Seeing Iraqi POWs Saddens Kuwaiti

Maj. Ibrahim of Kuwait finds himself in a topsy-turvy world. Iraqi soldiers who were once his friends are now his prisoners, and Americans he once "didn't like" because of their support for Israel are now much-appreciated allies.

In the past week, Ibrahim has come face-to-face with 86 Iraqi soldiers who helped take over his country. The 34-year-old major, who refused to reveal his full name for fear of Iraqi retaliation against his relatives still in Kuwait, works with an American officer during interrogations of prisoners of war aboard the USS Curts in the Persian Gulf.

His long talks with the POWs have only saddened him, Ibrahim said. He said he believes them when they tell of being forced to help conquer a nation they never wanted to conquer.

"They're not criminals," said Ibrahim, who fled Kuwait with his wife and son on Aug. 20. "We are brothers. We look alike. We understand each other's Arabic. There's little difference between me and them."

He is struck by how frightened the prisoners are of President Saddam Hussein.

"When I interview them, some of them say, 'Please don't write down my name. If you tell someone, they will kill my family.' The men understand that Saddam is going against the whole world, but they are afraid." First Impressions

Marine Cobra helicopters battled Iraqi tanks along the Saudi-Kuwaiti border this past week, and one American pilot, Maj. Michael Steele of Camp Pendleton, Calif., had this to say about his introduction to Iraqi armor:

"There's half a million people up there {in Kuwait} and in any army there's some hard-core dudes. It's not going to be a cakewalk." Portraits of War

Before the first shots were fired in the Gulf war, Navy Cmdr. Chip Beck painted a portrait of Saddam Hussein on a bomb.

The bomb portrait later had the distinction of being dropped on Iraq, but Beck, a combat artist, hopes his future paintings find a quieter, more permanent place in history.

The 45-year-old reservist has been commissioned by the U.S. Navy to capture the gulf war on canvas. Amid the fire and thunder of the fighting, he wanders about armed with a sketchbook and a camera.

Although Beck is not a combatant, his assignment to record history in the making means that he must place himself in harm's way. He was on the USS Ranger the day the war began, watching fighter jets take off for bombing runs over Iraq, and last week he ventured near the Kuwaiti border to watch the U.S. Marines shell Iraqi positions.

Beck intends to be with the allied forces when and if they march into Kuwait City.

"I think I'm a survivor and I calculate the risks, but it is important to witness the war as closely as possible," said Beck.

Beck is no stranger to war. He fought in Vietnam and was a special forces operative in Cambodia and Laos. As a U.S. State Department adviser on Third World affairs, he often travels to areas of conflict. This is the 10th war that Beck has participated in or witnessed first-hand.