Alive or dead, Uncle Sam doesn't give any free rides.
Earlier I noted
that the State Department, in stark contrast to the Canadian government, is requiring U.S. citizens caught in Lebanon to pay for the cost of their evacuation. (Rep. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has since weighed in
, saying that this was no time "for quibbling over payment for evacuation.")
I called up the State Department to ask about the policy. "We are not standing there with a cash box asking people to pay before they get on the boat," spokeswoman Janelle Hironimus told me. But if they don't pay (by check, no cash or credit cards accepted), or sign a form promising to pay, they don't go. It's the law
: "Reasonable commercial air fare" shall be charged to all evacuees.
What if they're dead?
Same deal, she said. No freebies, even if you're not around to enjoy it.
Hironimus said that she didn't know the exact fee being charged. Evacuees are signing promissory notes. Those citizens will find out how much they owe when they get the bill in the mail.
And if a U.S. citizen is killed waiting to evacuate -- or because they stayed behind, unable to promise their government they could pay?
"We arrange with their families," Hironimus said. "We discuss their choices, but itâs paid for by the families."
In any case, the spokeswoman assured me, no one would get left behind.