Arab-american Supports Combat Against Hussein

January 18, 1991|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff writer

Arab-American Alfred H. M. Shehab has only two complaints about the U.S. air assault Wednesday that kicked off hostilities in the PersianGulf.

First, says the former president of the National Association of Arab Americans, the United States should have launched its attack at 00:01 hours Wednesday -- a minute after the United Nations deadline for Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait.

Second, the 71-year-old retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel wishes he could have participated.

"I felt peculiar about sitting in aroom watching, but I guess when you get older you have to watch," the Odenton resident said with a laugh.

It's the military man stirring inside -- he saw active duty as a "cavalry" man during World War II and was an intelligence officer during the Korean War -- combined with family roots back to seventh-century Mecca and Medina that arousestrong feelings about the crisis in the Middle East.

Iraqi president Saddam Hussein is, in Shehab's words, an "idiot" who had to be confronted.

"I'm absolutely delighted," Shehab said of Wednesday's attack. "It's about time. We can't permit that kind of nonsense. Someone has to stop it."

Shehab is a former president of the Fort MeadeCoordinating Council, a group that made recommendations on the use of army surplus land at Fort Meade. He also chaired a committee that debated growth controls for the Odenton area. And last fall, he stepped down after two years as the president of the National Association of Arab Americans.

He was an early -- and, by virtue of his position as head of the NAAA, somewhat controversial -- supporter of President Bush's decision to send troops to Saudi Arabia after Iraq's Aug. 2invasion of Kuwait. A few days after the invasion, members of the association's policy committee conferred before writing a letter opposing Saddam's action.

The letter to the emir of Kuwait was then published as part of advertisements by the government of Kuwait in newspapers including the Washington Post, The New York Times and the BostonGlobe.

Some members of the NAAA called for his resignation as president, Shehab said. "Many of our members of Palestinian origin were upset about that. They considered (Saddam) their best hope for the Palestinian homeland cause."

But the Iraqi dictator has done nothingbut harm the Arab quest to advance their agenda in the United Statesand around the world, Shehab said.

He said he has found the Bush administration more receptive to Arab concerns than any in memory. "And that idiot goes off half-baked and just about ruins everything we've been trying to do."

Shehab's great-grandfather was a ruler of Lebanon, and a cousin was president of the middle eastern country from1958 to 1964. The license plate on Shehab's Chrysler New Yorker reads "EMIR."

His father, born in Lebanon, moved to the United States just before World War I. Shehab was born in America, but was sent to school in Lebanon at age 10.

Some anti-war protesters have said Kuwait may not be worth fighting for, in part because the deposed government was a repressive monarchy. Shehab disagrees.

"I think a lot of what is said is a pile of garbage," he said, noting that the government built a prosperous state that saw to its citizens needs, and the lack of any previous movement to overthrow the monarchy.

"I suspect that many of the Iraqis are distressed over positions their leader has taken, and they probably hope someone will get rid of him," Shehab said. "What I'm hoping is that bird gets the hell out of Kuwait right now and

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