Just after the fighting began, the leader of the largest group of Christians in the Middle East, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, met with Vice President Dick Cheney in the White House. Sfeir happened to be in Washington for the dedication of a new Maronite church bearing the timely name Our Lady of Lebanon. The patriarch’s remarks to the media following the meeting were mystifying, considering the Vice President’s strong support of the administration’s policy on the war: “[Cheney] will see what he can do for us. It’s not so easy because of a lot of complicated situations with a lot of countries.” Cardinal Sfeir indicated that he believed Cheney did not share the U.S. government’s plan, presumably referring to Condoleezza Rice’s call for a “new Middle East.” Cardinal Sfeir added that Cheney did not communicate his own plan for the Middle East in their meeting, if he had one. The patriarch’s words reveal the confusion felt by pro-Western political and religious leaders in Lebanon following the U.S. government’s overwhelming show of support for Israel during that country’s systematic destruction of the infrastructure, economy, and population of Lebanon. After a year of optimistic dialogue with the Bush administration following the 2005 withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, the young government in Beirut received only condolences and promises of humanitarian aid from Washington, which chose to let Israel “finish the job” in Lebanon. ~Andrea Kirk Assaf

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