Kuwait Invasion Anniversary Passes Quietly in Baghdad With AM-Kuwait-One Year Later, Bjt
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ There were no parades Friday to mark Iraq’s short-lived conquest of Kuwait.
There was nothing to celebrate. The ″19th province″ is only a memory on the invasion anniversary - a day most Iraqis would prefer to forget.
Official recognition of the date appeared only in government-run newspapers, which carried columns saying the attack was justified and repeating the official line that Iraq was the victim of an American-Zionist conspiracy to retard Arab development.
For the average Iraqi, it was a time only to reflect on what might have been - if there had been no invasion or if a peaceful solution had extracted their country from the crisis with its pride intact.
″We just want to forget,″ said Taled Abbas, who lost his import-export business and is now driving a taxi. ″If we are left alone, if the embargo is lifted, we can live a normal life again.″
The most pressing daily concern is the year-old economic embargo strangling Iraq’s economy.
″There’s no food. No jobs,″ said Jamal Hamid, who was walking down the sidewalk along Saadoun Street with his wife and three small children.
A year ago, loudspeakers blared news of the invasion, saying that Iraq had reclaimed a land long considered to have historically belonged to it.
Many people were shocked, and worried about the consequences. But plenty were in a celebratory mood, said Abdel-Kareem Jassim, a storekeeper.
″Iraq was led to this, to go into Kuwait, because of the economic situation,″ he said.
He said Iraq had only its oil to repay a tremendous debt from the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, yet the Kuwaitis and other gulf nations ″flooded the market with oil.″
The storekeeper said most Iraqis anticipated the reaction from the West, although they did not believe it would lead to war.
Even then, he said, a united Arab response would have helped.
″To be honest, if people were on our side in a correct way, maybe we would have won,″ he said.
Other than a Western reporter and his translator, there were no other customers in the shop.
Saadoun Street is a busy commercial street. Stores have plenty of merchandise but there is little money to buy. Inflation is estimated at 300 percent since the Gulf War.
″Of course, things were better before Iraq went into Kuwait,″ said Madeleine Mikhail, who was passing by on the sidewalk.
″We are suffering. The Iraqis are suffering because of the sanctions. The war was worse,″ she said.
The government of Saddam Hussein has acknowledged that some ″mistakes″ were made in the handling of the Kuwait issue. But officials won’t get more specific than that, saying that a period of introspection may last for years before the full details and analysis of the decision-making are revealed.
Government-run newspapers featured articles Friday outlining events leading up to the invasion and saying Iraq was forced to act because peaceful attempts to solve its problems with Kuwait were spurned.
″The aggressive (international sanctions) on Iraq after Aug. 2 and the military aggression has proved to be directed against Iraq not because of the Kuwait affair, because it continues after retreat from Kuwait,″ the Baath party newspaper Al-Thawra said.
Many Iraqis, including the most educated, believe that the way the Kuwaitis ignored Saddam’s military threat indicated they had been promised by the United States that nothing would happen.
The Iraqis seem now to simply want the embargo to end and to let the Kuwait chapter pass.
Agnes Bashir, a concert pianist and composer, was in Cyprus a year ago preparing for a performance tour in Italy when she heard the news of the invasion.
″At first I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked,″ she said.
″I’ve lived in this country for 20 years and I just want things to get back to the way they were,″ said Mrs. Bashir, a native of Georgia in the Soviet Union.
″Iraq has so much potential, and it’s not just the oil,″ she said. ″The people are better than the oil.″