AMY GOODMAN: The timetable that’s often given is that this began in mid-July, when Hezbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers. Is that your timetable? Is that how you see it?
RICHARD DEBS: No, absolutely not. Absolutely not. This is not a one-shot recent affair. This situation — really you have to go back many decades, but more recently, this is the way the Lebanese look at it, and most of the Middle East, including those who would rather see Hezbollah disappear. Going back to the civil war in Lebanon that had been caused by many, many reasons, many parties involved, sectarian and so forth, but also foreign interference, including that of Israel, who went in in the early ’80s and occupied, bombed Beirut, bombed Lebanon, in much the same way as they are doing now, but it was in ’82 or so that Hezbollah itself was organized. And from ’82 until 2000, Israel occupied the southern part of Lebanon, after having created devastation in the country itself, which took a long time. It never did recover, never did recover.The south was in terrible shape. The poorer Lebanese lived there . The occupation lasted all that time. And Hezbollah was created, not just as a military force, but as a welfare organization, like a state within a state. They took care of the people there. The Lebanese government did not, could not get there to do it.
Those are code words. “Democracy” has become a codeword, I’m sorry to say, and not a good codeword in the Middle East. Democracy stands for now, in their perception, the idea of American sovereignty over the whole area and Israeli incursions into the whole area. It’s a very sad situation. So in terms of the Lebanese in this country, the ones I know, the American Task Force for Lebanon, and so forth and so on —
On the other hand, you know, we handed Iraq over to Iran, in my view. We went into Iraq. We split the country up. And I’ve been around for a long time in that, and I go back many years, in visiting the Middle East and so forth. There was never this kind of Shia-Sunni split that people talk about. This is a recent development that’s been emphasized and aggravated by our policy in Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you, Dr. Richard Debs, you are a leading member of the American establishment — I mean, the former President of Morgan Stanley International, a leading financier in this country. Not just talking about Lebanese Americans and Arab Americans, how do the other people in the banking community, your colleagues, feel about what’s going on?
RICHARD DEBS: Well, when you look at what’s going on, in terms of what’s happening to Lebanon, everybody I know, including my Jewish friends, as well, think that this is a catastrophe, the killing of these people. On both sides, mind you. Both sides. In Lebanon there are just more being killed, and the country’s being destroyed.
AMY GOODMAN: And yet, we don’t hear this. There are very few voices on television right now that are speaking out against what is happening.
RICHARD DEBS: Correct. Because it is being — when the House and the Senate passed these resolutions early on in support of anything Israel wanted to do, basically, defense, didn’t mention the humanitarian aspects of it at all. That sort of set the stage for support, apparent support, of the Bush policy in the Middle East. And I think — actually, I think the Democrats made a huge mistake in going along with this position, because you’re right. The official position of the U.S., the White House and the Congress itself is that of complete support of Israel, with no real interest or no apparent interest in what’s happening in Lebanon. And it is put forth — the government of Israel puts it forth as, you know, a major priority of the state and the existence. It’s existential. It’s become to that. I mean, they use those words. So anyone who wants to speak out in opposition to Israeli policy puts himself at risk of being attacked just for that, taking of that position.
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