8.23.2006

Bourdain in Beirut

I was flipping channels the other night and came across Bourdain in Beirut. I had heard of his show but never actually sat and watched it. Until last night. I caught it about 10 minutes into the show, when he and his crew are scoping out exit strategies. From that point on, I was hooked. He is articulate and his insights into the Lebanese culture and the war between Hezbollah and Israel were fascinating.

The thing that really struck me was his take on the Marines. He discusses it in an interview with the Washington Post:

I can't possibly say enough good things about the U.S. Marine Corps or enough bad things about the embassy and the State Department.


and

The Marines of the USS Nashville, in a virtually last-minute operation for which they had been neither trained nor experienced, performed brilliantly with a kindness, a thoughtfulness, a sensitivity, a level of efficiency and humanity, sorely missing from what I saw at State and Embassy operations.



Watching the footage of their time on the USS Nashville and the dignity with which the Marines treated their passengers was just a reaffirmation of the belief that I have held for many years: Marines are the best of the best. In every way.


Mr. Bourdain also wrote a piece for Salon.com, titled Watching Beirut Die, though to read the entire article you have to subscribe (you can bypass the subscription by clicking on the sponsor link down the page and watching a short preview of an upcoming CNN special).

In the end we are among the lucky ones. The privileged, the fortunate, the relatively untouched. Unlike the Lebanese Americans who make it out, we don't leave homes and loved ones behind, we will get out and return to business as usual. To unbroken homes, intact families, friends and jobs. After a hideously disorganized cluster fuck at the eventual "assembly point" -- a barely under control mob scene of fainting old people, crying babies, desperate families waving pink and white slips of paper, trying to get the attention of a few understaffed, underprepared and seemingly annoyed embassy personnel in baseball caps and casual clothes -- we are put in the charge of the sailors and Marines of the USS Nashville who've hauled ass from Jordan on short notice to undertake a mission for which they are unrehearsed and inexperienced. Yet they perform brilliantly. The moment we pass through the last checkpoint into their control, all are treated with a kindness and humanity we can scarcely believe. Squared away, efficient, organized and caringly sensitive, the Marines break the crowd into sensibly spaced groups, give them shade and water, lead them single file to an open-ended landing craft at the water's edge. They carry babies, children, heat-stroke victims, luggage. They are soft-spoken, casually friendly. They give out treats and fruit and water. They reassure us with their ease and professionalism.


and

The last group from the beach is unloaded from the landing craft into the belly of the Nashville, and we're off to Cyprus. Two battleships -- including the USS Cole (emphasis mine - hfs) escorting us. A Lebanon I never got to know, a Beirut I didn't get to show the world disappears slowly over the horizon -- a beautiful dream turned nightmare. It's not what I saw happen in Beirut that I feel like talking about, though that's what I'm doing, isn't it? It's not about what happened to me that remains an unfinished show, a not fully fleshed out story, or even a particularly interesting one. It feels shameful even writing this. It's the story I didn't get to tell. The Beirut I saw for two short days. The possibilities. The hope. Now only a dream.



It is sad to realize that it is not just Americans or Westerners or Israelis who are decimated by terrorist organizations. It is the people of the lands which those organizations hold hostage by their presence and their actions as well.

Helluva show Mr. Bourdain. Helluva show.




Pau.




- hfs

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