Today, Nancy Pelosi released the following statement regarding U.S. citizens in Lebanon having to pay for evacuations:
Washington, D.C. – House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today on news reports that American citizens who are trying to leave Lebanon must agree to repay the U.S. government for the cost of their evacuation:
“The United States government has an obligation to get thousands of its citizens out of harm’s way in Lebanon quickly and safely. That means making it clear to the combatants that we will not tolerate any interference with our evacuation activities.
“The immediate risk to American lives also means this is no time for quibbling over payment for evacuation. Whatever resources are needed to assist Americans in danger in Lebanon must be provided. Americans should not be held hostage by a requirement to sign an agreement to repay transportation costs before evacuation. A nation that can provide more than $300 billion for a war in Iraq can provide the money to get its people out of Lebanon.
“I call upon the President to remove one worry from the minds of stranded American citizens in Lebanon and their families back home by declaring immediately that their country will bear the costs of bringing them to safety.”
Since the release of this statement, the government has reversed their position, as reported by NBC:
Late Tuesday NBC’s Dawn Fratangelo confirmed that American evacuees would not have to sign promissory notes pledging repayment for passage.
An official told NBC that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has directed her staff to sign waivers so promissory notes will not be needed.
To get on board, Americans would have had to sign a note pledging to reimburse the U.S. government. They would have been charged the price of a single commercial flight from Beirut to Cyprus — usually $150-$200, although officials refused to specify.
If they had no money to fly onward, they also would have been asked to guarantee reimbursement of the price of an airline ticket from Cyprus to the United States.
In Washington, before Rice’s action, White House spokesman Tony Snow said the government had to charge evacuees because of a 2003 law. “I dare say that it’s something that is causing heartburn for a number of people, but it’s the law,” he said.
I would be interested in seeing exactly what this “law” that Snow is refereeing to is, and the debate which brought it about. Something really seems fishy here.