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March 2011
Oakland, California

If the twentieth anniversary of the Glorious Liberation of Kuwait slipped by you without notice, don't feel too bad. You had a lot on your mind, and on your TV. The Middle East was on fire--again. Hosni Mubarak was beating up Anderson Cooper and Al Jazeera was beating up CNN. But wait a minute.... Wasn't CNN supposed to be The World's News Leader?

That was then, this is now, so let's talk about then.

In the summer of 1990, ten years after CNN first went on the air, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. An older George Bush spent five months building up a massive army in Saudi Arabia to take on the Iraqi invader. A much younger CNN spent those same months deploying its own army of journalists to cover what Saddam predicted would be The Mother of All Battles. We all know how it turned out. Saddam lost the battle, and CNN won the war.

But back then that outcome was not assured. With equal parts excitement and trepidation I volunteered to travel overseas and join the ranks of CNN. "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do," I explained to my wife. "I thought you were different," she answered in keen disappointment.

CNN had no employees farther away from Kuwait than those of us in the San Francisco Bureau, so it took a while for the call to come. The months passed and I watched it on TV like the rest of the world, as the build-up known as Desert Shield turned into the counter-attack called Desert Storm. The storm reached a crescendo; missiles were falling on Jerusalem and the oil fields were in flames. Finally the network called up the reserves.

The assignment manager in Atlanta, Steve Cassidy, brusquely informed me and my fellow recruit Rob Ade that we were slotted for combat pool. "Combat pool" was the early version of what we call "embedding" today. The difference was that a "pool" news crew provided coverage simultaneously to all the media outlets. The "combat" part is self-explanatory. So that was the deal, Steve said, take it or leave it. We took it.

It is a fine thing for a journalist to keep a journal of a journey. I know, because I have done it a time or two; more often I have tried and failed. A working journalist has enough work getting the job done each day for his employer. To keep a personal diary at the same time is a loathsome luxury that is easily abandoned. So I warn you not to expect much more than a hurried account of events by a myopic observer.

By the same token, my journal would be worthless if I were to edit, correct, censor, or otherwise improve on it in any way. I will spare you the bad handwriting and misspellings, and I will try to add notes that may offer further clarification. But other than that, I offer it here exactly as I wrote it. We will all be reading it for the first time in twenty years.

        Chuck Afflerbach



Tuesday, Feb. 26, 1991: somewhere over the Atlantic
Thursday, Feb. 28, 1991: arrival in Saudi Arabia
Friday, March 1, 1991: waiting in Dhahran
2 a.m. Sunday, March 3, 1991: streets of Dhahran
1 a.m. Monday, March 4, 1991: Dhahran bulletin board
Tuesday, March 5, 1991: around, aloft, and back
Wednesday, March 6, 1991: RAF in Dhahran
Thursday, March 7, 1991: long good-byes in Dhahran
Friday, March 8, 1991: Dhahran deja vu
Saturday, March 9, 1991: done with Dhahran
Sunday, March 10, 1991: on to Kuwait
Monday, March 11, 1991: loyal Kuwaiti opposition
Tuesday, March 12, 1991: Kuwait oil fires
Wednesday, March 13, 1991: kids of Kuwait
Saturday, March 16, 1991: Kuwait refugees
Monday, March 18, 1991: Bank of Kuwait
Tuesday, March 19, 1991: back to Iraq Map of the Persian Gulf by the CIA, 2003
Wednesday, March 20, 1991: media in Kuwait map of Persian Gulf
Thursday, March 21, 1991: dreams of Kuwait
Friday, March 22, 1991: hurry up and Kuwait
Saturday, March 23, 1991: cruising Kuwait City
Midnight, Monday, March 25, 1991: Kuwait's losers and winners
Tuesday, March 26, 1991: MASH on the border
Wednesday, March 27, 1991: Kuwait status report
Thursday, March 28, 1991: No Man's Land of Kuwait
Easter Sunday, March 31, 1991: worship in Iraq
Tuesday, April 2, 1991: careful steps in Kuwait
Wednesday, April 3, 1991: packing up in Kuwait
Saturday, April 6, 1991: somewhere over the Persian Gulf


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© 2011 Chuck Afflerbach for The Hick Town Times