. We'll be okay and occupy the downtime by fighting amongst ourselves :-)

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 20, 2006 05:26 PM

They have more important things to do, like fight for real democracy and against the American hegemony and tutelage over Lebanon which the Americans impose through their March 14 gang of puppets, convicted war criminals (Jaajaa), admitted feudal landlords and warlords(Junblatt), and thieves (every last one of them topped by Saad's daddy (RIP) and Sanyura).

I love clowns! :) :) :) More please!

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 20, 2006 06:11 PM

"They haven’t committed any violence toward Westerners for many years."

Yea - I guess since they only kill Jews it doesn't count.

Posted by: visitng at December 20, 2006 07:10 PM

Merry Christmas!

Gotta admit, you got kjones. Good sub while you were away. Thank you. Look forward to reading your latest.

Posted by: OregonGuy at December 20, 2006 08:13 PM

Welcome back Michael.

Take a deep breath, unwind, ignore the Hezbollah troll in this post, and take your time to write an in depth account of your travels whilst it is still fresh in your mind.

Posted by: Jono at December 20, 2006 08:31 PM

Michael it was awesome getting to see you and I'm very much looking forward to reading your posts about Lebanon!

Thank you also, Abu Kais for doing such an excellent job that you had me popping over here just as regularly as ever :)

Posted by: Yael at December 20, 2006 11:20 PM

"They have more important things to do, like fight for real democracy and against the American hegemony and tutelage over Lebanon which the Americans impose through their March 14 gang of puppets, convicted war criminals (Jaajaa), admitted feudal landlords and warlords(Junblatt), and thieves (every last one of them topped by Saad's daddy (RIP) and Sanyura)."

Mr. Totten's comments were a bit alarmist, considering 95% of Lebanese are going about their daily lives without any real concern for the camped out Hezzies. People just want to live. 13 people from my family are going to celebrate the holidays in Lebanon, and this is not counting family friends and so on.

But what I quoted above is just the usual Hezbollah bull that everyone has scene and heard a million times. I'll take a feudal warlord, a thief, and an ex-criminal over a group that takes orders from BEYOND lebanese borders, that incites transnational wars at its whim, and that sanctions its possession of 30,000 weapons while hypocritically stating that March 14th is out to get them.

Anyways, welcome back Michael and Abu Kais did do a fabulous job!

Posted by: lebnaniyye at December 21, 2006 12:33 AM

Welcome back, Michael. Thanks, Abu Kais.

Posted by: Zvi at December 21, 2006 01:07 AM
But what I quoted above is just the usual Hezbollah bull

We are all for peace and love, man!

Posted by: El Gobbygoon at December 21, 2006 07:05 AM

Welcome back to Stumptown, Michael, and Merry Christmas!

Posted by: malm at December 21, 2006 09:07 AM

Michael, welcome back. Glad to hear all parts intact. (lebnaniyye, were you not aware that Michael is a marked man in certain Leb circles, or do you choose to ignore it?) Thanks to Abu Kais for his manful attempts to fill in for you. Here's hoping you found some good news in the back of a drawer somewhere.

May I ask you a silly question? Are you any relation to the Ft. - Totten - in - Queens - NY Tottens?

Posted by: nichevo at December 21, 2006 10:57 AM

I like your blog. Thanks to Michael et Abu Kais

Posted by: Emma at December 21, 2006 12:01 PM

To Whom It May Concern,

Michael Totten is excused again today from blogging because he is terribly ill. As his way of embracing the holiday spirit he spent 22 hours sharing with strangers. Specifically he was travelling and inhaling recycled airline air in cramped conditions and somebody was willing to share their latest virus with Michael. Four hours after he got home, his temperature reached 103 Fahrenheit and he fell like a poleaxed steer. Rather than blog under the influence of tussin remedies, Michael has decided to stay in bed and be miserable.

