THE HUMAN SHIELD - Allies or All Lies Part 2

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Part 2 covers the events of the invasion

Submitted: August 27, 2013

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Submitted: August 27, 2013

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The HUMAN SHIELD - Allies or All Lies

Part 2

 

The Beginning

There are many reasons that led to the Iraqis invading Kuwait in 1990, but was Sadam a tyrant, an evil man hell-bent on destruction of those around him, as his critics would have us believe, or as some might have it, as shown in history? On the other hand, was Sadam essentially a good leader doing the best that could be done in a difficult country, in a difficult part of the world – the centre of two major religions and the centre of the world’s greatest oil reserves? Had Sadam once again become the victim of duplicity by the Americans and British? Sadam’s regime is accredited with mass genocide of his own people, the Kurds, but even on this, there is evidence to suggest that the Iranians, under Americans influence, were involved. So how accurate are the accounts of the history of Mesopotamia or new Iraq? Are they historical, historic or merely histrionic?

Many accounts of the invasion and occupation of Kuwait have been produced with most of these being included in comprehensive writings of modern Iraq, or of Sadam Hussain. Whilst the core history of Iraq is well chronicled, interim periods are left to authors’ interpretations – and to some extent, imagination – and readers’ naivety.

The entire Middle East region has been subject to wars and conflict for millenniums by empire builders. Since the end of the nineteenth century, Western countries, primarily Great Britain, France and the USA, have interfered endlessly with the domestic politics of the region albeit most of that at the end of the two World Wars. It is not my intention to go into any depth of the historical and degenerate conflicts that have occurred in the area over the centuries. However, the invasion of Kuwait was rooted by British political activity in the southern parts of the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the Empire’s decline, circa 1890, when the British afforded a small group of trading families’ protection from marauding Bedou in the interests of trade routes and later, the search for oil. This area, known as Al Qurain, (pronounced Al G’rain), which lay on a peninsula of a sheltered bay south of Basra, was given autonomy by the British and protection given by the building of a wall around the dwelling area circa 1899, parts of which remain to present day. The area became known by the Arabs as little fort, (in Arabic, Kut or Kuwayt). A few years later, the British proclaimed the surrounding areas as the territory of Kuwait but this was not ratified until the British defined the new area boundaries after World War 1 which has caused contempt, disagreement, resentment and uprisings ever since. In reality, ratification is questionable; the British merely cancelled the 1913 agreement with the Ottomans, which was never agreed to by the Iraqis. Now, under the (involuntary) control of the British, they had no say in the matter.

During the First World War, the British conquered the Ottoman regions of Iraq, Palestine and Syria and then, after the war, created and transformed the area into Transjordan (later Jordan), Iraq and the Gulf States. The whole issue was complicated by underhand deals that Britain struck with France including the Sykes-Picot agreement, which gave Lebanon and Syria to the French while Britain took control of Iraq, Palestine, Kuwait and other Gulf States.

To placate Sharif Hussein of Mecca, the leader of Hejaz (later Saudi Arabia), the British wanted to make his sons heads of Transjordan, Syria and Iraq. The old king refused to sign Churchill’s agreement that set out structure of the new Middle East, but the king’s sons had no such qualms in assuming their new positions. In Baghdad this meant that Faisel Hussein’s third son became the first king of Iraq.

This was not a popular move with the newly liberated citizens of Iraq most of whom were opposed to the creation of a new state. When it had first been proposed in 1919 that the provinces of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra be joined together to form one nation, most British politicians had argued that it was a ludicrous idea. Arnold Wilson, the Civil Administrator in Baghdad, said it was a recipe for disaster because it meant trying to force three distinct groups – the Shi’ite, Sunnite and Kurds to work together, even though it was well known that they detested each other.

Tension amongst the tribes at the time was so great that in July 1920 the country suffered the greatest revolt in history. The revolt was caused by a combination of factors, but Britain’s failure to fulfil a wartime promise of allowing the Arab leaders’ self-determination was significant.

The uprising, which lasted until 1921, was suppressed, but not before almost an entire battalion of the Manchester Regiment was wiped out by the Shi’ite guerrillas. At least 10,000 people died in the revolt and, if nothing else, it persuaded the British that it would be far better to establish a puppet regime to run the country for them, rather than burden themselves with the huge cost in men and resources that would be required to subdue warring tribes.

The rival warlords in Baghdad and Basra made efforts to patch up their differences and presented the British with a viable local leadership in Sayid Talib, the pre-eminent local leader of Basra, but Britain had already resolved that Faisel would be king.

The emergence of a genuine secular contender caused alarm in the British government. The resourceful Sir Percy Cox, the British Resident in Baghdad, who invited Talib to afternoon tea at the British Residence to discuss his plans, resolved the crisis. When Talib arrived at the Residence Sir Percy was nowhere to be seen and so Lady Cox entertained him. As Talib left the Residence party, other guests, acting on the advice of Sir Percy, arrested him. Talib was then exiled to the island of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), leaving Faisel free to ascend the throne. His coronation took place in Baghdad on 23rd August 1922. Add to this, the creation of Israel in 1947 at the expense of Arab land and the subsequent desecration and occupation of Palestine that had American support, the cauldron of wrath was bubbling to the rim.

 

The Build-up

Factually, despite popular Western belief, there is not an Emirate or Kingdom in Arabia that practices democracy. All, at some time or other even up to present-day, have committed genocide by executing opposition members and insurgents. Each country is ruled by a dictator, either as a sheikh or emir (Amir in Kuwait), or a king and that is the way that the people want it; they are tribal and each tribe is headed by its own sheikh. Tribal disputes cause most of their conflicts and beyond that, religion. A few countries have a government in place, but in all instances these are puppet governments and they are there only to appease the West. If they attempt to exercise any authority, they are quietly disbanded.

