Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


How George Bush, Sr. Sold the 1991 Bombing of Iraq

The Role of the 1991 Gulf War in the emergence of George Bush's New World Order


An extract from… READ MY APOCALYPSE
by Mitchel Cohen

"The U.S. has a new credibility. What we say goes."
- President George Bush, NBC Nightly News, Feb. 2, 1991

In October, 1990, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, identified only as Nayirah, appeared in Washington before the House of Representatives' Human Rights Caucus. She testified that Iraqi soldiers who had invaded Kuwait on August 2nd tore hundreds of babies from hospital incubators and killed them.

Television flashed her testimony around the world. It electrified opposition to Iraq's president, Saddam Hussein, who was now portrayed by U.S. president George Bush not only as "the Butcher of Baghdad" but -- so much for old friends -- "a tyrant worse than Hitler."

Bush quoted Nayirah at every opportunity. Six times in one month he referred to "312 premature babies at Kuwait City's maternity hospital who died after Iraqi soldiers stole their incubators and left the infants on the floor,"(1) and of "babies pulled from incubators and scattered like firewood across the floor." Bush used Nayirah's testimony to lambaste Senate Democrats still supporting "only" sanctions against Iraq -- the blockade of trade which alone would cause hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to die of hunger and disease -- but who waffled on endorsing the policy Bush wanted to implement: outright bombardment. Republicans and pro-war Democrats used Nayirah's tale to hammer their fellow politicians into line behind Bush's war in the Persian Gulf.(2)

Nayirah, though, was no impartial eyewitness, a fact carefully concealed by her handlers. She was the daughter of one Saud Nasir Al-Sabah, Kuwait's ambassador to the United States. A few key Congressional leaders and reporters knew who Nayirah was, but none of them thought of sharing that minor detail with Congress, let alone the American people.

Everything Nayirah said, as it turned out, was a lie. There were, in actuality, only a handful of incubators in all of Kuwait, certainly not the "hundreds" she claimed. According to Dr. Mohammed Matar, director of Kuwait's primary care system, and his wife, Dr. Fayeza Youssef, who ran the obstetrics unit at the maternity hospital, there were few if any babies in the incubators at the time of the Iraqi invasion. Nayirah's charges, they said, were totally false. "I think it was just something for propaganda," Dr. Matar said. In an ABC-TV News account after the war, John Martin reported that although "patients, including premature babies, did die," this occurred "when many of Kuwait's nurses and doctors stopped working or fled the country" -- a far cry from Bush's original assertion that hundreds of babies were murdered by Iraqi troops.(3) Subsequent investigations, including one by Amnesty International, found no evidence for the incubator claims.

It is likely that Nayirah was not even in Kuwait, let alone at the hospital, at that time; the Kuwaiti aristocracy and their families had fled the country weeks before the anticipated invasion. Some defended their country at the gaming tables in Monte Carlo, where at least one member of the ruling family was reported to have gambled away more than $10 million as his fellow rulers called for economic and military assistance from abroad.

As invasions go, Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was relatively -- I stress the word "relatively" -- bloodless. Despite the heart-rending testimonies TV viewers in the U.S. were subjected to night after night, fewer than 200 Kuwaitis were killed. Compare that to such "peaceful" ventures as the U.S. invasion of Panama the year before, which killed an estimated 7,500 Panamanians; or, a year after the Gulf war, the 10,000 Somalis killed by U.S./U.N. troops in what was portrayed as a "peace mission" to bring food aid to the allegedly starving region.(4)

How did Nayirah first come to the attention of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, which put her before the world's cameras? It was arranged by Hill & Knowlton, a public relations firm hired to rally the U.S. populace behind Bush's policy of going to war. And it worked!

Hill & Knowlton's yellow ribbon campaign to whip up support for "our" troops, which followed their orchestration of Nayirah's phony "incubator" testimony, was a public relations masterpiece. The claim that satellite photos revealed that Iraq had troops poised to strike Saudi Arabia was also fabricated by the PR firm. Hill & Knowlton was paid between $12 million (as reported two years later on "60 Minutes") and $20 million (as reported on "20/20") for "services rendered." The group fronting the money? Citizens for a Free Kuwait, a phony "human rights agency" set up and funded entirely by Kuwait's emirocracy to promote its interests in the U.S.