Thank you for your patience,

Patrick S Lasswell
(Michael's Self Appointed Apologist)

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 21, 2006 01:27 PM

Patrick, give him Airborne and zinc. It has kept me from getting sick in Israel for a week, including long hours at the conference and much shmoozing with germ-laden strangers.

Michael, I have great pix but they are being held hostage in my ipod until I can find a PC with USB input (since my laptop screen decided to die in time for Shabbat last week.)

Posted by: Yehudit at December 21, 2006 03:57 PM

Michael, you are a mensch! Looking forward to hearing more about Lebanon from you.

Posted by: Simon Hawkin at December 21, 2006 07:35 PM

Absolutely geeked for awesome photos and interesting and well-informed articles from a first person standpoint.

Posted by: mantis at December 21, 2006 07:46 PM

To Josh Scholar and Jono: Thank you for each calling me a "clown" and "troll" respectivly. It suffices to say that insults and name calling only illustrate your own intrinsic poverty of thought and inability to deal with realities in an objective and intellectual manner.

The only person who came close to ALMOST objectivly responding was "libnaniyye", but even she failed to make any real point, and had to resport to labeling my post as the "usual Hezbollah bull" which is not an argument, but a remark that basically reflects more an her than anything else.

One notes that over 70% of the Lebanese people, according to polls carried out by domestic and foriegn independent groups, support the demand for a national unity government as the Lebanese constitution calls for and as any true democracy should have. This current ruling regime not only is composed of thives who robbed Lebanon of over 40 billion dollars (over $ 10,000 debt per person which is among the highest in the world), convicted war criminal such as Samir Jaajaa, and self-decribed feudal landlords/warlors such as Junblatt, but it is also going against the precidents set by the Lebanese contition and against the popular demands of the Lebanese people (over 70%).

These facts are undeniable. The contitution is clear: "there is no legitimacy for a government that contradicts the concept of coexistance (among Lebanese)" and since the Shia sect in NOT represented in government, and the Free Patriotic Movement (which I am a part of, to those who called me a "Hezbollah troll") which represents over 66% of Lebanon's Christian population (anf some Shias and Sunnis as well) is also not represented, then according to the Lebanese contitution, the current Lebanese government is illgitimate.

The US is backing an illigitimate and unpopular government in Lebanon, which over 70% of the Lebanese people feel is incapable of protecting and providing for them, and is therefore working against popular will and democracy in Lebanon, and it is the Lebanese National Opposition, which includes members and parties not only from every single one of Lebanon's 18 sects, but from all colors of the Lebanese political sprectrum, which is working towards democracy and freedom in Lebanon.

As for Hezbollah, I dare one of you who can point out and istance where Hezbollah persued an Iranian agenda or a Syrian agenda instead of a Lebanese agenda. There is not one instance. No matter how much you wine and cry about it, Shias are just as much Lebanese as the rest of the great Lebanese people, and their demands and rights are no less valid that the rest of the Lebanese people.

Stop these bigoted and frankly racist accusations against Shia Muslims in Lebanon, 97% of whom support Hezbollah. They are just as much Lebanese as anyone and I am proud of my Shia bretheren in Lebanon. They liberated the Southern lands of my great country, and they defended it from the Zionists during an 18 year occupation which killed over 20,000 Lebanese innocents, and they defended it against the Zionists during the July/August war as well.

They stood up for Lebanon when Sanyura and Junblatt and Jaajaa turned their backs on Lebanon and it is BECAUSE the Lebanese people recognise this (over 70% of them) that they support Hezbollah. Those of you who mention Hezbollah's 30,000 rockets as if this is something against them are mystaken. Those are 30,000 reasons the Zionist regime can't come in and invade our country and annex our land and kill 20,000 more civilians.

p.s. If any of you care to hold an actual conversation about the ISSUES, then I ask of you two things. The first, is a fair request that chidish insults and such nonsense are left out, because it discredist you in my eyes and tells me that you are not up to holding a conversation. The second is to argue based on facts, not rhetoric or accusations. I think that these are fair requests.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas (and I mean that in the loosest, most secular connotation of the term, as in be merry this holiday season, eat, drink, and be well) and I wish Micheal Totten a speedy recovery from his illness.