Kuwait, up to the time of the Iraqi invasion, was involved in the genocide of an opposition group, most of who came from the area in which I resided, Mishrif.  In 1988, this group was banned from meetings or gatherings of more than twelve people and consequently they set up their operating base in Cyprus and used a facsimile system for means of communication. In 1989 the ruling family, the Al Sabah’, formed a special security police group to counter the opposition who rounded up members of the opposition group imprisoning many. At the time of the 1990 invasion, more than 600 members of the opposition had disappeared. The Iraqis immediately released those still in gaol. The opposition group had approached Iraq for help; a coup or civil war was imminent. In view of the fact that the Kuwait Military was made up almost entirely of foreign nationals, mostly from Pakistan and Bangladesh, it is highly unlikely that they would have played any significant part in civil strife, one way or another.

The build up to the 1990 invasion of Kuwait had many contributory factors. Certainly, the result of the extended Iraq-Iran war bore significance in as much that Iraq was left in a state of virtual economic disaster and was now entirely dependant on oil revenue to supplement the economy and to pay off their war debts. As the oil prices stood then even that would cause them to struggle to balance their payments. In response to a request from the American and British governments who were planning between them to undermine the Iraqi economy as an assurance against acquisition of military weapons, the Kuwaitis added fuel to the fire by deliberately over-producing oil causing a considerable drop in international oil-price, from $30 per barrel to less than $20. The Anglo-American plan had backfired as Kuwaiti greed ran amok and they produced even more oil than they had been asked to do which resulted in them being expelled from OPEC. As a direct consequence of that action, the Iraqis were unable to produce enough oil to meet their obligations. Added to that, the Kuwaitis were performing horizontal drilling taking oil from the Iraqi oil reserves. Nevertheless, as dire as those issues were, they alone were not the direct cause of the invasion.

 I had experienced two previous Iraqi invasions of Kuwait during my residence there in the early seventies. Both of those invasions were to fulfil claims that the Iraqis had been making since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the reformation of Iraq and Kuwait in 1921-22. From when I first visited Kuwait and Iraq in 1968, the Kuwait-Iraq border had been moved north from Mutlah Ridge, slightly north of the city, a few years previously. Using this as a natural border divide, Mutlah ridge was still operative as the Kuwaiti border post even though the new border had been established some forty miles north. The information that I had from good and reliable Kuwaiti sources was that when Kuwait was granted independence from Britain in 1961, Britain re-established the border to its new and present position. Taking it from Iraq, this gave Kuwait part control of the largest oilfield in the world, but at the same time, the relocation of the border had a much greater effect on Iraq by passing ownership of the strategic and disputed islands of Bubiyan and Al Warbah to the Kuwaitis. Whilst the low-lying barren desert of the islands is virtually worthless and effectively uninhabitable except for mudskippers, flamingos, and an occasional shepherd and his flock, it has a value to Iraq much higher than the Rumaylah oil field. Geographically, Iraq has little coastline and what they have is shallow water, worthless for development of deep-sea ports. This necessitates transfer of oil to sea tankers through pipes routed across Syria and Saudi Arabia, which is both expensive and politically volatile. Bubyian could provide the deep-sea port that Iraq so desperately needed. When Sadam Hussain in 1990 responded to President George W Bush’s demand to withdraw from Kuwait to the borders, he responded cynically by asking, ‘Which border do you mean, the walls of Kuwait City, Mutlah Ridge or the present location?’

During the Iraq – Iran war, the Kuwaitis were assisting the Iranians financially and by providing resources via Dhow across the waters of the Persian Gulf. When Sadam found out, he was angry. He pointed out how the Iraqis had historically assisted Kuwait and he threatened them with aggression. The British were fearful of the Iranians winning the war and they advised the Kuwaitis to put their loyalties with the Iraqis, which they did in 1988 towards the end of the conflict. There was another way in which the Iraqis believed Kuwait owed them some form of compensation, in fact, Sadam stated that one of his reasons for declaring war on Iran had been to defend the interest of Kuwait, and there was a element of truth in that when prior to that war, Iran had been threatening Kuwait with invasion. The Iranians had even fired missiles into Kuwait. I remember once sitting on a southern beach one Friday afternoon when a missile exploded in the sea some quarter mile away. My wife, in response to a conversation we were having about the danger from Iran, with nothing more than a bat of her eyelids, said, ‘’See! They can’t even hit Kuwait’. Other than keeping his troops occupied there was no other explanation: unless Sadam considered that should the Iranians occupy Kuwait then his claim for the northern oilfields and the disputed islands would be lost.

During May 1990, top Iraqi officials visited Cairo and met with the American CIA where the subject of the invasion was discussed. Around the same time, the CIA had met with the Kuwaitis and the plans for evacuation of the Royal family were orchestrated along with the plans for the removal of all monetary reserves, civil registers and banking databases that were transferred to other countries, primarily Great Britain. On the day of the invasion at around 9 a.m., hours after the Iraqis had captured Kuwait, I withdrew two hundred and fifty Dinars (five hundred pounds sterling) from an ATM in Salmiya. In August 1991 after I had returned to Kuwait, my account had been debited with the withdrawal, yet all banks in Kuwait were supposedly possessed or trashed by the Iraqis.

