From the U.S. media’s recent coverage, you might think that the Bush administration intentionally stranded Americans in the middle of a war zone. Never mind that the 25,000 Americans in Lebanon ignored the warnings from their own State Department, which has been telling them for years to stay away from the Middle East, specifically from cities like Beirut, where the political climate is not what one could call stable.
Yet the same Americans who ignored their government’s advice, and their own common sense, are now refusing to take any responsibility for their actions. “I hope this response will be better than that of Katrina,” wrote one Natalie Kerlakian to CNN.com. With all due respect to Miss Kerlakian and the rest of the whiners, who we hope will make it out of Lebanon safe and sound. But to depend on the U.S. government to immediately evacuate Americans from a city like Beirut in the event of crisis is not exactly thinking ahead.
The government is spending precious manpower and resources for the evacuation. CNN reported yesterday that Navy SEALs spent the day bringing food and supplies to Americans aboard one of the ferries delivering evacuees to safety. We’re happy to see the SEALs acting so selflessly, but these guys are not caterers; they’re heroic seamen who should be busy killing America’s enemies.
Meanwhile, back home, top Democrats have picked up on Miss Kerlakian’s immature analogy. “This is being treated like a mini-Katrina,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, obviously ignorant of what it takes to evacuate 10,000 civilians from a war zone. As Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday, the U.S. Navy’s evacuation efforts have to account for Israel’s naval blockade of Lebanon. “One of the reasons why you are seeing the fluctuations in numbers [of evacuees] … is because the situation is changing on the ground,” he said. “Our orders to our crew [are] to proceed at best speed and operate on arrival.”
The Bush administration has also come under fire for apparently demanding evacuees pay the cost of their transportation home. “A nation that can provide more than $300 billion for a war in Iraq can provide the money to get its people out of Lebanon,” fumed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Indeed, were it not for a 1956 law authorizing the State Department to charge evacuees the cost of their extraction. When a bipartisan Congress re-approved this law a few years ago, Mrs. Pelosi was in fact one of the 170 House Democrats who voted in favor.
In any event, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has waived this requirement, so now American taxpayers can pay for their fellow citizens exceedingly unwise decisions to vacation in Beirut.