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WEDNESDAY, MARCH 13, 1991
Kuwait City

The first person up in the morning and down in the CNN workspace in the hotel lobby has a critical job to perform: light the giant propane burner and put the huge kettle on to boil. Then as the rest of the crews straggle in, they can fix themselves their hot instant coffee, or hot instant cocoa, or instant oatmeal or instant soup or any of the other freeze-dried concoctions stacked on the pantry shelves. The workspace is a combination kitchen, dining room, lounge, office, and control room all under one roof with 30 people coming and going, not including the constant stream of visitors. On the "WISH LIST" posted on the wall I requested partitions to set off the edit bays from the main room. After witnessing one edit session done with a gallery of kibitzers standing around, I can see why no one here wants to edit.

The bureau "kitchen"
As I was sipping my gruel and chatting with a few other early-birds, two women and a man in military camouflage came in and asked if they could bum a cup of coffee. Of course we said yes; in exchange they offered us a package of Pop-Tarts and a large box of after-dinner mints. They told us how they had spent the entire day before standing on the street corner in front of the U.S. Embassy handing out box after box of mints to the Kuwaitis. Here we are in a town without power or water, very little food, and what does the U.S. government send in by the truckload? After-dinner mints. Just what you need after six months of war.

But little luxuries can make a difference, and I was to be reminded of this throughout the day. We spent the morning at a local hospital, taping a pediatrician as he examined little children. The incidence of respiratory infections is way up, no doubt from the smoke in the air; but contributing to all health problems is that few kids have been able to see a doctor since the invasion. After that we went to the home of Abdullah, our translator, to talk to the young children of his neighborhood. Our focus was to be on the effects the war has had on them.

What we found was an intriguing community of very bright kids, the children of the intelligentsia of Kuwait. Most of the men and many of the women are Ph.D's and college professors educated in England or the States. Their homes have satellite TV, which survived the occupation, constantly tuned to CNN. A considerable number of children have lived abroad and speak excellent English. They made for dramatic interviews; handsome kids with dark hair and wide, bright eyes telling a child's perspective of a war come home. What do you think when such a lovely young person tells you she wishes to see her country's enemy dead, "a skeleton on the floor?" Do you laugh, or pity the whole world?

We went home to the hotel with what we knew was good TV, but I couldn't help but feel we were cheating--these were the family and friends of our guide, they were clearly an exceptional group and were well aware of what they were expected to say. But the sentiment must be real to the extent that it reflects the opinion of the parents, relatives, and much of the population. Out of the mouths of babes comes exactly what we put in.

The after-occupation mints were almost gone, but I got my share. I didn't get any water that night, and with the elevator out of order I had to climb 17 flights up to my bed.


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© 2011 Chuck Afflerbach for The Hick Town Times