On the 29th and 30th July, the Kuwait Amir, Sheikh Jabir Al Ahmad Al Jabir Al Sabah, had travelled to Saudi, subsequently staying there, taking part in discussions between delegates from Kuwait, Iraq and Saudi, he knew an invasion was imminent, both the British and the Americans wanted it that way. The Amir was under strong guidance, particularly from the British government, not to give in to the Iraqis by compensating them for their war losses. Arabic newspaper reports indicated that the Kuwaitis wanted to settle the issue peacefully and were on the threshold of agreeing to a settlement with the Iraqis which they suggested was both monetary and territorial, perhaps the leasing of Bubyan. However, that is not what the Americans or the British wanted. They insisted that the Kuwaitis hold out and promised full military backing. Usually placid but now bold with his knowledge that the British were behind him, the Kuwaiti Crown Prince not only refused outright to compensate the Iraqis, but on the 1st August at the meeting table, he insulted Sadam Hussain by telling him to send his women on the streets to earn money. This was a direct inference on Sadam and his mother. Sadam, it is believed, was an illegitimate offspring and his mother a kahbuta [prostitute]. This was an insult worse than that of calling an Arab, Yakmahri [donkey]. Ali Hussain Al Majid [Chemical Ali] and Uday, Sadam’s son, stormed out of the meeting returning to Baghdad to report to Sadam. When Sadam was told of the Crown Prince’s slur he was furious and immediately ordered the invasion to commence. He planned to take the north of Kuwait and push the borders back to Mutlah Ridge, thus giving him the oilfields and the Islands of Warbah and Bubyan.

However, the Americans considered that should Sadam invade and occupy only the north of Kuwait there would be nothing they could do about it. Under such circumstances, it is highly unlikely that they would have deployed any military at all. The Arabs did not want them in their territories and besides, arguably, the disputed land belonged to Iraq. International support would not be forthcoming for a full-scale war. The best that could have been hoped for would have been UN sanctions and as I saw, they certainly did not work. The only way that the Americans could get involved and bring the oil wealth of the Arab nations under their control would be if the Iraqis occupied all of Kuwait and they could convince other Arabians that Sadam would not limit his military action to Kuwait. The CIA had planned for the Kuwait military to flee the country leaving the Iraqis unopposed. This served a dual purpose, the Americans could get a military foothold in the area and, as one American senior military officer told me after liberation, “These God dam cock-suckin’ mother-f*****s will never hold the world to ransom with oil prices agin.” He was talking about the Kuwaitis.

April Glaspie, the American Ambassador in Baghdad, gave Sadam her blessings for him to invade Kuwait although later she qualified this as saying that she never thought for one moment that he would occupy all of Kuwait instead of just the north. At around the time of the invasion, she was summoned to Washington and it was more than two years before April Glaspie was heard from again; she had mysteriously disappeared from the American political scene.

 

The Invasion

That morning, 2nd August, when I was awoken by the Iraqi warplanes on their low-level strike missions, I had no idea that the Iraqis had invaded Kuwait; the media, published that same morning, assured citizens that a peaceful settlement was close at hand. The air-raid siren located within a few yards of my villa had not been sounded, neither had any of the others. There was an element of deceit going on. Numerous eminent Kuwait families, including the Royal Family, had already left Kuwait in the preceding days; most by driving into neighbouring countries and many by air to countries further a field. Expatriates, British included, were left to face the invading forces even though it is known that their respective governments knew days before, if not weeks, that the invasion would take place. Several expatriate oilfield workers were on location less than a kilometre from the Kuwait - Iraq border and were overwhelmed within minutes by Iraqi tanks and troops with no warnings and no chance to flee. Immediately they had been interned and sent for processing to the Mansour Meliah Hotel in Baghdad. Their families stayed at home waiting in futility for them to return unaware that their husbands had become sacrificial lambs.

The Iraqi military was unopposed. The entire Kuwait army had fled, except that is, for a half dozen Kuwaiti tanks whose crews had refused to retreat but instead, faced the 300 tanks of the Iraqi army and fought. They were gallant men but they perished quickly. All Kuwaiti military vehicles and aircraft were moved into Saudi on the advice of the Americans, they had been ordered not to fight but to allow the Iraqis to enter Kuwait without any resistance. The Kuwait navy had stood down from full alert to standby, unarmed and without fuel. Weeks before the invasion all military personnel had been issued with civilian (Civil) ID’s and ordered to destroy their Military ID’s should an invasion take place. Those that remained on duty had been ordered to take civilian clothes with them and destroy their military clothing should the Iraqis invade. One of my Kuwait Air Force friends, a sergeant at the northern airbase of Jaber Al Ali, was on duty that morning when he was given the alert that the invasion had begun. He changed his clothes, burnt his uniform, destroyed his Military ID and then drove out of the camp to return to his home in Salwa. As he turned out of the airbase gates an Iraqi tank and then a group of soldiers confronted him. He was taken back into the camp for interrogation, but he withstood the questioning and convinced the Iraqis that he was a civilian. They let him go but without his vehicle. He had to walk the forty miles back to Salwa. With no civilian vehicles around a lift was not available and there was little shade from a hot, searing sun beating down at some eighty degrees. It took him two days to get back. He visited us soon after checking that we were okay before he left for Syria after first obtaining a large bag of Arabic unleavened bread for us.

On that first day, after my entanglements with the military believing them to be Kuwaiti, I decided to stay with my good friend Dave and his family in their flat in Mahboula, a small coastal district to the south of the city and south of my area Mishrif. Mahboula was a popular residential area for expatriates with most buildings being large apartment complexes popular with both British and Americans, a situation I thought would be a better option than staying amongst Kuwaitis who may be subject to aggression* by the Iraqis.

From that first day, the British embassies were relaying news over shortwave and satellite TV, (BBC World and CNN), that the Iraqis had closed all borders between Kuwait and Saudi and that all British and American citizens should, “...take a low profile and stay indoors to avoid being lifted and processed... do not attempt to escape via the borders.” The British embassy wardens whose job it was under such circumstances to relay information given by the British Embassy should have contacted us. No one in our complex or those adjacent had heard anything at all from the wardens for the Mahboula / Mangaf / Fintas areas and the news we had of them was that they had gone into hiding and had either disconnected their telephones or were not answering them. It was apparent that these people, who were volunteers from the British expatriate community, had only become wardens to enjoy good time drinks and socialising at the British Embassy, brown-noses as we were now referring to them. When it came to being commissioned in their real purpose, they failed miserably jeopardising British Citizens lives. The only news of the situation that we had was via the very unreliable media reports on the airwaves who for most part, were guessing.

