Courageous Diplomats

December 15, 1990

Ambassador W. Nathaniel Howell and seven other American diplomats who kept the flag flying over the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait for 110 days after they were ordered out by the Iraqi invaders are American heroes in the finest tradition.

They followed the orders of their president. They also used their ingenuity, in such matters as digging a well. They suffered privation. (How many contemporary Americans are prepared to live without electricity or hot water for one day, much less 110, some of them among the world's hottest?) They served their fellow Americans, looking after as best they could the well-being of those still stuck, many in hiding, in Kuwait. They risked their lives each of the 110 days.

When Iraq's dictator Saddam Hussein let all Americans out who wanted to leave Iraq and Kuwait, the need for Ambassador Howell and his staff in Kuwait ended. The government to which he is accredited still lives, in exile in Taif, Saudi Arabia. The people who run things in Kuwait are underlings who take orders from Baghdad. The United States still maintains its embassy there.

So there was no reason remaining not to bring the staff out. This was, perhaps, a small concession to Mr. Hussein, who wanted them out, in return for his release of all hostages. But it is no consolation to him, since their removal from the scene increases the credibility of President Bush's threat to attack Iraqi occupiers in Kuwait.

Ambassador Howell and deputy chief of mission Barbara Bodine head the list. The State Department has not identified the others. They deserve the thanks of a grateful nation.

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