Kuwait holds line against Iraq
By Shelby G. Spires
KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait — Khaled AlMuthen was on a plane
bound for Cairo a few hours before Iraqi tanks rumbled into his native Kuwait. He spent the occupation and the war as a student wondering if he would have a nation to come home to. On Aug. 2, 1990, the Iraqi army
punched their way through Kuwaiti forces. It took six months of preparation and nearly two months of all out war to unseat the Iraqis from Kuwait.
The past decade has been shaped in Kuwait and the United States by
those actions in 1990 and 1991 Now an official with the Kuwaiti Ministry of Information, AlMuthen often wishes he was not stuck in Egypt during the war. "I felt guilty sometimes during the war while I was at university.
Even though it was not my fault. I couldn't help where I was, and I couldn't get back. I felt guilty I was safe and there were so many people of the world who were fighting ... I should have been there. I should have
been fighting," AlMuthen said.
Nearly a decade has past since the Iraqi invasion. New developments stretch throughout Kuwait and specifically Kuwait City. Last year a multi million mall was
opened. With many shops and a marina, it rivals most shopping centers in America for architectural beauty and convenience. Peal back the newness and reminders of the war remain, however.
The Kuwaitis are a people of tradition. A people who will not forget what happened to their country during a six month occupation and a war. Whole neighborhoods which bear the scars
of war — machine gun pock marked buildings and scorched structures — remain. Their national museum now lays in ruins, burnt by the retreating Iraqis. Their economy is only now bouncing
back through sales of oil, and the limited tourist trade that existed before the war is nonexistent today.
"Before the war there was trust among the Kuwaiti people. Now
there is suspicion. Nobody trusts anybody anymore. It is sad," AlMuthen said. "We want people to come to Kuwait. It is a beautiful country. However, as long as there is strife, people will not come."
The war was not easy for the Kuwaitis. A common joke is told by these people concerning the savageness of Saddam Hussein. It depicts Hussein in the desert with two or three of his colonels. Three Kuwaitis
are a few hundred feet away standing straight in the desert. Hussein orders his colonels to kill one of the Kuwaitis. "Which one?" the colonel asks. "The one with the mustache?"
"No," Hussein answers. "The other one."
"The one with the baggy pants?"
"No, that one there," Hussein answers with a patience wearing thin.
Finally Hussein takes the rifle and shoots the two Kuwaitis on each end of the line.
"The one that is left standing. That is the one I want you to kill," he
It's dark humor. But these are a people who have been through dark times.Even though the Iraqis occupied the nation for few
months. For those who had to live under their rule it was a daily life of dread and sometimes horror.
Some Kuwaitis were executed following the invasion, and simple
events like a phone call so limited that when they did happen it was a treasure. "To speak to our family members we had a few hours on Sunday from which we could call. The telephones we were
allowed to use were 100 miles away, and we had to go there ourselves," a Kuwaiti official said. "I myself waited three hours one Sunday to call, only to be told the line was down, and that I would
have to return the next week ... This is just an example of an inconvenience I was fortunate. They didn't hang me."
The Kuwaitis continue to prepare for war. Hundreds of millions have been spent to
improve their military. It seems inevitable to them that they may face off against Iraq."We are fighting for our very existence here. I think people around the world do not understand what is happening here," another
Kuwaiti ministry official said. "Many from other countries think that if you just kill Saddam Hussein then all this will go away. They do not understand
it is not just Hussein. It is his whole government. If he dies another will take his place. They all must go."