July 30, 1990 – Southern Iraq Near the Kuwait Border
A jet flew high above Yousef Kaleeja and when the faint sound reached his ears, he listened closely to discern if it was just another civilian airliner or if the warnings of his commanding officer were coming to pass – the Israeli air force was attacking. “Is it time to arm myself with bravery and go to combat with their most hated enemy, or had the time for action not yet arrived?” Sitting up, he buttoned the shirt of his uniform, and pulled his dark green, scratchy, wool blanket around his shoulders to keep warm in the chilly nighttime desert air. Holding his breath, he closed his eyes in concentration and listened to the fading sound. Relief, with a dash of disappointment flooded over him. “Not yet, but soon, inshallah.” he breathed quietly to himself as he brushed the sand off his woven read mat, laid down beside his rifle, and drifted off to sleep.
Shortly after completing high school, two months ago, Yousef was ordered to serve in the Iraqi army for 4 years. His family was barely able to feed themselves on his father’s meager income, so they did not have the standard bribe to keep him out of the army. Since he had to serve anyway, Yousef hoped he would be placed in the highly respected, well funded, well treated, and well fed Republican Guard.
Yousef was assigned to a regular army unit after failing a majority of his placement and physical skills tests during his boot camp training. He had only been in his unit a week when the order to mobilize caught them by surprise. He was issued a battle scarred Soviet Kalashnikov - manufactured years before he was born, loaded into a transport truck, and taken three hours across the stifling hot desert and dumped in the middle of nowhere.
His unit had almost no equipment or supplies. Since they had no tents, they dug holes in the sand and arranged a blanket over the top in an attempt to make some shelter. Their food, rice and beans with an occasional boiled chicken thrown in, was delivered to them twice a day in a truck. Their first three days there, they didn’t know where they were, why they were there, or what they were supposed to do there. They spent their days attempting to find relief from the blazing sun and 125 degree temperature. They spent their nights under blankets trying to keep warm when the dry desert air quickly cooled to 60 degrees.
On the fourth day an officer finally came to their encampment to explain the situation and give them their orders. He told them that they were at the Kuwait border because Israel was threatening an invasion of their Arab neighbors. He lied. The truth was that Iraq was planning to invade and claim the Kuwaiti land, wealth and oil as its own. The command of the Iraqi military decided to tell its soldiers the lie about Israel instead of the truth because they knew the troops would fight harder if they thought they were fighting the fiercely hated Jews instead of the Kuwaitis.
Yousef held Kuwaitis in contempt because of their arrogant displays of wealth and their attitude of being the most elite of all the Arab nations but this contempt was overshadowed by his intense hatred of Israel. He was taught from birth that Israel was a violent aggressive nation whose ultimate goal was total annihilation of all Arabs and Zionist expansion throughout the entire Arab peninsula. Despite his dislike of the Kuwaitis, he was willing, ready, and energized to fight to his death to protect them from Israel. After all, they might be arrogant but they were fellow 'Arab brothers'.
Yousef’s eyes closed, shutting out the millions of stars twinkling overhead in the clear desert sky. He dreamed of being home in his humble house in Baghdad. His body writhed as his blissful slumber turned to nightmare. He was transported from his woven mat in the sand to his bed at home. Trapped in that bed, his blankets turned into ropes and bound him to it. As he watched helplessly, the front door of the house burst open and Israeli soldiers burst through. Their faces were human at first glance, but as Yousef lay paralyzed by fear on his bed, they twisted into terrifying contorted masks of inhuman horror. Their hands were transformed into massive razor edged claws.
The monsters moved toward his mother sitting in a chair. She didn’t seem to notice them. Yousef desperately tried to call to her, to warn her to get up and run. His mouth wouldn't open. He couldn't make a sound. As he watched, one of the creatures snapped her head off with a quick slash of his taloned claw. Yousef tried to turn his head away, but it too, like his jaws, was frozen in place. His eyes would not shut. He couldn't stop himself from watching the monster bend down to feed at the headless torso of what had once been his mother. He tried again to scream. With tremendous effort, he forced his mouth open. A small sound began in his throat. He concentrated and intensified the sound.
Yousef awoke on his mat, drenched in perspiration and screaming in terror.