Paper on How the Iraqi Invasion Affected People

How the Iraqi Invasion Affected People

The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, which lasted for a period of seven months, took place on August 2, 1990 until February 28, 1991. The dispute between Kuwait and Iraq was about economic issues, precisely over oil. During the invasion, Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait using forceful means, which led to a war. The war had devastating effects, not only on the human population, but also on the environment. War destroys life and can leave psychological scars, which cannot be healed. Children are the most vulnerable population when it comes to war. They have no way of protecting themselves and some of them end up dying during a war. Those who survive are not only left with psychological scars, but also the possibility of losing a parent/caregiver in the war. In my interview with Angie, a now forty-year-old woman who was forced to flee from her country by car during the Iraqi invasion, you can feel the pain in her voice. The most scarring memory that lived with her is how scary it was when she crossed borders and left Kuwait, and how heartbreaking it was for her leaving her motherland and life behind.  This paper analyzes the psychological and emotional impacts the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait had on the citizens, particularly how children were affected.

The nation of Kuwait is located on the northwestern coast of the Persian Gulf and it borders Iraq on its north and Saudi Arabia on its south. Before the invasion by Iraq, Kuwait had a pre-war population of roughly two million people. When compared to the seven months preceding the invasion, reports of human rights violations in Kuwait increased in the months immediately following the withdrawal of Iraqi forces. Many people lost their lives during the invasion that lasted for seven months. It has been twenty-eight since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait took place but the psychological implications of it still last. In my interview with Angie, I asked her how the war started and this was what she had to say, “The date was August 2, 1990 and my friends and I were outside the house playing, all of a sudden I heard continuous rapid gunshots fire which was an unusual thing to hear in Kuwait city. I ran to the house and I was running I saw one of my friends get shot in the head by an Iraqi soldier.” She recalls while trying to hold back tears from rolling down her cheeks. As said by Angie, humans began suffering on day one of the invasion, and the atrocities towards humans continued with the duration of the war. Moreover, countless innocent civilians were displaced and left with nothing after their homes were either commandeered for military use or obliterated by artillery, bombs and all the destruction an invasion can have to a home. War destroys communities and families and often disrupts the development of the social and economic fabric of nations (Murthy 1). The Iraqi invasion had severe implications on both the physical and mental state of the people of Kuwait. Moreover, the war caused long-term physical and psychological harm to children and adults.

In November 1990, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 678 that gave Iraq until January 15, 1991, to withdraw its troops from Kuwait. If Iraq failed to honor the ultimatum (which they did), other states had the authority to use forceful means to evict the Iraqis out of Kuwait. A coalition of troops from 34 nations (almost 70% of the troops were from the USA) who received major financial backing from Japan and Germany camped at Saudi Arabia, which borders Kuwait in preparation to attack. On expiry of the deadline, the Operation Desert Shield was changed to Operation Desert Storm. The turning point of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait occurred in February 28, 1992 when help from coalition forces liberated Kuwait and Iraq agreed to United Nation’s demands. The economy of Kuwait has experienced gradual improvement since the invasion by Iraq. After attaining freedom from Iraq, Kuwait focused its foreign policy efforts on developing and strengthening ties with countries, which had helped them, regain control after the invasion. In my interview with Angie, I ask her how the war affected her psychologically and here was her reply. “As a kid, seeing my friend get shot in the head is the scariest thing I have ever witnessed in my life. “Among the most severe long-term effects of war for children is the psychological trauma resulting from seeing and experiencing life threat, violence, and torture (Leavitt 128). Moreover, the higher the exposure to trauma – both physical and psychological – the more pronounced the symptoms are (Murthy 4). According to Analyti, “children are a vulnerable population, and they should never be treated like adults, as the physiology and psychology differ significantly” (4). Children exposed to extreme violence have been reported to exhibit the full range of post-traumatic stress and grief reactions reported for adults (Leavitt 128). Such reactions can seriously interfere with normal childhood development, including the capacity to learn, the development of creativity and conscience, the acquisition of socially appropriate behaviors, the ability to control impulses and tolerate negative emotions, the capacity to be productive, and the courage to solve problems (Leavitt 128). After violent exposures, both increased aggressive and antisocial behaviors, and increased inhibition and reticence to act have been noted (Leavitt 128).

Iraq accused Kuwait of attempting to cripple the Iraqi economy as part of an international conspiracy against Iraq (Greenwood 3).The distress of a child following trauma can be overlooked due to children’s difficulties communicating or articulating their experiences (Liu 3). Psychological symptoms are defenses, armor, which the mind uses to keep something excruciating away (Carll 202). When the trauma fails to be integrated into the totality of the person’s life experiences, the victim remains fixated in the trauma (Van der Kolk 5). During the war, children are exposed to violence in three ways: as observers, victims, and perpetrators (Carll 207). Additionally, the tragic irony is that many children with PTSD develop highly aggressive behavior that eventually leads to the militias creating a vicious cycle of violence (Analyti 4). During and after the invasion, the incidences of malnutrition in Iraq among children under the age of five years nearly doubled up between 1991 and 1996. Moreover, children faced several obstacles after the end of the war. Their homes were destroyed and their families dissolved which, in turn, limited their chances for a healthy and productive life. Four years after the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait, 27 percent of Kuwaitis were still suffering from PTSD (Krippner 138). Children were still experiencing a variety of behavior problems typical of trauma exposure (Krippner 138).