 

* I was wrong on that issue; the Iraqi troops left the Kuwaitis alone.

There were still several British people in the complex, most of who were families, but several apartments were unoccupied; either the residents had fled to other parts of Kuwait or had not yet returned from summer vacation and in the worst cases, had not returned from the oilfields. Dave and I looted those apartments which we knew had been abandoned; our looting was confined strictly to food and tools and hardware that may be useful at a later time should the occupation become extended. We took care to lock the apartments up after us, which meant changing the lock where we did not have a key. Other foreign nationals were free to move about and that became a problem for us. Foreign nationals, mostly from Central and South Asia, North Africa and Palestine, were roaming around looting on a large scale in what was now an anarchy State. The threat to our building from looters for the time being was greater than that from the Iraqi troops. Dave and I set about repairing the complex perimeter gates and the electronic locks to the access doors of each building. For the next few days, the embassy was still advising that we take a low profile and stay indoors. However, as food ran low, there was a need to visit the Cooperative Society supermarkets which remained open. I also had to relocate my cars. A large complex not too far from ours was the Union Center [sic], a four-block complex with a large courtyard between them, where some of our British and American friends were staying. The complex had a large basement car park with security gates, which were manned by the few Western residents, an ideal location for my cars.

 

I had driven to Dave’s local supermarket in Mangaf but had to abort due to Iraqi soldiers being on duty at the entrance. I was not to know they were there only to enforce law and order. I drove to the coop in my district some twenty minutes away as a reconnaissance trip. There were soldiers along the route but they gave me little heed as I drove almost full throttle in my Daimler Sovereign XJ6. At the coop complex there was a long queue waiting to enter the supermarket but no soldiers. I could not afford to risk queuing where I would stand out like a sore thumb. I parked as close as I could to the entrance door and got out of the car. Immediately, a Kuwaiti rushed up to me, took my arm and ordered the shop door to be opened to let me in. All items were rationed but the Palestinian women running the shop allowed me, as an Inglaise (Englishman), to take what I wanted. My extra large trolley was half-filled with Cola and Baked Beans. I was allowed out without paying, such was the respect and concern for British citizens, I felt humble. I took the opportunity to visit my villa with the intention of taking all the food I had there. As I loaded the last case of bottled home-brewed beer into the boot of my car, I was approached by the two qadama [maids] of the villa next to mine. They were Indian women and in distress. Their Kuwaiti kafil [employers] had left Kuwait days before the invasion leaving the maids behind with no food or money. Trembling and with tear soaked faces they pleaded that I take them with me, but that was impossible. The best I could do was to give them a hundred pounds and suggest they travelled to Salmiya where there was a large community of Asians. I returned to Mahboula but was stopped at a checkpoint on the way. Winding my way around the barbed wire trestles, I drew up to two soldiers wielding AK47’s and I opened the window. One of them opened the passenger doors and looked inside, the other stared at me and asked for identification. I gave him my Civil ID. ‘Ah, Inglaise,’ he exclaimed. ‘Welcome.’ He lowered his rifle whilst the other soldier closed the door and then said ‘Yallah,’ I drove off soaked in perspiration, but not because of humidity. This was not the last time I encountered a military checkpoint but each time the outcome was the same.

A strong community atmosphere developed in the complex as Dave and I organised evening community gatherings at the bar that quickly transformed into daily happy hours -- a much-needed tonic for our morale. Without onsite news, it was difficult to know what the best action for us to take was. Should we sit tight and wait for the Iraqis to leave Kuwait or make a dash to the border? The media, particularly CNN, was suggesting an imminent withdrawal by the Iraqis would take place and they showed footage of what they claimed was Iraqis with their military equipment withdrawing from Kuwait. We knew better. Unless road signs, as shown in their footage, had been turned around then the Iraqi military build-up was more intense with extra troops, tanks and artillery pouring in through Mutlah.

 

The Occupation

News was coming in that a British civilian had been shot and killed in an attempt to escape across the border and an American civilian had been shot and wounded trying to escape from the Iraqis in the city. Since the embassies were still claiming that the borders were closed and sealed, an attempt for us to cross the border was no longer a viable option and besides this, none of our group had four-wheel drive vehicles. We had to wait and hope that UN resolutions and embargos would be sufficient to cause the Iraqis to withdraw.

One thing was certain, the Iraqis were not picking us up on the highways. I had driven through military checkpoints on several occasions, not only without problems but also with extreme courtesy from the Iraqi soldiers. On several occasions, soldiers had come to the door of the apartment. With their rifles on their shoulders and hats in their hands, they asked only for water. On one occasion, two soldiers of the Republican Guard did come to the door with rifles at the ready; they searched the apartment looking for Kuwaiti Resistance fighters and finding none, shouldered their rifles and left politely.

I began to wonder why the American and British Foreign Offices were constantly reminding their citizens to take a low profile advising that the Iraqis were lifting and processing them. From my experience, this was certainly not the case. I had driven openly on the highways frequently, I had driven through checkpoints and I had spoken to Iraqis on the street; soldiers had frequently called at the apartments and taken water: there were no instructions with the Iraqi military to pick up either British or American nationals.

The Western media was reporting that the Iraqi troops were looting, raping and pillaging. There was no truth in this accusation at all, in fact, the Iraqi troops were well disciplined and once organised, they were behaving in nothing other than a professional manner and I remember thinking that the American military could learn a lot from them. The Iraqis did have a problem from the few Kuwaiti Resistance Fighters and they had to respond accordingly. Occasionally this meant shelling private residences where the snipers were operating from, but given the circumstances of war, this was not an unreasonable response.

