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This note addresses two additional pro-war propaganda initiatives from the Gulf War era, and supplements a recap of nuclear alarmism from this period (http://www.casi.org.uk/discuss/2002/msg00986.html). 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). Regards, Drew Hamre Golden Valley, MN USA === http://www.odwyerpr.com/archived_stories_2002/may/0528pegado.htm May 28, 2002 FITZ-PEGADO WORKS FOR CAYMAN ISLANDS 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 hospital. 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 Fitz-Pegado) 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) Responses: <excerpt> Sheldon Rampton, PR Watch (www.prwatch.org) (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 misinformation." 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 http://www.prwatch.org/books/tsigfy10.html How PR Sold the War in the Persian Gulf === http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0906/p01s02-wosc.html 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 midSeptember 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 week. 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 wrong. 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 lies." 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 now." 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 February. 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." _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk