Do we find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground?
Mother Earth will swallow you, lay your body down.

That little ditty is an excerpt from a song written by Steven Stills and recorded by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young on an album that goes by the name of Four Way Street recorded way back in 1970. If memory serves me correct they sing it a cappella and it’s fittingly the last song on the album. It clocks in at just a little over two minutes and it’s preceded by about a 15 minute electric jam version of the group’s classic song called “Carry On”.

When you think about it, it’s an odd way to end a show. There’s no audience singing or clapping along and no chants of “More” from the crowd. When the harmony ends, all that’s left is a haunting silence.

As of this writing, bombs are flying between Israel and the Hizbullah faction of Lebanon. Bombs don’t discriminate though, they kill everything in their path.

Estimates are that at the time the shooting started, there were upwards of 25,000 Americans over in Lebanon and with the airport in Beirut taken out early by Israeli warplanes, they had no way to flee the hostilities. These are American citizens and it’s the duty of our government to protect them no matter what soil they find themselves on. That’s one of the reasons we have embassies and ambassadors in just about each and every country on the planet.

Once things in another country are deemed to be unstable, the United States Government, specifically the State Department, can do one of two things. The first thing they can do is issue is what’s known as a “travel restriction”. That means no citizen of the United States is allowed to travel to the country in question unless he or she is granted a special permit. Should they find themselves already there when the shit hits the fan, the government is obligated to try and evacuate them, even if it goes against their own personal wishes. The evacuee’s will not be charged or billed by the government for any costs incurred in getting them to safety.

The next thing the government can do is issue what’s known as a “travel warning”. Again, it’s issued by the State Department but rather than forbid travel to the unstable region, it’s more like a request to the traveler that they should think twice about where they’re going and what they’re doing. Americans stuck in such areas can be evacuated but according to United States law, are not required to leave and will have to pay a nominal fee should they choose to leave for safer quarters.

From what I’ve seen, Lebanon is still only in a ‘travel warning” status even though bombs are dropping on the capitol and they airport has been rendered unusable. According to reports, a contingent of United States Marines has been dispatched to help evacuate those Americans who wish to leave. They’re being choppered out to waiting ships that will take them Cyprus and from there to their final destination.

Originally, the government had planned on billing the evacuees about $300.00 each for their safe transport. Some reports told of people having to sign what amounts to an “agreement to pay” before they were allowed to leave. After some protests in Congress, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reversed course and deemed that those people wishing to leave would not be billed nor would they have to sign any kind of agreement nor be held liable for any costs incurred in getting them home.

I say score one for the good guys. To think that such a law even exists and is still on the books boggles my limited imagination. Many of the people there were either businessmen or women on extended duty or students looking for either specialized education in a field that isn’t sufficiently covered here in the States. They are issued one duffle bag that can’t exceed 30 pounds and laptops and cameras are also supposed to be left behind. What happens to the rest of their possessions is anybody’s guess.

Do we find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground?
Mother Earth will swallow you, lay your body down.

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