Western propaganda was rife, such as the lies told by the fifteen-year-old Kuwaiti girl in America, Nayariah, who had been coached by Hall and Knowlton an American PR firm before she had made her tearful accusations before American television and other media. She told of the Iraqis removing over three hundred babies from their incubators, leaving them to die on the floors of the Al Adan hospital and then taking the incubators to Baghdad. The girl was the daughter of Saud Naser Al Sabah, the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the USA. Human Rights investigations attempted to confirm Nayariah’s story but found no witnesses or any evidence to support it. When John Martin of ABC World News visited the Adan after liberation and Interviewed Doctor Mohammad Matar, Director of Kuwait Ministry of Health and his wife, Doctor Faiz Yousef, who ran the obstetrics unit at the Adan, both stated that Nayariah’s charges were false. The fact was that Nayariah had left Kuwait before the invasion and had been residing with her father in USA. After liberation, both she and her father admitted the lie and retracted it, but the lie remains in history. The truth is that the Kuwaitis never owned that amount of incubators, they owned less than thirty and these were fully accounted for after liberation, remaining functional in the hospitals. Transportation of air ambulatory passengers was part of my domain with Kuwait Airways prior to, and indeed after liberation. I was the engineer responsible for the design and development of stretcher and incubator installations on the KAC fleet. Initially, such was the shortage that I had problems getting incubators from the ministry to install into the aircraft to carry critically ill neonates to foreign hospitals. To solve the problem KAC procured four incubators and these were still within Kuwait Airways workshops when I returned to Kuwait in 1991, albeit they had repairable damage from falling debris caused by liberation missiles.

The Western media was reporting that the Iraqis had taken the Kuwaitis gold bullion and dollar reserves from the vaults of the Kuwait National Bank and showed considerable footage of this alleged event. In truth, the bullion and dollar reserves had been moved to London weeks before the invasion. In fact few of the Kuwaiti banks had been damaged or looted and most were operative within weeks, if not days of the liberation. I was informed that some of the banks had remained operative throughout the occupation, managed by the Kuwaitis, serving the Kuwaitis.

Reports that the Iraqis were torturing Kuwaitis is also open to question. I saw some of the so-called torture rooms after I returned after liberation, one such place was a room in a sports stadium, Qadsia, another, a basement of a Kuwaiti Villa. Neither of these areas was occupied by the Iraqi troops who tended to stay clear of inland areas and concentrate their manpower and headquarters close to the coast and inland borders. My own impression was that these rooms were being used before the invasion and almost certainly against the opposition group by the Kuwait Special Police; the torture equipment was too well setup to have been established in the first few weeks or even months of the occupation as was alleged.  

In another show of propaganda, the Western media had reported in the first few days that Sheikh Fahad Al Ahmad Al Sabah, the Minister of sport and manager of the Kuwait national football team, had been shot gallantly defending Dasmah Palace, the old residence of the Amir. The reports were that he had refused to leave Kuwait and had stood on the palace steps with a few of his guards and fought the Iraqi troops.

The truth is nothing like this. Sheikh Fahad had remained at the palace, the reason for which no one other than the Al Sabah family knows, leaving it late to flee. As he fled in his car, approaching the palace gates, he defied Iraqi commands to stop and was shot, the bullets penetrating thorough the rear window of the car.

As a testimony to Sheikh Fahad, who was a brash and rather arrogant man, his car was untouched other than painted gold and then mounted on a plinth and located on the side of the coast road between Dasmah and Raz Salmiya as a monument. It was a couple of years before anyone realised the implications of the bullet holes through the rear of the car.

After liberation, the Kuwaitis announced that over 600 Kuwaiti citizens were missing and that they had been incarcerated in Iraq, which the Iraqis strongly denied and no evidence has been found since to support this. Indeed, I have no doubts whatsoever that this number is too coincidental with the number of Kuwaitis missing from members of the opposition group prior to the invasion and that the two groups are the same.

When the Iraqis annexed Kuwait, they announced the installation of a provincial government and most of the members were from the Kuwaiti opposition. This suggestion was given no credence by the Western press but it was a fact. When Kuwait returned to some normality after liberation, eight of the Kuwaitis who sat on the provincial government were put on trial. Their defence was that they had been coerced. Most were found guilty and sentences of imprisonment and hanging were imposed, however, months later, with pressure from the USA, the sentences were commuted and the men released without explanation.

Fourteen days after the invasion, we heard that an escape attempt was being made across the border at Selmi, which lay on the Kuwait-Saudi border close to the southern border of Iraq. The report was that a British embassy official would be at the border to meet the convoy and lead them through Saudi to Riyadh. At our end, our so-called Wardens were organising the run. Immediately this had alert bells sounding. From what we had already seen of the behaviour of these wardens, the mission was doomed to failure before it began. I was dubious. The Selmi Road ran from Mutlah all the way south along the Iraqi border until it reached Selmi on the Saudi border. The entire road was intense with military and police posts, and part of the Selmi Road formed an emergency runway for the northern airbase of Jaber Al Ali. To believe that the invading force did not occupy these posts was nothing less than folly. Vehicles that were not captured would have to drive off-road and the whole area was comprised of sandstone crags and sand dunes. I was anything but convinced and immediately named it as the Lemming Run, but I remained open-minded.

