U.S. to Bill Americans Evacuating Lebanon

Beirut bombing aftermathIt’s pretty pathetic that even after Congress recently approved $2.46 billion (yes, billion with a “B”) for military and economic aid to Israel through FY2007, Americans who are now in the wrong country that those armaments are targetting are essentially getting screwed. Americans who are now trapped in Lebanon because of the recent (justified/unjustified/whatever) retaliatory bombing by Israel’s military can expect to be airlifted to Cypress and get a loan for commercial flights home, but everything will have to be paid back (via Boing Boing):

One of Andrew Sullivan’s readers, an American in Beirut, reported to Sullivan that the U.S. government’s offer to evacuate Americans to protect them from the Israeli blitz comes with a price tag: “They are finally getting everything together today, but they dropped a little surprise: they are going to be billing us for giving us emergency transport to Cyprus, and then basically dropping us off on our own to get commercial flights back to the US. Most other governments evacuating people here are actually flying them back to their home country without cost. But not the USG.”

MSNBC has more details of the clusterfuck the State Department is dealing with:

In statements e-mailed to Americans in Lebanon and posted on the embassy’s Web site, the State Department has stressed “that the U.S. government does not provide no-cost transportation but does have the authority to provide repatriation loans to those in financial need. For the portion of your trip directly handled by the U.S. Government we will ask you to sign a promissory note and we will bill you at a later date.”

Frankly, I’m not one of these people who’s going to hammer on Israel for bombing the shit out of Hezbollah and the arguably sympathetic Lebanese government that can’t/won’t control them. But when USians are in harms way that Uncle Sam has gladly funded, and those same people can’t get out of there without having to pay… something is terribly wrong with our approach to foreign policy in that region.

Update by Michael Hampton: The State Department said today that Americans won’t have to pay to be evacuated from Lebanon:

Secretary Rice has directed the State Department in this case to waive the requirement for American citizens departing Lebanon to reimburse the United States Government for their travel costs. We want to do everything we can to facilitate the departure of American citizens from Lebanon. Today’s step removes one potential worry for our citizens at this difficult time.

54 Comments
  1. Israel and Lebanon is almost an exact replica of the US and Iraq at the moment.

    It’s a damn shame that they are allowed to do this mainly because of our financial support, as well as handing them the military supplies.

  2. Rick– Israel is defending itself against government endorsed Islamic terrorism that rains missiles on its citizens everyday. The USA needs to support Israel in its words (not financially) because it is fighting a justified and overdue war against this threat. The elected terrorists in Palestine, Iran, and Lebanon are allowed to exist because of the world leaders who claim that peace will be established by coexisting with these terrorists.

  3. Why should taxpayers pay for the evacuation? The U.S. citizens are in Lebanon by choice. They must have known that is a very dangerous part of the world when they went there voluntarily.

    I don’t want to pay for them to leave. If they don’t want to pay for the U.S. implemented evacuation, then let them find another way out without government assistance.

  4. Julian, you are right.

    Unless the US government forced them to go to one of the most dangerous regions in the world, especially for Americans, then why should the US government (meaning you and me) be footing the bill to bring them back?

  5. For once I actually agree with Julian in the sense that the American government should not pay for Americans who decide to live in a war zone.

    The problem is, we helped cause the war zone with money, political support, and weapons to Israel.

  6. The US government should not be giving my tax dollars to ANY nation.

    They definately should not support an aggressive apartied state like Israel.

  7. I hate to say “me too” but Julian is right. There is no reason why our tax dollars should be paying to remove Americans from a situation which they put themselves into, especially given the history of the area. I don’t have the facts handy but I doubt the state department said that Beirut was a pleasant and safe tourist town a week ago. You vacation in an area prone to terrorism and war and you need to face the consequences.

  8. What Julian and the rest of the ‘no taxpayer dollars!” crowd seem to be forgetting is one thing:

    We — meaning in this case our governmental structure — have created a fiscal, social, political, and ideological footprint. The *ENTIRE* reason the terrorists exist is because THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TRAINED THEM.

