The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] Washington Lies - The selling of the Gulf War Part 1

Dear list,

The article James posted referred to the lies about the incubators.
I am reposting an old artilce that I am sure you have ll seen. It seems relevant
in the current atmosphere of misinformation and fabrications.


How the public relations industry sold the Gulf War to the US
                  -- The mother of all clients
                            Part One
              By John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton*

     On August 2, 1990, Iraqi troops led by dictator Saddam Hussein
invaded the oil-producing nation of Kuwait.  Like Noriega in
Panama, Hussein had been a US ally for nearly a decade.  From 1980
to 1988, he had killed about 150,000 Iranians, in addition to at
least 13,000 of his own citizens.  Despite complaints from
international human rights groups, however, the Reagan and Bush
administrations had treated Hussein as a valuable ally in the US
confrontation with Iran.  As late as July 25 -- a week before the
invasion of Kuwait -- US Ambassador April Glaspie commiserated with
Hussein over a "cheap and unjust" profile by ABC's Diane Sawyer,
and wished for an "appearance in the media, even for five minutes,"
by Hussein that "would help explain Iraq to the American people."1
     Glaspie's ill-chosen comments may have helped convince the
dictator that Washington would look the other way if he "annexed"
a neighboring kingdom.  The invasion of Kuwait, however, crossed a
line that the Bush Administration could not tolerate.  This time
Hussein's crime was far more serious that simply gassing to death
another brood of Kurdish refugees.  This time oil was at stake.
     Viewed in strictly moral terms, Kuwait hardly looked like the
sort of country that deserved defending, even from a monster like
Hussein.  The tiny but super-rich state had been an independent
nation for just a quarter century when in 1986 the ruling al-Sabah
family tightened its dictatorial grip over the "black gold" fiefdom
by disbanding the token National Assembly and firmly establishing
all power in the be-jeweled hands of the ruling Emir.  The, as now,
Kuwait's ruling oligarchy brutally suppressed the country's small
democracy movement, intimidated and censored journalists, and hired
desperate foreigners to supply most of the nation's physical labor
under conditions of indentured servitude and near-slavery.  The
wealthy young men of Kuwait's ruling class were know as spoiled
party boys in university cities and national capitals from Cairo to
     Unlike Grenada and Panama, Iraq had a substantial army that
could not be subdued in a mere weekend of fighting.  Unlike the
Sandinistas in Nicaragua, Hussein was too far away from US soil,
too rich with oil money, and too experienced in ruling through
propaganda and terror to be dislodged through the psychological-
warfare techniques of low-intensity conflict.  Waging a war to push
Iraq's invading army from Kuwait would cost billions of dollars and
require massive US military mobilization.  The American public was
notoriously reluctant to send its young into foreign battles on
behalf of any cause.  Selling war in the Middle East to the Ameri-
can people would not be easy.  Bush would need to convince
Americans that former ally Saddam Hussein now embodied evil, and
that the oil fiefdom of Kuwait was a struggling young democracy.
How could the Bush Administration build US support for "liberating"
a country so fundamentally opposed to democratic values?  How could
the war appear noble and necessary rather than a crass grab to save
cheap oil?
     "If and when a shooting war starts, reporters will begin to
wonder why American soldiers are dying for oil-rich sheiks," warned
Hal Steward, a retired army public relations (PR) official.  "The
US military had better get cracking to come up with a public
relations plan that will supply the answer the public can accept."3
     Steward needn't have worried.  A PR plan was already in place,
paid for almost entirely by the "oil-rich sheiks" themselves.

