I, and probably thousands of others living in Lebanon, eagerly opened today’s email from the US embassy expecting to read some shocking news. But despite the “emergency” subject line, there was nothing remotely newsworthy in the 21 paragraphs that followed, which read more like shoddily written year-in-review piece rather than an urgent warning.
So what happened to Americans in Lebanon over the last 12 months? One, yes one, was injured in May 2011 protests at the southern border–a world a way from the capital– when troops from Israel opened fire on unarmed protestors on the Lebanese side.
Though this event occurred a year ago, it has been featured as the only American casualty in Beirut in numerous “emergency” messages that have been broadcast since then. Ahead of today’s message, “emergency” warnings were issued for Lebanon on September 23, 2011; October 13, 2011 and March 13 2011. That’s a total of 4 emergency messages over a year-long period when one American was injured.
I wonder how Americans fared in the United States during that same timeframe. Obviously the State Dept. needs to warn Americans against traveling to Lebanon because it would be safer for them to stay home. Or would it?
The latest nationwide figures released by the FBI indicate that there were over 1.2 million violent crimes in 2010, including nearly 800,000 aggravated assaults and 15,000 murders.
And while the panicked tone of the US embassy’s Beirut emergency message warns of “the potential for spontaneous… and sporadic violence” …”without warning” the single event that claimed an American injury was a well publicized demonstration that was live on every television channel for hours on a well-known annual calendar date (Nakba Day) and in a border area that has seen violence in the past and is actually restricted to foreign nationals and Lebanese as a result. Is such violence more predictable in America, where school shootings and random acts of violence have become old news?
In fact, a violent crime occurs every 25 seconds in the US, and a murder every 35 minutes, FBI statistics show.
Of course US national crime stats cannot be directly measured against those in Lebanon, which is only the size of a medium American city. And yet according to the FBI, American metropolitan areas with populations over 100,000 reported 130,000 violent crimes and some 1,600 murders per year. Detroit for example, had 300 murders; Baltimore had over 200.
You be the judge. Should the State Department being issuing warnings about tiny Lebanon or about American cities, small and large?