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[casi] From 1991: Tanks and Incubators

This note addresses two additional pro-war propaganda initiatives from the Gulf
War era, and supplements a recap of nuclear alarmism from this period
(  The initiatives were:
(a) the 'Kuwait baby/incubator' story, and
(b) the 'Iraqi tanks threaten Saudi Arabia' story.

It now appears reasonable to dismiss both stories (and it's become accepted even
in the mainstream to do so); however note that the former Hill & Knowlton coach
of the Kuwaiti witness recently defended the story (and is rebutted, below).

Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN USA


May 28, 2002

Lauri Fitz-Pegado, the former Hill and Knowlton staffer who promoted the story
about armed Iraqi troops tossing Kuwaiti babies out of their incubators – one of
the biggest PR stories of the `90s – is now handling PR for the Cayman Island
Cultural Center in New York.

H&K, on behalf of the Citizens for a Free Kuwait front group of exiled royals,
produced a 15-year-old girl "Nayirah" who testified that she saw Iraqi troops
committing the atrocity in a Kuwaiti hospital. She testified before the
Congressional Human Rights caucus in Oct. 1990 that Iraqis took 15 babies from
incubators, which they then stole, and left premature infants "on the cold floor
to die." H&K made a VNR with Nayirah that was shown on "NBC Nightly News." The
story also was pitched to the United Nations Security Council to build global
support for war with Iraq.

Fitz-Pegado provided media coaching skills to Nayirah, who as it turned out, was
the daughter of Kuwait's Ambassador to the U.S., and had never visited the

Fitz-Pegado, who began her PR career at Bob Gray's Gray & Co., now leads the
Livingston/Moffett Global Consultants team that wants business and political
leaders to visit the CI Center. The firm is working on a pro-bono basis, a deal
arranged by former Congressman Bob Livingston and McKeeva Bush, CI's Leader of
Government Business. LMGC's aim is that paid work will result from the project.

Fitz-Pegado served in the Clinton Administration as assistant secretary for
Commerce, and was a confidante of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, who was killed
in a plane crash. She was VP-corporate affairs and communications at the
satellite communications company Iridium before joining Livingston and Toby
Moffett, the former Congressman and Monsanto VP-PA.

Lauri Fitz-Pegado responds:

I am writing to clarify the record related to the erroneous statement in
O'Dwyer's PR Daily on May 28, entitled "Fitz-Pegado Works for Cayman Islands,"
regarding the facts relating to the Post-Iraq invasion of Kuwait, conditions on
the ground and my involvement in representation of Citizens for a Free Kuwait.

Kroll and Associates (Kroll), the highly respected international investigative
firm, in April 1992 released a report "Investigation into Allegations Regarding
Deaths of Neonatal Patients at Al-Adan Hospital, Al Jahra Hospital and Al-Sabah
Maternity Hospital, During the Iraqi Occupation of Kuwait and the Status of
Handicapped Care and Social Welfare Institutes."

This was an investigation of the so-called "incubator incident," conducted for
the precise purpose of reviewing the controversy surrounding the testimony about
these tragic events. The investigation's stated purpose was to determine the
"veracity of allegations regarding: infant deaths caused by removal of
incubators, Iraqi abuses of neonatal patients and the theft of equipment at
Kuwaiti hospitals, and the circumstances surrounding the deaths of handicapped
individuals at the Social Welfare Institutes."

The investigation, which included interviews with 250 people in country,
witnesses and others privy to the facts, concluded, "there is no question that
Iraqi misconduct during the occupations resulted in infant deaths by numerous
causes, including removal of babies from incubators." (Emphasis added by

Further, the Kroll report concluded that "Nayirah Al-Sabah was indeed in Kuwait
during the six week period, she volunteered for three weeks under an alias at a
clinic... From all accounts -- including witnesses interviewed at Al-Adan
Hospital -- Nayirah's eyewitness report of an incident involving Iraqi soldiers
forcing the removal of babies from incubators, is substantiated and credible."
(Emphasis added)

I have always found it mind boggling that more attention has been paid to
discrediting the observations of Nayirah Al-Sabah, simply because of her
connection to the invaded Government of Kuwait in 1990, than to the Iraqi
atrocities she and others described, which in the ensuing decade have been
widely substantiated.

