Decision Time For Americans In Kuwait

The Early Show, Americans Kuwait City
CBS/The Early Show
American civilians in Kuwait City are teachers, businessmen, husbands, wives and children. And over the last few days, they've had to make a very tough decision, whether to stay in the country that they now call home or to get out.

Out of Iraqi gunners' sights, but not out of their range, Kuwait City appears to be an oasis of calm. On the eve of war, there is no shortage of people in the mall or customers at Starbucks.

But Kuwait University teacher Catherine Browning is anything but calm. "I've been looking over my shoulder a lot the last few days," she says. She's packing to leave on one of the last available flights out of Kuwait. "If I stayed, being an American I'm pretty visible," she says.

The U.S. State Department advised the 9,000 Americans living in Kuwait to leave. But most chose to stay.

Jennifer Smith says, "With all the military that we have out there on the border, I can't imagine anything really getting through, but I think it's more the biological and chemical warfare that bother us."

For a few Americans here, using a gas mask for protection would be an even bigger bother. "I personally don't own one," says Jessica Lopez. "You'd have to wear it all the time. They're only good if you have them on all the time."

It's a sentiment that is shared by many Kuwaitis as well. Most schools and businesses that offer leisure activities have remained open. And instead of hiding, kids are gliding at skating rings.

There is no need to worry," says Kuwaiti father Mohamed Mubarek. "I mean, we feel very secure."

Kuwaiti mother Nadia Al Hajji says she has talked to her kids about the situation. "We've got a 7 year-old and a 5 year-old, and we've shown them the map and they know where Iraq and Kuwait is, and there's going to be a problem in Iraq but we have all the troops in to protect Kuwait," she says she told them.

But even with the presence of allied military might, Browning chose to fly her flag at home. "I'll tell you one thing, I don't always love my country, but I'm thankful to have this passport," she says, waving it.

But as of Wednesday morning, any passort may be of little use here. Although Kuwait City airport is open, all the major international airlines that have service here, including KLM, India, British Airways and Lufthansa, have suspended all flights in and out of the region.

As for what Kuwaitis say of the war, Chen talked to a Kuwaiti businessman who said Kuwaitis are committed to the war, and would love to see Saddam Hussein out of power. He is the man who was behind the unprovoked invasion of their country unprovoked back in August of 1990.

Of course they are frightened, the businessman said, but where are they going to go? His sentiments were shared by people from India and Lebanon who have been living in Kuwait for ten years, Chen noted.