March 22, 2002
The Bush administration is trying (vainly thus far) to build
international support for changing the War on Terror into
a more conventional war against a particular country - one
that by the most striking coincidence happens to have a lot
of oil and one that we fought a war with over said commodity
a little more than 10 years ago. Since we're going to be inundated
with reasons why the Bushies should do what they've already
decided to do then I think we should examine the track record
of our government (and the Bush family in particular) of telling
the truth about this particular area of the world.
Remember the babies in the incubators? The story was widely
circulated in the U.S. press that 300 Kuwaiti babies had been
removed from incubators in a Kuwait City hospital during the
Iraqi invasion in 1990. The babies, it was said were left
on the floor to die. A fifteen year-old Kuwaiti girl known
only as Nayirah testified before something called the Congressional
Human Rights Caucus, chaired by Democrat Tom Lantos and Illinois
Republican John Porter. We were told that the young lady couldn't
reveal her last name because she feared reprisals against
her family by the occupying Iraqis. The weeping Nayirah told
a startled group of politicians how she witnessed the cruel
Iraqi soldiers pulling the helpless babies out of the incubators
and throwing them on the floor.
There was only one thing wrong with the story. It was a lie.
Nayirah was in fact a member of the Kuwaiti Royal family.
Her father who was seated in the hearing room was the Kuwaiti
ambassador to the U.S. There were no babies removed from incubators
and even if there had been Nayirah wouldn't have seen them
because she had been in Washington at the time of the invasion.
Nayirah had been coached in her testimony by Lauri Fitz-Pegado,
a vice-president at Hill and Knowlton, a prominent D.C. public
relations firm that the Kuwaitis had hired to turn American
public opinion toward fighting a war to liberate a country
with a dismal human rights record that most had never heard
of and where the Emir had multiple wives and gold bathroom
fixtures. H&K had experience sprucing up unattractive regimes
in the eyes of the U.S. They had previously done the same
for brutal governments in Turkey and Indonesia.
H&K produced dozens of Video News Releases (VNR) that were
sent to U.S. TV stations that aired them while rarely if ever
identifying them as having come from a Kuwait's PR firm. These
were basically propaganda pieces masquerading as journalism.
A quickie book entitled the Rape of Kuwait was produced and
distributed to media outlets. The campaign to improve the
Kuwaiti image stretched to the Ambassador himself. H&K consultants
adjusted Nayirahs fathers clothing and hairstyle to make him
more appealing to U.S. audiences.
Craig Fuller, a close Bush insider, who was the elder Bushs
chief of staff during his Vice-President years, was heading
H&Ks D.C. office at the time. Not surprisingly, then, the
Bush administration made frequent use of H&Ks work. Bush the
elder actually repeated Nayirahs fraudulent story about the
incubators, railed about "naked aggression" and
then when polls still showed little or no support for a war,
raised the specter of Saddam Hussein using nuclear weapons
against the U.S. since the same polls showed that the possibility
of a nuclear Iraq was the only war rationale that edged over
So Bush the elder wanted to fight a war to retrieve the Kuwaiti
oil. But with a lack of public support for that kind of war
he, along with many of the same people who now run the foreign
policy establishment for his son, spent weeks lying to the
American people in an attempt to fabricate a reason that they
would find acceptable. Bush wasn't laboring under the illusion
that the incubator story was really true. He knew it wasn't
true. It was a propaganda campaign designed to get just enough
public support to start the war because once the war started
it would be perceived as "unpatriotic" to oppose
it. The plan worked and Bush got his war.
The father of the current President allowed Americans to
be killed in a war for oil interests created by a P.R. firm.
He presided over an effort that killed 200,000 Iraqis, almost
100,000 of whom were innocent non-combatants. He cynically
created the demonized version of Saddam Hussein and then left
him in power once the oil had been secured. The "worse
than Hitler" villain turned out to have soldiers that
willingly surrendered to some of the journalists covering
the war. There was no point in getting thousands of Americans
killed marching to Baghdad (a political loser of an idea)
to remove Saddam because the war was never about him to begin
So now those around Bush the younger conveniently find that
an American presumed killed in the Gulf War might still
be alive (after all how can anyone prove he's not alive).
They've never been able to find a link between Iraq and 9/11
but don't be surprised if Hill & Knowlton isn't finding one
right now. And since the Iraqis can't prove that they don't
have weapons of mass destruction no matter what kind of inspections
they allow we'll just have no choice but to go to war.
Scott Ritter, the former UN chief weapons inspector, said
this week that despite all we've heard about weapons development
in Iraq their weapons are largely disarmed and that the much-heralded
threat is in fact a "framework of lies." But we
shouldn't be surprised. The two Bush administrations have
had great success in lying about Iraq for over ten years.
Why should they change anything now?