Packaging the Emir, Part 1
     US Congressman Jimmy Hayes of Louisiana -- a conservative
Democrat who supported the Gulf War -- later estimated that the
government of Kuwait funded as many as 20 PR, law and lobby firms
in its campaign to mobilize US opinion and force against Hussein.4
Participating firms included the Rendon Group, which received a
retainer of $100,000 per month for media work, and Neill & Co.,
which received $50,000 per month for lobbying Congress. Sam Zakhem,
a former US ambassador to the oil-rich gulf state of Bahrain,
funneled $7.7 million in advertising and lobbying dollars through
two front groups, the "Coalition for Americans at Risk" and the
"Freedom Task Force.  The Coalition, which began in the 1980s as a
front for the contras in Nicaragua, prepared and placed TV and
newspaper ads, and kept a stable of fifty speakers available for
pro-war rallies and publicity events.5
     Hill & Knowlton (H&K), then the world's largest PR firm,
served as mastermind for the Kuwaiti campaign.  It's activities
alone would have constituted the largest foreign-funded campaign
ever aimed at manipulating American public opinion.  By law, the
Foreign Agents Registration Act should have exposed this propaganda
campaign to the American people, but the Justice Department chose
not to enforce it.  Nine days after Saddam's army marched into
Kuwait, the Emir's government agreed to fund a contract under which
Hill & Knowlton would represent "Citizens for a Free Kuwait" (CFK)
a classic PR front group designed to hide the real role of the
Kuwaiti government and its collusion with the Bush administration.
Over the next six months, the Kuwaiti government channeled $11.9
million dollars to Citizens for a Free Kuwait, whose only other
funding totalled $17,862 from 78 individuals.  Virtually all of
CFK's budget -- $10.8 million -- went to Hill & Knowlton in the
form of fees.6
     The man running Hill & Knowlton's Washington office was Craig
Fuller, one of Bush's closest friends and inside political advi-
sors.  The news media never bothered to examine Fuller's role until
after the war had ended, but if American's editors had read the PR
trade press, they might have noticed this announcement, published
in O'Dwyer's PR Services before the fighting began:  "Craig L.
Fuller, chief of staff to Bush when he was vice-president, has been
on the Kuwaiti account at Hill & Knowlton since the first day.  He
and [Bob] Dilenschneider at one point made a trip to Saudi Arabia,
observing the production of some 20 videotapes, among other chores.
The Wirthlin Group, research arm of H&K, was the pollster for the
Reagan Administration . . . Wirthlin has reported receiving$1.1
million in fees for research assignments for the Kuwaitis.  Robert
K. Gray, Chairman of H&K/USA based in Washington, DC has leading
roles in both Reagan campaigns.  He has been involved in foreign
nation accounts for many years . . . Lauri J. Fitz-Pegado, account
supervisor on the Kuwait account, is a former Foreign Service
Officer at the US Information Agency who joined Gray when he set up
his firm in 1982:"7
     In addition to Republican notables like Gray and Fuller, Hill
& Knowlton maintained a well-connected stable of in-house Democrats
who helped develop the bipartisan support needed to support the
war.  Lauri Fitz-Pegado, who headed the Kuwait campaign, had
previously worked with super-lobbyist Ron Brown representing
Haiti's Duvalier dictatorship.  Hill & Knowlton senior vice-
president Thomas Ross had been Pentagon spokesman during the Carter
Administration.  To manage the news media, H&K relied on vice-
chairman Frank Mankiewicz, whose background included service as
press secretary and advisor to Robert F. Kennedy and George McGov-
ern, followed by a stint as president of National Public Radio.
Under his direction, Hill & Knowlton arranged hundreds of meetings,
briefings, calls and mailings directed toward the editors of daily
newspapers and other media outlets.
     Jack O'Dwyer had reported on the PR business for more than
twenty years, but he was awed by the rapid and expansive work  of
H&K on behalf of Citizens for a Free Kuwait.  "Hill & Knowlton . .
 . has assumed a role in world affairs unprecedented for a PR firm.
H&K has employed a stunning variety of opinion-forming devices and
techniques to help keep US opinion on the side of the Kuwaitis . .
 . The techniques range from full-scale press conferences showing
torture and other abuses by the Iraqis to the distribution of tens
of thousand of 'Free Kuwait" T-shirts and bumper stickers at
colleges campuses across the US."8
     Documents filed with the US Department of Justice showed that
119 H&K executives in 12 offices across the US were overseeing the
Kuwait account.  "The firm's activities, as listed in its report to
the Justice Department, included arranging media interview for
visiting Kuwaitis, setting up observances such as National Free
Kuwait Day, National Prayer Day (for Kuwait), and National Student
Information Day, organizing public rallies, releasing hostage
letters to the media, distributing news releases and information
kits, contacting politicians at all levels, and producing a nightly
radio show in Arabic from Saudi Arabia, wrote Arthur Rowse in the
Progressive after the war.  Citizens for a Free Kuwait also capi-
talized on the publication of a quickie 154-page book about Iraqi
atrocities titled The Rape of Kuwait, copies of which were stuffed
into media kits and then featured on TV talk shows and the Wall
Street Journal.  The Kuwaiti embassy also bought 200,000 copies of
the book for distribution to American troops.9

TO BE CONTINUED.  Yet to come:  "Packaging the Emir, Part 2,"
"Suffer the little children," and "Front-line flacks."

1.   John R. MacArthur, Second Front:  Censorship and Propaganda in
     the Gulf War (Berkeley, CA:  University of CA Press, 1992),
     pp. 51-53.
2.   Ibid.
3.   Hal D. Steward, "A Public Relations Plan for the US Military
     in the Middle East," Public Relations Quarterly, Winter (1990-
     91), p. 10.
4.   "H&K leads PR charge in behalf of Kuwaiti cause," O'Dwyer's PR
     Services Report, Vol. 5, No., Jan 1991, p. 8.
5.   "Citizens for Free Kuwait Files with FARA after a Nine-month
     Lag," O'Dwyers FARA Report, Vol. 1, No. 9, Oct. 1991, p. 2.
     See also Arthur E. Rowse, "Flacking for the Emir," The
     Progressive, May 1991, p. 22.
6.   O'Dwyer's FARA Report, Vol. 1, No. 9, Oct. 1991, p.2.
7.   O'Dwyer's FARA Report, Vol. 5, No. 1, Jan. 1991, pp 8, 10.
8.   Ibid, p. 1.
9.   Rowse, pp. 21-22.

*From:  Toxic Sludge is Good for you!  Lies, Damn Lies and the
Public Relations Industry (Monroe, Maine:  Common Courage Press,
     ** From Blazing Tattles (BT) May 1996.  Email sent to Blazing
Tattles in response to this article becomes the property of BT and
may be quoted in its entirety or in part in future issues unless
writer explicitly requests it not be printed.  BT links pollution
to health, weather, and ecosystems.  Vision:  Clean & healthy
planet.  For introductory copy of BT send SASE (or air coupon non-
US) to POB 1073, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019.

Share your artistic, creative and literary work on My Corner with many, many others!

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]