Schaefer marvels at paralysis of silent Kuwait

March 16, 1991|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Sun Staff Correspondent Peter Jensen of The Sun's Annapolis Bureau contributed to this article.

KUWAIT CITY -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer found the burning oil wells "spectacular" and wondered who was going to foot the bill for the environmental disaster.

He found the site of torture a "house of horrors."

But mostly, he wondered where all the people were.

"You drive through here, and you see no people, no dogs, no cats, nobody on the street," Mr. Schaefer marveled in the midst of a whirlwind eight-hour tour of war-ravaged Kuwait yesterday.

Kuwait remains a paralyzed country, and there is little of the bustle of cleanup or hurry-up of returning normalcy that a governor proud of the motto "Do It Now" might expect. Those in Kuwait who had not fled largely remain in their homes, waiting for the government to restore services.

"I was thinking, where are the kids?" Mr. Schaefer said. "Are there any schools open? When are they going to get back to school? I want to know the plans."

Schools have not been open since the Iraqi invasion Aug. 2. Most of them have been ravaged and looted by Iraqi troops.

Mr. Schaefer said he understood that Kuwaitis might be stunned.

"I think the shock of having family abducted, of having your house looted, the shock of knowing someone took your family away and tortured them, there would be a natural reaction for anyone," he said.

Mr. Schaefer was part of a delegation of about 150 Americans, led byCommerce Secretary Robert A. Mosbacher Sr., who jetted to Bahrain Thursday and Kuwait yesterday and were to head back to Washington today. They are scheduled to arrive at Andrews Air Force Base at 9 a.m. tomorrow.

They arrived on an unusually bright and sunny day with winds favorable to push away the columns of black soot from more than 500 burning oil wells.

The group was led on a tour of the Greater Burgan Oil Field. They met Sheik Saad al-Abdullah al-Sabah, the crown prince of Kuwait. And they were taken to what remains of an Iraqi convoy devastated by allied bombing as it fled toward Baghdad.

Mr. Schaefer viewed the sights dressed in a Maryland baseball cap and armed with a camera, an ever-present companion on his overseas trips.

In a telephone call to reporters in Annapolis from a hotel telephone in Bahrain, the governor said he was overwhelmed by the evidence of the Iraqi torture chamber.

"We saw the instruments that they use -- instruments to pull nails from people, long pipes that were bent so that they could crush the arms and legs of people," Mr. Schaefer recalled.

Viewing photographs of dead bodies, "you could see they were battered and beaten and smashed; eyes were cut, head smashed in," he said.

Mr. Schaefer said he offered Maryland's help in restoring Kuwait's health-care system.

The governor took along two key business recruiters, J. Randall Evans, secretary of economic and employment development, and Kathleen Bond, director for international trade. But Mr. Schaefer insisted this was not a sales trip. "This was a friendship visit. We never talked about business," he said.

Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, was less circumspect. "They're talking about $100 billion worth of reconstruction work over the next five years or so," she said. "This comes at a good time for the American economy."

Ever vigilant for any Japanese offenses, she warned, "The Japanese are trying to worm their way into this. They are proposing phony joint ventures with straw American front men."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.