Thursday, July 20, 2006

Lebanon Evacuation


People annoy me sometimes. Okay, often.

I can remember when Big Windy went to Pakistan to help in the earthquake relief efforts last November. Although overall everyone was pretty happy, there were some mumblings about the speed of the foreign community's reaction…and someone even dared to say that the helicopters should have gotten there quicker. Well, if I believe they were there within 48 hours. And that IS fast. First off, it takes a few hours for the news of the earthquake and its magnitude and, more importantly, resulting damage to reach the rest of the world.

Secondly, the necessary supplies and personnel must be gathered. It is not like a fire department where guys are just sitting around, waiting for the International 911 to be called, and they jump into their helicopters and go flying to the distressed region.

Thirdly, they have to plan the flights. Flight planning includes calculating the affects of expected weather patterns, weight carried, flying altitudes and speed on fuel consumption. The longer the flight, the more tedious this preparation is.

Now I am sure there are other factors that I don’t understand or know about. This is just my off-the-cuff run-down from what I have picked up over the last two years.

Now, the earthquake was on a Saturday, and Big Windy was flying to Pakistan on Monday. For me that is a quick response. But SOME PEOPLE expect more.

And this Lebanon evacuation is another case.

Now I was listening to the radio in Germany on Tuesday. And the Germans were griping, because their government had up to that point, yet to enact an official evacuation. They had only facilitated people leaving the country, and issued a recommendation that German citizens leave Lebanon. The evacuation they had organized was by bus to Syria, and then flying out of Damascus on a chartered plane that landed in Düsseldorf. Germans had to pay their own way. This wasn’t provided free of charge. Consider it the “Lebanon Evacuation Travel Package”. I believe that Australia and Italy were also bussing their people out through Damascus.

Let me reiterate: Germany had yet to issue something stronger than a “recommendation,” they weren’t evacuating their citizens, only facilitating it through privately organized efforts, buses were going to Damascus (I heard of one Italian bus nearly being hit by an Israeli missile), and this wasn’t free of charge.

And the evacuated Germans were very angry about this. They thought it was pretty dangerous, and felt let down by their government.

I am not there, so I don’t know how it is, however from what I have managed to gather, there are still areas that are “relatively safe”. I saw a picture of a family on CNN with their make-shift signs begging America to get them out safely, and they were apparently staying 15 miles north of Beirut, and were safe. And I believe that most people are still in relative safety. I mean, of course it is scary and dangerous, any getting out is the priority, but basically, waiting a few more days to get a better evacuation plan would be preferable.

So I was rolling my eyes yesterday when I heard that Americans were complaining about the speed of evacuation efforts, stating that other countries were quicker. The representative to the embassy there, stated that America wanted to plan a “safe” evacuation.

I think that some people have absolutely NO concept of what it takes to organize efforts like this. Also, America could do it the quick way and bus loads of Americans into Syria (yeah, that sounds like a safe plan).

Some people were complaining that America should have a contingency plan for such an evacuation. Well, they do. However, the military isn’t given the budget to be prepared for each and every emergency with a reaction time of 20 minutes. And often the American public balks at spending more money on such “eventualities.”

It takes time to enact these contingency plans. To gather the material needed. So, tell me how this is all supposed to be done with the snap of one’s fingers? There are sometimes cases of lucky coincidences, like the USS Richard Bonhomme, or I can’t remember the exact name of the Navy ship, being in the South China Seas, just as the tsunami hit in December 2004. So they were able to offer aid quickly. Otherwise, it would have taken a few more days for a response. The same with the American response in Pakistan: if we hadn’t had service people in Afghanistan, the response would have been slower.

And yes, the waiting is tedious for Americans wanting to leave Lebanon, and they are afraid, but I am sure that once they start the evacuation, it will be done in the safest manner possible. It will be done correctly. Not in haste and incurring more dangers than necessary.


Blogger Jen said...


I was reading an article where numerous evacuees-in-waiting were interviewed. And one person made reference to hoping the evacuation isn't like Katrina. And I just want to tell people to chill out. Other than Embassy officials, no one told these people to go to Lebanon. Yet the government is still working diligently to help those who want to leave do just that.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

Bravo! Absolutely! People are too conditioned to television and the movies. Everything is done in 2 hours (maybe three... and people gripe about that being too long to sit and watch a movie). Then they think all someone has to do is sound the alarm and there will be the "magical rescue".

Amazing isn't it.

3:28 PM  
Blogger KC said...

I totally agree with this post.

People really don't understand what it takes to prepare and execute an evacuation like this.

It's so true about the planning it takes-and if governments or our military rushed into it (which they wouldn't, because they want people safe as much as anyone, and they are trained to be competent and keep people safe) and people got hurt, this unrest would be tiny compared to the outrage at innocent civilians that could be put in more danger than if they could have just waited until a safe, effective mission was carried out.

Let the soldiers do their jobs-they're trained for things like this, and the civilians who are complaining are not.

While I'm not really upset at the civilians who want a quick evacuation-I think it stems from care and worry for the evacuees, I still leave you with the enduring wisdom of Jack Nicholson:

"I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a d*mn what you think you are entitled to."

hehehe :-)

3:43 PM  
Blogger airforcewife said...

You are so right - and aside from that, when do these people have to admit to any responsibility for taking vacations in LEBANON in the first place? Hey, it's been better lately, but the State Department HAD a travel warning posted! Everyone knew there were terrorist groups still there!

I sympathize with being scared and wanting to leave ASAP, but to blame the people who are risking theirs to rescue them? We are truly becoming a nation of ungrateful, whiny, victim wanna-bes with no sense of responsibility for our own actions.

11:02 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

Airforcewife couldn't have said it any better...especially the last line. So true.

1:27 AM  
Blogger Bluesman said...

Well, you know, the cheapest way for the US to bring safety to their people in Libanon would be to put pressure on Israel. But as the US is playing a dangerous game of trying to weaken Hisbollah, Syria and Iran without doing much themselfs, people in the area get scared.
You are right though that people expect too much from their country in times of crisis.

12:56 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I still can't get over how much people demand of the government. Is this why they complain about tax cuts, because they want to make sure there's extra money sitting around for free trips out of war zones? Har har. Do they think the government just prints more money and then goes and gets them with a loaded cruise ship? Good lord, I get angry thinking about it.

3:35 AM  

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