Email from Beirut

A reader writes:

On your most recent posting quoting about how the USG is bankrupt, and cannot pay its "creditors". I think they have figured out one way to take care of it: charge their citizens for emergency services.

I am currently enrolled in an intensive summer arabic program at the American University in Beirut, and am holed up at the university, probably the safest place in the city right now. Basically my choices have been to make a run for the border with Syria and try to catch a flight out, or wait for the USG to carry out the evacuation plan. Because I heard reports about the dangers of the former (and based on a statement by the American embassy), I opted for the latter. 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 goverrnments evacuating people here are actually flying them back to their home country without cost. But not the USG. They are perfectly happy to fund the World Toilet Summit (in Ireland, if my memory is correct) to the tune of $13 million or something. But 25,000 or so Americans stranded in the middle of a (quite unexpected) war zone? They better be ready to pay up if they want out.