Michael Totten

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Michael J. Totten
Michael Totten.jpg
Totten at a Lebanese cafe in 2005
Born 1970 (age 46–47)
Salem, Oregon, U.S.
Occupation Journalist, blogger, novelist
Nationality American
Education South Salem High School
Alma mater University of Oregon (English literature)
Period 2000s and 2010s
Subject Middle Eastern politics
Spouse Shelly (m. 2002)

Michael J. Totten (born 1970) is an American journalist and author who has reported from the Middle East, the Balkans, Cuba, Vietnam, and the Caucasus. His work appears in various publications, websites, and on his blog. His first book, The Road to Fatima Gate, was published in 2011 and was awarded the Washington Institute Silver Book Prize. In his blog posts, he also describes himself as an "independent journalist", while regularly exposing his thoughts in articles which often focus on Middle Eastern conflicts.

Early life and education[edit]

Totten is of English[1] descent and was born in 1970[2][3] in Salem, Oregon to a father who was a Republican and a military veteran.[4] Totten studied English literature at the University of Oregon and went to South Salem High School.[5] He has stated that he did not like his time living in Salem and that he was glad to leave it.[6]


In the 1990s, Totten wrote an opinion column for The Daily Iowan.

Totten's work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times,[7] City Journal, the New York Daily News,[8] The Jerusalem Post, the Daily Star of Lebanon, Reason magazine, Commentary,[9] LA Weekly, Front Page, Tech Central Station, and the Australian edition of Newsweek.

In July 2007, Totten traveled to Baghdad to embed with several U.S. Army units before transitioning to Anbar province and embedding with Marines.[10] In late 2007 he embedded with Marines in Fallujah, and he embedded again with the Army in Baghdad in late 2008.

Totten won the 2007 Weblog Award for Best Middle East or Africa Blog,[11] he won it again in 2008, and was named Blogger of the Year in 2006 by The Week magazine for his dispatches from the Middle East.

His most recent book is Tower of the Sun: Stories from the Middle East and North Africa.[12]


In the past Totten has described himself as a "weird combination of liberal, libertarian, and neocon" and later he described himself as politically centrist.[13] He initially supported the Iraq War, stating during the run-up, "If you don’t join us now, when Saddam’s regime falls and Iraqis cheer the US Marines, you are really going to feel like a jackass. And your jackassery will be exposed beneath klieg lights for all to see."[14] However, he believed that the critics of the war who noted the lack of progress from 2004 to 2006 were correct while the Bush administration was wrong. He supported the 2007 'surge' strategy.[15]

On June 23, 2010, Totten applauded Barack Obama's decision to accept General Stanley McChrystal's resignation, and Totten labeled it "one of the best decisions the president has made since he took office."[16]


Totten describes himself as an "independent journalist." Most of his trips—to Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Bosnia, Kosovo, Georgia, and several other places—are paid for out of his own pocket, although he has also accepted funding from the Government of Azerbaijan, the American Jewish Committee and the Lebanese pro-western March 14 alliance for trips to Azerbaijan, Israel, and Lebanon, respectively.[17][18]

Personal life[edit]

Totten's wife is Shelly,[19] who he married in April 2002.[20][21] They are both atheists,[22] though Totten is a former Christian.[23]

Totten lives in Portland, Oregon,[24] and his grandfather was a World War II veteran.[25]

He was briefly a Libertarian during the 1990s, but became a Democrat afterwards, though he has stated that he was never fully content with being a Democrat and had considered going back to the Libertarians.[26]


Totten's first book, The Road to Fatima Gate: The Beirut Spring, the Rise of Hezbollah, and the Iranian War Against Israel (Encounter Books, April 2011, ISBN 978-1-59403-521-0), reports his experiences in the Middle East, primarily Lebanon.

Other books include:[27]

  • Tower of the Sun: Stories From the Middle East and North Africa (2014)
  • Where the West Ends (2012)
  • Resurrection: A Zombie Novel (2014)
  • Taken – A Novel (2013)
  • In the Wake of the Surge (2011)
  • On the Hunt in Baghdad (2011)
  • In the Land of the Brother Leader (2011)
  • Raid Night (2011)


  1. ^ Totten, Michael J. (July 2005). "Al Qaeda Hits London". MichaelTotten.com. Retrieved June 16, 2017. I have never been to England, but it’s where my family and my name are from. 
  2. ^ Totten, Michael J. (2003). "An Open Letter to the People of Iran". I remember the revolution of 1979. The Shah was deposed, the Ayatollahs seized power, and students in the streets of Tehran shouted “Death to America!” Our embassy staff were kidnapped, and we Americans were terrified. I was nine years old. 
  3. ^ "Archive". Normblog. BlogSpot. September 28, 2003. Michael J. Totten was born in Salem, Oregon in 1970. He studied English literature at the University of Oregon, and his interests have since expanded to include writing, history, politics, and travel. 
  4. ^ Totten, Michael J. (December 23, 2015). "The Truth About American Sniper". City Journal. I was raised with the anti-military prejudice common in my community, despite having a military veteran and Republican for a father. 
  5. ^ "Michael J. Totten". www.facebook.com. 
  6. ^ Totten, Michael J. (2004). "Against Suburbia". MichaelTotten.com. 
  7. ^ Book review by Michael Totten of Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict by Sandra Mackey, The New York Times, March 30, 2008
  8. ^ "Frontline Lessons from the Iraq Surge", Michael Totten, New York Daily News, August 29, 2007
  9. ^ "The Worst since 9/11", Michael J. Totten, Commentary, August 22, 2007
  10. ^ "Iraq Trip Confirmed", Michael J. Totten.com, July 5, 2007
  11. ^ "The 2007 Weblog Award Winners", Kevin Aylward, November 9, 2007
  12. ^ Totten, Michael J. (20 November 2014). "Tower of the Sun: Stories From the Middle East and North Africa". Belmont Estate Books – via Amazon. 
  13. ^ "Quick Poll", Michael J. Totten, January 2008; see comment timestamped "January 7, 2008 1:25 AM"
  14. ^ "A Liberal's Case for Bush's War" Frontpagemag.com
  15. ^ The Real Iraq, Michael J. Totten, City Journal, May 16, 2008
  16. ^ Good Call, Mr. President, Michael J Totten, June 2010
  17. ^ "On my way to Israel", Michael J. Totten, January 2009
  18. ^ The Explosive Caucasus, Michael J. Totten, August 2008
  19. ^ "My Last Domestic Politics Post of the Election Season". 
  20. ^ Totten, Michael J. (July 24, 2004). "A Photo Tour of Tunisia". Archived from the original on May 27, 2017. Retrieved May 26, 2017. 
  21. ^ Totten, Michael J. (March 8, 2003). "Weekend Words and Photos". Michael J. Totten. BlogSpot. Archived from the original on September 29, 2004. Retrieved September 29, 2004. My wife Shelly is out of town this weekend, teaching a seminar in Ken Layne's crazy state. 
  22. ^ "Jerks". 
  23. ^ "Fighting Dirty". 
  24. ^ "Against Suburbia". 
  25. ^ "Schizophrenic Liberalism". 
  26. ^ "The Libertarian Temptation". 
  27. ^ Michael J. Totten Amazon.com

External links[edit]