A frequent visitor to Dave’s flat was an American friend who was working with the Kuwait Navy. He told us that the Navy had been stood down from alert to standby the day before the invasion began. Tim had suffered horrific physical and mental torture when, as senior officer of the American Navy spy ship, SS Pueblo, in the late sixties. His captors, the North Koreans, placed him before a firing squad on several occasions, he was not to know that each time the rifles were unloaded and the firing pins would strike against empty chambers. The Americans were denying that the ship was a spy ship and the crew was refusing to confess. Now, Tim’s nerves were fragile to say the least. We advised him of our thoughts but I can understand why he, normally a sensible man, could not resist the urge to escape. He left with the seventy-vehicle convoy that morning on 16th August, two weeks after occupation. As expected, the convoy failed to escape; they had been forced to flee into the desert soon after navigating the Selmi Road and encountering military checkpoints. Some of the scattered vehicles were turned back by the Iraqis, some captured, some families left without vehicles and others fled aimlessly in wrong directions. Eventually most had returned to their dwellings telling their stories of anguish. One escapee group was our infamous wardens who turned into the desert and followed a track west towards Iraq. They drove straight into an Iraqi military camp and were arrested. Tim, now in trauma after the aborted escape attempt and his two colleagues in his car decided to give themselves up to the Iraqis at Mutlah and they were last seen waiting in a long traffic queue to the fortified ridge checkpoint.

At the time of the Lemming Run, the idea that a member of the Saudi British Embassy meeting the refugees at the border was so strong it seemed unquestionable that this would not be the case and yet after liberation, the British Foreign Office emphatically denied it. Had the British citizens yet again been duped?

I was seriously concerned for the welfare of Tim; I had seen the state of his nerves when he frequented the bar. I could not imagine him surviving internment under canvas in the searing heat. After my release and return to UK in December, on the 23rd my house telephone rang. When I answered, I was greeted by the voice of an American woman; it was Tim’s wife, Linda. Immediately I asked about Tim and a voice came from the receiver, “Hi good buddy, howz yawl doin’?” After Tim had waited for almost an hour at Mutlah, with the engine temperature of the car moving into red the occupants decided to give up and “...return to Cliff and Dave’s for a G and T.” As they neared the turnoff for our building in Mahboula, hastily they decided to give themselves up at the Saudi border and so drove on. Forty minutes later, they were at the Saudi border checkpoint and were stopped by soldiers. They were Saudi Arabian soldiers; there were no Iraqi troops anywhere near. They were allowed to drive on to Bahrain where they boarded an aircraft to London, thence back home to Virginia, USA. I blurted out some good old-fashioned English expletives, but the fact was that during those first few weeks, both the British and American foreign offices had been telling their citizens that the Iraqis had closed all borders and that they should not attempt to escape.  Either their hi-tech satellite tracking systems and intelligence units were utterly defective or we were caught up in a very serious game of political chess where Western expatriates were the pawns.

This border control was the same one that CNN had been showing in their footage a few days after the invasion claiming that the fleeing Kuwaitis were being forced by the Iraqi military into exchanging their passports for Iraqi passports before they were allowed to leave the country.

At around the third week of occupation, according to Western media, the Iraqis were tightening their nets on the Western detainees and we heeded their warning. Now happy hour was transferred to afternoons and evening lights were dimmed. We took the warning seriously; at that point the media advised us that the Iraqi government was instructing all British citizens to report to the Regency Palace Hotel in Salwa and Americans to report to the Sheraton Hotel in Kuwait City. Most of us were in total defiance of the order but many British and Americans did respond. When they arrived at the hotels they were turned away by the military, the Iraqis had made no such order. However, it was not long after this announcement that the Iraqi government did start issuing instructions for British and Americans to be picked up; they were going to accommodate us in Baghdad as guests. Later the Iraqis began to place British, American and Japanese citizens at strategic military target sites as part of a human shield, a move that without question had been promulgated by Britain and America by the constant speculation that the Iraqis would do just that.

In my own analysis there were potentially two options for the outcome of the pre-invasion discussion between the Iraqis and the Kuwaitis. One way or another, the Iraqis had to have money. Either Kuwait or the UAE pay the money the Iraqis believed that they owed (not without good reason), or Iraq would take the land that they believed they had the right to and from this, generate the funds Iraq so desperately needed. Knowing this, the Kuwaitis, as was the Arab League, were prepared to appease rather than antagonise and were heavily biased to conceding to Sadam by leasing Warbah and Bubyan, writing off his war debts and ceasing horizontal drilling.

As much as the slur on Sadam and his mother had promulgated a spontaneous start to the invasion, had Kuwait and UAE not agreed to at least some of Sadam’s demands, the invasion was inevitable.

Invasion in the hottest month of the year when shade temperatures reached the mid-fifties centigrade is not conducive to ground warfare where it has considerable negative impact on both troops and equipment. I believe the reason for this timing, as Sadam stated, was that this was a time when the Western schools were closed for the summer months and Western Expatriates were taking vacations escaping from the intense heat. Instead of the usual three thousand western expatriates, only around four hundred were in Kuwait. This consideration is hardly the thinking of a despot who planned to use Western civilians to form a human shield. Instead of between six and twelve people on each site, he could have had a hundred and forty.

On 26th August, 25 days after occupation, the Iraqis announced that they would release British women and children on the 28th August, news that was received by us in great jubilation. The Iraqis had organised buses that would depart Salmiya for Baghdad at 0630 hours but unfortunately, they had not informed the soldiers in the field of this. When the convoy of four cars carrying our women and children left on that morning, within a few hundred yards it was stopped at a checkpoint. The occupants were taken to the Iraqi Intelligence HQ for interrogation. From that, the Iraqis were able to establish the whereabouts of their husbands and, after releasing the women and children, they made a charge on our building booting flat doors open. They captured all of the men except for Dave and I who hid in a hidey-hole cupboard we had prepared days earlier. They took the eighteen men away for processing and continued the search for us. We fled and hid in another complex not far away, the Union Center [sic] where we had three British and two American friends residing.  Apart from those and two Jordanian families, (and an emu and a llama), there was no one else residing there. The three British men gave us a key to flat 4B next door on the same floor, and this became home for the next four months.

