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Thomas Ewald spent his 25th birthday as a hostage -- part of Saddam Hussein's "human shield" against a potential attack on Iraq. "I was so depressed, the Iraqis forgot all about [my birthday] -- they didn't bake a cake or anything," Ewald told more than 100 students and faculty members who gathered at the Law School yesterday to hear his first-hand report on the crisis in the Persian Gulf. Ewald, who is the brother of visiting Law School Professor William Ewald, was freed by the Iraqis last month after his mother sent a letter to Hussein appealing for her son's release. The young Harvard graduate said he took a job on August 1 with a bank in Kuwait in order to add something "a little different" to his resume before applying to business school. But the day after Ewald started his job, more than 100,000 Iraqi soldiers invaded the country. "I don't think there's anyone who went through a more bullet-ridden route to business school," Ewald said. In the first month after the Iraqi invasion, Ewald hid out in a safe house in Kuwait, was captured by the Iraqis, escaped, and was captured again, before he was finally taken to Iraq as a hostage. Ewald said he kept his sanity throughout the ordeal with "gallows humor." The Law School crowd erupted into laughter when they heard one of Ewald's stories about a lawyer being held captive in Iraq. The lawyer was considering billing his client for his time in captivity. But Ewald's sojourn in the Persian Gulf was not all fun and games. "The Iraqis are very brutal," Ewald said. "I saw a woman who had been raped. It's horrible." Ewald said that every Kuwaiti he talked with hoped that there would be a war so that the United States could kick the Iraqis out of Kuwait and get rid of Hussein. The former hostage also said that U.S. policy should not be constrained by concerns about the hostages' fate. "Most of the people over there . . . chose to go over there," Ewald said. "There was a general feeling [among the hostages] that you just can't allow foreign governments to grab American hostages and tie up U.S. policy this way." After the speech, Professor Ewald said that his brother had given "the light-hearted version" of his story. He said that while his brother was in captivity, the family was very concerned. Several audience members said Ewald came across as a very brave person. "He couched his story a lot in humor, but the man has a lot of guts," said Myron Rabji, a third year law student.

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