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In Kuwait, calm before the storm

By Wolf Blitzer
CNN

U.S. forces in Kuwait said they are ready for battle.
U.S. forces in Kuwait said they are ready for battle.

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KUWAIT CITY, KUWAIT (CNN) -- There is still an uneasy calm here in Kuwait. No one thinks that will last if a war starts. The Kuwaitis are under no illusions. They have had their own personal and bitter experiences with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Just over a dozen years ago, their small but wealthy country was invaded and occupied by the Iraqi military for seven months. Much of the country was looted. People here constantly note that more than 600 Kuwaiti prisoners remain unaccounted for in Iraq all these years later.

Some Kuwaiti citizens have left the country. They are worried that Saddam Hussein could order a chemical or biological attack in the opening hours of war. Gas masks have been made available. Still, many Kuwaitis say that they are counting on the United States to protect them. The United States has more than 200,000 troops in the region -- joined by some British 40,000 troops and another 2,000 from Australia. That is the extent of the military "coalition of the willing."

Journalists in Kuwait are doing their jobs -- as are their colleagues elsewhere in the region. As you know by now, some news organizations have pulled their reporters out of Baghdad. There is certainly understandable concern about their safety. Journalists always want to be on the front lines, but they also know that no story is worth dying for. They will be cautious and prudent and responsible. They have to weigh the pros and cons of sticking with a dangerous story. These are very personal decisions.

I think it's fair to say that the Kuwaitis have put virtually all of their eggs in the U.S. basket. If there is a war against Iraq and it is quick and relatively painless and Saddam Hussein's regime is removed, the Kuwaitis feel they will be vindicated among their Arab colleagues. Indeed, they note that many of the more reluctant Arab leaders will move quickly to try to patch up their relationships with the Bush administration. But if the war is bloody and drags on, there could be serious repercussions in Kuwait.

The debates are now over. Historians will argue for years to come who was right and who was wrong. As of this writing, we are probably only hours away from war.


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