Michael Totten

A Beirut Diary

The LA Weekly is still holding onto the story I wrote for them about my trip to Libya a few months ago. They say they will publish it soon. In the meantime, I wrote a piece about Lebanon for them and they rushed it into print. This one, unlike my Libya piece, is timely.
So here it is, my first (published) LA Weekly story. A Beirut Diary: Inside the Forest of the Cedar Revolution.
Here’s a preview.

Beirut, Lebanon — Just as the last Syrian troops were ending their 30-year occupation, I traveled with three young leaders of the Cedar Revolution on their campaign up the coast to the ancient Christian stronghold of Mount Lebanon.
As we got to the gates of the Lebanese American University, in the hills above Byblos, we were met with a scene that suggested democracy was, nevertheless, still not quite at hand.
We came upon not only photo murals and monuments to Christian war criminals Samir Geagea and Bashir Gemayel but a surly mob of students — all of them men — arranged before us in a phalanx. All wore the same brown shirts with a picture of Geagea on the front and a black Christian cross on the back. They loudly chanted Christian war songs, raised their right hands and aped the Nazi salute. Others, behind the phalanx, banged drums. Someone rang the church bells furiously and violently. Far from a celebration in the new Lebanon, it looked more like a political pep rally in General Franco’s Spain.
The three activists from the democracy movement I was traveling with — Ribal, Michel and Alaa — ran up to the mob of radical Christians and hugged them. I felt sick to my stomach. What on earth were so-called democracy activists doing buddying up with sectarian ethnic chauvinists? I snapped some digital pictures because I didn’t know what else to do.
Just then a bald university administrator wearing a suit and a tie got in my face. “Where are you from?” he screamed. It was the first and only time anyone yelled at me in Lebanon. “You erase those pictures,” he said. “And you erase them right now.”

Want to know what happened next? Read the rest.