Live Interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper

We’re joined now by Andrew Lee Butters, who’s the “TIME” magazine correspondent in Beirut.

Andrew, I appreciate you joining us live. We understand there are a lot of explosions going on this morning. How does it compare to recent days in Beirut?

ANDREW LEE BUTTERS, “TIME” MAGAZINE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems as if the day before, at least, things were calmer here in Beirut. There was a lot of speculation among Lebanese that perhaps this was because the Americans were beginning to evacuate and that the Israeli bombardment would be more moderate during this time.

But then there’s also the concern that the Israelis will show less restraint once the bulk of the foreigners are gone.

COOPER: What do you think the impact has been on Hezbollah and the perception of Hezbollah among Lebanese? The Israelis are trying to, you know, send out the message that Hezbollah does not represent the interests of the people of Lebanon. Do you think the people of Lebanon are getting that message? Do you think they’re buying it?

BUTTERS: Well, the difficulty is, is that as these bombardments continues, that the p– whatever kind of group might disarm Hezbollah or bring Hezbollah under control has less and less room to maneuver. The central government of Lebanon is becoming less and less of a presence throughout the country.

I’ve been down to the southern suburbs and up into the Shuth (ph) Mountains, and there’s a humanitarian crisis looming, and the government is largely nowhere to be seen. Now, some Lebanese — many Lebanese are wondering why they’re suddenly at war, why this conflict. Why now. And many do blame Hezbollah for suddenly being at war with Israel.

But I think right now, that’s largely internal family business. Lebanese are angry at Israel for bombing their country. And as long as these bombardments continue, Israel will be the enemy.

COOPER: A lot of Americans probably don’t realize that some 40 percent of the Lebanese population are actually Christians. Traditionally, what have they felt about Hezbollah?

BUTTERS: Well, traditionally, the Christians and the Shia Lebanese supporters of Hezbollah have not gotten along at all. And there was a 15-year civil war that ended in 1990. Although, some Christian groups have been supportive of Hezbollah’s pro-Syrian sense, but many Christians do — are very angry at this time.

There is a difference in how these bombings and how these attacks are taking place. The Shia areas in the south and southern Lebanon are being pounded daily, whereas the Christian parts of Beirut, like east Beirut, where I live, are unscathed so far.

COOPER: There was so much optimism back in March when a million people pour into the streets. I mean, I was there, you know, pushing Syria out, calls for democracy and freedom. Is all of that gone now? I mean, is all of that sense that Beirut is back, is that just dead?

BUTTERS: Well, certainly the country spent billions of dollars rebuilding itself after the end of the civil war. And Beirut, in particular, became this kind of party central of the Middle East. It reclaimed its role as the Paris of the Middle East. And the city was filled with nightclubs and it’s a lovely place to live. And it’s hard to see how that is going to return any time soon. Beirut was a by word for urban violence. And the Lebanese did so much to change that. And the urban violence is back.

Now, there’s also quite a bit of disenchantment among the Lebanese about what’s happened since what the Americans call the Cedar Revolutions, where there were sexy Lebanese girls waving Lebanese flags and calling for democracy and the end of the Syrian occupation. The United States said it was going to be very supportive of Lebanese democracy and Lebanese independence, and here was a moderate Arab democracy in the Middle East. And now the Lebanese people feel like they’ve been abandoned by the United States and are wondering where is Condoleezza Rice.

COOPER: And, of course, Condoleezza Rice is supposedly heading to the region. The date has not been set. We’ll continue to watch that, as will people throughout this region and to see, actually, what she can do when she actually does get here.

Andrew Lee Butters, appreciate you joining us from “TIME” magazine. Thank you very much, Andrew. Try to stay safe.

BUTTERS: Thank you.

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