Gov. William Donald Schaefer today described war-ravaged Kuwait as a country darkened by clouds of smoke, littered with live ammunition and reeling from destruction at the hands of the Iraqi military.
"You just can't describe the billows of smoke and the smell of oil," he told reporters during a five-minute phone call from his hotel in Manama, Bahrain, to his State House office in Annapolis. "It's an inferno. There's no other way to describe it."
Schaefer was among 140 elected officials, business executives and media representatives invited to accompany the emir of Kuwait on his return home after more than seven months of exile.
The emir, Sheik Jabbar Ahmed Sabah, flew to Kuwait City yesterday from Saudi Arabia, where he had gone into exile when Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait on Aug. 2.
The Americans invited to accompany the emir went on a day-long tour of Kuwait yesterday and returned today to Bahrain, because most of the capital's hotels had been damaged by fire and explosives and they had no place to spend the night.
Most of Kuwait City is without electricity and water, said Schaefer, and the tour group had to go "many hours" without restrooms before finding working facilities in the U.S. Embassy.
Schaefer said he offered to provide Kuwait with medical supplies and services through the Maryland International Health Task Force, an emergency-response organization set up to help Kuwait.
Riding on a bus to Kuwait City, Schaefer said, he saw a countryside barren but for abandoned villages, destroyed military vehicles and oil wells burning "with flames leaping into the air as far as you could see."
Schaefer said he and others walked carefully along "the highway of death," the main route to Kuwait City: "I saw hand grenades and rockets which were just there, had never been used."
Schaefer, who is to return home Sunday, said he toured ruined buildings in Kuwait City that had been used by the Iraqis to torture Kuwaiti citizens. In one such "torture chamber," he said, he saw blood on the floor and the pipes and nails used to wound and kill prisoners.