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Troops Message: Hostages Should Be Free And So Should Kuwait With PM-Gulf Rdp, Bjt

December 7, 1990

IN EASTERN SAUDI ARABIA (AP) _ American soldiers had a message for Saddam Hussein today: It’s great the hostages may be home for Christmas, but the GIs aren’t going home until Kuwait is free.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Chester Smolarczyk, who said Iraq appears to be stalling for time but stumbling toward peace, said he’s willing to wait.

″Which is cheaper, blood or oil?″ asked the 28-year-old Polish-born cargo handler from Jacksonville, Ark.

News of Saddam’s surprise promise to free the hostages was only filtering into Saudi Arabia this morning.

From the newest arrivals to soldiers who’ve been in the desert for nearly four months, there was a feeling that something was happening that might affect them, but they weren’t sure exactly what it was nor did they trust Saddam.

″He’s saying it, but whether he does it or not is a different thing. You can never trust a guy like that,″ said Air Force Sgt. David Klunker, 25, of Salt Lake City, who was playing backgammon during a break from unloading cargo at an air base.

Saddam’s announcement came as advance parties and the first combat units of the 200,000 U.S. reinforcements for Operation Desert Shield were arriving in Saudi Arabia. They will give the 240,000 troops already in place enough strength for an offensive against Saddam if he refuses to pull out of Kuwait.

″If he didn’t want to back down, he wouldn’t be freeing the hostages so quick,″ said Air Force Staff Sgt. William Briggs, 52, of Columbia, S.C., whose 169th Service Battalion in the National Guard was mobilized for the buildup.

″One way or the other, he is going to give in because we’ll see to that,″ he said. ″Then again, everything will be determined Jan. 15.″

A U.N. resolution set a Jan. 15 deadline for Saddam to pull out of Kuwait without facing the possibility of military action by the U.S.-led multinational force which includes 100,000 other troops from about 25 other countries.

First Sgt. Jerry Carlton, 37, of Warsaw, N.C., whose 82nd Airborne unit landed in Saudi Arabia on Aug. 9, said the hostage release could signal that Saddam was caving in or trying ″to buy additional time.″

″I think it’s great they’re going home,″ said 1st Lt. Brian Ratchford, 26, of Spartanburg, S.C., from the 39th Tactical Air Squadron. ″But it’s not about the hostages. I think the hostages were a bad side effect of this whole thing,″

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