I would hope that your publication, O'Dwyer's, would see fit, over ten years
later, to discontinue the perpetuation of misinformation about these events, my
role, or my mindset or intentions. In fairness, I hope you publish this letter
in full or at least correct the public record in your next issue.


 Tell O'Dwyer's what you think
(Responses should include your name and affiliation)



Sheldon Rampton, PR Watch ( (5/30):

Once again, Lauri Fitz-Pegado is spreading disinformation related to the war in
the Persian Gulf. She has a lot of nerve accusing O'Dwyers of "perpetuation of

To begin with, Fitz-Pegado deliberately omits mentioning that the Kroll report
was commissioned by the government of Kuwait, which has a clear vested interest
in perpetuating the "baby incubator" story originally told by Nayirah, the
daughter of Kuwait's ambassador to the U.S. Just as Lauri Fitz-Pegado made sure
that Nayirah's own ties to the government of Kuwait went unmentioned during her
testimony in 1990, now she is trying to conceal the Kroll report's sponsorship
by the government of Kuwait.

Moreover, the Kroll report itself shows that Nayirah gave false testimony.
Nayirah told Kroll that she had seen only one of the fifteen babies mentioned in
her written testimony, which was prepared with the aid of Fitz-Pegado.

Kroll claims to have found credible witnesses to a single, brief incident, in
which perhaps a half dozen infants were removed from incubators during the
occupation. However, they offered no evidence to support this position.

It should be noted, moreover, that other, independent investigators who have
attempted to corroborate the story of babies being pulled from incubators have
found no evidence of it ever happening. ABC's John Martin interviewed key
Kuwaiti hospital officials in March 1991, shortly after the war ended. They
acknowledged that some infants had died as the result of a chaotic conditions,
including a shortage of nurses, but said no infants had been dumped from their
incubators. ABC interviewed Dr. Mohammed Matar, director of Kuwait's primary
health care system and his wife Dr. Fayeza Youssef, chief of obstetrics at the
maternity hospital. They reported that the story was not true and was simply
propaganda. Dr. Fahima Khafaji, a pediatrician in the maternity hospital,
reported that the Iraqis did not do so at her hospital.

Martin's reporting prompted a separate investigation by Amnesty International,
which had accepted the "babies torn from incubators" story at the time Nayirah
gave her testimony. Amnesty International's investigators found "no reliable
evidence" for the story and retracted its earlier report. "We became convinced
that the story about babies dying in this way did not happen on the scale that
was initially reported, if, indeed, it happened at all," said an Amnesty
International spokesman.

Middle East Watch, another human rights organization, also investigated the
story and concluded that it was a "complete hoax." They stated, "Middle East
Watch's own extensive research found no evidence to support the charge. After
the liberation of Kuwait, we visited all Kuwaiti hospitals where such incidents
were reported to have taken place. We interviewed doctors, nurses and
administrators and checked hospital records. We also visited cemeteries and
examined their registries. While we did find ample evidence of Iraqi atrocities
in Kuwait, we found no evidence to support the charge that Iraqi soldiers pulled
babies out of incubators and left them to die.

Kuwaiti government witnesses who during the Iraqi occupation asserted the
veracity of the incubator story have either changed their stories or were
discredited. The propagation of false accounts of atrocities does a deep
disservice to the cause of human rights. It diverts attention from the real
violations that were committed by Iraqi forces in Kuwait, including the killing
of hundreds and the detention of thousands of Kuwait citizens and others,
hundreds of whom are still missing."

