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Bush assembled a coalition to end Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait. Image Credit: Bloomberg


Bush assembled a coalition to end Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait.Manama: “Bush on my head! Bush on my head,” the old Kuwaiti man was screaming into the microphone of a television channel as he expressed his deep gratitude for US President George H. Bush for his crucial contribution to the liberation of Kuwait in February 1991.

The Kuwaiti citizen was using a literal translation of a Gulf expression of love and admiration for someone.

The man’s reaction epitomised the deep esteem that Kuwaitis had for the president who helped them get rid of the occupation by the Iraqi army that started on August 2, 1990.

Today, Bush is still remembered with gratitude and fondness for his bravery and determination in the face of an Iraqi army that was then among the largest in the world.

News of his death saddened large sections of Kuwaiti society, especially among the older generations, who offered their condolences and expressed how sorely he will be missed.

The emir, Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, sent a cable of condolences to US President Donald Trump, expressing his sympathy over the death of former President George H.W. Bush, Kuwaiti News Agency (Kuna) reported.

In his cable, the Emir said that he was expressing the condolences of the Kuwaiti government and people.

He recalled Bush’s historic stands with, and support to, Kuwait and his rejection of the Iraqi occupation since its first hours.

Shaikh Sabah also highlighted “the decisive decisions taken by the American administration under the leadership of Bush and his pivotal role in forming an international coalition, mandated by the UN to liberate the State of Kuwait.”

Shaikh Sabah sent similar cables of condolences to President George W. Bush, the 43rd US President and son of the elder Bush, the state-run Kuna said.

Crown Prince Shaikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah and Prime Minister Shaikh Jaber Al Mubarak Al Hamad Al Sabah sent similar cables to President Trump, it added.

In August 1990, Bush strongly condemned the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and as an astute politician, succeeded in putting together a 30-nation coalition that was backed by a UN mandate. He included Syria, a country that was openly hostile to US action in the Middle East, in the coalition.

He also convinced Israel not to interfere or react to bombs and threats by Iraqi president Saddam Hussain in order to ensure that the coalition that included strange bedfellows did not collapse.

Once, he was assured about the support he needed internationally, he worked on the domestic front and addressed a joint session of the US Congress regarding the authorisation of air and land attacks, laying out four immediate objectives.

He said that “Iraq must withdraw from Kuwait completely, immediately, and without condition.”

“Kuwait’s legitimate government must be restored. The security and stability of the [Arabian] Gulf must be assured. And American citizens abroad must be protected.”

He then outlined a fifth, long-term objective, noting “out of these troubled times, our fifth objective — a new world order — can emerge: a new era — freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace.”

On January 17, 1991, US and allied planes hit Iraqi targets and Desert Shield became Desert Storm.

The ground war was launched on February 24 and Bush ordered a ceasefire 100 hours after the fighting began, having secured the liberation of Kuwait.

Following the 1991 triumph, Bush’s approval rates at home approached 90 per cent. He was treated as a great local hero.

Abroad, he gained broad international support for the Gulf War and the war’s outcome was seen “as both a diplomatic and military triumph.”

Bush and his Secretary of State James Baker felt that new prestige gained by the US following its victory offered a window of opportunity to revitalise the Arab-Israeli peace process.

The Bush administration immediately engaged in a process to boost the chances for an Arab-Israeli peace deal through a process of negotiations, involving the Palestinians, Israel and Arab countries, including Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

The efforts resulted in the Madrid Conference, on October 30-November 1, co-sponsored by the United States and the Soviet Union.

Even though he served only one term, Bush remained a true hero in Kuwait and in the Gulf for his steadfast position supporting them, rejecting all threats to their countries and people and taking on the Iraqi army despite its reputation at the time.

Some Kuwaiti media sites posted videos of Bush’s first visit to Kuwait following its liberation.