    We continue to have a fiscal presence within the region. With this already present, to abandon our own nationals in favor of other entities is simply reprehensible.

    Absolutely, no tax dollars should be going to fund us getting our people out — just like there should be no foreign aid going to Israel, nor should we have spent money & man-hours training the terrorist factions.

    With the latter having occurred, however, it *IS* the responsibility of the USG to fund the repatriation of American citizens put in harm’s way BY OUR ACTIONS.

    Fix the problems here & now where lives are concerned. *THEN* start talking about fiscal responsibility.

  9. What is wrong is that the United States has spent 50 years dumping foreign aid on this and other parts of the world. We should stop.

    What is wrong is large numbers of people under the delusion that we have an alliance with Israel or Saudi Arabia or (well, we have one with Turkey) or that we want them. The only ratified treaty was for CENTO, an organization that effectively folded before most readers were born. Friendship to all friends and ending entangling alliances is the right policy.

  10. Is the first job of the American government to protect its citizens’ lives and property? If so why doesn’t Bush try to negotiate a cease fire long enough so Americans can get out of there regardless of who pays to get them out?

  11. >What is wrong is that the United States has spent 50
    >years dumping foreign aid on this and other parts of the
    >world. We should stop.

    Absolutely. ALL US government foreign aid including and especially military and economic aid should be abolished immediately.

  12. http://randomactofkindness.com/comments.php?id=A2_0_1_0_M

    “Thank you to the International Affairs organization for asking me to participate in this forum. As Dr. Felder said in my introduction, I am not a scholar or purport to be an expert on foreign aid or international relations. I also hope to learn from this forum, and I will try to inject a unique perspective about foreign aid.

    Foreign aid. What is foreign aid? How do you define foreign aid? From America’s perspective, I think you can define it in two basic ways. It is a gift from the United States government to the government or people of other countries. The second way, does not necessarily involve our government. Charities are also a huge source of money and other items going from America to a foreign country. Foreign aid comes from our government, but it also comes from churches and synagogues and mosques and charities and even Sally Struthers commercials.”

  13. “The question this forum is asking tonight is, Can foreign aid work? The answer to the question is yes, it can work and has worked in some specific instances. I hope we will explore some examples of the success and failure of many of our foreign aid initiatives tonight.

    However, I’d like to challenge everyone to consider the answer to a different question. Is it the proper function of the US Government to furnish aid to foreign countries?

    My answer to that question, is no, that is not the proper role of our government. In order to furnish this money to other countries, the money is first collected through taxes from the paychecks of the 280 odd million people we have in America.

    So to be extreme, I don’t believe our Federal government has the right to take money from individuals in America, and give it to other countries.”

  14. “Nowhere in our Constitution did our founding fathers grant our government the authority or the responsibility to collect taxes from our citizens in order to give that money to other countries. To us it is that simple. The ends do not justify the means.

    Not everyone in America can afford to help send money to foreign countries. Sometimes, that foreign aid is causing people here in America to suffer. Foreign aid isn’t free when it comes from the government. It costs our economy and our society and our families.

    Right now, almost 50% of one’s income goes to the government in various forms of taxes. Most families do not have the luxury of having one parent stay home with their children. Some families decide not to have children or do not have as many as they would like. The average age when a person becomes a first time homeowner is now over 30 years old. People shorten their education because they can’t afford it. People live without health insurance.”

  15. “When half of your income is going to the government in taxes, government is taking away your freedom to make some of these important life choices.

    If 100% of our income were going to the government, we would call that slavery and hopefully do something about it. Economic freedom is just as important as physical freedom for libertarians. You should be free to keep the money you earn and to spend it or give it freely with your own choices. It is not the right of our federal government to force you to give your money to someone else who needs help.