See also
How PR Sold the War in the Persian Gulf


In war, some facts less factual
Some US assertions from the last war on Iraq still appear dubious.
By Scott Peterson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

MOSCOW - When George H. W. Bush ordered American forces to the Persian Gulf – to
reverse Iraq's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait – part of the administration case
was that an Iraqi juggernaut was also threatening to roll into Saudi Arabia.

Citing top-secret satellite images, Pentagon officials estimated in
mid–September that up to 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks stood on the
border, threatening the key US oil supplier.

But when the St. Petersburg Times in Florida acquired two commercial Soviet
satellite images of the same area, taken at the same time, no Iraqi troops were
visible near the Saudi border – just empty desert.

"It was a pretty serious fib," says Jean Heller, the Times journalist who broke
the story.

The White House is now making its case. to Congress and the public for another
invasion of Iraq; President George W. Bush is expected to present specific
evidence of the threat posed by Iraq during a speech to the United Nations next

But past cases of bad intelligence or outright disinformation used to justify
war are making experts wary. The questions they are raising, some based on
examples from the 1991 Persian Gulf War, highlight the importance of accurate
information when a democracy considers military action.

"My concern in these situations, always, is that the intelligence that you get
is driven by the policy, rather than the policy being driven by the
intelligence," says former US Rep. Lee Hamilton (D) of Indiana, a 34-year
veteran lawmaker until 1999, who served on numerous foreign affairs and
intelligence committees, and is now director of the Woodrow Wilson International
Center for Scholars in Washington. The Bush team "understands it has not yet
carried the burden of persuasion [about an imminent Iraqi threat], so they will
look for any kind of evidence to support their premise," Mr. Hamilton says. "I
think we have to be skeptical about it."

Examining the evidence
Shortly before US strikes began in the Gulf War, for example, the St. Petersburg
Times asked two experts to examine the satellite images of the Kuwait and Saudi
Arabia border area taken in mid-September 1990, a month and a half after the
Iraqi invasion. The experts, including a former Defense Intelligence Agency
analyst who specialized in desert warfare, pointed out the US build-up – jet
fighters standing wing-tip to wing-tip at Saudi bases – but were surprised to
see almost no sign of the Iraqis.

"That [Iraqi buildup] was the whole justification for Bush sending troops in
there, and it just didn't exist," Ms. Heller says. Three times Heller contacted
the office of Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney (now vice president) for evidence
refuting the Times photos or analysis – offering to hold the story if proven

The official response: "Trust us." To this day, the Pentagon's photographs of
the Iraqi troop buildup remain classified.

After the war, the House Armed Services Committee issued a report on lessons
learned from the Persian Gulf War. It did not specifically look at the early
stages of the Iraqi troop buildup in the fall, when the Bush administration was
making its case to send American forces. But it did conclude that at the start
of the ground war in February, the US faced only 183,000 Iraqi troops, less than
half the Pentagon estimate. In 1996, Gen. Colin Powell, who is secretary of
state today, told the PBS documentary program Frontline: "The Iraqis may not
have been as strong as we thought they were...but that doesn't make a whole lot
of difference to me. We put in place a force that would deal with it – whether
they were 300,000, or 500,000."

John MacArthur, publisher of Harper's Magazine and author of "Second Front:
Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War," says that considering the number of
senior officials shared by both Bush administrations, the American public should
bear in mind the lessons of Gulf War propaganda.

"These are all the same people who were running it more than 10 years ago," Mr.
MacArthur says. "They'll make up just about anything ... to get their way."

On Iraq, analysts note that little evidence so far of an imminent threat from
Mr. Hussein's weapons of mass destruction has been made public.

Critics, including some former United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq, say no
such evidence exists. Mr. Bush says he will make his decision to go to war based
on the "best" intelligence.

"You have to wonder about the quality of that intelligence," says Mr. Hamilton
at Woodrow Wilson.

"This administration is capable of any lie ... in order to advance its war goal
in Iraq," says a US government source in Washington with some two decades of
experience in intelligence, who would not be further identified. "It is one of
the reasons it doesn't want to have UN weapons inspectors go back in, because
they might actually show that the probability of Iraq having [threatening
illicit weapons] is much lower than they want us to believe."