Good Day.

Posted by: Lebanese at December 21, 2006 08:06 PM

"Lebanese": I hope you enjoy your fictitious 70% support for a "national unity government" that not even Hizbullah really wants. Also, I hope you enjoy Christmas in the sanitary hole that your democracy loving Islamists and pro-Syrian terrorists created in Beirut, with "pure and untainted" money stolen from poor Iranian Shias. Do me a favor: don't speak in the name of Shias, especially not Lebanese Shias. There are 3 million reasons why you can't and shouldn't get away with saying what you said.

Posted by: Abu Kais at December 21, 2006 09:20 PM

Abu Kais, I truly expected better from you.

Are you saying that you beleive at all the independent polling agencies in Lebanon, which have all released simular polling data which point to the fact that over 70% of the Lebanese people support the Lebanese National Opposition, which spans ALL sects and demoninations in Lebanon, are all lying and in some grand terrorist Syrian-Iranian conspiracy?

The facts remain the same. Several independent polling centers, from a wide variety of spectrums and sources in Lebanon have released results of scientific polling data that are in concensus: 70% of the Lebanese people support the opposition.

Thats over 3 million reasons why everything I said is completely justified, and over 3 million reasons why you have no right to tell someone that "they shouldn't get away" with speaking the truth for once in a while.

And by the way, your threats to me, that "I shouldn't get away" because I spoke the truth, are useless and futile. Go try your threats one someone more meek and vulnerable who doesn't know the facts so you can manipulate them.

Furthermore, I don't have to speak for Lebanese Shias. Polls from before the war, during the war, and after the war, and after December 1 all say the same thing. 97% of Lebanese Shias support Hezbollah.

If these facts bother you, then don't take it out on me, by accusing me of speaking in their name. They have spoken for themselves and the results are cyrstal clear.

Continue to live in denial of the reality my friend and continue to issue threats, and lets see where it will get you. The people can judge for themselves who bases their arugments on hateful and sectarian rhetoric and accusations, and who bases it on facts and realities on the ground.

Peace.

Posted by: Lebanese at December 21, 2006 09:56 PM

I find it funny that "Lebanese" referred to "independent polling stations" in Lebanon...riiiiight. As if there is anything truly independent in Lebanon. Why did you expect "better" from Abu Kais? Does it royally piss you off that he's a Lebanese Shia who is disgusted with Hizbullah's actions, rhetoric, threats, etc...he must be in that tiny 3% that you and your "independent" polling stations have calculated. What a freak of nature Abu Kais must be!

I better not mention Aoun and his so-called popularity, that will really burn you up! Ho ho ho, may you have a bright orange Merry Christmas "Lebanese"!

Posted by: Almost Lebanese at December 21, 2006 11:21 PM

Lebanese,

Supporting the opposition is easy and pointless. The grand total of "the opposition's" accomplishments in world history amounts to a bucket of warm spit compared to what people who make meaningful compromise get done on a daily basis.

Hezbollah cannot deliver economic stability outside of eternal poverty. Prosperity is not denied to Hezbollah by the evil outsider, it is denied by their internal rule of terror. Because you bury your mistakes, nobody takes chances and you cannot compete. Your arguments ring hollow because Lebanon is dependant on competitive trade, not authoritarian stupidity. Real Lebanese do the math and see that you have a rotten business model.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 21, 2006 11:36 PM

Lebanese - Some facts about the BCRI Survey, on which your claim that 70% of all Lebanese "support Hezbollah"

- It was taken at the height of the war. If a similar poll were taken in America on Sept. 12, 2001, asking Americans if they support the president's actions, 99% would probably have said yes.

Does that mean that 99% Americans support the Republicans now? No.