    Now that admittedly sounds pretty darn harsh and un-caring because it doesn’t address the needs of the people in those countries. It doesn’t solve the problem. We feel responsible to do our best to help to them. I would tell you that we are responsible for helping those countries. But when I say we, I mean each individual who can afford to help, not we as in our federal government.”

  16. “Libertarians recognize that a government can’t care and it doesn’t care, and we should probably stop pretending that government does care. Libertarians recognize that you care though. Most of you anyway. With freedom, comes personal responsibility. I would suggest it is our personal responsibility to help where it is needed, both foreign and domestic, but this is not the responsibility of our federal government.”

  17. I agree, I shouldn’t be paying for another guy’s evacuation. Best of luck to them, and I want the government to go and get them out of there, but you know what, we trumpet user fees all the time, so I say give them a user fee.

  18. None of this — any of it — addresses the simple fact that these are American citizens impacted by American activities and fiscal irresponsibility.

    But, then, this is the same element of the crowd that wishes us to welch on our debts. Because that would be a *GREAT* idea. Yeah.

  19. IanC, you have to be kidding. You can not seriously claim that the US is completely responsible for a conflict that has been brewing since long before the US even existed. If the US did not have a “footprint” in the Middle East, there would still be radical groups and the area would still be relatively dangerous. Every US citizen there KNEW the danger when they went.

    But, then, you are an element of the crowd that wishes to provide foreign “aid” to Afganistan, Iraq, and every other country the US government may have “wronged” in the past, which is to say all of them.

  20. The US war on drugs has created a huge, profitable black market for drugs and has by all accounts destroyed inner-cities. Maybe the government should pay to relocate families from those cities most affected by the crime and poverty. At least they didn’t have much of a choice.

    And the US should pay reparations to the distant relatives of slaves.

    Wronging me twice (by sending my tax dollars to Israel and then expecting me to pay to evacuate US citizens in the path of Israeli bombs) does not make either wrong any less wrong.

  21. Stephan said:
    But when USians are in harms way that Uncle Sam has gladly funded, and those same people can’t get out of there without having to pay”¦ something is terribly wrong with our approach to foreign policy in that region.

    I agree that something is terribly wrong with our approach to foreign policy in that region.

    But any American living and working in the middle east is essentially a mercenary. You or I could go to work tomorrow for Haliburton driving a water truck in Iraq and probably triple our income. But that would be by informed choice.

    If you chose to do so, accept the risks and go. But don’t expect the people of Peoria to be forced to bail you out when the crap hits the fan.

  22. Chris Moore, Isreal has not existed longer than the US. It came about after WWII. Therefore how can it be a situation that has existed longer than the US? ANd if you were to examine US policies in the region you would see we have been one of the greatest destabalizing forces in the MidEast. We support corrupt governments, why does a nation as rich as Saudi Arabia have a national debt higher than their GNP yet the people are mostly poor? Still, palaces are being built and we support that regime. We supported Iraq AND Iran in their war. We supported Saddam when he server our purposes, then he became a bad guy. We support corrupt governments because we hope it will secure oil for us. We don’t really care about Lebanon, no oil, so who cares if Isreal kills them all with a military we helped pay for. So why do they hate us? DUH. As for the Americans in Lebanon, so none of then have ever been tax payers? None of their famlies are tax payers? So the USG’s job is just to collect revenue..

  23. Oh, and Chris, I did not intend for all of that to be directed at you personally. I apologize if it looked that way. Most of it was just general statements.

  24. Itchy, no offense taken, of course. And many of your points are very valid. The US government is no saint.

    When I said conflict, I did not mean specifically between Israel and the current crop of radical Islamic groups. That entire region has been embroiled in a conflict between Jewish/Christian/Islamic groups for over 1,000 years, long before America and even longer before Israel existed as we know it. The US did not create the conflict.

