This war is now behind us. Ahead of us is the difficult task of securing a potentially historic peace. Tonight though, let us be proud of what we have accomplished. Let us give thanks to those who risked their lives. Let us never forget those who gave their lives. May God bless our valiant military forces and their families, and let us all remember them in our prayers.
Good night, and may God bless the United States of America.
-George H. W. Bush on February 27, 1991
Zaid was scared and angry, primarily at the soldiers that changed his life for the worse in the last year. He could no longer count the number of birthdays he missed, a celebration that now seemed long forgotten. He could no longer count the number of times his father, a usually resolute, unrelenting man, cried in what he could only describe as despair- an emotion he had difficulty grappling with. His mother remained a shelter in the storm, reassuring him through this difficult time. Nonetheless, if he looked closely enough, he saw what resembled a flinch in her demeanour whenever soldiers passed by or a plane flew overhead.
He was beginning to find it increasingly tricky to understand their situation. When he got into fights with his friends, it resulted in hasty squabbles that led to cold shoulders or a slight reprimand from an adult. Despite his dad trying to explain their situation to him multiple times, all he was left with was a puzzling afterthought. A war was seemingly when whole countries fought among themselves- but he was left clueless by their methods and reasons.
His brother hadn’t been home since before all of this started; he believed it was due to Hussein’s admiration of President Saddam- his admiration for his brother grew when he thought of him fighting as a true patriot. When Zaid was just a kid, he remembered his brother playing soccer with a squishy ball, his nimble figure moving swiftly across the field. Although his brother was much older, he remembered running circles around Hussein, his annoyed face making Zaid happier than when his mother made Quzi.
The foreigners scared Zaid. They looked nothing like any people he knew. They reminded him of models on the posters of stores that sold expensive products. If these boogeymen could scare his mother, he trembled in fear, thinking how they could threaten him much more. Their desert pattern, funny hats and glasses too big on their faces startled Zaid- who found the look unexpected for boogiemen. The contrast made them even more unsettling. He wondered who those soldiers worked for. Did they have a fearless leader like Saddam, fighting side by side valiantly with his brother, or were they an aimless gang of bullies, similar but much scarier than the ones Zaid interacted with frequently?
The bullies were the worst. They were mean, rude and for no reason to boot. In fact, bullies disgusted Zaid more than anything else he could think of. Their bulkier, intimidating figures towered over Zaid, making him cower in fear and disgust. But the school bullies barely made an impact in front of the soldiers. Their terrorising presence no longer surfaced as the soldiers glared down at Zaid, their eyes boring into him. Zaid struggled to understand the sad look some of them seemed to have. Were monsters in the bedtime stories ever sad?
Zaid saw other kids crying and clutching their parents. Were they not angry? They looked like they would not even dream of leaving their parents’ side. However, Zaid would like to give these strangers an earful if given a chance. His mom always stopped him, and surprisingly something in the back of his mind made him think listening to her was a good idea. He looked at school for companionship after his brother left. The school was his safe space despite the bullies. Though his parents were lovely, they were distant from him for a short while, even before they first had to leave the house. They had this gloomy mood hanging over constantly as if they knew what was coming. He missed most of the cartoons that week, his parents hogging the TV to watch “news”. The monotone speeches bored Zaid.
The highway generally meant a trip, and trips always made Zaid happy. But when they passed Highway 80 this time, he was speechless at its state. There was more traffic than he had ever experienced, but he had a feeling this traffic was never going to move. Most of the vehicles were in various stages of destruction. He could not be sure, but some glimpses of human forms were lying near the wreckage. His mom wrapped her arms around him and led him through, closing his eyes a few times.
Zaid hated waiting, and this was the worst he had ever endured. He was tired of waiting for the fighting to stop. He was tired of waiting for things to return to the way they were. But most importantly, he was tired of being kept out of the loop; all decisions were made by his parents in whispers and muffles. This ordeal was more brutal than the exams at school.
He missed his friends. He missed a lot of things now that he thought about it. There was this now familiar gnawing at the back of his mind. He tried to ignore it and go to sleep. His mom would not be happy that he was lost in thoughts and is now past bedtime. He was about to drift to sleep when….BOOM. He jolted awake…BOOM, it was closer this time…BOOM. His mom rushed towards him and hugged him tight, whispering in his ear how everything would be alright. But all Zaid had in his mind at that moment was a horrific realisation. He was ignoring and suppressing parts of his experiences. He remembered the soldiers shooting his neighbours, blood unable to stay within the lines of the body and splashing everywhere. He remembered his dad breaking the news of his brother’s death. He remembered seeing his destroyed school. He remembered the collapse of their home amidst the chaos of pops akin to fireworks and flashing lights. He clutched his mom’s sleeves and buried his face in her lap. Zaid wanted to curl up into a ball and turn off his senses. He felt weird; he felt something he hadn’t felt in what seemed like a long time. His vision was blurry. He could not hold it in anymore. For the first time in a while, Zaid cried, cried as loud as he could. Tears rolled down his face in an unrelenting flow. His wailing was muffled and entirely smothered by the deafening explosions.
The United States has officially declared war 11 times during five separate military conflicts.
All of these countries had a large civilian population, who were neglected and barely understood the geopolitics going on in their backyard.
What if one of them was a child? This is their restricted yet illuminating PERSPECTIVE on the GUlf WAR.