Lebanon, March 14

The Experts are Coming!

15marchLawrence Osborne was part of the media junket flown to Lebanon last week by the March 14th lobby in Washington. Along with Christopher Hitchens and Michael Totten (and Charles Krauthammer, for all we know), he was brought in to observe the big rally and presumably to collect enough soundbytes to drizzle in his writings over the next few months. Why March 14th thought that a travel writer and wine connoisseur who knows little about Lebanon would be an effective propagandist is puzzling. Were they hoping that he would manage to slip in a few cheery mentions of Siniora, UNSCR 1701, and the Hariri tribunal in an article about the effects of the Andean snowmelt on the acidity of Chilean cabernets? No, it seems that Osborne felt he had it in him to try some political commentary on for size. Here are some choice tidbits:

We walked all along the Corniche first, passing the war-ruined Holiday Inn and the new Dubai-style condo towers of Waffic Sinno: children carrying flagpoles bigger than themselves, old women with faces painted red and blue, teenage girls in blue hats crying “Saad! Saad!”–the name of Rafiq’s son, now the anointed hero of what has come to be called the “March 15 movement.”

M15, huh? A felicitous slip of the pen? (The impressions throughout the article do have an Ian Fleming-ish cast to them). Aww, who can keep all these Marches straight? I mean, there are two after all.

Beirut is a schizophrenic city these days. Driving along its coastal roads near Juneirah it looks like Genova or Nice.

I’ll tell you what happened here. I’m fairly sure that Lawrence meant “Jounieh”, but couldn’t be bothered to reach for his guide book to figure out how to spell the name of the town with all the Bulgarian strippers, so he played a little fast and loose and mixed it up with Jumeira, i.e. the island in Dubai in the shape of a palm tree. Hence, Juneirah. No big whoop.

Like the denizens of an Evelyn Waugh tale, the “March 15 movement” is opposed by the “March 8 movement” of Islamicists, and ubiquitous armed checkpoints keep the two Marches apart. The Beirut papers that weekend reported Nasrullah’s opinion that his men now needed “air defense weapons,” and as Hezbollah’s power rises, there is a feeling among the non-insane citizens of the city that bad times could return at any moment.

Fast forward to June 2009, where March 8th wins a slim majority in Lebanon’s parliament. Lawrence’s expert conclusion: over 50% of Lebanon’s voters are not only Islamists, they are also insane.

But later that night, three of our “scoop” brigade–Jonathan Foreman, Michael Totten and Christopher Hitchens–got involved in a street brawl with some thugs of a Syria-loving skinhead party called the SNPN after Hitchens rather gallantly insulted their swastika flag.

Yes, you know, the SNPN, arch-enemy of the M15 movement, with its headquarters in Juneira. The Syrian Nazi Party errrr… Nationalists? Whatever. M15 tells me they’re good-for-nothin’s and I believe them.

We tore up to the Shuf at 120 mph in SUVs, forcing people off the road and blasting horns. These are the most blood-soaked foothills on earth, a maze of valleys and pinnacles that make up the feudal mystery of Mount Lebanon… [Jumblatt] offered me the wine he helps make on his estates, Chateau Kefraya.”Socialist wine,” he murmured, since the party he heads is officially called the Progressive Socialist Party. The party isn’t very socialist, and the wine wasn’t very socialist either–it was perfectly international, though.

Mmmm, yes, blood-soaked foothills, feudal mysteries… our stock in trade. By the way, Lawrence, everybody who drives up to the Shuf does it at 120 mph, forcing people off the road and blasting horns. You weren’t getting preferential treatment. And would it have killed you to throw in a subtle segue from “blood-soaked hills” to the pungent terroir of Chateau Kefraya? That would have been sweet.

On the one hand, I’m glad that there’s someone in Washington spending money to bring opinion-makers to Lebanon. I just wish that they were doing it in a slightly less boneheaded fashion. I mean, who am I to quibble with a strategy that has wine writers pressing the flesh with Geagea, Jumblatt, and Chalabi? On the other hand, if anybody who’s anybody in Washington is taking this stuff seriously, they will have to conclude that Lebanon is caught in a struggle between two diametrically opposed movements: one that is a combination of insane Nazis and Islamists, and the other that is somehow a Lebanese extension of British military intelligence headquartered near a floating island in the shape of a palm tree.

