After driving for more than six hours across the barren moonscape of western Iraq toward an uncertain fate, the last thing Pat Schenning wanted to see was Saddam Hussein's face. Instead, he heard his voice.

Booming over loudspeakers and bewitching dozens of Iraqis at the crossing point into Jordan, Saddam's voice celebrated a national holiday marking the end of the eight-year war with Iran. For Schenning, a banking consultant, it was a nerve-racking pause in an attempt to flee the war-tense and increasingly isolated nation.

Schenning and five other American businessmen could do little but cool their heels in the 100-degree heat Wednesday evening as they listened to the Iraqi leader.

"It's sort of like you're in church," he recalled yesterday from his Alexandria home. "You have to be real quiet."

"Allah akbar," screamed Saddam, and a half dozen Iraqi troops started firing their AK-47s into the air.

With those formalities over, the group started moving toward the checkpoint, and was permitted to pass by several officials. Then an Iraqi officer stepped in the way. For the next hour he pored over everyone's papers in excruciating detail, telling one person he had to go back to Baghdad. All very polite, all very scary.

Finally, the officer wandered off to deal with others, and the six sped off to become one of the few groups of Westerners to leave Iraq since Saddam invaded Kuwait and sealed both borders.

Schenning, a 47-year-old father of two, said he has spent an average of a week each month for more than a year working in Iraq, trying to modernize that nation's creaking financial system. After almost a year and a half of studying and planning, Schenning said the Iraqis were a few weeks away from installing banking software.

All that changed when Saddam's troops bounded over the border into tiny Kuwait. When President Bush ordered a trade embargo the next day, project director Schenning suddenly found himself out of work. "We were effectively out of business," he said.

The morning of the invasion, Schenning heard about it at breakfast in the Sheraton Hotel. Many people wanted to get out fast, but the airport was closed and no one could say what the situation at the border was.

Americans from other hotels were rounded up and moved into the Sheraton, along with Britons and Germans, but nobody restricted their movements around the city, save for 38 U.S. citizens bused from Kuwait who are confined to the grounds of the Al-Rashid Hotel.

Schenning said that while few troops were visible in Baghdad -- a city where women fill most of the low- and mid-level jobs in the bureaucracy because most men are in the army -- the capital took on a strange, tense mood.

Business slowed to a crawl. The usually clogged streets bleated with light traffic. Routine civil defense drills were stepped up. Schenning heard stories of whole neighborhoods being emptied at night in mock preparation for air attacks.

Flatbed trucks were driven around the city, collecting men who weren't already in army camps. "These are the volunteers for Kuwait," a cabdriver told Schenning when they spied a truck packed with young men.

Every day, something seemed to drop off the hotel restaurant menu, with chicken or fish being the final choices available on Schenning's last day there. "You could see the direction things were going," he said.

By listening to the Voice of America and the BBC, the Americans were able to follow news that Saddam tried to keep from his citizens. On Wednesday, news reached them that American troops were headed for the region. "That did it for us," Schenning said.

Around noon, the six piled into three taxis with water and their bags and a good deal of fear. "We had the dread that we weren't going to get through," Schenning said.

But he sure didn't want to stay any longer. "I was sick to death of seeing pictures of Saddam Hussein on every corner and in every office."

CITIZENSHIP ... IRAQ ................. KUWAIT

Egypt ......... 700,000 .............. 150,000

India ......... 10,000 ............... 170,000

Sri Lanka ......Unavailable .......... 100,000

Pakistan ...... 3,000 ................. 90,000

Turkey ........ 60,000

......................

Philippines ... 60,000

......................

Yugoslavia..... 12,000

......................

Soviet Union.... 8,000 ....................900

Britain .......... 636 ..................4,000

Poland ......... 2,900 ................... 900

United States .... 569 ................. 3,000

South Korea ...... 600 ................... 600

Romania ........ 1,050 ................... 100

West Germany ..... 600 ................... 300

Japan ............ 372 ................... 276

Austria .......... 500 .................... 70

Czechoslovakia ... 380 ................... 123

Canada ........... 100 ................... 400

Italy ............ 115 ................... 350

Greece ........... 400 .................... 40

France ........... 250 ................... 170

Hungary .......... 200 ................... 200

Total nationals in both Iraq and Kuwait.

SOURCE: Embassies, U.S. government.

Compiled by staff writer Keith Kendrick and staff researchers Ralph Gaillard Jr. and Bruce Brown.