SOUTHERN IRAQ - I do not recall ever considering the country of Kuwait or
the Kuwaiti people for that matter with any particular emotion. To the best
of my knowledge, Kuwaiti forces never participated in the Arab world's wars
against Israel, nor have the Kuwaitis overtly funded terrorism against us
like the Saudis and the Iraqis.
If I had any feeling at all it came from the American in me. As an American
I felt satisfied that after the US-led forces liberated Kuwait twelve years,
the Kuwaitis retained the awareness of their vulnerability and have
therefore permitted, and even welcomed, the US to base their forces in this
I never felt any strong emotion towards Kuwait or towards the Kuwaiti people
until I arrived in the country on Sunday, March 9, only to be greeted by
blistering, virulent hatred accompanied by a reign of quiet, relentless
discrimination. From the moment I arrived, the Kuwaiti government sought to
silence me as a writer, a journalist and an Israeli even as I was traveling
as a US citizen on a valid visa.
A few hours before I was set to depart for Kuwait on a flight from
Washington, DC, I began to realize that I would be in for a rough ride. I
read on the Internet that the Kuwaitis issued a statement telling the
international press corps in Kuwait that anyone transmitting reports to the
Israeli media would face criminal prosecution.
I began to panic. I was about to board a flight to Kuwait where my primary
objective would be to transmit reports of the war to the Israeli media.
In a telephone conversation a half an hour later with F. David Radler, the
co-owner of Hollinger Corp. which owns The Jerusalem Post, Radler assured me
that the company would back me. At any rate, Radler explained, I would be
covering the war for the Chicago Sun-Times, a sister paper to the Post also
owned by Hollinger.
Most importantly, Radler pointed out that I didn't need to go if I didn't
want to. Hearing that made me think about why I was going in the first
place. Two images entered my mind - Israeli children in gas masks and an
image of the Kuwaiti bureaucrat who wrote that directive. I was going.
On the face of it, the Kuwaitis could have easily passed over my name and
not bothered with me. I am an American citizen. I applied for my Kuwaiti
visa with a letter of accreditation from the Chicago Sun-Times. For the
Kuwaitis to go after me they would have to really want to.
On Monday, after the cab ride from the Crowne Plaza where I was staying by
the airport, to the Kuwait Hilton on the seacoast, I realized just how
determined the Kuwaitis were.
The drive from hotel to hotel lasted 25 minutes during which the taxi
traversed Kuwait City. The most remarkable aspect of Kuwait City is the
absence of Kuwaitis. They leave the work of running their kingdom to
foreigners - Filipinos, Indians, Pakistanis, Egyptians and Bangladeshis
mainly. You can't find any Palestinians in Kuwait anymore. All 250,000 of
them were deported in 1991 after the coalition forces liberated Kuwait.
Kuwait City looks like a run-down version of Afula or Beersheba with one
primary difference. There is nothing going on. No one is going anywhere or
doing anything in Kuwait City. Whereas Israeli cities teem with life and
energy, Kuwait City is lethargic, bereft of human vitality.
The opulence of the beach front suburb was an indication that Kuwaitis
actually live there. But its wealth made it no more appealing than the dead
cityscape. At first glance, the villas recalled Herzliya Pituah, but upon
closer examination, they lack character. The palaces stand like algae in a
My cab ride to the Hilton showed me that the Kuwaitis care little about
cultivating their own country. My experience after arriving at the Hilton
showed me that the Kuwaitis care very much about hating Israel.
The US army's public affairs officers were told by the Kuwaitis ahead of my
arrival that they would not accredit me to work in the country. The State
Department's agreement with Kuwait stipulates that the US army will not
accredit journalists not already accredited by the Kuwaitis. For the rest of
the international press corps, Kuwaiti accreditation was a formality. The
information office had a table right across from the army's public affairs
counter. But for me, it was an insurmountable hurdle. And non-accreditation
meant that I was stuck, prevented from doing my job.
I phoned Bret Stephens, the Post's editor-in-chief and apprised him of the
situation. He in turn spoke with a number of key Pentagon officials. Radler,
true to his word, worked together with Chicago Sun-Times editor Michael
Cooke calling US congressmen and senators.
For their part, the Kuwaitis were moving as well, but so was I. In the late
afternoon hours I sat down at a table in the Hilton lobby waiting to phone a
helpful foreign service officer at the US Embassy named Jim Moran. A
stranger sat down at my table and said, 'You're Caroline Glick from the
Chicago Jerusalem Post Sun-Times.'
'Who are you?' I asked.
'I'm Yigal, Hungarian from Peruvian television.'
So I met Yigal Zur, another hounded Israeli. Yigal introduced me to an army
officer who had been helping him. The officer told me to pack my bags and
move out of my hotel room immediately. 'If you stay there on your own the
Kuwaitis can escort you to the airport, no problem,' he said. 'And I know
that is what they want to do.'
What followed was like a movie scene. Yigal and I got into a cab and drove
to my hotel. He waited in the cab while I ran up and packed my gear and
checked out. We then returned to the Hilton, paid in cash for a room under
his name so no one would know where to find me.
In the meantime, I received a call from Jim Moran at the US embassy. The
State Department had worked out a compromise. The Kuwaitis would accredit me
if I signed a paper promising not to report for any Israeli media outlet
while in Kuwait. I thought immediately of the negative implications. I would
sign away my freedom of expression. This made me extremely angry. For the
first time in my life I began to see what it is like to live in a society
without basic freedoms.
I called Bret in Jerusalem and asked for his thoughts. He saw the positive
'Caroline, you'll be in Iraq soon with the greatest offensive force ever
amassed. Covering that war and that force is why you are there. Sign the
The next morning, before they gave me the statement, a Kuwaiti official
(born and raised in Virginia) began interrogating me. He wanted me to agree
not to write for the Israeli media not only in Kuwait, but in Iraq as well.
I couldn't believe his nerve. I replied politely that I could only discuss
with the Kuwaiti government my plans for while in Kuwait and that a decision
where to place my articles was made by my company, not by me.
After signing the statement, I was immediately loaded on a bus with other
journalists. Yigal from Peruvian television spent the next two nights in a
room registered under my name waiting to go himself. I was sent to the
Army's 3rd infantry division's first combat brigade.
I looked at the other journalists on my bus and wondered about them. Would
they be angry if they knew what I had to go through in order to join them on
this bus? Did they care when they saw that the Kuwaitis had put a notice on
the bulletin board of the Hilton's media center prohibiting all news
organizations from publishing their reports in the Israeli media? Would it
bother them if they knew that I had just spent the last night in hiding?
Not knowing the answers to any of these questions, I kept my own counsel on
the bus, introducing myself as a Sun-Times reporter only.
For me, the main lesson from this odyssey is that to refer to the Middle
East conflict as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is to ignore the truth.
The truth is that at its root the conflict is about the Arab world's
obsession with rejecting Israel. Kuwait hates the Palestinians. The Kuwaitis
kicked the Palestinians out of their country.
The way I was treated had nothing to do with Beit El or Netzarim. It has to
do with Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and the Bible.
As I joined the 2-7 mechanized infantry battalion on Tuesday night, I
realized that it was the first time I had felt safe in 48 hours.
On Sunday afternoon, as I felt my body melting in the oppressive desert heat
and its odor - borne of five days in the heat and dust and wind without a
shower - wafted into my nostrils and shocked me, I understood how I would
know when peace has come.
Peace will be upon us when I can feel as safe and welcome at a five-star
Kuwaiti hotel as I felt in the Kuwaiti desert with the US army.
Orginally published in The Jerusalem Post.