"When Hill & Knowlton masterminded the Kuwaiti campaign to sell the Gulf War to the American public, the owners of this highly effective propaganda machine were residing in another country" -- the United Kingdom -- writes Sharon Beder and Richard Gosden in PR Watch. "Should this give pause for thought? Does it demonstrate a certain potential for the future exercise of global political power -- the power to manipulate democratic political processes through managing public opinion," which Hill and Knowlton demonstrated 10 years ago?(5)

All of this is concealed in a new HBO "behind-the-scenes true story" of the Gulf War, which is being released at this crucial political moment. As Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting writes, "HBO's version of history never makes clear that the incubator story was fraudulent, and in fact had been managed by an American PR firm, not Iraq. Curiously, however, the truth seems to have been clear to Robert Wiener, the former CNN producer who co-wrote 'Live from Baghdad.'As he explained to CNN's Wolf Blitzer (11/21/02), 'that story turned out to be false because those accusations were made by the daughter of the Kuwaiti minister of information and were never proven.' Unfortunately, HBO viewers won't know that when they see the film."(6)

In 1998, Hill and Knowlton found a new client -- President Clinton -- who hired them to advise him and to polish his image. The last time they were involved, by the time their lies were exposed TV newscasters were waxing ecstatic over the rockets' red glare, computerized "smart-bombs" bursting in air, and 250,000 people were dead.

*************

NOTES

1. Doug Ireland, Village Voice, March 26, 1991.

2. The use of the Big Lie to manipulate public opinion and neutralize opposition to a particular war was not invented by Bush. See, for instance, James Laxer, "Iraq: US has match, seeks kindle: American leaders have often falsified reasons to attack other countries," (ActionGreens, Mar. 31, 2001). Laxer is a Political Science Professor at York University, Toronto.

3. ABC World News Tonight, 3/15/91.

4. In actuality, people in only certain areas of Somalia were starving -- those that had been subjected to IMF structural adjustment programs. See, Mitchel Cohen, "Somalia & the Cynical Manipulation of Hunger," Red Balloon Collective, 1994.

5. Sharon Beder and Richard Gosden, "PR Watch," Volume 8, No. 2, 2nd Quarter 2001. The PR firm has since been working at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry to ban over-the-counter vitamin and nutritional supplement sales in Europe.

6. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, "HBO Recycling Gulf War Hoax?" December 4, 2002.

****************

Mitchel Cohen is the co-editor of Green Politix, the national newspaper of the Greens/Green Party USA. http://www.greenparty.org.


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On The Crisis In Greece

Greece, as the cradle of democracy, is getting no brownie points for actually practicing it. The decision by the Greek government to go back to the people for a mandate for the bailout terms being proposed by the Eurozone seems entirely appropriate. More>>

ALSO:

Stories Of Scoop: Alastair Thompson, Scoop Media & The Cost Of Free Journalism

How does a news organization that cares about authentic journalism and has a mission to effect “positive change” continue to operate in these times of derivative storytelling when advertising dollars are no longer determined by the quality of editorial content? More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Pope’s Encyclical On Climate Change

The spread of market mechanisms into every facet of life – as health, education and the environment get treated as mere commodities – has seen economic efficiency worshipped in its own right as a totem, and as a substitute for morality. The Laudato Si encyclical issued today by Pope Francis on climate change and the environment goes some away to restoring a sane balance. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Turns Sixteen: How Scoop's “Ethical Paywall” Model Has Changed Everything

As of this month, a broad range of professional organisations, including constitutional institutions, government agencies & departments, NGOs, Unions, CRIs, law firms, PR agencies, accountancy firms, media organisations, libraries and businesses - all of which make regular use of Scoop in their daily work and for professional research - have joined Scoop’s new “Ethical Paywall” copyright licensing scheme. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell:
On The Sepp Blatter Resignation

Any initial elation at Sepp Blatter’s resignation as the overlord of FIFA will be tempered by his declared intention to stay on until at least December and possibly March 2016, to enable his successor to be elected. Has FIFA got no existing succession plan that could kick in before this? More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The FIFA Scandal, And Similar Dirty Deal

With the US now investigating FIFA’s racketeering and money-laundering activities and the Swiss also looking at the bribes that went into the choice of Russia and Qatar as upcoming FIFA venues, the capos at FIFA are taking the fall for the boss of all bosses, Sepp Blatter - who has somehow been blissfully unaware of the dirty payoffs and extortion rackets conducted on his watch ... More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news