HAFAR AL-BATIN, SAUDI ARABIA
OUTRAGED by Iraqi atrocities - and relieved that the ground war is finally under way - Kuwaiti soldiers here speak of giving their lives to free their besieged country. ``I want to help in any way, shape, or form that I can,'' says Ahmed, a Kuwaiti exile serving in the United States-led coalition forces. Like many Kuwaitis interviewed in this frontier town 40 miles from the Kuwaiti border, Ahmed did not reveal his last name for fear of reprisals against relatives still held in occupied Kuwait. Hundreds of Kuwaitis have volunteered to join the British and American armies as interpreters and interrogators. And many, like Ahmed, say Iraq's sudden invasion of their homeland was ``like a nightmare.'' Ahmed, who left his electrical engineering studies at the University of Dayton to join the US Army as an interpreter, described how Iraqi tanks plowed through homes - turning them to rubble - and set buildings filled with people ablaze. ``I saw with my own eyes soldiers line up women and children and shoot them,'' he says. ``They took one man out of his house and blew it up, just because they suspected he was a member of the resistance. Then they shot him in the leg, and left him crying on the ground.'' Tales such as Ahmed's are common among Kuwaitis who escaped their country via Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, or Syria. Those who witnessed beatings, rapes, and executions are the most fervent about fighting the Iraqis. ``I volunteered for the front lines because I want to help the Americans directly,'' Ahmed says. Lt. Kaji Shamri, a member of the regular Kuwaiti Army, vehemently voiced his desire to fight in the ground war. Lieutenant Shamri described how the US military had trained his infantry unit for chemical warfare and hand-to-hand combat, his face reddening as he claimed he would kill any Iraqi soldier he encountered. Ghanem, a Kuwaiti businessman turned British Army interrogator, admits his countrymen tend to be overzealous. But he notes that strong emotions make tenacious fighters. ``Mentally, I'm ready, and physically even more so, because we are training all the time,'' he says. Many of the Kuwaitis also hope that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's willingness to drop his rallying cry to the Arab nation - the establishment of a Palestinian homeland - will lessen popular Arab support for the Iraqi leader. Although the Kuwaiti exiles made it clear that they want peace, they rule out negotiating with Saddam. He cannot be trusted, they said. Saddam's ruling Baathist Party must be destroyed in order to negotiate with Iraq in good faith, Sergeant Ghanem added. The exiles believe that Iraq should be held accountable for the destruction of their tiny, oil-rich sheikdom. ``If he doesn't comply with all of the United Nations resolutions, we should keep a full economic embargo on Iraq until reparations are paid,'' says Bader, a Kuwaiti lieutenant with British forces. Faisal, another exile in the British Army, says he is glad peace talks failed, because Saddam only wanted to regroup and resupply his beleaguered Army. Lieutenant Faisal hopes Kuwaitis will be able to partake in the ongoing ground offensive. ``We will do anything,'' he said Saturday. ``We are ready to die for our country.'' -PATHNAME- /usr/local/etc/httpd/plweb/DBGROUPS/paper/database/tape/91/mar/week10/okuwa.