A fascinating Seymour Hersh article in the current New Yorker outlines Bush administration involvement in strategic planning that led to Israeli air strikes on Hezbollah and Lebanese targets.  Such involvement would clearly explain the administration’s initial complacency in response to the bombings and its ensuing support for them.   According to the article, Israel, acting with Bush administration knowledge and backing, was waiting for an incident that would justify the air strikes, and Hezbollah’s kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers fit the bill.  Bush and Israeli strategists anticipated that the air strikes would wipe out Hezbollah and distance civilians from the organization, leading to the installation of Lebanese troops at the border.  Bush/Cheney & Co. supported this campaign, particularly since they saw it as a test run for a planned similar campaign in Iran, in which air strikes would destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities and turn Iranian popular sentiment against its hawkish and outspoken President:

The Bush Administration . . . was closely involved in the planning of Israel’s retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel’s security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preëmptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.

This plan backfired because the Bush and Israeli “strategists” underestimated Hezbollah strength and passion and were reluctant to follow through with ground troops.  Instead, they battered civilians, seemingly punishing them for accepting Hezbollah charity and assistance in their own communities, and, consequently, outraged not only moderate Arab states, but much of the civilized world.  The Saudis’ late July push for a cease fire is most likely what turned the tide toward US endorsement:

According to Richard Armitage, who served as Deputy Secretary of State in Bush’s first term . . Israel’s campaign in Lebanon, which has faced unexpected difficulties and widespread criticism, may, in the end, serve as a warning to the White House about Iran. “If the most dominant military force in the region—the Israel Defense Forces—can’t pacify a country like Lebanon, with a population of four million, you should think carefully about taking that template to Iran, with strategic depth and a population of seventy million,” Armitage said. “The only thing that the bombing has achieved so far is to unite the population against the Israelis.”

According to Hersh’s sources, this cynical and brutish scheme was encouraged primarily by the office of the Vice President, which seems to serve as an independent arm of the executive branch, directing foreign and national security policy as it sees fit.  Apparently, Cheney and his staff, blind to mistakes that have already been made, have been working closely with Israeli officials to develop strategies for dealing with Hezbollah and for altering Mideast power relations:

“ Israel began with Cheney. It wanted to be sure that it had his support and the support of his office and the Middle East desk of the National Security Council.” . . . The initial plan, as outlined by the Israelis, called for a major bombing campaign in response to the next Hezbollah provocation, according to the Middle East expert with knowledge of U.S. and Israeli thinking. Israel believed that, by targeting Lebanon’s infrastructure, including highways, fuel depots, and even the civilian runways at the main Beirut airport, it could persuade Lebanon’s large Christian and Sunni populations to turn against Hezbollah, according to the former senior intelligence official.


Cheney’s office supported the Israeli plan, as did Elliott Abrams, a deputy national-security adviser, according to several former and current officials . . . Cheney’s point, the former senior intelligence official said, was “What if the Israelis execute their part of this first, and it’s really successful? It’d be great. We can learn what to do in Iran by watching what the Israelis do in

The Vice President seems indifferent to the innocent human life that is always the price to be paid for these tactics.  The images of Katrina destruction that so horrified the American public are nothing compared to some of the images that have come out of Lebanon—images of bombed apartment buildings and entire civilian neighborhoods, dead children, and ordinary people forced out of their homes and turned into refugees—refugees, that word that Americans found so distasteful when applied to themselves.