What happens when you are a natural-born coward and you are held a gun-point, some of your friends are raped, others are killed, your life destroyed?
You get scared, really frightened.
Then … You get angry!
And you learn to focus that anger … to survive and fight back as best you know how.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait on the 2nd of August 1990 I was living in the tallest apartment block in downtown Kuwait City. I had a grandstand view of the tanks and troops as they came swarming in. It was all kinda exciting.
But, six hours later, after the city had fallen, I found I was caught in a trap. As law and order broke down and Saddam Hussein’s undisciplined rabble was let loose, myself and thousands of other civilians came under severe physical threat.
What this book is about
The Lid is Lifted is my story of what happened in Kuwait when the country was invaded by Iraq on the 2nd August 1990. Written in a terse narrative non-fiction style, every word is true.
The book covers the early days, the most unsettling time of my life. The invasion lifted the lid on all that is vile in human nature and the many civilians trapped in Kuwait became the prey of armed predators. I too was one of those victims.
Fear became the pervading emotion for most of us. My mind was almost destroyed when I was held at gunpoint while two girls were raped in my home. But I managed, somehow, to convert my fear into the righteous anger that enabled me to survive.
The memories of the human abuses that went on day after day still make me angry. At the time it was a good anger … it gave me the courage to face the facts, to plan, to act and to survive, and to carry a few others with me.
However The Lid is Lifted is much more than a litany of horrors and how we reacted to them. The story describes things and events I witnessed but which do not accord with the official accounts of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait … facts that are absolutely true though highly controversial.
For example, I know for sure there were Jordanian troops among the invading forces … we found several empty wooden ammo boxes with marked ‘Royal Jordanian Army’ on the side lying on the streets in the area where I lived.
At the time of the invasion I was a consultant for one of the premier banks in the region and had a wealth of well-informed contacts at senior level on whom I could draw for information and advice. Some of the things you can read in The Lid is Lifted are pretty unbelievable but absolutely true.
For example, scores of Iraqi secret police arrived in Kuwait a week before the invasion and checked-in to the main hotels in the city. As their passport details would have been submitted by the hotels to the Ministry of the Interior, the sudden influx of Iraqis must have been obvious to the authorities, yet they apparently did nothing. I never found out why.
From my grandstand view on August 2nd, I could see that the incoming tanks did not experience any problems finding their way through a strange city. I found out later that Iraq had its own unloading dock in the port area, guarded by its own troops, which it had been given for importing goods during the Iran-Iraq war. This dock was still being guarded by Iraqi soldiers two years after that war had ended, and it was these soldiers who guided the invading army into the city.
Mind boggling stuff …
More Embarrassing facts
You will notice when you read The Lid is Lifted that the invasion brought out the worst in human nature.
Kuwaitis understood that they could not liberate themselves but would have to rely on the Western World, primarily America. To curry favour with the West, they instructed their supermarkets to give food to Westerners. At the same time, they refused to serve third-country nationals, even those who were willing to pay in cash.
Personal relationships were tested, often sorely. When Saddam ordered ‘all Westerners of aggressor nations’ to report to the hotels, some Arabs began avoiding their European and American friends and neighbours … a few denounced them to the Iraqi secret police.
Westerners could be just as callous. An American hotel manager refused shelter to two Thai girls who had been raped in order ‘to safeguard his hotel’. To get across the desert to Saudi Arabia, a British family stole a four-wheel drive vehicle belonging to an American family and deprived the Americans of their chance to escape during the first weeks.
And an idiotic junior official at the British embassy refused to replace a lost passport on the spot because it was ‘outside consular hours’, even when I pointed out that armed bands of ill-disciplined soldiers were making travelling around the city critically dangerous.
The looting was mind-boggling
There was the ‘official’ or politically controlled looting that was overseen by the honchos of the Iraqi Ba’ath party, using grunt muscle provided by the Iraqi army … which began on the first day when big transporters from Basra in southern Iraq followed the army in and got busy with the car showrooms.
There was also the dangerous free-for-all that developed as law-and-order collapsed. We watched from our high-rise building as the shops in the centre of town were ransacked, with every race and nationality in Kuwait joining in.
As you’ll notice when reading The Lid is Lifted, the free-for-all looting was extremely destructive. We watched in awe as large refrigerators were thrown onto the backs of trucks … right on top of TV set and computers! The mindless destruction was one of the triggers for the anger that saved me.
Fear and anger
Before the anger came the fear. Fear was probably the dominant emotion felt by everyone who was trapped in Kuwait, especially in the early days.
I’ll never forget the chill I felt when, on the evening of the first day, Saddam threatened to turn Kuwait into a graveyard … or the shock we felt when he announced that we would be used as human shields in key military and civil installations was almost palpable.
Those with the most to fear were women. The Iraqi soldiers seemed to have no qualms when it came to abducting and raping females of all ages, from their early teens to their sixties.
Foreign women were most at risk. I remember some Iraqi soldiers saying in my presence that non-Arab girls were halal (permissible) but Arab girls were haram (forbidden) … their officer, they said, had told them this was in the Koran … a despicable lie that gave the soldiers carte blanche to do whatever they wanted.
My own fear is well documented in The Lid is Lifted. One example stands out – an angry Iraqi soldier slashing the air inches in front of my nose with a Bowie knife, working himself up to kill me, after I had witnessed a double rape. That and several other incidents were the food for many weird dreams and nightmares.
Lessons from the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait
The Iraqi invasion was a time of learning … on how to survive in conditions of urban strife. The things we learned when the lid was lifted can be applied in any situations in which civilians are trapped … all detailed within this exciting story.
We discovered early on that being in a large group was the safest as large bodies of civilians seemed to overawe the marauders. However, it soon became apparent that any discord within a group, which in normal circumstances might be considered healthy, can threaten everyone’s survival.
We also learned that we had to be very cautious using the telephone. The telephones continued to work in most areas of Kuwait during the Iraqi occupation. However it had a monitoring system that could be activated by the use of particular keywords and so, to avoid triggering a search, we had to be ultra-discrete on the phone. For some reason, a few of us found this difficult to do and telephone gaffs were a source of considerable friction.
One of the most useful things I discovered was how to create a ‘safe’ room, a room in which I could survive even during a chemical attack. Another, not so useful, thing I learned was that you can make weapons such as garottes out of every day items like guitar strings.
The Lid is Lifted is an exciting story that is hard to put down. At the same time it contains lots of facts that are not generally know about the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.