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From the June 2003 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 50, No. 6)

Middle East

Kuwait: Majority of One

Peter Valenti, World Press Review contributing editor

When Arab League members met on March 28 and issued a resolution condemning the U.S.-led war on Iraq, only Kuwait voted against it. That stance was a glaring provocation to Arab nations that had long maintained an antiwar position as well as those that were tacitly supporting the war effort, such as Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Officially, Kuwait has not participated in the war but welcomed it. Even strongly antiwar Islamist organizations in Kuwait, such as the Salafi Islamic Union and Muslim Brotherhood, deferred to their government’s security concerns. The country’s major newspapers have echoed this view.

In the March 23 independent Al-Qabas, Ahmad Abd al-Muhsin al-Malifi praised the war, calling it “a great opportunity to change the picture in the Arab world as democratic rule is strengthened in Iraq.” Such support for the war comes as no surprise. Despite their liberation from seven months of Iraqi occupation in 1991, Kuwaitis still live in fear. Hasan Ali Karam posited in his April 17 editorial in the independent Al-Watan, “Saddam represented a constant and real threat to Kuwait despite international guarantees for its security and sovereignty.”

What is surprising is the vehemence with which writers upbraided Arab antiwar protesters. In his March 24 editorial in the pro-government Al-Seyassah, Shamlan Yusuf al-Isa wrote: “These demonstrators, who flooded the streets...and came out to defend the Iraqi people, didn’t budge when the despotic Iraqi regime killed more than 5,000 citizens in Kurdish Halabja....The masses didn’t lift their fingers when Saddam expelled more than 100,000 Iraqis in the early 1970s, claiming they were of Iranian origin…[or] organize protests when Saddam killed more than 200,000 Iraqis in the war with Iran…[or] when more than 100,000 Iraqis were killed during Kuwait’s liberation.”

In the April 5 edition of the center-left Al-Taleea, Amir Dhiyab al-Tamimi argued that demonstrators were inflamed by Arab TV networks that skewed the news to the benefit of Saddam’s government. Salim al-Nashi also dismissed the demonstrations in his March 28 op-ed in Al-Qabas. Disparaging the antiwar slogans, Al-Nashi advocated a more proactive approach: He called for Arabs to send money, food, and medicine to Iraqis, concluding, “The salvation of the Iraqi people is through aid and not through demonstrations.”

To counter criticism from other Arabs, Kuwaiti writers have resorted to religious scriptures. Writing in his March 27 column in Al-Seyassah, Dr. Ahmad Abd al-Aziz al-Mazini used examples from Prophet Muhammad’s life and fatwas from legal scholars to demonstrate that Muslims and non-Muslims are permitted to make common cause against a military threat. In an op-ed in Al-Watan (April 13), Nahar Amir al-Mukrad described April 9 as the “Day of Freedom and Peace” and proclaimed: “For the...liquidation of the dictatorial regime…we offer thanks...to the magnificent U.S. and U.K.”  

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