    The US government is indirectly responsible for many of the problems that have resulted currently. But it does not change the fact that those now in Lebanon are there by choice. They knew the dangers when they went. They knew about the long standing conflict in the region. Based on this, I do not find it unreasonable that they should pay their own way home, especially considering they don’t have to pay upfront as I would if I wanted to fly to Canada to try to avoid heat stroke here in Virginia.

  25. Chris — actually, I am a non-interventionist by ‘trade.’

    Reference my previous statement *in this article’s message board*. We need to pull out *NOW*.

    But I can indeed be painfully serious to “suggest” that our historical input is vastly significant: the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA trained, equipped, and organized a vast portion of the islamic terrorist organizations that exist.

    We placed the current regime of Iran in place, toppling a democracy to do so — and endorsed a Nazi war-criminal as the general who lead the charge to topple said democracy.

    The state of Israel survives almost solely due to USA funding, military support, and endorsement. Israel has the 2nd most powerful nuclear arsenal in the world. We do not complain — why? They are a militaristic, aggressive nation.

    THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THESE THINGS.

    I, for one, despise anyone who thinks squelching on debts is kosher. Sorry.

  26. To summarize my previous post: While yes the Jewish/Islamic conflict we see today is merely a recursion of a history spanning back thousands of years…

    Its current form, and the extremity to which it exists, is directly and entirely the result of US policy.

    We armed both sides to the teeth because it suited our purposes. We installed fascist dictators because it suited our purposes.

    And now we’re not responsible to our own citizens who could be there for any number of reasons — many of which wholly civilian or even humanitarian in nature? I just don’t buy it. Not with the government *IN ITS CURRENT FORM.*

    Idealistically, Chris, you’re absolutely right.

    Problem is; we don’t live in an idyl. We live in a non-Platonic manifestation that is ‘life.’

  27. America has no obligation to pay for transportation out of an area that any person with any common sense, knows is a risky place to be to begin with. Hello? The middle east isn’t exactly the most stable of all places, in case you haven’t heard.

    We live in a free country, we travel at our own risk. We cannot rely on the government to save us from every situation or even dangerous situations. Look at how “awesome” the government was during Katrina. You gotta do it for yourselves folks. Get real. The government ain’t gonna save ya.

  28. IanC, is it your position that the American military and American government should protect ALL American citizens no matter where they are in the world?

    “Idealistically, Chris, you’re absolutely right.”

    I know. What you suggest is forcing me to pay for someone elses vacation return trip at the point of a gun. This thing called “real life” has all sorts of problems. Even without governments, real life has problems. The difference between me and you is that I don’t think the government can, or should, solve them.

    “I, for one, despise anyone who thinks squelching on debts is kosher. Sorry.”

    I’ve never “squelched” on a debt and I’ve never advocated doing so. And I don’t see how that is relevant to this discussion anyway.

  29. Chris Moore — Michael Hampton’s ‘correction’ not withstanding, the very fact that you cannot see how in this case you are advocating the ‘squelching on a debt’ is part and parcel, as it were, of the source of our disagreement.

    Since this nation has acted in a “collective” manner, and continues to exist as a “collective” entity (I hate Randian terminology but it might get through here) — then that “collective” *SO LONG AS IT EXISTS* has a debt to those whom would otherwise be able to remain in the region were it not for the actions *of* said “collective”.

    Your argument is that since the region is already unstable, then any American that goes there is on their own recognizance.

    The problem I have with that argument is it ignores the very, *comprehensively*, real fact that the United States of America is directly responsible for that instability.

    (cont’d)

  30. Let me put this another way:

    A man walks around a library building, soaking the walls with gasoline, on a hot dry day where other people just happen to be smoking cigarrettes.

    Who is responsible for the ensuing fire, and who should have to pay for the books burned in said fire? The people who were standing around smoking, or the man spreading gasoline on the walls?

    In parallax; America may not have set off the fire, no, but we sure as hell set it. For Americans, then, at the very least, the obligation to protect American citizens *DEFINITELY* extends to this situation.

    Now: to ideals, and principles — as *SOON AS* all Americans are gone from the region (who choose to leave; if you run into a fire that’s already burning that’s a different story) then all foreign aid and military support should stop.

    Immediately. And Iraq be damned. With all honesty I’m not sure that we’re ‘done’ in Afghanistan; the Al-Qaeda presence there isn’t ‘gone.’ That’s a different topic though.

  31. It takes a fool to live in hell “Lebanon” voluntarily for the almighty dollar…Their making the bucks, let them pay…Not the U.S. the tax payer!

  32. IanC, so it is your position that the American military and American government should protect ALL American citizens no matter where they are in the world.

    That’s going to take one hell of a military presence in quite a few foreign countries.

    And as far as this being an issue of “squelching” on a debt — you’re wrong. Completely.

    “A man walks around a library building, soaking the walls with gasoline, on a hot dry day where other people just happen to be smoking cigarrettes.”

    A more relevant metaphor: A library is on fire. People seeing the fire decide to walk in, sit down, and read a few books. Who is responsible for their burns?

  33. “Your argument is that since the region is already unstable, then any American that goes there is on their own recognizance.”

    Actually, my argument is that people need to take responsibility for themselves. It doesn’t matter whether its Lebanon or Austrailia or New Orleans.

  34. It is true that the US isn’t entirely responsible for the Mid East conflicts. I find it sad that at one point Islamic countries were safe haves for religious freedoms and now such extremism exists. Many of the problems do go all the way back to the crusades. I believe that particular Western religious extremist belief that the Islamic peoples are unjustly squatting in “our” holy land is still very much alive, in a way the crusades never ended. So Western Civilization as a whole is mostly responsible for setting up the climates for extremists that exists today. That said, the US has done the most in recent history to destabalize the region in the name of stabalization. None of this has been done alone, of course. The idea of drawing lines on a map and saying, “this is your country,” without examining the different peoples who may or may not get along was and is a problem. the west has created a breeding ground for terrorism, now we are reaping the rewards for being so foolish.

  35. And no one should expect the US to rescue them from a dangerous situation. That might take away from the BILLIONS needed to keep control of Haliburton’s oil in Iraq. Or it could impede someone’s oil futures our Afgan colony. That is where our tax billions should be going, not tens of thousands to help get some American citizens out of a bad situation. Americans have to understand what is important. It’s a waste to spend money on American citizens when Iraq and Afghanastan should be receiving trillions of our tax dollars instead of billions. Not to mention all the lives, both American and forign, being ruined and lost. That’s a much better way to spend tax dollars.
    Big Oil needs our money. That way they can continue to make record profits while claiming they aren’t price gouging.
    Maybe we could give Haliburton control of the military (oh yeah, the already own that) or make them our government sponsors.

    The United States of America, brought to you by Big Oil.

    -end of rant.

  36. Chris — it should only protect those whom are at risk due to its actions.

    Such as those in Lebanon — end of conversation; If you can’t see failure to do so as squelching on a debt, then this conversation isn’t going to go anywhere positive.

    ‘Nough said.

  37. It is a two sided situation. On the one side, you have Americans caught in the middle, on the other, you have Americans who don’t need to be there at all. Why should Americans have to pay for an evacuation when we are just going to use that money for some other bogus crap like sending more people to the Middle East. At the same time, people there should be willing to pay, if asked, to get the heck out of Dodge. What makes me mad is the fact that the USA is using this situation to make some money on the people who have the money to travel to the Mideast, and therefore they think they are automatically a terrorist by being in Lebanon. It’s all a bunch of crap.

  38. “If you can’t see failure to do so as squelching on a debt, then this conversation isn’t going to go anywhere positive.”

    If you can’t see that your reasoning justifies an American military presence in any country, or welfare, or just about any Big Government program that can be thought of, then no, this conversation won’t go anywhere.

    You’ve failed to show how I owe anyone in Lebanon anything.

