Beginning of the End
Tony Bourdain may be an ass (I think he plays it up as his 'bit') but the man can write. Check out his story on the ground in Beirut where he went to film a TV show about the rebirth of the city but instead watched it all disappear (again).
July 28, 2006 From where I'm sitting, poolside, I can see the airport burning -- the last of the jet fuel cooking off like a dying can of sterno. There's a large, black plume of smoke coming from the south of the city -- just over the rise, where the most recent airstrikes have been targeting the Shiite neighborhoods and what are, presumably, Hezbollah-associated structures. My camera crew and I missed it the first time they hit the airport. Slept right through it. Woke up in our snug hotel sheets to the news that we wouldn't be making television in Beirut (not the show we came to do anyway), and that we wouldn't be getting out of here anytime soon.
The news clip of President Bush, chawing open-mouthed on a buttered roll, then grabbing at another while Tony Blair tries to get him to focus on Lebanon -- plays over and over on the TV, crushing our spirits and dampening all hope with every glassy-eyed mouthful. He seems intent on enjoying his food; Lebanon a tiny, annoying blip on an otherwise blank screen. I can't tell you how depressing that innocuous bit of footage is to watch. That one, innocent, momentary preoccupation with a roll has a devastating effect on us that is out of all proportion. We're looking for signs. And this, sadly, is all we have.
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.