In fact, given that this survey was done during a time of war, Hezbollah's "support" is fairly lame. Note the response to the question "Do you think that Hezbollah should keep its weapons after this war?" About half of all respondents said "no".

- 800 adult Lebanese citizens were surveyed. That's a very small sample.

- The wording of the poll is biased and suggestive.

- As far as I know, the poll was taken via text messaging. This makes a little less reliable than an internet poll. This is a prime example of garbage in, garbage out.

Of course, the results of the poll are being promoted by the usual suspects - Iran's Mehr News, known as a mouthpiece for Iran's millionaire mullahs, couldn't wait to publish the results. They say:

A poll conducted by the Beirut Center for Research and Information (BCRI) Wednesday showed that 86.9 percent of the Lebanese backed resistance against the Zionists’ aggression.

no bias there...

Posted by: mary at December 22, 2006 01:26 AM

Lebanese,

You ought to read your constitution more carefully. Article 53 says that the decree accepting the resignation of ministers is issue by the president in agreement with the prime minister. The prime minister in this case is not in agreement; Siniora has refused to accept the resignations. So, in the constitutional sense, the Amal and Hezbollah ministers are still considered to be in active duty and therefore the Shia are represented in the cabinet despite their boycott.

Posted by: Jay at December 22, 2006 03:39 AM

When perusing their actions, it would seem that Hezbollah are, by and large, not nearly as concerned about the health and welfare of Lebanon as they are about attacking Israel and obeying the wishes of their Iranian sponsors. The recent war in the region was occasioned by Hezbollah's cross-border kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, at a time most propitious for public diversion of attention from Iran's continued snubbing of the IAEA and their continued pursuit of nuclear weapons, and for showing that there would be a regional price to pay for holding Iran to international account, and in the face of Israel's robust response to a prior kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by Hamas.

Iran has proven itself to be all too willing to use both Hezbollah and Lebanon as tools for their own purposes, which do not dovetail with Lebanon's own interests and have indeed severely damaged them, and Hezbollah has proven itself to be all too willing to be so used, regardless of the conseqences for Lebanon. However, many Lebanese resent being so used by Iran and their Lebanese puppet militia Hezbollah, and having their country suffer the disastrous consequences in blood and treasure, and they are increasingly letting their voices be heard.

Posted by: Salamantis at December 22, 2006 05:15 AM

Is "Lebanese" serious with arguments like these?:

97% of Lebanese Shias support Hezbollah.

Wow! That's about the same percentage that always voted for Saddam Hussein! Very convincing.

Hezbollah's 30,000 rockets... are 30,000 reasons the Zionist regime can't come in and invade our country

More like 30,000 reasons the whole of South Lebanon is an Israeli target.

This current ruling regime not only is composed of thives who robbed Lebanon of over 40 billion dollars (over $ 10,000 debt per person which is among the highest in the world)

Gee. Something tells me the Lebanese economy was doing a whole lot better before Hezbollah launched that attack against Israel. And before they stopped all economic activity in Beirut.

convicted war criminal such as Samir Jaajaa

Ha ha! What about that other Samir - Kuntar! I suppose that convicted child-killing criminal is worth destroying half the country for!

I dare one of you who can point out and istance where Hezbollah persued an Iranian agenda or a Syrian agenda instead of a Lebanese agenda. There is not one instance.

The piece de resistance. Let me see now, exactly how did Hezbollah's attack on Israel help Lebanon??? Sure helped Iran divert attention from its nuclear program!

Lebanese, you must be joking!

Posted by: mertel at December 22, 2006 06:31 AM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member



Testimonials

"I'm flattered such an excellent writer links to my stuff"
Johann Hari
Author of God Save the Queen?

"Terrific"
Andrew Sullivan
Author of Virtually Normal

"Brisk, bracing, sharp and thoughtful"
James Lileks
Author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere


Contact Me

Send email to michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com


News Feeds




toysforiraq.gif



Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button

totten_button.jpg


Tip Jar





Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn