As a result of the media ignoring all the good things about Lebanon, lots of people are overreacting and wanting to get out of there just because it looks like a full-blown war is starting up. On Tuesday many countries began operations to evacuate their foreign nationals from the country. Eight hundred French citizens got out on a ship that carried evacuees to Cyprus, from where they can fly home.
Maybe they'll come back for Americans, because otherwise most U.S. nationals will be enjoying Beirut for a while. The government airlifted out 70 Americans on Monday, and sent helicopters to the U.S. Embassy to get another 60 today. At that rate, it will only take until August 4 -- that's August 4, 2007 -- to get all the Americans out. The pace may pick up a bit in a few days, when a U.S. battle group and some cruise ships the government managed to round up will arrive in the area.
CNN reported that it was receiving many calls and emails from stranded Americans hoping to get out. "A week into this conflict, and I am still waiting to hear back from the American Embassy," wrote a Denver woman. If you would like to be evacuated from Lebanon, please press 1 now, and then stay on the line. "Those who wish to leave should ready themselves immediately," an embassy statement said Tuesday to Americans who have been ready for a week.
Best of all, those Americans who can get the goverment to evacuate them will be required to reimburse the State Department for the cost of the trip, at least to a point. CNN reported that Americans who were to be evacuated on the approaching cruise ships were "being asked to sign promissory notes to repay the U.S. government for the journey." Many people, including (not surprisingly) Nancy Pelosi, were outraged by that requirement. She called on the president to guarantee the costs. White House Spokesman Tony Snow pointed out (correctly) that the repayments are actually mandated by federal law. Under the 2003 Foreign Relations Authorization Act (I guess our foreign relations have been completely unauthorized until just now), while government employees get evacuated for free, private U.S. citizens have to reimburse the State Department, but only up to the cost they would have paid for a "reasonable commercial air fare."