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Nina Berman: In 34 days last summer, the Israeli Defense Forces lay waste to a large swath of Lebanon. Thousands of rocket attacks, more than 3 million cluster bombs, over 1,000 Lebanese civilians killed, and despite all the destruction and a small number of Israeli casualties, the general consensus, George Bush notwithstanding, is that Hezbollah, the intended target, emerged stronger than ever.
You've covered many conflicts around the world. What can you tell us about the Israel-Hezbollah war, and why it was waged??
Scott Anderson: Everyone has different theories. Hezbollah did this cross-border raid, killed three soldiers and captured a few. The Israeli army went in pursuit, walked into an ambush and lost five more. By the end of that day, the Israeli air force was already bombing. Most people think the Israelis were looking for a pretext to do what they did, and they found it in the cross-border raid..
Berman What was the U.S. involvement in the war?
Anderson: As in most everything that has to do with Israel, there was a complete carte blanche. Certainly from my vantage point, the most shameful aspect of American policy was to rush cluster bombs to Israel near the end of the war.
So in the last days of the war, the Israeli air force just littered the countryside with these cluster bombs. (Note: The Israeli Defense Forces dropped an estimated 3 million bombs over an area half the size of Rhode Island. About 1 million did not explode.) Civilians in Lebanon continue to die from these bombs. Obviously the major blame lies with the Bush administration, but the Democrats all just lined up, which supports this view in the Muslim world that they can never get a break with the American government.
Berman: Some people have said that the Lebanon war was a dress rehearsal for Iran. Do you support that view, and why should the American public be interested?
Anderson: I don't know if this was a dress rehearsal for Iran. But if you support the idea that we have to go in and take out Iran's nuclear facility and believe that it's going to be a clean war with pinpoint strikes, then you need to take a look, because really it's going to look an awful lot like Lebanon.
Berman: In the complex algebra of the Middle East, it seems that Israel, and now the United States, in attacking its enemy, ends up emboldening them, or creating conditions of such misery that make the rise of more hardline elements inevitable. What was accomplished by this war?
Anderson: The Israelis had this idea that they were going to move in and really pound the infrastructure throughout Lebanon, but they so overplayed their hand. They just took a hammer to the entire country. It had the political effect of making all of Lebanon feeling that they were under attack and rallying political support behind Hezbollah. On a military level it was a disaster for Israel. Hezbollah gave them a great fight, maybe the best they've ever had.
Berman: For the Lebanese, this was a war that began with little warning, spread rapidly and horrifically, and ended without resolution. Can you explain the book's title, Double Blind?
Anderson: I've covered war for a long time, and I think you operate on a covenant that you can gauge things coming, and the really creepy thing is that you didn't see Hezbollah. So the fighters on the ground were invisible. And the Israelis were doing it all by air. You see the F16s flying away, and they're dropping bigger bombs, but by the time you hear them overhead, the bomb has already dropped.
Paolo (Pellegrin, the photographer) and I had this experience where a drone missile exploded next to our car, about 25 feet away. You hear nothing. It's not like in the movies. It just explodes. It could come at the next second.
Berman: So the anxiety is constant? There are no safe moments or places for the civilian population?
Anderson: That's right.
To purchase Double Blind directly from the publisher, visit Trolley Books.
For more information about the Lebanon war, visit Human Rights Watch.
This photo series is underwritten, in part, by the popular progressive blog BAGnewsNotes. Authored by psychologist Michael Shaw, BAGnewsNotes is dedicated to the daily visual analysis of political news images. In addition, the site features and promotes original photojournalism. Besides "The BAG," Shaw also writes a blog feature for The Huffington Post called "Reading The Pictures," and an online column for American Photo magazine.
Nina Berman is a photographer and the author of Purple Hearts: Back From Iraq.