Israel bombed southern Lebanon on July 12 in response to the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah fighters. But the Israelis were said to have planned a military campaign weeks before the soldiers were kidnapped. According to Dr. John Pike, head of the Washington-based think tank Global Strategies, and my friend Arnaud de Borchgrave, editor at large of the Washington Times and UPI, Israel had briefed Washington about its concerns, and the U.S. had given Israel a green light to attack Hezbollah and push its troops into southern Lebanon. There was an agreement between Israel and Uncle Sam that Iranian nuclear plants would eventually have to be bombed. Once this was done, Iran would most likely order Hezbollah to attack Israel. Thus the U.S. and Israel agreed in secret that at some point before the attack on Iran, Hezbollah would have to be disarmed and that as soon as a pretext became available, Israel should use force.

Elementary, my dear Watson. As everyone who does not live in a cave knows, whenever there is a glimmer of stability in the region, the state of Israel orders a targeted assassination. (Just before the Hezbollah kidnapping, there were targeted assassinations in Gaza.) On June 17, the former Israeli prime minister and chief hawk, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Likud Knesset member Natan Sharansky met with Vice President Dick Cheney. Speaking to the London Spectator recently, Netanyahu suggested that President Bush had assured him Iran will be prevented from going nuclear. I take him at his word. Netanyahu seems to be the main mover in America’s official adoption of the 1996 white paper “A Clean Break,” authored by him and American fellow neocons, which aimed to aggressively remake the strategic environments of Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. As they say in boxing circles, three down, two to go.

The trouble, of course, is that the three are not down. The U.S.-sponsored assault on Lebanon is looking a lot like the ill-fated Iraq invasion. In both cases we were told smart bombs would accomplish miracles. Not so. Stiff resistance on the ground and outrage throughout the world is the result. The Bush doctrine of creating democracy in the Middle East with bombs will go down in history as the cruelest and craziest ever. A war on terror, as Bush calls everything he doesn’t agree with, cannot be won by a democratically elected government acting like a terrorist organization. Killing civilians, especially children, is wrong. As Talleyrand cynically pointed out, “It is worse than a crime, it’s a mistake.”

The truth is that even friends of Israel—and there are many—do not believe for a moment that Hezbollah, Syria, or Iran really threaten Israel’s existence. Only a propagandist like John Podhoretz—“we should have killed many more Sunnis age 15 to 35”—and his bloodthirsty ilk of neocons believe such rubbish, and being a betting man I’d bet the farm that even they don’t. Normal, decent, sophisticated countries that claim the moral high ground, as Israel does, do not kill thousands of civilians and destroy the infrastructure of their neighbors because three soldiers were kidnapped. It was a set-up from day one.

Both sides, needless to say, claim victimhood. The U.S. and its allies invoke 9/11, Madrid, and London. The Arabs underline 1967, 1982, 2003, not to mention Der Yassin in 1948 and last month’s bombing of Qana. Yet we have three Arab territories today where American bombs and policies have played a major role in promoting chaos and mass death: Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon. Now we hear that the neocons want Syria and Iran to disintegrate next. Is there no one with any brains left in the White House? Don’t any of them understand that if any means were acceptable to fight one’s enemies, then the people who have bombed children in Israel and killed innocents at the World Trade Center would have been right? Not only were they morally wrong, we are doubly wrong to follow their example.

And speaking of lack of brainpower, isolating the Syrian ambassador to Washington cannot be the smartest thing to do. 18,000 Lebanese lost their lives when Israel attacked that miserable country in 1982, but Americans wonder why there are so many people who would spend six years building tunnels or sending suicide bombers. “We do not talk with terrorists” is the Bush mantra. He keeps repeating it like those mechanical monkeys who say “Howdy” one buys for children at a zoo. The collective punishment dealt out by Israel against innocents in Lebanon is bound to have repercussions. Netanyahu was and always will be a thug. The neocons ditto. The global loathing for the United States and Britain has helped corrupt the minds of a generation of young Muslims. Nightly scenes of slaughter and devastation on their television screens rouse them to blind bitterness against those they hold responsible—Uncle Sam and Israel. Is there no one to knock some sense into the morons who have turned us all into pariahs? This is America’s nadir.