One Woman's War

BONNIE GORDON

April 06, 1991|By BONNIE GORDON

I have learned never to take peace for granted again. I alsowill come back a much more patriotic person. I saw the hellish side of war twice in two weeks, I would never want to live through another war. Peace is a pretty good deal, really!

Things are coming to an end here. People are coming back from the field, staying here a few days to rest up, clean and mail excess baggage home, and then leaving.

Many more buildings are now open, buildings that used to be barricaded a few months ago. The place is starting to feel more like a barracks compound. More soldiers are walking around in civilian clothes. More tents are popping up for recreation. The town is still off limits, though. This compound wouldn't be too bad if we were allowed off post. I could use a day off! Just for one day I'd like to relax, walk around and take pictures, and absorb some local culture. We all want to go home, but we keep hearing that we will be here three more months. It will be hard here in the summer time. I'm not looking forward to that.

The skies over Kuwait are still pitch black. Today we had a northern-blowing wind that brought with it the darkest sky and of course lots of sand. The ecology will be ruined for years around here.

I was in Kuwait City March 5 and saw the wreckage we did to the Iraqi convoy heading out of KC. It was a massive junk yard. Cars were every where: civilian cars, buses, military trucks with Kuwait loot. Someone else who came back from KC said he saw shallow graves along the roads because the fleeing Iraqis didn't have time to bury their dead. The smell of rotting bodies still fills the air over Kuwait. Many bodies will never be uncovered. Some of the tanks were direct hits so that all that remained were burned-out chassis and ashes inside.

I also saw my first dead, decaying body. I will never forget that. That man (he wore Iraqi airborne patches on his sleeve) must have been there several weeks. He was still sitting behind the steering wheel of a yellow Nissan. The car was hit by something up front; the engine was totally blown out and the car was burned in the front. The rear of the vehicle was OK, so it wasn't hit from a tank round or anti-tank round. Somebody came by and slit his throat; there was dried blood all over his upper body that had dripped down to below the vehicle. A Kuwaiti (?) had spray-painted ''Lowest Form of Life'' along the driver's side of the car with an arrow pointing to the body.

That stench. Geesus. I stood there in shock, my body rigid with fear and realized that sight was the result of a war. I didn't exactly feel too good leaving Kuwait. The amazing thing is that Kuwaiti children were playing nearby the wreckage and seemed oblivious to the dead man.

I left Kuwait City covered with oil soot and reeked of petrol when I got back. (It had rained all that day, which made it even worse.) The fires were still burning from the oil wells. At night we had an orange glow in the horizon. Some of those burning oil wells were so ferocious they sounded like air craft taking off. The city itself was OK, except for certain wealthy homes that rich Kuwaitis owned and which were looted clean. Many Kuwaitis were happy to see us and welcomed us with open arms, but the entire time I was there I was just amazed at the wanton destruction the Iraqis committed.

We heard several gunshots and three explosions in the distance while we were in Kuwait. Either that was the PLO at it again, or ordnance teams detonating rounds, anti-tank rounds, machine gun rounds all over the streets. The Palestinians are having a heyday in Kuwait with all that ammunition lying everywhere.

I also ''talked'' to a few Iraqis who were at the King Fahd Military Hospital in Dhahran. I saw 17-year-old boys who had lost both legs, men who had gone crazy after six weeks of intense air raids over their bunkers, 14-year-old Kurdish boys who were sexually abused and were forced into the army strictly for sexual pleasure.

The men of all ages talked to me freely. (And the army tried to tell me that Arabs don't talk to women.) They did not want to fight, they said, and are afraid to go back to Iraq. They were grateful for the American hospitality and happy they were alive.

Those unfortunate souls in that hospital were the other lasting impression I have of this war, this lop-sided war. How could Iraq be our vicious enemy when the guys did not have the will to fight and were afraid of us? Who was the real enemy? I was in that hospital three days and was mentally exhausted when I got done. The sufferings, the pain, the distorted young bodies bothered me. Very few spoke English but I understood their body language. I learned how difficult, how painful my war-time mission really is. Thank goodness I don't have to do this work every day. Thank goodness for this peace.

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