AL MUTLA RIDGE, Kuwait — A bitter wind whipped the graveyard of the Iraqi army that once occupied Kuwait city. An occasional car door creaked, and the odd engine in an empty truck still rumbled. But all else was deathly still Friday on the road to escape that became a highway to hell for the Iraqi soldiers who looted and sacked this tiny nation's capital.
For almost two miles on the highway north to Iraq, and deep into the desert nearby, hundreds of tanks, armored vehicles, rocket launchers, artillery pieces and trucks were burned, bombed out or just abandoned by troops who panicked and fled before attacking U.S. jets last Tuesday.
There were hundreds more stolen and hot-wired civilian vehicles, from a blue-and-white police car to a new Mercedes sedan with plastic still on the seats. A red fire truck had collided with a dump truck. A white ambulance was stuffed with wooden crates of rocket grenades, still wrapped in packing paper.
One dead gray-haired soldier sat slumped in a truck bed, rifle still in hand. Another corpse leaned crazily out of a truck, fists clenched. Still others rested in the cold sand, cut down from above.
All that was recognizable of one charred body was an arm, stiff in death and raised in the air with a gold watch on his wrist. Another soldier was incinerated; his helmet appeared to have melted onto his head.
From here, where a 10-foot tile portrait of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein gazed down from atop the highest land point in Kuwait, the deadly demolition derby stretched south to the dusty horizon, clogging both sides of the highway and far into the surrounding desert.
"What do I think?" reflected Col. Douglas Tystad, a U.S. Army tank commander whose 45 M-1A1 tanks helped cut off the Iraqi convoy. "How wasteful war is.
"The other thing I think is these guys were thugs," he added, as the harsh wind sandblasted his weather-beaten face. "They had pillaged the country."
Indeed, virtually every vehicle here was loaded with the booty of Kuwait--new televisions and videocassette recorders; shirts in plastic wrappers; unopened bottles of Chanel perfume; children's bikes and baby strollers.
Three doors were open in a bullet-riddled white Nissan; a TV and rifle were in the trunk, a vacuum cleaner on the back seat. Spilled out in the sand were a large, stuffed toy tiger and a gold-framed photograph of a young man with a thick mustache and piercing eyes.
Farther along, a gray Toyota pickup truck with a 57-millimeter antiaircraft gun mounted in the back also held unwrapped boxes of glasses, crockery and packets of men's and women's underwear.
Sacks of silk and lace tablecloths and a box of shiny silver spoons spilled from a red pickup loaded with AK-47 rifles. Nearby, a Chevrolet Caprice had guns on the seat, beside a suitcase full of French perfume and soap. Small sacks were stuffed with pearl earrings, gold brooches and bracelets and a diamond encrusted woman's watch.
Still farther away, there was a Nissan sedan trunk crammed with car radios and VCRs. On the back seat were five grenade launchers, on the front a torn copy of the Koran. On the roof was a small machine gun, one of the only signs of defense during the attack.
"I've never seen anything like it," said Pvt. William O'Neill of the Queens Own Highlanders, a Scottish infantry division. "And we never will again."
Nearby, Cpl. Brian Davis, a U.S. Marine, agreed. "It's endless," he said as he climbed down from an Iraqi armored personnel carrier with an Iraqi sniper rifle. "And some of this equipment is unreal."
The bulk of the convoy was about two miles long, the burned out tanks and trucks scattered along most of the 22 miles back to Kuwait city. The six-lane highway leads north to the Iraqi city of Basra.
The road was a key target for allied planners. It has intersections that connect most of Kuwait and was the main military supply road for much of Iraq's occupation army. It was also their fastest way home.
A handful of U.S. and British troops picked their way through the rubble Friday, searching for survivors and souvenirs. Amazingly, one Iraqi was alive, his leg blown off. He was carried off on a stretcher.
Col. Tystad said six injured Iraqis had been found in the last two days, mostly missing arms and legs. One man, he said, spoke a little English.
"He said, 'Saddam is a donkey,' " Tystad recalled.
He said about 165 bodies have been found so far, but an unknown number of others were incinerated. Some Iraqis escaped on foot across the sand marshes several miles away.
Another 450 or so Iraqis who had fled to a concrete police post on the ridge surrendered after Tystad's tank column arrived at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and quickly blew up three Iraqi tanks.
One U.S. Army sergeant was killed and another American wounded by three snipers firing from a junkyard several hundred yards away. They were the only allied casualties in the grim highway battle.