Michael Totten

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”:http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2009/05/christopher-hitchens200905?printable=true&currentPage=all.
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”:http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/2009/02/christopher-hit.php 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”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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:
christopher-hitchens-0905-03.jpg
“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”:http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2009/05/christopher-hitchens200905?printable=true&currentPage=all.