Questions you might have PERSIAN GULF SHOWDOWN

January 24, 1991

Everyone has questions about the war in the Persian Gulf. No one can answer the most important ones, such as "How long will the war last?" and "How many people will die?" The answers to those questions -- and to many others -- depend upon things that haven't happened yet.

Here are some of the questions students in the Baltimore area have been asking.

Question: Will Iraq bomb the United States or Baltimore?

Answer: Military experts say Iraq has no planes or missiles that can reach the United States.

Q. Will terrorists attack us here at home?

A. Authorities have increased protection in American airport and public buildings so that they can find any bombs that terrorists may try to use.

Q. Will my mom or dad have to go fight in the war if it goes on long enough?

A. Right now, only people in the military or the reserves will have to fight. If it goes on for a long time, the president and Congress could call for a draft, but that's not likely, and it probably wouldn't affect many parents. A draft means that young men who haven't volunteered would have to fight anyway. Men who turn 20 years old this year would be the first drafted, and since there are already 2 million men registered for the draft who turn 20 this year, older men probably would not have to go. Also, single parents would not be drafted.

Q. How many Americans have died? How many Iraqis?

A. No one knows for sure. It is very difficult to get exact figures because war is very confusing and it often takes a long time to tell how many people were killed on both sides.

Q. Why are we fighting? Some adults say we're really fighting about oil.

A. In August, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, which is next to Iraq. Kuwait is a tiny country that produces a lot of oil used by countries around the world. America is fighting, along with allied forces from many other nations, to make Hussein leave Kuwait and give it back to its people. They also want to prevent him from invading other countries in the Middle East. Also, if Hussein is allowed to control the oil in Kuwait, it could seriously hurt the economies of countries all around the world.

Q. Why does America have the most troops in the Persian Gulf?

A. Because America has the biggest army in the allied forces and because it has the most high-tech weapons.

Q. People say that if the soldiers start fighting mainly on the ground rather than in the air, more people will die. When will that part of the war start? Is there any way to stop it?

A. No one knows for sure when ground fighting will start. The government plans to start that part of the war when allied forces believe air attacks have made fighting on the ground less dangerous. It's unlikely the ground war will be avoided unless the Iraqis surrender Kuwait.

Q. What do the people of Iraq think of Saddam Hussein?

A. Many of them believe he was right to take over Kuwait because they think the territory rightfully belongs to Iraq. But unlike in the United States, people in Iraq are not allowed to openly disagree with their leaders, so we don't really know what most Iraqis think of Saddam Hussein.

Q. Why are people in the U.S. protesting the war?

A. Many people in the United States, and around the world, believe that fighting is not the only way to get Hussein to leave Kuwait. They think we should have continued using economic sanctions to weaken Iraq, by not letting food and supplies into the country. Other people are protesting the fighting because they think all wars are wrong. No matter what their reasons, they are not protesting against the men and women who are fighting for America.

Q. Are people in Iraq protesting the war too?

A. Not to our knowledge.

Q. What would happen to the army of Iraq if Hussein were killed?

A. No one is really sure.

Q. How come Japan isn't involved in the war? What does Japan think of the war?

A. Since World War II, Japan's constitution prevents the country from having any offensive forces. The Japanese government is contributing money to help support the allied fighters.

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