Tuesday, July 18, 2006

US Official: Operation costs more than available resources

* newsweek:
"U.S. Marines raced Monday to complete naval and air evacuation plans for thousands of Americans in Lebanon — an operation U.S. military official said carries “some risk.”

The Orient Queen, a commercial ship hired by the government, will sail into a Beirut port Tuesday escorted by the destroyer USS Gonzales and possibly the USS Iwo Jima. The cruise ship will try to rescue the estimated 5,000 citizens who are so far wanting to leave.

By late Monday only 64 individuals were known to have departed with U.S. support by helicopter.

The cruise ship, which can carry up to 750 people, will be forced to dodge an Israeli warship naval blockade and potential Hezbollah attacks that damaged two vessels Friday. The boat will take the citizens to the nearby island country Cyprus.

The Orient Queen will be forced to sail some of the journey alone as the warships intend to maintain a distance from Lebanon to avoid appearing to be a threatening force.

The trip from Beirut to the small island country can take up to five hours. The ship will likely make several trips before the entire operation is complete.


Joanne Nucho finished packing in the early morning hours Tuesday. Nucho, a student at American University in Beirut, said there was talk that Americans would have to pay a $300 evacuation fee, not be allowed to take laptops or cameras and be left to sleep on the streets of Cyprus.


At the State Department, McCormack said the cost of a massive evacuation was beyond U.S. resources. He said evacuated Americans would be asked to pay commercial rates, and if they did not have the money to promise to pay in the future."


"I can't even begin to outline the insanity here. There's some method in the madness, but oh so much madness in the methods.


I will be highly (if pleasantly) surprised if the evac ops for all countries involved go off without shots fired."



Omar said...

i like your blog...im adding it to my blog roll


rimone said...

is it possible for me/most everyone here to to get angrier?

the cost of a massive evacuation was beyond U.S. resources.


rimone said...

i came back to say that right now (18,38GMT) i'm watching the HMS Gloucester and all the Britons boarding on the way to Cyprus. they're pleased that the UK came through for them... *sigh*

Don said...

By the BBC, the HMS Gloucester and the HMS York (both Type 42 Destroyers) are there now, with amphib assault ship HMS Bulwark, the fleet stores ship RFA Fort Victoria, the frigate HMS St Albans and the RN flagship HMS Illustrious (a carrier) en route. The Gloucester and York have docked in Beirut harbor during operations.

By contrast, the USN rents a Lebanese liner, the Orient Queen which, with its smallish capacity, will have to make "several trips before the entire operation is complete." Meantime, it's escort, the destroyer USS Gonzalez and maybe the amphib assault ship USS Iwo Jima, "intend to maintain a distance from Lebanon to avoid appearing to be a threatening force."

So the UK is sending 6 RN ships, including their flagship, right to the heart of the operation while the US is renting 1 small liner and sending 1, maybe 2 USN ships, that won't even apporach the coastline 'cause they don't want to look all belligerent? And they're charging for it? Never mind that the Iwo Jima alone could do it faster, safer, and in fewer trips. Never mind that (guesstimating) there are probably 2-4 carrier groups in the Med, the Red Sea, the Gulf, and/or the Indian Ocean that ships could be detatched from.

The more I read, two thoughts come to mind:

(1) As Katrina and continual fence-sitting on Darfur have proven, these guys wouldn't know the meaning of 'humanitarian mission' if you beat them repreatedly with the Oxford Dictionary (unabridged).

(2) The Pentagon is looking at reports from Israel of Hezbollah of (Iranian-built) antiship missiles hitting their boats and taking the cautious (read: cowardly) way out. Can't have those "primitive" pissant terrorists damaging, or worse sinking, one of their expensive boats. Yes, it'd be perfect PR for the GWOT, but with the liner as sacrificial lamb, as Clemons suggested, it's cheaper. I've no doubt the sailors of the USN'd chance it in a heartbeat for their people, but the bastards giving the orders have different priorities.

On that last point, as politically savvy as Hezbollah has shown itself to be so far, I'm not convinced they'd shoot at ships on a humanitarian mission, particularly if foreign nationals are being taken out of the line of fire, clearing the playing field as it were. Right now, it's them against Israel. Firing first on UK or US ships immediately let's the big boys onto the field, something they definitely don't want, and immediately blows any credibility in the world they've got now.

Some bright soul in the UK realized that, and that the only way out of the situation is straight through. With the possible exception of Condi, I don't think anyone in the Bush administration is capable of seeing that.

Don said...

From Reuters this morning, Iwo Jima group sent to help Lebanon evacuation.

That'll be the Iwo Jima and its Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG): the assault ships USS Nashville, USS Whidbey Island, and USS Trenton, plus the experimental high-speed transport/minesweeper Swift. IOW, a whole lot of transport capability.

Either someone clued in, woke up to lousy PR at home, or the Brits embarrassed them with their much more robust initial response.

(side note: that'll be the fourth time in a month the name "Swift" is in the news in a new context. Wassup with that?!)

Don said...

Ha! From AP via the Ely Times:

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the U.S. also is considering contracting with as many as four more commercial ships that could each carry between 200 and more than 1,000 passengers....

The USS Nashville, which was already under way, could arrive as early as Wednesday, while the other two [Iwo Jima group ships] may not arrive in the area until Thursday or Friday.

The Navy did not say exactly what role the Marines and sailors will play in the evacuation, which has been criticized as slow compared to those of other nations that have taken their citizens out of Lebanon.

The State Department said Monday that it will ask Americans to pay for rides out of Lebanon that include chartered vessels.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi objected to billing evacuees.

"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," Pelosi said in a statement.

Don said...

Addition to earlier: Iwo Jima's ESG also includes the guided missile cruiser USS Phillipine Sea, and the guided missile destroyer USS Bulkeley and USS Cole (yes, that Cole), making 9 USN ships en route now.

I don't think Hezbollah's stupid enough to shoot first, but it's still going to be interesting to watch.

lukery said...

thnx don - sterling research.

rimone. it's really quite astonishing.

rimone said...

as y'all prolly know by now, the US has been shamed into not charging all those stupid Americans who so foolishly went to Lebanon.

Don, about the 'swift' thing, i noticed this about a month ago when Lt. Commander Charles Swift was in court. then there's the Swift chick who was raped in iraq. the moron swift-boaters are coming out again pretty soon...i think i'm missing a few.

lukery said...

shame works! who knew? i thought it was only the dirty ayrabs who were shame-based.

re swift, there's also SWIFT bank spying. and one more?

Don said...

I was counting Navy LCdr Charles Swift, the SWIFT program, Army Spec Suzanne Swift, and now the USS Swift, for 4.

I hadn't counted the return of the Swiftboaters as the anti-Murtha campaign doesn't explicitly use the term "swift boat", but they'd make 5.

Christ, next thing you know it'll come out that Bush's nicknamed some administration pencilneck "Swifty"...

lukery said...

or maybe Laura will call Bush "Swifty" next time she discusses Desperate Housewives