Memo to March 14th: The 2005 vintage seems to have been a beaujolais nouveau. It’s held up fairly well but it will soon be undrinkable. If you’d let Lawrence meet anybody else, he would have discovered that for himself.

Update: The errors in the Forbes article have been corrected.
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25 thoughts on “The Experts are Coming!

  1. I assume that he meant 120 kph instead of mph…

    Posted by sean | February 19, 2009, 7:36 am
  2. So was the review of the Chateau Kefraya favorable?

    Posted by mt | February 19, 2009, 2:41 pm
  3. Qifa,

    Here’s someone you should post more of. He makes sense. The other website doesn’t post critics of the Syrian regime for some reason.


    Posted by AKbar Palace | February 19, 2009, 5:34 pm
  4. Oh give me a break Qifa. This is an “opinion” piece, as in I blog some amusing impressions without pretention to anything else and leave it at that. It’s a comedy piece about warlord interior decoration more than anything – and why not? By the way I didn’t see any of the errors you mention, so I dunno…beyond those what are you so worked up about? I think they should have junkets ONLY for wine writers – couldn’t do the country any more harm than the “experts.”

    Posted by Rashid | February 20, 2009, 3:08 am
  5. Rashid, first of all welcome. Second of all, give ME a break. 🙂 This wasn’t “amusing impressions” on a blog! (That’s what I do). It was on Forbes.com. And how could you not see the errors? I quoted them in bold.

    But I agree: junkets exclusively for wine writers would be awesome.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | February 20, 2009, 4:51 am
  6. Tzippi Livini responds to call for a Unity Government:

    “I will not be able to serve as a cover for a lack of direction. I want to lead Israel in a way I believe in, to advance a peace process based on two states for two peoples,” Ms Livni said, after her final meeting with Mr Peres.

    Let’s see, Tzippi wants to “advance a peace process” where she and her party (over the past 3 YEARS) managed to get absolutely NOWHERE with, and instead, fought two wars.

    Makes sense to me…

    Posted by AKbar Palace | February 20, 2009, 10:54 am
  7. AP, is that you? 🙂

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | February 20, 2009, 12:13 pm
  8. QN –

    Yes it’s me, I’ve come to ruin someone else’s forum…

    Destroy, destroy!!!;)

    Posted by AKbar Palace | February 20, 2009, 12:15 pm
  9. QN,
    Perhaps you can explain to AP and me what happened to SC. Alex and everybody else have become hyper sensitive and defensive.

    Posted by AIG | February 20, 2009, 3:23 pm
  10. AIG –

    Can we please stay on the topic of Zionist Crimes?

    BTW – Your prediction of a “unity government” missed the mark. Livni can’t find common ground. She wants to foward the “peace process” that she failed at for the past 3 years. Absurd, no?

    Meanwhile Peres admits to making a “mistake” for leaving Gaza.

    I don’t know what is more screwed up, Israel or the US government.

    Invest in bomb shelters?

    Posted by AKbar Palace | February 20, 2009, 5:02 pm
  11. AIG –

    Your Zionist racist country aired a PRIVATE COMEDY show that in no way represents the State of Israel. You should be ashamed of yourself and your racist, apartheid Entity.

    Glad Palmor said Shlein recanted apologized live on Wednesday, and said he didn’t mean to offend anyone.

    Meanwhile, I wonder if Bishop Richard Williamson is finished his investigation?;)


    Posted by AKbar Palace | February 20, 2009, 5:13 pm
  12. “Yes it’s me, I’ve come to ruin someone else’s forum…”

    For once in his life, Akbar Palace is right.

    Posted by Peter H | February 20, 2009, 5:57 pm
  13. AIG Says:

    February 20, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Perhaps you can explain to AP and me what happened to SC. Alex and everybody else have become hyper sensitive and defensive.