Wars are often accompanied by changes to a child’s environment, which is a hard thing to do; for example, in the case of Angie, she had to flee from her motherland in order to survive. A child who has experienced war will exhibit Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that may affect their entire later life. This goes on to show that the populations in war and conflict situations should receive mental health care as part of the total relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction processes (Murthy 5). All communities have mechanisms to maintain stability and manage adversity (Carll 202). When these mechanisms are in place, children are buffered from many of the difficulties of life, and parents are assisted in helping their children overcome the stress (Carll 202). Some of these mechanisms are simply the celebration and rituals of family life that keep people in good spirits or allow for the release of tension in difficult times (Carll 202). Moreover, subsequent life events and their association with the occurrence of psychiatric problems have important implications for fast and complete rehabilitation as a way of minimizing the ill effects of the conflict situations (Murthy 5). It is, therefore, very important to protect children from witnessing violent activities such as war, mutilation, or bloody injuries since it can harm them emotionally and psychologically. Only through a greater understanding of conflicts and the myriad of mental health, problems that arise from them that a coherent and effective strategy for dealing with such problems can be developed (Murthy 7). Moreover, children and families who manifest psychiatric symptoms will benefit from mental health care (Liu 5).  Additionally, trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy, in combination with resilience-based and symptom-based techniques that can take advantage of the child’s social network, may be particularly helpful (Liu 5).

While psychological and emotional distress is acknowledged as a consequence of war, not much has been done to rehabilitate the victims. Psychological trauma may last from a few months (short-termed) to long years (long-termed). Besides, it creates an atmosphere of tension, doubt, and dread amongst the citizens. Moreover, there should be a universal policy, which prioritizes the reintegration and rehabilitation of war victims back into the society, mainly females and kids, who will be the carriers of the future burden of this war. One of the essential therapeutic functions, when working with such affected populations, is the honest confrontation and acceptance of the traumatic reality (Krippner 148). Many children demonstrate incredible resilience, and recovery is the expected outcome of acute stress responses for most children (Liu 5). However, when traumatic exposure has lasting effects on a child, individual differences mediate these effects (Liu 5).  In the aftermath of a war, children who have witnessed the war should be given psychiatric help to help them cope with the trauma. This is necessary to overcome the internal (psychological)  and external (sociopolitical) systems of denial by creating a receptive environment for the expression of the experience to emerge from behind the wall of silence brought about by the external and internal mandate (Krippner 148). Wars are still happening in different parts of the world and affect millions of civilians every day.

In conclusion, it is clear war is a terrible injustice to children who are usually victims. The invasion had severe implications on both the Iraqis and the people of Kuwait. Not only was there a mass loss of lives, but also damage to infrastructure worth a lot of money. Moreover, the psychological traumas that came with the war left civilians; especially children and women with irreparable scars that still affect them. Kuwait has made steps to help its people recover from the psychological scars of the war, but there is still more that can be done to ensure that each individual is protected from the psychological effects of war.

 

 

Works Cited

Analyti, Alexandra. “War-affected children: Psychological trauma and intervention.” S. o. M. Athens University (Ed.). Athens (2012). Retrieved from: http://crisis.med.uoa.gr/elibrary/1.pdf

Carll, Elizabeth K. Violence, and Disaster. Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2007. Print. Retrieved from: https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=lU8QtbGUjF4C&pg=PA195&dq=psychological+effects+of+war+and+violence&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi908CP2Y3bAhXDNxQKHbb2Cw4Q6AEINTAD#v=onepage&q=psychological%20effects%20of%20war%20and%20violence&f=false

Greenwood, Christopher. “New World Order or Old? The Invasion of Kuwait and the Rule of Law.” The Modern Law Review 55.2 (1992): 153-178. Retrieved from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1992.tb01870.x

Krippner, Stanley, and Teresa M. McIntyre. The Psychological Impact of War Trauma on Civilians: An International Perspective. Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2003. Print. Retrieved from: https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=0ArCRwiRH2QC&pg=PA138&dq=social+impact+of+iraq+kuwait+war&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjY-8zF543bAhUGvxQKHZWCBlgQ6AEIVjAI#v=onepage&q=social%20impact%20of%20iraq%20kuwait%20war&f=false

Leavitt, Lewis A., and Nathan A. Fox, eds. The psychological effects of war and violence on children. Psychology Press, 2014. Retrieved from: https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=9qKYAgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=psychological+effects+of+war+and+violence&ots=q6lS1fYtAV&sig=YWsUMWEPOw2aSD4FoOfwkeryWKQ&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=psychological%20effects%20of%20war%20and%20violence&f=false

Liu, Michelle. “War and Children.” American Journal of Psychiatry Residents’ Journal 12.7 (2017): 3-5. Retrieved from: https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ajp-rj.2017.120702

Murthy, R. Srinivasa, and Rashmi Lakshminarayana. “Mental Health Consequences of War: A Brief Review of Research Findings.” World Psychiatry 5.1 (2006): 25–30. Print. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1472271/

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