The roots of modern war propaganda reach back to British World War II stories
about German troops bayoneting babies, and can be traced through the Vietnam era
and even to US campaigns in Somalia and Kosovo.

While the adage has it that "truth is the first casualty of war," senior
administration officials say they cherish their credibility, and would not lie.

In a press briefing last September, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld noted
occasions during World War II when false information about US troop movements
was leaked to confuse the enemy. He paraphrased Winston Churchill, saying:
"Sometimes the truth is so precious it must be accompanied by a bodyguard of

But he added that "my fervent hope is that we will be able to manage our affairs
in a way that that will never happen. And I am 69 years old and I don't believe
it's ever happened that I have lied to the press, and I don't intend to start

Last fall, the Pentagon secretly created an "Office of Strategic Influence." But
when its existence was revealed, the ensuing media storm over reports that it
would launch disinformation campaigns prompted its official closure in late

Commenting on the furor, President Bush pledged that the Pentagon will "tell the
American people the truth."

Critics familiar with the precedent set in recent decades, however, remain
skeptical. They point, for example, to the Office of Public Diplomacy run by the
State Department in the 1980s. Using staff detailed from US military
"psychological operations" units, it fanned fears about Nicaragua's leftist
Sandinista regime with false "intelligence" leaks.

Besides placing a number of proContra, antiSandinista stories in the national US
media as part of a "White Propaganda" campaign, that office fed the Miami Herald
a make-believe story that the Soviet Union had given chemical weapons to the
Sandinistas. Another tale – which happened to emerge the night of President
Ronald Reagan's reelection victory – held that Soviet MiG fighters were on their
way to Nicaragua.

The office was shut down in 1987, after a report by the US Comptroller-General
found that some of their efforts were "prohibited, covert propaganda activities."

More recently, in the fall of 1990, members of Congress and the American public
were swayed by the tearful testimony of a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, known only
as Nayirah.

In the girl's testimony before a congressional caucus, well-documented in
MacArthur's book "Second Front" and elsewhere, she described how, as a volunteer
in a Kuwait maternity ward, she had seen Iraqi troops storm her hospital, steal
the incubators, and leave 312 babies "on the cold floor to die."

Seven US Senators later referred to the story during debate; the motion for war
passed by just five votes. In the weeks after Nayirah spoke, President Bush
senior invoked the incident five times, saying that such "ghastly atrocities"
were like "Hitler revisited."

But just weeks before the US bombing campaign began in January, a few press
reports began to raise questions about the validity of the incubator tale.

Later, it was learned that Nayirah was in fact the daughter of the Kuwaiti
ambassador to Washington and had no connection to the Kuwait hospital.

She had been coached – along with the handful of others who would "corroborate"
the story – by senior executives of Hill and Knowlton in Washington, the biggest
global PR firm at the time, which had a contract worth more than $10 million
with the Kuwaitis to make the case for war.

"We didn't know it wasn't true at the time," Brent Scowcroft, Bush's national
security adviser, said of the incubator story in a 1995 interview with the
London-based Guardian newspaper. He acknowledged "it was useful in mobilizing
public opinion."

Intelligence as political tool
Selective use of intelligence information is not particular to any one
presidential team, says former Congressman Hamilton.

"This is not a problem unique to George Bush. It's every president I've known,
and I've worked with seven or eight of them," Hamilton says. "All, at some time
or another, used intelligence to support their political objectives.

"Information is power, and the temptation to use information to achieve the
results you want is almost overwhelming," he says. "The whole intelligence
community knows exactly what the president wants [regarding Iraq], and most are
in their jobs because of the president – certainly the people at the top – and
they will do everything they can to support the policy.

"I'm always skeptical about intelligence," adds Hamilton, who has been awarded
medallions from both the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. "It's not as
pure as the driven snow."

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