32 years ago, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq unjustly invaded Kuwait, imposing the horrors of war upon the peace-loving state of Kuwait. International outrage and action followed, reflected in the seminal comment by American President George HW Bush declaring that “this aggression will not stand.” People everywhere saw Kuwaitis suffering under the authoritarian regime Saddam Hussein created in this proud, prosperous country – echoes that we see today in Russia’s unjust invasion of Ukraine.
The world reacted, first through diplomatic means, the UN Security Council and the Arab League passed resolutions condemning the invasion, setting withdrawal deadlines, and authorizing “all necessary means to uphold and implement” a pre-invasion peace. In the United States, our President George HW Bush spoke to Congress and across the airwaves to all Americans, urging us to see that our nation must “stand up for what’s right and condemn what’s wrong, all in the cause of peace.”
From around the world, a coalition of 38 nations heard the cry of Kuwaitis and united in cause to end the invasion and restore your rightful independence as a people and as a nation. President Bush was clear when deploying forces – we do not seek conflict, but we will stand by our friends in the Arab Gulf. For six months, the people of Kuwait struggled under the authoritarian rule of Saddam Hussein – limits on free expression and assembly, and tens of thousands in detention.
Over 42 days of fierce fighting by brave coalition forces across the land, air and sea, Hussein’s military was expelled from Kuwait. But all throughout the occupation, Kuwaiti soldiers and civilians alike resisted. These men and women of incredible valor fought with all available means against a tyrant and his regime. It has been a particular honor to meet members of the resistance, and former prisoners of war during our time in Kuwait. Ultimately, independence was restored, and the 700 fires lit in Kuwaiti oil wells by those retreating forces were soon extinguished.
The 1991 invasion of Kuwait feels like generations ago, and over the decades the world has changed immensely, particularly Kuwait, providing a remarkable lens through which to reflect on the Kuwaiti and US partnership. Since the war, there is a tangible sense of appreciation for the service of Kuwaiti security and military service members. US Service Members fortunate to serve as guests in your country see a strong and independent nation: a nation of high international standing that honors the foundations of Kuwaiti society – Justice, Freedom, and Equality.
Now, in supporting those foundations, women have joined the ranks. Here, we regularly see female Kuwaitis serving alongside male counterparts across the government, reshaping national conversations and bringing diverse perspectives and experiences forward. In this and countless ways, Kuwait has risen high from 1991’s liberation. I see in Kuwait a strong sense of cohesive identity, ministries coordinate with each other, each invested in the other’s success. Politics and economics, lifestyles and culture have all changed. But what has not changed is the need for stability and security within Kuwait as well as across the wider region.
The lessons that the US and Kuwait learned side-by-side 32 years ago echo through time to today and tomorrow. It is obvious in the work we do at US Military bases every day as implementor of the Defense Cooperation Agreement between our two nations. When our soldiers coordinate and train together from large scale maneuvers and training events to physical fitness competitions – we enjoy working, training, and learning from each other, reinforcing the fact that we are better, together.
From handshakes to a shared meal, we continue to reinforce a sincere trust forged by our predecessors first in war and now as partners. The Kuwait Military plays a critical role in ensuring that stability. The US trusts in its partner in defense to help uphold this stability, ensuring a prosperity we enjoy today, decades after the 1991 invasion. Every day, I see the American flag flying outside my window. Right next to it, not above it, not below it, but side by side, stands the flag of Kuwait. In it, I see a proud nation I have the pleasure to call home. In the same way, every day I see Kuwaiti soldiers and civilians alike working side by side with American Service Members.
There is an unsaid, yet certain understanding that we are stronger together. It reminds me of strength in unity, a lesson forged in war and reinforced in peace. Day in day out, seeing our flags waving together outside our offices, and our people working together, I know that our relationship will only grow stronger day by day, month by month, year by year. Through whatever trials and tribulations may come, our relationship will stand proudly, resolute, like these two flags in the wind.
We are reminded of Kuwait’s struggle for liberty 32 years ago this week, reaffirmed by the US presence here every year since. Echoes of the 1991 war are seen today in headlines around the world as Ukraine fights for its own survival where an aggressor makes claims to land, its people, to an entire nation. Once again, people stand up as one and shout back, “Not today.” Freedom will survive because good people, men and women, young and old, of any nationality fight for it. On the anniversary of Liberation Day, Camp Arifjan and Camp Buehring, American soldiers and the United States government offers its sincere congratulations in our everlasting bond of friendship and partnership.