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  1. #1
    Senior Member LegalUSCitizen's Avatar
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    Apr 2005

    Cruise Ship Begins Ferrying U.S. Evacuees

    Cruise Ship Begins Ferrying U.S. Evacuees
    By Johanna Neuman and Megan K. Stack, Times Staff Writer
    5:35 PM PDT, July 19, 2006

    BEIRUT, Lebanon -- More than 1,000 U.S. citizens were finally able to escape the fighting in Lebanon on Wednesday, as the first chartered cruise ship carrying American evacuees left Beirut for Cyprus.

    As many as 6,000 Americans could be out of Lebanon by the weekend, the U.S. State Department said.

    Thousands of Europeans are fleeing as well. British officials expect to evacuate some 5,000 Britons in what officials in London were calling the biggest such operation since the evacuation of Dunkirk during World War II.

    The Pentagon said the USS Nashville, an amphibious ship that can carry about 1,000 passengers, would arrive off the coast of Lebanon on Thursday. Landing craft and possibly helicopters will be used to transport evacuees to the ship, which will be kept well offshore for safety reasons.

    In addition, said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, the military has chartered an additional commercial vessel, the Rahmah, which is to arrive in Beirut on Friday. It can hold 1,400 passengers, he said.

    "The capacity will basically double over the next few days," he said of the evacuation effort, believed to be the largest such use of military assets in the last two decades. Nine Navy vessels and several chartered ships will be taking part.

    But the increasing ability to get Americans to safety is, for the moment, bypassing hundreds who are stranded in southern Lebanon, awaiting safe passage out of the country.

    "We have several groups of people congregated and ready to move," said Maura Harty, assistant secretary of State for consular affairs. "We'd like to get them out of harm's way."

    Harty said "a decision was taken" to keep the Americans in south Lebanon "in a holding pattern until we think it's safe and prudent. ... We're always going to err on the side of caution."

    On the deck of the Orient Queen, Tony Zeinoun and his children snapped pictures, with Beirut's skyline as a backdrop.

    Zeinoun, a Virginia contractor, had fled his homeland during the country's 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990. On this trip, his first time back in seven years, he had brought his family to see their relatives.

    "We come back now and all hell breaks loose," he said. "We took a chance."

    Leaning against the ship's railings, he looked ruefully at the tangle of cranes rising over Beirut's downtown, largely resurrected after being devastated in the civil war. Zeinoun had read about the reconstruction and had looked forward to seeing it -- but on this abbreviated vacation, he never made it.

    "It's a pity we've only gotten to see it from the ship," he said. "It's devastating. It's still being rebuilt."

    As the evacuation escalated, the White House notified congressional leaders of possible deployment of "combat-equipped U.S. military forces" to Lebanon and Cyprus to assist in the efforts.

    The notification letter is required by the War Powers Resolution.

    Bush's letter said "a contingent of U.S. military personnel" had landed in Beirut Sunday "to assist in planning and conducting the departure from Lebanon of U.S. Embassy personnel and citizens." More troops may be deployed "as necessary" to assist in the evacuation, the letter said.

    Pentagon officials said the troops were being deployed solely to aid in the rescue efforts, but added that they were studying supplemental rules of engagement in case the troops were attacked or became embroiled in the fighting.

    The last major deployment of U.S. troops in Lebanon was in 1983 and ended after a suicide bombing of a U.S. military barracks in Beirut killed 241 U.S. Marines. Hezbollah is widely believed to have been involved in that bombing.

    The United States has been criticized for a delay in organizing the evacuation of the American citizens in Lebanon, estimated at about 25,000. Several European countries began removing their citizens over the weekend.

    But military officials defended the pace. "This is a war zone, we have to get it right the first time," said Brig. Gen. Michael Barbero, deputy director of regional operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "We're not going to rush to failure."

    The U.S. efforts did not begin until the Navy destroyer Gonzalez, equipped with the military's most sophisticated anti-missile radar system, arrived in the region. It was followed Wednesday by a second Aegis radar-equipped destroyer, the Barry.

    Because of the sensitivity of intelligence on threats posed to U.S. ships in the region, Pentagon officials declined to comment on whether Hezbollah's newfound anti-ship capabilities -- one of its rockets struck and almost sank an Israeli naval vessel -- were a direct factor in the comparatively slow movement of the evacuation mission.

    Neuman reported from Washington and Stack from Beirut. Times staff writer Peter Spiegel in Washington contributed to this report. ... -headlines
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  2. #2
    Senior Member nittygritty's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
    I find I have little compassion for the people caught in this war. they have been warned over and over by our country about the chances they were taking visiting this country. People have to have some self accountability for taking their vacations and choosing to work there. Some of these people who have been rescued, are so ungrateful as to complain the shipes were to hot, the food was bad, blah, blah, blah. I would think if someone rescued my butt from myself, in that awful place I would be kissing the floor of the ships that rescued me and praising God for my rescue from this nightmare, people are the most ungrateful, egotistical, self-centered bunch of animals on this planet!
    Build the dam fence post haste!

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jan 1970
    Notice they aren't complaining about the free ride.
    I don't care what you call me, so long as you call me AMERICAN.

  4. #4
    Senior Member moosetracks's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    Now, we're sending aid to Lebanon. Where's the aid from the Arab countries?
    Do not vote for Party this year, vote for America and American workers!

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