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.