The national holidays are over. People have celebrated the occasion in their own ways. Those who traveled have either returned or are on their way back home. Students and employees eventually have to return back to their schools and jobs, and soon enough business will be back to usual.
A lot has been said about the way national holidays are celebrated in Kuwait, with many criticizing the ‘negatives’ seen during celebrations in recent years, namely the rampant use of water guns and water balloons among revelers. Meanwhile, there have been calls for measures to adopt ‘higher standards’ in celebration deemed ‘more befitting’ the important occasions of the National and Liberation days, and more respectful to the sacrifices of those who died fighting for Kuwait.
February 25th and 26th of 2019 marked the 58th anniversary of Independence and 28th anniversary of Liberation, respectively. Many feel that the state should do more to spread awareness about the importance of those two occasions, and perhaps in particular the anniversary of Kuwait’s liberation from an invasion that threatened the country’s very existence.
Criticizers see the irony between an anniversary marking the freedom of Kuwait from what appeared as certain doom at the time, and the way revelers have celebrated this occasion in recent years, mostly in the form of wasting tons of gallons of water. There have been debates and a lot of questions raised about the younger generation’s level of awareness regarding the Gulf War and its impact.
Anyone who tracks down the state’s attempts to raise awareness about the plight of the invasion during the past 28 years cannot help but notice that they mostly focused on the war itself, the destruction, the aftermath. Images of thick clouds of smoke billowing over Kuwait, destroyed public facilities, and the carnage left behind by the invading troops are forever engraved in people’s minds.
The general public knows exactly what happened nearly 30 years ago, including the younger generation. They have seen all the photos and footage. They have heard about all the stories of heroism and sacrifice. Kids learn about it in school from a young age; they mostly have an idea even if they did not hear stories told by those who were there and lived to tell the tale. In fact, many of those who survived the war have since preached the need to focus on the future and the development of Kuwait while learning from the past.
But there is another aspect of the Gulf War that needs greater attention and awareness: Kuwait’s diplomatic efforts that helped garner international support to thwart the invaders through military action. It is common knowledge that an international coalition had formed a unified army to push the Iraqi troops out of Kuwait, but what is not often highlighted are the great efforts made behind the scenes by diplomats who played a big part in convincing the rest of the world to stand with Kuwait.
Kuwait realized that if the occupation dragged on for years, there would be more risk that international calls for liberating Kuwait would weaken and Saddam Hussain’s forces would become entrenched.
Kuwait’s diplomats had to act fast. The most notable of such efforts are arguably those of diplomats in the US which helped in the passing of the key ‘Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution’ in the US Congress ahead of a January 15, 1991 deadline issued to Iraq by the United Nations.
There are many ways by which the government can raise awareness about those efforts, perhaps the best of which is establishing a dedicated museum to showcase Kuwait’s diplomatic achievements over the country’s history, with special focus on the invasion era. This helps provide a fresh alternative for people who have long deserted the unchanged ‘war’ museums and documentaries which continue to present repetitive material for nearly three decades.
Any attempts to change people’s celebratory behavior is obviously not going to bear fruit overnight, but thinking out of the ordinary could be the first step to achieving that.
By Ahmad Jabr