Above and joining the two blocks A and C at the opposite end of the complex was a suspended row of flats, or villas, as they were known but in essence, penthouses. Since these were the highest flats, we deemed one of them appropriate to set up with a gas proof room and, possibly, a hidey-hole. Because there had been the odd one or two soldiers roaming around the complex, we requested one of the other occupants to keep a lookout for us whilst we set about modifying a room of Villa V4. Don had been ‘volunteered’. As we were hammering our way into the project, Don called for silence and beckoned us to the large patio window. Soldiers were on the landing of our flats and they were escorting the two British and two Americans away. With them was the Kuwaiti owner of the complex, Omar Ben Essa. He took some soldiers to our flat and attempted to open the door from a bunch of keys he had chained to his clothing. Unbeknown to him I had changed the lock; he took the soldiers to all the flats in that block with more frustration. I had changed the locks in all doors. Once again, I felt the strains of despair and depression as more of our comrades had been lifted.

Suddenly, the situation had turned from sombre to inexorably serious. Now the full effects of Western politics was becoming transparent; we had become sacrificial lambs in the politics of the governments of our own countries who, by any means, were desperate to turn the world against Sadam Hussain in the battle for control of the world’s major oil resources. The Americans were desperate to get UN resolutions to authorise war where they could test their new military technology, which until now remained untested on a battlefront.

There was a massive influx of Iraqi troops and equipment. They were swarming the coastal areas to a distance of half a kilometre inland. By early September, thousands of troops had dug in on the coastline and in the open inland desert patches surrounding us. They occupied all buildings close to the coast and, as if that was not bad enough for us, they adopted the building that we were in as their Southern Headquarters; we were penned in on the fourth floor with two hundred soldiers immediately below us. Nevertheless, British obstinacy prevailed; we would never surrender. From that time on, with curtains drawn closed, we lived without artificial lights or sound, we limited our conversations to whispers of essential, brief discussion and for most of the time, sat and read or wrote. Since the kitchen was adjacent to the landing, cooking was taboo other than microwaving in a bedroom and this at a time, twice a day that coincided with the soldiers’ meals of which they ate five times a day (so much for sanctions).  

After two weeks, all soldiers had been issued with new AK47 rifles. New uniforms replaced the old tattered mismatched uniforms — remnants of the Iran-Iraq war; new boots replaced trainers, sandals and flip-flops. Several days later, Ali Hussain Al Majid (Chemical Ali), the new governor of the 19th Province, toured the area after shanghaied Pakistani and Indian civilians had swept beaches and streets. Peering between a gap between the curtains, I watched as Chemical Ali visited our building through a guard of honour. I do not know how I felt by seeing him in the flesh, certainly contempt, but I must admit to an element of excitement bubbling inside me. Here, just a few feet away, was perhaps, next to Hitler and Sadam, the most notorious man in recent history. I could so easily have shaken his hand, or killed him! As it was, I merely uttered a profanity. I must admit, he looked bravura in his dark, immaculately tailored dark-green uniform bedecked with gold-braided lanyards and brown leather belts and straps around his mid and upper torso with colourful battle medals sewn in several rows on his chest.

Military activity became intense as more sanctions and UN resolutions were made. Old broken-down tanks were pushed by bulldozers into dugouts on the groins just in front of us and then concreted in, old artillery was treated the same. We were in the middle of a very large and potentially ballistic battlefield and it worried us. Two heavy machine guns had been bunkered in sandbags on the roof of a beach villa facing the balcony of our apartment a mere hundred metres away and that worried us more.

As our food ran low and since we had taken the food from the flats above us, looting from flats on the landings below where the Iraqi soldiers were accommodated and had food and where we had stashed food prior to their arrival, became necessary. By crawling snakelike on our bellies past the brown tinted plate-glass partitions of the access balcony, even with the soldiers only few feet away, we were successful. All we could do then was to sit and wait. Outside there was almost complete silence as the Iraqi troops consisting of Kurds, and a few disabled Iraqis who were veterans of the Iraq-Iran war, waited for the Allies to invade. Inevitably, the deprived Kurds began to loot the buildings in which they were stationed. I watched, as nightly in our complex, more flats had lights switched on. Each night soldiers attempted to break our door down but the battens held. Inevitably, with sixty-one of the sixty-two flats trashed, our time was limited. With heavy tools and brute force, our door finally yielded on 27th November, two days before UN resolution set the date of Allied invasion to be 15th January.  An Iraqi Lieutenant, a Kurd, who, until conscripted by the Iraqis, had been teaching English in Kurdistan, captured us. He sat with us showing remorse for our capture, trying to think of ways that he could let us go. He drew a chair up to the table at which we were sat and, rejecting our offer of a gin and tonic, told us how the Kurds had been forced to join the Iraqi army against their will with threats of death to them and their families. It was virtually all Kurds now in Kuwait and few, if any, wanted to be involved in the dispute. He had no choice but to call the Iraqi intelligence and after a night in the Regency Palace Hotel, I was flown to Baghdad to the Mansour Meliah Hotel and thence to the prison camp in Babylon.

In so many ways, my capture was a great relief, finally I was able to talk in other than a whisper, and I could watch television, have the lights on, eat well and walk around and even play football. Reflecting on my time in hiding in Kuwait, I realise that I was just as much a part of the Human shield there as I was in Iraq, only my subjugators were different and in many ways that was a much harder time than being held in the camp in Babylon. Yet, at the time that I was taken to the prison camp, I had resigned myself to death, I never believed from then on that there was to be a different ending, but thankfully to Yousef Arafat and the good will of Sadam, the ending for me was what it was.  My love and respect for the Iraqi people has not waned; I have always found them the most generous and friendly of the Arab peoples. Even during my visits to Baghdad in 1968 I never felt threatened despite there being strong anti-British feelings subsequent to the seven-day Israeli war in which the British and Americans were accused (rightfully) of assisting the Israelis.

