Published on Thursday, February 13, 2003 by CommonDreams.org
Selling A War
by Peter Wirth
In the coming weeks it is likely that U.S. soldiers will be fighting and dying in Iraq. While there is no doubt that we can defeat Sadam Hussein there is much debate on whether we should go to war and what will be the ultimate costs to Iraq and the United States.
Americans want to believe our government officials tell the truth and don’t intentionally mislead us. Other governments manipulate the truth not ours.
It is hard for Americans to accept that at times we are lied to or intentionally misled in order to build support for a foreign policy decision. While this may be disturbing it is our duty as citizens in a democracy to be open to this reality. We are the strongest military in the world and ultimately decide which governments will fall or stand.
Gulf War I
If you followed the first Gulf War you remember the infamous story of Iraqi soldiers removing babies from incubators in Kuwait city; leaving them to die and shipping the incubators to Iraq. This was the lead story in every major news outlet as the public decided whether to support going to war.
President Bush senior repeated this story in numerous speeches saying that such “ghastly atrocities,” were like “Hitler revisited.”
There is only one problem with this story. It never happened! It was a complete fabrication!
Hill & Knowlton, a Washington based public relations firm hired for $10.7 million by “Citizens for a Free Kuwait” the Kuwait government in exile, coached a young woman Nayirah, who appeared Oct. 10, 1990 before a Congressional committee. She testified that she saw Iraqi soldiers enter a hospital, remove babies from incubators and leave them “on the cold floor to die.”
After the war was over it was disclosed she was the daughter of Kuwait’s ambassador to the United States and hadn’t actually seen the incident she described taking place
Months after the war ended TV Guide reported in Feb., 1992 that both 20/20 and Sixty Minutes interviewed doctors in Kuwait and determined no such incident ever happened.
Another example from the first Gulf war, according to an article in the Christian Science Monitor was a report by Pentagon officials. Citing top-secret satellite images Pentagon officials estimated up to 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks stood on the border of Saudi Arabia, threatening the major supplier of oil for the US.
The St. Petersburg Times in Florida acquired two commercial Soviet satellite images of the same area, taken at the same time which showed no Iraqi troops visible near the Saudi border - just empty desert.
Jean Heller, the Times Journalist who broke the story asked than Secretary of Defense Cheney (now Vice President ) for evidence refuting the Times photos, offering to hold the story if proven wrong. The official response: “Trust Us.” To this day the photos cited by Pentagon officials remain classified.
Gulf War II
In a September 7, 2002 news conference President Bush said that Iraq in 1998 was “six months away” from developing a nuclear weapon citing a report from The International Atomic Energy Agency.
On Friday, Sept. 27, in a news interview Mark Gwozdecky, the IAEA’s chief spokesman said, “There’s never been a report like that issued from this agency.”
When questioned, the White House said the President was referring to a 1991 IAEA report.
Mr. Gwozdecky said no such report was ever issued by IAEA in 1991. “I don’t know where they have determined that Iraq has retained this much weaponization capability because when we left in December 1998 we had concluded that we had neutralized their nuclear-weapons program. We had confiscated their fissile material. We had destroyed all their key buildings and equipment,” he said.
It would be cynical to believe that every statement by our government leaders is a lie or distortion. It would be just as foolish however, to blindly accept every statement.
As citizens of the world’s most powerful country we have an obligation to critically examine the position of our government regarding the merits of going to war and each come to our own conclusion.
If we are to be true to those who die defending our freedom this is our patriotic responsibility.
Peter Wirth is the CEO of GW Associates, a national, progressive public relations firm. He has been involved in activist politics going back to civil rights work in Mississippi in 1970.