Photos of the activities of the Free Kuwait Campaign in London, UK, August 1990 through March 1991
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The Politics

For scenes of Media Committee members at work, click here.

   

It took only days to realize Saddam Hussein never intended to leave Kuwait. Defying global condemnation, he declared Kuwait would soon become Iraq’s Province 19.

Iraq was then the world’s 4th largest military power. Its troops began instantly fortifying Kuwait with millions of landmines and thousands of miles of trenches. Countless buildings were converted into machine gun nests and countless underground and pillbox bunkers were built. The oil wells were wired with incendiary explosives.

As hope for a political solution faded, it became clear only military force could dislodge Iraqi troops from Kuwait. It was not unrealistic to fear such a war might last a long time and have a high body count.

In this political climate, Britain’s far left parties took to the streets weekly to protest military intervention and to brand military action as a war about oil and not Iraqi aggression. The longer the occupation lasted, the more the danger grew that these ideas would spread from far left to soft left to center parties and lastly to the right. If the UK rejected armed force, how might it affect American public opinion?

The FKC’s Media Committee recognized this potential for disaster and assumed the mission of countering it. The Media Committee became in this regard the heartbeat of the campaign to secure Kuwait’s freedom. The MC’s strategy was to seek constant news media attention and to keep the focus on Kuwaiti freedom and Iraqi brutality. Interviews were set up with journalists, debates were engaged in at major universities, meetings were arranged between Kuwaitis and British politicians, public speaking engagements were acquired for Kuwaitis representing the FKC, press releases were issued, and logistics were prepared for major marches. Support from the British public was also enlisted by creating the Friends of Kuwait, an organization run out of FKC headquarters.

An agonizing issue for the MC was Saddam’s “ace” – holding foreign hostages as human shields. When he began releasing them in late autumn, MC members breathed a collective sigh of relief. Military action would no longer mean certain death for about 2,000 foreign civilians.

Due to the British presence on the MC, Kuwaiti members were exposed to the policy of appeasement that haunted British history. They then used this reminder – the peril of appeasing a brutal dictator – to great effect in interviews and speeches and on literature and on placards.

 
An “Out of the Gulf” Rally
An “Out of the Gulf” Rally
Every weekend Britain’s anti-war activists, led by the Committee to Stop War in the Gulf, organized marches against military intervention on behalf of Kuwait. The Committee to Stop War in the Gulf was an umbrella group consisting of the Socialist Workers Party, most left-wing members of the Labour Party, various church organizations, many trade unions, the National Union of Students and local student unions, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. They labeled possible intervention as oil driven and imperialistic, and favored giving the UN’s economic sanctions against Iraq time to pressure Saddam into a peaceful withdrawal from Kuwait. Their goal: spread anti-war sentiment across all political spectrums in the UK. The size of their marches continually grew, culminating in a huge rally at Trafalgar Square of 40,000 participants on January 12, 1991. Demonstrations were held in cities throughout the UK, including in Glasgow (shown here), and they continued after the Gulf War began. Despite the combined political might of these organizations, they were unable to prevent the British military from joining in the coalition forces or to garner enough public support to halt the war before a military defeat led Iraq to accept a ceasefire on March 3, 1991.
(Photo and © by Derek Copland, Glasgow, February 1991. Reprinted with permission.)

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