I was freed on the 10th December 1990 when I returned quietly home to my wife and children. At Gatwick airport, I was swarmed over by the media, but I wasn’t interested in them, all they wanted was lies and sensationalism. All I wanted was a big hug and somewhere private to cry.

 

Liberation.

On 29th November, the UN Security Council authorized the use of force against Iraq unless it withdrew from Kuwait by 15th January 1991. With UN resolutions in place, Desert Storm, the liberation of Kuwait, began on 17th January 1991. With the capture of 150,000 Kurds, who quickly and voluntarily gave themselves up, liberation was complete, but not without Iraqis and Kurds paying an awful price as those not captured by the Allies, attempted to flee Kuwait through the ridge at Multlah.

The scene at Mutlah was sickening. Thousands of road vehicles had been strafed with bullets and Rockwell Hellfire anti-tank missiles fired from AH-64A Apache helicopters. Even as I saw it five months later, it was utterly distressing and when added to this, the photographs that Kuwaiti citizens had taken immediately after, displayed the last torturous, painful moments of life of those inside the vehicles. They had been incinerated; many bodies were fused to the metal of their vehicles their faces distorted in hideous smiles as roasted flesh and tightened skin had twisted their jaws and stretched open their mouths showing bony jaws of teeth. Skulls were wrapped in heat-tightened skin with wide-open-eyeless eye sockets. Decapitated and mutilated bodies lay around the site; the stench of burned flesh still hung in the air. These 10,000 bodies {contention} were not only Kurdish soldiers, most were civilian men, women and children. Innocent Iraqi citizens caught up in the lies and deceit of Hussain, Bush and the British government, people who had believed that Kuwait had indeed been returned to Iraq. The American Army pilots who flew the Apache strike helicopters that had inflicted the horrendous damage at Mutlah, had enjoyed it. The actual words of the American pilots are recorded; said one, “Hell man, this is a God-damn turkey shoot.” He was laughing jubilantly as he spoke to his command over his radio, still firing his 1,200 round, 30 mm (1.2 inch) diameter bullet, M230 chain gun and no doubt pressing the fire button releasing the 16 Hellfire missiles.

Sadam Hussain has since been executed for the war crimes against twenty members of an opposition group, and yet no one has stood trial for the horrors of Mutlah, let alone the indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Iraq. One has to wonder why the Americans were pushing the Iraqi puppet government into the speedy trial of Sadam Hussain for so-called war crimes of a handful of men before they had a chance to put him and Chemical Ali on trial for the genocide of the 5,000 Kurds. Did this have anything to do with the belief that the Iranians with American backing were involved in the gassing?

 

Epilogue

My woes and problems did not end at the time of my release from the Babylonian Prison Camp. I was driven back to the Mansour Melia Hotel and allocated a room. Over 150 hostages were collected there, mostly British. Noticeably there were several Japanese and it was remarkable to see the strong bond that had formed between these and the British hostages. I spoke to the British Embassy officer and reminded him that I did not have my passport. This was in the possession of my employer, Kuwait Airways at the time of the invasion, all I had was a worthless paper receipt. The officer told me that he would issue a 24-hour passport, which would take little time to make out.

It was Thursday 9th December and we were scheduled to fly out of Baghdad at 1200 hours the following day. The British had wanted to send British aircraft to fly us back, but in a show of ‘goodwill’, Sadam rejected this and insisted Iraqi Airways would transport us, which presented a major problem since there was an embargo by U.N. Resolution on Iraq international flights. The following morning, Friday 10th December, the Islamic Sabbath, all British hostages were mustered for transport to Baghdad International Airport. I asked the Embassy Officer for my passport. He told me that it had been made out and taken to the residence of the Iraqi Emigration Minister for issue of an exit visa. The passport, he assured me, would be handed to me at the airport.

At the airport, all hostages, with the exception of me, proceeded to the departure lounge whilst I waited outside of departures awaiting my 24-hour passport. From where I stood, I could see the others as they waited at the departure gate. Midday, the departure time approached and still my passport had not arrived. The embassy officer stayed with me, assuring me that ‘any minute’ the passport would be here. At 1300 hours, my passport had still not arrived, but neither had the others boarded. At 1400 hours, relief, another embassy officer ran towards us across the car park but my relief was short lived, he did not have my passport. He had found the Emigration Manager but he had refused to issue the visa since the passport did not have an entry visa. The Embassy Officer who had stood with me exploded into profanities and raced off to the car with the other officer. I was utterly fraught with despair but still the others had not yet boarded.

An hour later, the Embassy Officer returned, still fuming, he had been to see the British Ambassador who was in contact with the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Tareq Aziz. The delay with the flight was because neither the French nor the Germans were agreeing to allow Iraqi Airways to fly through their airspace and were arguing with the British government.

At 1600 hours, I was devastated, my passport had not arrived and the other hostages were filing through the departure gate to board the flight: at that moment I felt sick. The Embassy Officer tried to comfort me by saying that he would take me back to the embassy and get diplomatic immunity for me. It was no consolation. Then, shortly after the last passenger disappeared from sight, the other embassy officer ran across the car park towards us waving a piece of paper in the air, it was my 24-hour passport. But had I missed my flight to freedom?

The Embassy Officer grabbed my arm and dragged me along as he raced into the terminal and to emigration. He cursed the officials loudly as they tried to process me through normal procedures. He thrust the passport before an emigration officer and commanded him to stamp it.

The flight attendant had just begun to swing the aircraft entrance door closed; the embassy officer pushed me past the ground engineer and through the narrow door gap and shouted good luck. I would not have minded falling inside but I could so easily have broken the half-gallon bottle of Gordon’s gin the vicar of Ahmadi had given me the day before!


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