  39. I’m surprised that nobody has noted that Americans abroad must file (and pay) taxes. If I have to file and pay taxes despite not living in the USA or using any US government “services,” I sure as hell expect some consular protection for that forced “investment.”

  40. Chris — I’m not saying you do. But that’s another conversation (one in which we largely agree.)

    However; so long as the ‘collective’ entity will continue to exist — which it will in this scenario — then *IT* is responsible for the deeds it has committed, and the safety of those whom *IT* has endangered.

    That’s the point you’re missing here. I’m not saying this *SHOULD* be the case at all — up to and including right now. I’m saying it *IS* the case, right now.

    And we need to *fix that* before we can have any claims to self-responsibility as part of the freedom movement.

    Ugly things sometimes must be done; and sometimes principles conflict with each other — sometimes a principle conflicts with *ITSELF.*

    And this is one case of such.

  41. Chris; what you disagree with, seems to me, to be the fact that your funds are being forced to go into this.

    And that’s where we *agree* — I did nothing to make things this way, personally speaking.

    Only problem is, that line of thinking doesn’t correct *this* problem. And that’s the thrust I’m going at. An entity created the problem; that entity is responsible for correcting it.

    Now, if we were to abolish the ‘collective’ today, then any and all debts it accrued would vanish with it. No carry-over. (Aren’t LLC’s grand?)

  42. “Israel and Lebanon is almost an exact replica of the US and Iraq at the moment.”

    Ummm, no. The US was created by its own citizens in rebellion against injustices imposed by an absentee monarch; Israel was created by UN fiat mainly because European nations wanted to be rid of their Zionists. Iraq is the result of a League of Nations grant to a favored member (Britain), a hodgepodge of what were historically three very different cultures; Lebanon has maintained relative continuity as a civilization since ancient times. Your simile is in reality a contradiction: the rights of the nations of US and Lebanon to exist are much more easily defended than those of Iraq and Israel.

    -BM

  43. It’s a battle between armed thugs. No more, no less. Some thug-gangs are more benevolent than others. That’s the only difference. The governments of and borders of the US, Lebanon, Israel, and Iraq are legitimate only in as much as they can be defended by their armed gangs.

  44. Reminds me alot of Katrina………

    While I don’t believe taxpayers should pay for students/vacationers/family members, etc. who find themselves stuck when it WAS their choice to go the Middle East (of all places), VanDyke is correct about the hypocrisy. Our alliance with Israel is likely going to cost more than we ever dreamed one day.

    It is also interesting that both US and UK nationals were told by their respective governements to stay put, even though the Israelis were dropping leaflets warning people to leave. Sometimes you gotta wonder if the Blair/Bush crowd are really TRYING to kill their own people. It’s unreal.

    (But then, the neocon PNAC group seems to think Israel is more important than American. *sigh*)

  45. Chris Moore said: “…You can not…claim…the US is completely responsible…If the US did not have a “footprint” in the Middle East, there would still be radical groups and the area would still be relatively dangerous…”

    The US is not “completely” responsible. The US/UK & Israel are working in tandem. Have you read the necon playbook yet?

    http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf
    “Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor”
    (pg 63/90 of the pdf)

    People have been called “conspiracy theorists” for discussing PNAC, but read the playbook for yourself.

    Then look at the signatures found at…

    http://www.newamericancentury.org/statementofprinciples.htm

    …and you can begin to put two and two together.

    Two and two will ALWAYS be four, no matter how much *torture* they use, so said “Winston.” (1984, Geroge Orwell)

  46. Your talking about how you do not want your tax money to go to countries like lebanon, then why the hell are billions of our dollars going to israel, who evidently causes all the problems in the middle east. Lebanon hasn’t has war in many years now and you expect the americans to know that while they are vacationing that war will break out? America supports and created terrorism..Not the people in the middle east..and make sure you understand what you’re talking about and know both sides of the story before you say something.