Mother of All Battles or Runt of All Retreats?

We’re into the new year, it’s a day to deadline and not a budge from Baghdad. Most people here, but certainly not all, are hoping for a short, one-sided clash and the end of Saddam. Kuwait National Day is February 25th so Stormin’ Norman will probably have the mess cleaned up before then.

Can’t help feeling sorry for poor ole Perez de Cuellar doing his best at the last minute and meeting with no success. What has been sickening is the number of people beating a path to Saddam’s door and getting nowhere.

We’ve been back at school a week but chances are that for security reasons we’re going to close when hostilities start. Our nearest neighbour is the American Embassy, literally the building next door, and the Americans are anxious to get us out of the way so to speak. Terrorists could have a field day on our soi (lane) any morning or evening what with thirteen hundred kids coming and going, many of them European and American. With us closed it’d be much easier for the police to spot suspicious-looking characters so we’ll be sent home as soon as war breaks out.

As always, the Thais celebrated Christmas as if it were their very own feast. The lights in the city must rank as some of the most beautiful and spectacular on the planet with the Regent Hotel winning the prize for the second year in a row for the best display. Full marks to the Thais for their generosity of spirit and sense of enjoyment.

Greg is now here with me and already gainfully employed at a language school. He’s been telling me about his escape via Iraq and Jordan. Disguised as an Indian, he left Kuwait in the middle of October and travelled with a few thousand Indian people in a convoy of 94 buses for three days, an experience he wouldn’t like to live through again. For a man who survived that and a hernia operation once he got back to Edinburgh he’s in good spirits and excellent health. But he’s not happy in Bangkok, doesn’t care for the city.

After all my study for the Thai exam and the cancellation of my holiday plans the authorities abolished the Thai Language requirement at the last minute and i didn’t have to sit the exam. From now on, expatriates who wish to teach here are not required to pass Grade Six and many are breathing sighs of relief. Anyway, i don’t mind, as having as much of the language as i have will never be a disadvantage.

January 23

A lot has happened in the past nine days. Are the Americans and their allies going to score the quick success they hope for? The bloody thing could drag on for months. The Israelis have been remarkably restrained about the whole thing, so far. Long may the Americans keep them in check.

The school has been closed for the past week so i’ve been to Hua Hin, my favourite seaside town 200kms south, and spent a quiet few days there. Still a bit touristy despite the drop in visitors to Thailand because of the Middle East crisis; crisis or no, there are very few places by the sea in Thailand that are unspoilt anymore.

January 27

Have just had word our school has been ordered to remain closed until Monday, Feb. 4 at the earliest. This could go on for a long time. At least i’ve got another week off but we really don’t need holidays at this time, we’re just back from Christmas break. I wish Saddam would plan his invasions with more care.

The British Embassy is warning citizens to keep a low profile and not to frequent places where expatriates assemble and not to spend undue time in supermarkets or department stores. The Thai authorities are afraid of a terrorist attack which would ruin the already damaged tourist trade. Bars and restaurants are hard hit and occupancy in hotels is under half, and this is high season. My Thai friends keep saying there isn’t any danger, ‘relax, you’re safe’ but the police are more cautious and the foreign embassies aren’t taking any chances. I suppose it’s the same in other countries. What’s going to happen if Iraq starts to get the worse of the war? Are we going to see attacks on Western interests all over the world? Things could get nastier and nastier. 1991 has not started well.

Despite everything, life in Thailand goes on and although plans for next year have not been finalized i’m still enjoying being here. At this point, i’ve no idea whether i’ll stay or move and everything’s too much up in the air right now to make definite decisions.

In these troubled times all i can hope for is that everyone who’s dear to me is safe and well. I’m depressed about the whole turn of events and can’t see a peaceful solution either in the short term or long. If Saddam is brought down, resentment towards America and the West will linger and fester for years. Relationships, fragile at the best of times, have been damaged beyond repair and what little mutual trust there was has evaporated. Animosity is to the fore again as it was during the Crusades and will remain for decades. It’s all so disheartening. Last wednesday i felt particularly down when i learned that parts of the Wafra and Mina Abdulla oil installations had been set on fire. Those are places i knew well and although i wasn’t always happy there Kuwait was home for nine years.

Mother or Runt? My money is on the Runt.

4 thoughts on “Mother of All Battles or Runt of All Retreats?

  1. Once again you manage to make it personal and intimate. Those were troubled times indeed and we’re not over them yet. Will we ever be?

  2. We all have diverse experiences. Most of us fail miserably to relate them while utilizing the range of emotions we had during the significant and even those not so significant times. You have mastered that art in word and verse.

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