GUEST OF THE PRESIDENT

 

On the 2 August 1990, I was returning to Australia, having spent three months long service leave in Europe.  The British Airways plane landed at Kuwait in the middle of the night to refuel and to take on passengers.  Unfortunately that was the night that Saddam Hussein chose to invade Kuwait.

Four and a half months later I returned home.  In that period I was taken from Kuwait, under armed escort, to Baghdad.  Initially I was held prisoner in several hotels, until eventually

      

Saddam Hussein decided that Australians and nationals from other insignificant countries were not needed to protect strategic sites!  Many others and I were released from ‘protective custody’, but were not allowed to leave the country – we were back up if necessary.  We could wander about the city and country (more difficult) and as long as we kept out of mischief we were left alone.  Eventually he decided that we could leave, and we all left with alacrity, before he changed his mind.  So I was home for Christmas.

                                                                

                                                              



Early in the following year the allies had built up a sufficiently large army to attack.  This involved extensive bombing followed by three days ground attack.  Unfortunately, as history has shown, the job was left incomplete, to be followed by further military intervention a decade later.

I published my diary for distribution to my family and friends who had supported me during the period that I was a ‘guestage’ of Saddam Hussein. 

A number of other people have published their experiences as guests of Saddam Hussein.  Fellow plane passenger, Daphne Halkyard wrote, Unscheduled Stopover in Iraq: Life as a ‘Human Shield’ during the Gulf Crisis (The Book Guild, Lewes, 1993).  Glenda Lockwood was living in Kuwait at the time of the invasion and wrote, Diary of a Human Shield, (Bloomsbury, London, 1991) and in London the Gulf Support Group, who supported the many British passengers on the British Airway plane published, The Human Shield – British hostages in the Gulf and the work of the Gulf Support Group, Tim Lewis and Josie Brookes (Leomansley Press, Lichfield, 1991).  Fellow Australian, Neils E Langevad, wrote on his own experiences, So Near … So Far …: :Living on the edge during Desert Shield, (Fast Books, Sydney, 1993).  The definitive book on the whole period, also written by Australian, John Levins, is Days of Fear: The Inside Story of the Iraqi Invasion and Occupation of Kuwait, (Motivate Publishing, Dubai, 1997).  The British Government awarded John Levins an MBE for his work with hostages, the US Government also gave him award and the Australian Government was consequently shamed into giving him an Australian Award.  Who says the ANZAC spirit isn’t alive and well!

However, these types of experiences can be turned to good effect.  It enabled me to evaluate what was important for me, re-affirm my values and after all, I saw a part of the world that in ordinary circumstances I would never have been able to visit.  In addition I found that while Saddam Hussein was not a pleasant character, the Iraqi people were on the whole polite and hospitable who didn’t deserve their leader.

 

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