Danger in Lebanon

There are a number of things I’ve been meaning to write about, including progress on my book, but right now my thoughts keep going to Lebanon. I have a friend named June, who traveled to Beirut last week, in fulfillment of long-laid plans to reconnect with separated relatives. Shortly after her arrival, Israel started bombing the city—starting with the airport, cutting off travel.

It is a testament to the internet—and email—that I know as much as I do about what’s happening. With the city in upheaval, there’s not much she can do except go to internet cafes and let people know what’s happening.

At first, she felt reasonably assured of her safety, being in the same neighborhood as the British Consulate and American University. And then a lighthouse two blocks away was bombed. It is her belief, and, she says, that of everyone she talks to, that these air strikes have nothing to do with trying to keep the captured Israeli soldiers from being moved out of Lebanon and everything to do with an intended much larger war. She is not even confident that the U.S. Navy, if and when it arrives to evacuate U.S. citizens, will be immune to attack by either side. Hezbollah has Iranian missiles, and Israel has deliberately attacked U.S. ships before (U.S.S. Liberty, 1967, in an incident that is shocking to read about even today).

And so, she waits. No doubt the situation is much worse for many innocent Lebanese people who are being targeted, intentionally or not. (And, presumably, for many members of Hezbollah, who are not innocent at all.)

I’m not going to get into a big discussion of who is right or wrong in the Arab/Israeli conflict. Both sides seem ready to seize any excuse for war. But I am worried about my friend, and wondering why it’s taking so long for the U.S. military to get our people out of there. According to June, the Italians and French have begun evacuating their citizens already.

I’m also wondering why, according to the Boston Globe, the State Department “warned that citizens would have to pay the cost of their own evacuation.” What, are they going to sell tickets to get onto Navy choppers? Really—is this how we take care of our people? As a taxpayer, I say this is one of the things I willingly pay taxes for—to help people when they’re in bad straits. These people have enough to worry about with bombs raining around them, without wondering if they can afford the bill to be airlifted to Cyprus.

0 Responses

  1. substandardTim
    | Reply

    in general i would tend to agree with you that the US government has a responsibility to help american citizens in those situations but at the same time I think it’s just another example of americans not being expected to exercise common sense. If for example I decide to take a trip to Iran, a region that I know full well is unstable, then who am I to hold the government responsible for what happens to me while I’m there? On the other hand if I go to Canada, a country that isn’t considered a threat to us, and get abducted by terrorists then that is something I clearly couldn’t have planned for.

    If people don’t think their own lives are valuable enough to not travel to brewing war zones then maybe hitting up their wallets will make them think twice. Our society might be materialistic enough for that.

    Obviously I’m not trying to sound like an uncaring jerk here and I hope your friend and all the others are able to get out safely.

    Oh and the Neil Armstrong interview I mentioned a couple weeks ago was on CBS I think. One of their nighttime news programs.

  2. Jeffrey A. Carver
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    There’s some truth to what you say, of course. But Lebanon has been considered a reasonably safe place to visit for a while now. Until last week, I don’t think many people thought it was in imminent danger of igniting like a powder keg. I was surprised to read that there are about 25,000 U.S. citizens there, and even more surprised to read that there are 40,000 Canadians!

    It would be interesting to know what the policy is for the Canadian and European govts about requiring their citizens to pay the cost of their evacuation. And what the markup is on their tickets.

    I haven’t heard from my friend today, which I hope just means she couldn’t get to an internet cafe–preferably because she’s on her way out.

  3. Charlza
    | Reply

    Wow, that’s crazy timing that she got there just as it started. I hope she’s able to get out safely.

    I was shocked to see the news articles about the evacuees being charged for the travel costs. I was never able to confirm, but it sounded like other countries were not doing this to their citizens. I shouldn’t say this, but apparently most of our tax money seems to be going to assist illegial immigrants and such, rather than assist Americans trapped in a sudden conflict.

    I do agree about the common sense statements made by SubstandardTim. It’s not like that’s a very stable area to begin with. Your friend had a good reason to be there though.

  4. tsmacro
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    On the radio earlier this week I heard an interview with a guy who had gone to Lebanon to attend a wedding and of course got stuck there. His problem was that he was running out of money and the ATM machines had stopped working. I hope the sake of people like him the US government is willing to bill for their services after the fact. In the interview the guy said he and his family were considering going to Syria because they could fly out from there. Sounds rather like a risky proposition to me, but I guess you know what they say about desperate times. Hopefully everyone who wants to will be able to get out safely.

  5. tsmacro
    | Reply

    On the radio earlier this week I heard an interview with a guy who had gone to Lebanon to attend a wedding and of course got stuck there. His problem was that he was running out of money and the ATM machines had stopped working. I hope the sake of people like him the US government is willing to bill for their services after the fact. In the interview the guy said he and his family were considering going to Syria because they could fly out from there. Sounds rather like a risky proposition to me, but I guess you know what they say about desperate times. Hopefully everyone who wants to will be able to get out safely.

  6. tsmacro
    | Reply

    Ok now i’m seeing double! Funny thing is that when I posted this yesterday my first attempt resulted in an error message so I resubmitted it and well you can see result above! *L*

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