February 27, 1998 in Nation/World

U.S. Tanks Roll As Kuwaitis Mark Anniversary

Edith M. Lederer Associated Press

Nearly eight years ago, invading Iraqi tanks thundered through this desert stretch of Kuwait, launching a hostile, seven-month occupation that sparked the Persian Gulf War.

On Thursday, U.S. tanks rolled along the same route, but this time, Kuwaitis were celebrating the seventh anniversary of their liberation.

Capt. Eugene A. Yancey III of Ft. Benning, Ga., who fought in the U.S.-led coalition that won the 1991 war, pointed out the route that Iraqi troops traveled to Kuwait City in 1990, wondering if Iraq would see the significance of the American presence there now.

“Maybe it’s symbolic to Iraqis that we’re here - and we’re prepared,” he said.

To Yancey and other Gulf War veterans among the 4,400 U.S. troops deployed in this Kuwaiti military training area, 25 miles from the Iraqi border, the anniversary of Kuwait’s liberation had special meaning.

“We gave them their freedom back,” said Yancey, the company commander. “I was here, and I saw pictures of Arabs kissing the American flag, and it was just a great event. … I’d never seen that before.”

In Kuwait City, police banned public gatherings on Thursday as they had on Independence Day on Wednesday, for fear that Iraqi agents might carry out terrorist attacks.

Nonetheless, young Kuwaitis drove their cars along the coastal road, waving flags and honking horns. More than 400 people were arrested for running red lights and reckless driving.

The United States has stationed troops here since the end of the war. When the current diplomatic showdown between the United Nations and Iraq erupted late last year, there were about 1,100 troops training at the Udairi Range.

The number was increased by thousands when President Clinton ordered additional U.S. troops to the Gulf to back up threats of air strikes if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein did not open all suspected sites to U.N. inspectors.

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