March 30, 2009

An Ominously Pre-War Feeling

“The whole place has an ominously pre-war feeling to it,” Christopher Hitchens says of Lebanon in his new piece in Vanity Fair.

He narrates, of course, the now-famous story where he, Jonathan Foreman, and I were assaulted by goons from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party on Hamra Street in West Beirut. (You can read my version here if you haven’t already.)

Christopher and I spent most of a week together in Beirut, but we split up once when he attended a Hezbollah rally while I met with Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea in his mountain redoubt. I hadn’t met Geagea before, but I’d been to Hezbollah events many times. I knew already from experience that hanging out with Hezbollah for an hour gives Lebanon a distinct “pre-war” feeling.

This is what Christopher saw:


“Try picturing a Shiite-Muslim mega-church,” he wrote, “in a huge downtown tent, with separate entrances for men and women and separate seating (with the women all covered in black). A huge poster of a nuclear mushroom cloud surmounts the scene, with the inscription OH ZIONISTS, IF YOU WANT THIS TYPE OF WAR THEN SO BE IT! During the warm-up, an onstage Muslim Milli Vanilli orchestra and choir lip-synchs badly to a repetitive, robotic music video that shows lurid scenes of martyrdom and warfare. There is keening and wailing, while the aisles are patrolled by gray-uniformed male stewards and black-chador’d crones. Key words keep repeating themselves with thumping effect: shahid (martyr), jihad (holy war), yehud (Jew). In the special section for guests there sits a group of uniformed and be-medaled officials representing the Islamic Republic of Iran. I remember what Walid Jumblatt, the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party and also the leader of the Druze community—some of my best friends are Druze—said to me a day or so previously: ‘Hezbollah is not just a party. It is a state within our state.’ It is also the projection of another state.”

Read it all.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at March 30, 2009 11:19 AM

What a freak show. Thank you both.

I briefly met Christopher earlier this month when he was in Texas for the Christian Book Expo. I felt proud to be called a comrade. His output continually amazes me. And his warmth and hospitality (to friends, not enemies) is something to be admired.

Posted by: Robert Kelly Author Profile Page at March 30, 2009 12:58 PM

This is a contrast to the Hezbollah/Aounist marches in 2006 - no more Cedar Flags and Phish concert ambiance. Yes, Nasrallah's warmongering speeches were always nasty, boring and interminable, but the rest of the crowd wasn't so overtly jihad-friendly. I wonder what inspired such big changes in Hezb's marketing campaign.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at March 31, 2009 9:07 AM
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Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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