Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"Time goes, you say? Ah no!/Alas, time stays, we go."

It's amazing to me that I've seen almost no mention of this on the blogs or Twitter, but yesterday was the 20-year anniversary of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. It's so obvious as to seem absurd to write it, but: Iraq is a very different country today. Saddam is dead. Iranian cultural, political, and economic influence is at a high point. (Iranian imports to Iraq will total close to $7B this year, according to a report this morning on NPR.) And Kuwait still plays host to something like half a dozen U.S. military installations.

But I'm getting ahead of myself: U.S. forces weren't involved in the conflict until January of '91. On August 2, 1990, four divisions of Iraqi armor and mechanized infantry rolled across the southern border, crushing Kuwaiti resistance in less than three days. It's easy to forget amidst the massive loss of life of the post-Saddam period, but Iraqi and Kuwaiti deaths totalled close to 3,000 during the brief war.

I have an awful, awful memory, but one of the distinct memories of my childhood is sitting on the floor in my dad's office looking at the front page of the Dallas Morning News that morning, the big headline reading something like "IRAQ INVADES KUWAIT." For reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, that date has always stuck in my head. I remember the Challenger, I remember the 1986 Super Bowl, and I remember the Berlin Wall coming down, but this is probably the first international event that I remember learning about by reading the newspaper. (Ill portent?)

While glancing around the Google to see if I'd missed some major commemoration of the anniversary yesterday, I came across an interesting article on al-Jazeera. It's by Nashwa Nasreldin, an Egyptian-born woman who grew up in Kuwait and attended the New English School with several other expatriates. She was 10 when the Iraqis invaded -- exactly my age -- and lost touch with her classmates until several reunited on Facebook. A few of them went back to the school recently for a reunion, and film Nasreldin shot there has apparently been turned into a TV program.

Alas, time stays, we go.


  1. This is, I suppose, something of a riff off of Schmedlap's recent blog posting.

    No shit. There I was. I had been getting progressively more tired of the week, but disregarded it. After all, I had a lot more important things to attend to, such as earning my Wilderness Survival merit badge. One of the requirements, of course, was surviving in the wilderness for a night. It rapidly became a hellish night. This story has many permutations, all true, but used together, they became unwieldy. So I'll just select a few highlights: I dressed in layers for the cold (very cold for summer, actually - I went to Scout camp up north) and got hot as we went to the camp site, only to get cold(er) again; our shelter was too close to some bug formation, so we had to move our shelter to a literal hole in the ground, not nearly large enough for three people. I stuck it out - it turned out I had mono - but as you can already tell, it was a long, long night. Ultimately, I went to the infirmary, and it was clear I couldn't go on the backpacking trip the following week.

    So I went home instead, where I turned on the news (I was precocious), and...I still remember NBC playing "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty to close one of their segments or shows early on in Desert Shield. I also remember "The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated" by Bernie Shaw, Peter Arnett, and John Holloman (right on the last one?) the first night, and the CNN room in Tel Aviv wearing gas masks.

    So I remember it reasonably well, I think.


  2. Whenever I think of the invasion of Kuwait, I think of that clip from The Big Lebowski, when The Dude is buying some half & half at the grocery store and he looks up at a TV to see GHW Bush saying, "this aggression will not stand."

    "Alas, time stays, we go."

    But The Dude abides.

  3. Schmedlap -- I have no idea how this didn't occur to me when writing this post. Awesome.

  4. I would play out the war in my front yard with a friend who lived on my street... I remember, we took this walky-talky looking thing, and put it in a bush... That was where CNN was doing their coverage of the war from. Me and my friend were probably among the first generation to include the press and their live coverage in our war games.

    There are still some old timers left in the unit I am with that served in the ground war. Guys who were Privates in that war are the ARNG Colonels I work for today in AFG.

  5. At the time, I had a subscription (which my father had purchased) to "Le Journal des Enfants"--a weekly sum up of the news for kids. I read it voraciously as soon as it arrived on Saturday mornings. Apparently the thing is now online...(jde.fr).

    Within a few weeks of the school year starting (I don't think immediately but I can't remember for sure), I had several new classmates, kids from international schools in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Israel who told gas mask/air raid siren stories.

  6. I was in seventh grade worlds away from the military. All that I remember is that the UNC-Duke basketball game was postponed due to the invasion. Growing up along Tobacco road, that seemed unbelievable. I was oblivious to the real world.