BEIRUT, Lebanon - In trendy central Beirut, a large banner looms over the now nearly empty streets of downtown: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stares intently, with piercing fangs and blood dripping from her lips.
"The massacre of children in Qana is a gift from Rice," the banner says. It's referring to a southern Lebanese town that's now synonymous with the word massacre after the deaths of at least 28 civilians, many children, in an Israeli airstrike on July 30, and another attack in 1996, when Israeli artillery killed more than 100 civilians.
Last year, Lebanon was the beacon of the Bush administration's vision of a new Middle East. There were free elections without Syrian influence, women's rights, a free press and free speech.
Today, much of this nation feels deserted by America as Israeli warplanes dropping American-made weapons destroy apartment blocks, bridges and roads. After four weeks of bombardment, the feeling is increasingly shared by Shiite and Sunni Muslims, Christians and Druze.
Israeli and American officials thought Israel's counterattack against Hezbollah would turn more Lebanese against the militant Shiite group, but members of the new independent government worry that the war will turn Lebanon into a bastion for extremism. With every civilian death, anger rises, among both the displaced poor living in parks and the well-off still eating pasta salads in cafes.
"You cannot see the Middle East only through the eyes of Israel," said Misbah Ahdab, a Sunni Muslim member of parliament who was in the political movement that forced Syria to leave Lebanon last year. "Either this is settled immediately and we hurry and work to rebuild, or it will be a mini-Iraq and all the extremists will come to Lebanon to fight Israel."
Ahdab is disappointed in what he considers to be a pro-Israel policy, which he says has forsaken a Lebanese government that once saw the United States as a friend and protector.