WASHINGTON — At least a month before they were evicted from Kuwait, Iraqi military forces were planning to systematically murder every adult Kuwaiti male remaining in the occupied country, a U.S. congressional delegation visiting the emirate was told Friday.
U.S. officials who searched the former Iraqi command center in Kuwait city discovered documents that described Iraq's intention "to liquidate every adult Kuwaiti male," said Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach), one of 13 congressmen touring the war-ravaged country on a trip underwritten by an Orange County construction firm seeking contracts in Kuwait.
In telephone interviews from Bahrain, where the delegation spent Friday night, Cox and Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) said the Iraqi plans to kill Kuwaiti men were outlined to the group by U.S. Ambassador Edward W. (Skip) Gnehm Jr. during a meeting in Kuwait city.
"These are battle plans, captured documents," Cox said of the information found in the command center. Added Dornan: "It just showed the incredible level of hatred."
Earlier, the congressmen toured rooms in the Yarmouk Palace, headquarters of the occupying Iraqi forces, that are believed to have been used in the widespread torture of Kuwaiti nationals.
The congressmen said they were shown power drills allegedly used by Iraqis to remove victims' skin; broken bottles that officials said were used to cut off ears, and other devices that were used on women prisoners to apply electric shocks internally.
"It was pretty grisly," Cox said.
"Nothing came out of Nazi Germany that survived that was this bad," said Dornan. "The delegation was just stunned."
The tour of the presumed Iraqi torture chamber, conducted by Kuwaiti and American officials, followed expressions of concern in Washington about reports that Kuwaitis have tortured scores of Palestinians who were sympathetic to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait.
At least 100 Palestinians have disappeared in the two weeks since allied forces liberated Kuwait, and many others have reported beatings and torture at the hands of the Kuwaiti military and police officers.
Dornan, however, said that he believes most of the abuses occurred in the first days after Iraqi forces fled the country. "There were many early recriminations, people dragged out of houses, some people shot, some people beaten . . . but there was no systematic torture" of Palestinians, Dornan said he was told by Kuwaiti citizens.
The State Department on Friday said U.S. officials have received reports of mistreatment of Palestinians in Kuwait, but it said any such actions were committed by individuals and were not sanctioned by the emirate.
The congressmen--11 Republicans and two Democrats--are in a group that includes business executives, consultants and former government officials who left Washington on Wednesday in a chartered Kuwait Airlines 747 on a trip arranged by the Kuwaiti government. In addition to Cox and Dornan, another Californian, Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), also made the trip. All 13 congressmen had voted in January to authorize President Bush to use force to drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
The group was the first congressional delegation to enter Kuwait since the end of the Persian Gulf War. A group of 17 U.S. senators led by Senate Majority Whip Wendell H. Ford (D-Ky.) was to arrive in the gulf region by today. And a House delegation, led by Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) and Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.), is to leave Washington today.
One member of the Senate delegation, Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), will hand-deliver to Kuwaiti officials a letter signed by 82 senators that calls on the Kuwaiti government to end its participation in the Arab boycott of American companies that do business with Israel.
"It's intolerable that Kuwait would continue to discriminate against some American firms just because they do business with Israel," said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who wrote the letter with Lieberman. "It's not only aimed at weakening Israel--it's an attack on American business."
The Kuwaiti "Freedom Flight" that began Wednesday had a decidedly commercial flavor. Aboard the airliner were Secretary of Commerce Robert A. Mosbacher, former Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr., former Secretary of Defense Frank C. Carlucci and former White House National Security Adviser Richard V. Allen. Haig, Carlucci and Allen are now business consultants.
Representatives of companies seeking contracts to help rebuild Kuwait, an undertaking that will cost the emirate an estimated $100 billion, joined the group at the invitation of the Kuwaiti government.
Fluor Corp., a big engineering and construction firm headquartered in Orange County, wound up footing the bill for the congressmen after ethical concerns derailed the Kuwaiti government's original plan to pay the cost itself. Members of Congress are barred from accepting transportation or other gifts from a foreign government.
House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) urged members not to sign on for the trip, suggesting that Fluor's participation was a front for sponsorship by Kuwait's government.
However, Republican congressmen said Foley's opposition appeared to be politically motivated. They noted that Foley and most members of the leadership-sponsored House delegation heading to the Persian Gulf had voted against authorizing use of force in the region.