Evacuation from Lebanon: Worse than Katrina?

The Bush administration's response to Americans trapped in Lebanon has become a sluggish affair on par with its "response" to Hurricane Katrina. Even worse, in a way: so far as I know, the government didn't make Katrina evacuees promise to pay for being rescued:

Dozens of Americans were evacuated from Beirut by U.S. Marine helicopters Tuesday, but hundreds of other U.S. citizens were stranded. Some expressed frustration that the evacuation was taking so long. The Americans being evacuated were told by U.S. officials that they would have to reimburse the government for the trip to safety.

I hope our town's Rev. Lawrence Biondi - president of St. Louis University and one of an estimated 25,000 Americans depending on their government for safe passage - has his credit card handy.

One bright spot: At least no one can blame FEMA or Michael Brown for this debacle. But just as before, no one can honestly say that the White House couldn't see this storm coming.

Note: A request, posted at Hollywood Elsewhere, on behalf of another St. Louisian trapped in Lebanon:

A longtime St. Louis reader named Josh Capps has a fiance named Nadine, a PhD student who recently went to Lebanon to visit her mom and is now having trouble getting out due to the hostilities. He's gotten his fiance on the evacuation list, though she's behind a lot of others. Capps is asking me to pass along requests to readers to contact their House reps and Senators with the specific request of broadening the parameters of the evacuees to include special-case permanent residents and student visas.

Note: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the situation grows more serious for Father Biondi and his traveling companion, the Rev. Andre Mhanna, a Lebanese rector also from St. Louis:

The Rev. Lawrence Biondi, president of Saint Louis University, and the Rev. Andre Mhanna, a Lebanese rector from St. Louis, were not part of the first wave of U.S. evacuees out of Lebanon on Tuesday and continued their nervous wait to leave the battle zone.

"We have gone up to the mountains because it was getting too dangerous," Mhanna said by cell phone at his parents' home about 20 minutes outside Beirut. "We will not be too hopeful that we will leave soon at this point."

It's unclear here whether Biondi actually joined Mhanna in the mountains, or is still waiting at the hotel per previous instructions.

Mhanna, whose family is from Lebanon, said his larger concern was for the safety of Biondi and his family.

"I just want to make sure Father Larry is on board and he's safe," he said. "But it seems things are worsening by the hour."

Mhanna said about 15 other families from his church in St. Louis were also trapped in Lebanon because most travel has been blocked by Israeli forces. The Maronite Church, an old Eastern Rite branch of Catholicism, is based in Lebanon.

"We had dinner with four of the families last night, and everyone is OK, for now," he said.

But he said the situation was deteriorating quickly.


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