    Work stress AIG, peace is about to break out , and the jihadi loving, terrorist supporting, zionist hating,Dictator loving, Anti democratic, Anti -semitic crowd on SC are about to discover that their meaningless lives commentating across the cyberspace are about to change forever. Yes the are a little sensitive , now you know why!

    I am thinking of moving back to the ME! What about you, maybe me you and Akbar can get together and have a few beers- Kosher of course!

    Posted by Enlightened | February 20, 2009, 11:34 pm
  14. I am thinking of moving back to the ME! What about you, maybe me you and Akbar can get together and have a few beers- Kosher of course!


    Good idea. Ever have Israeli beer?

    Anyway, I just found this clip. Don’t click it if you’re sensitive to “4 letter words”.

    I call this clip:

    “The US responds to the Shoethrower”

    Posted by Akbar Palace | February 20, 2009, 11:39 pm
  15. AP:

    No I haven’t! Recommend a few brands and I will try some if they are available in Aus.

    I have tried a few Kosher Cucumbers pickled marketed by that illegal zionist entity of yours, they are good, very good.

    I am not that sensitive!

    Posted by Enlightened | February 21, 2009, 12:21 am
  16. AIG

    I don’t know the answer to that question. I have not had time to keep up with Syria Comment lately, unfortunately. This meager blog is enough work.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | February 21, 2009, 5:43 am
  17. Enlightened,

    Well, last I checked, the Zionist beers are:

    – Maccabee
    – Goldstar
    – Nesher

    There may be a brand or two that I haven’t accounted for. Maccabee is the only brand I’ve seem marketed in the US. It’s a fairly good beer by US standards, but doesn’t really compete with Euro beer.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | February 21, 2009, 1:26 pm
  18. Qifa,

    Not sure if you’ve seen this:

    Ex-spymaster: First Lebanon War was Mossad success, despite Sabra and Chatila


    Some interesting cross-border commentary too in the talkbacks.

    Posted by Rumyal | February 22, 2009, 6:01 pm
  19. Debbie Schlussel (one of my heroines) has a different take on “Waltz with Bashir”:

    And it’s no surprise that “Waltz With Bashir” is made by Israelis–in particular, director Ari Folman doing his best Leni Riefenstahl. Goebbels would be proud. As I’ve often noted on this site, the Israeli left and the Israeli movie industry make our left and our Hollywood look like centrists and moderates.

    I saw in this animated piece of garbage virtually every canard that HAMAS, Hezbollah, and Israel’s enemies around the world have hurled.

    Jews as Nazis . . . Check.

    Arabs killing Arabs, but it’s the Jews’ fault . . . Check.

    Jews as murderers of “innocent” Muslims . . . Check.

    Terrorist Muslims as innocent victims of the Jews . . . Check.

    Jews as the Michael Vicks of the Middle East, killing dogs and Arabian horses . . . Check.

    Israelis as porn and sex addicts . . . Check.

    Israelis as drug addict slackers . . . Check (well, that part is true about the Israeli left, like the scum that made this movie).

    Check, Check, Check, Check, Check.


    Posted by Akbar Palace | February 22, 2009, 9:38 pm
  20. Very funny, though I should point out: Jumeirah is actually a mainland neighbourhood of Dubai, about 15km northeast of the (first) Palm Island, which is technically in the al-Sufouh area. It’s true that they call it ‘The Palm Jumeirah’, but to those who knew Dubai in the pre-seven-star-hotel days, this is manifestly absurd. It would be like building an ‘Ashrafieh Island’ off the coast of Tabaris.

    Incidentally, when Osborne sticks to his area of expertise (drink) he turns out some quality passages, in my opinion – even when they overlap with Lebanon, as here: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2013/02/11/booze-and-bliss-in-beirut.html

    Posted by Alex Rowell (@disgraceofgod) | August 15, 2013, 8:36 am
  21. Alex, what possessed you to read this old post? 🙂

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 15, 2013, 8:44 am
  22. A scandalous rumour was passed on to me about Hitchens during his time here, and, as I’ve said before, the comments section of your blog is where all the best journalists go for their information…

    Posted by Alex Rowell (@disgraceofgod) | August 16, 2013, 8:15 am


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