In a borrowed cubicle in the offices of the Arab American Institute, barely back from an exhausting 58-hour evacuation from Beirut, Radney Wood and a friend, John Orak, were working the phones and sending out e-mails to spread the word about the trials of Lebanon.
Wood, a 26-year-old New Yorker of Lebanese descent, had been working for a United Nations development program when hostilities erupted. Orak, 25, a South Carolina native with Slovak roots, was teaching English in a State Department program for poor youth who Washington feared would otherwise embrace Hezbollah.
Like many Lebanese-Americans and friends of Lebanon, they are deeply worried by the fighting, and fearful of a growing backlash among Arab-Americans and people in the region over the U.S. role there.
They are also upset about the way the U.S. government handled the evacuation of Americans, viewed as slow and disorganized, and about the State Department’s original intent to charge them for it.
“I’ve never been so disappointed, never felt so abandoned by my government,” Orak said.
Among Lebanese-Americans and others there is a widespread sense that the U.S. government would have reacted differently if, say, there had been 25,000 Americans under attack in Israel instead of Lebanon.
“Even if the government claims that they didn’t deliberately evacuate American citizens at a slower rate,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, “then the best construct that can be placed on it is that the process for evacuating Americans from a foreign land is a broken system.”