Tuesday, December 2, 2003

  • A Debate on One of the Most Frequently Cited Justifications for the 1991 Persian Gulf War: Did PR Firm Hill & Knowlton Invent the Story of Iraqi Soldiers Pulling Kuwaiti Babies From Incubators?

    Nayirahstory

    We spend the hour with Lauri Fitz-Pegado, the woman who ran the PR campaign for Hill and Knowlton, and John Stauber, co-author of "Weapons Of Mass Deception."

    On December 19, 1990, Amnesty International published an 84-page report on human rights violations in occupied Kuwait. The report stated that, "300 premature babies were reported to have died after Iraqi soldiers removed them from incubators, which were then looted."

    This allegation, which was widely reported by the global media, became one of the most often cited justifications for the 1991 Gulf War. On January 9 1991, President George HW Bush cited Amnesty’s report in a letter sent to campus newspapers across the country. In the Senate, six senators specifically cited the story in their speeches supporting the resolution to give Bush authorization to use American forces in Kuwait. That vote ultimately passed by a mere half-dozen votes.

    But the most dramatic moment in this story came on October 10, 1990, when a 15 year old Kuwaiti girl, identified simply as Nayirah testified in front of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus that she had personally witnessed 15 infants taken from incubators by Iraqi forces who she said, "left the babies on the coal floor to die." California Democrat Tom Lantos explained that her identity would be kept secret to protect her family.

    What was not said at the time is that Nayirah was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US, Saud Nasir al-Sabah. By March of 1991, Amnesty International took the unprecedented move of retracting its report, saying it had become clear that the allegations were baseless. [Includes transcript]