Monday, August 2, 2010

This Day In War

Twenty years ago today:
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 group, 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."

Ah yes, good times:

Hey whatever happened to Rumsfeld, anyway?

Not long after, America was at war with Iraq -- our first great, glorious war against Saddam Hussein. Let’s rewind the tape and recall how Saddam was repositioned from BFF to Evildoer in the mind of the American public in just a few short months:
In fact, the most emotionally moving testimony on October 10 came from a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, known only by her first name of Nayirah. According to the Caucus, Nayirah's full name was being kept confidential to prevent Iraqi reprisals against her family in occupied Kuwait. Sobbing, she described what she had seen with her own eyes in a hospital in Kuwait City. Her written testimony was passed out in a media kit prepared by Citizens for a Free Kuwait. "I volunteered at the al-Addan hospital," Nayirah said. "While I was there, I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns, and go into the room where . . . babies were in incubators. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the babies on the cold floor to die."

Three months passed between Nayirah's testimony and the start of the war. During those months, the story of babies torn from their incubators was repeated over and over again. President Bush told the story. It was recited as fact in Congressional testimony, on TV and radio talk shows, and at the UN Security Council. "Of all the accusations made against the dictator," MacArthur observed, "none had more impact on American public opinion than the one about Iraqi soldiers removing 312 babies from their incubators and leaving them to die on the cold hospital floors of Kuwait City."

At the Human Rights Caucus, however, Hill & Knowlton and Congressman Lantos had failed to reveal that Nayirah was a member of the Kuwaiti Royal Family. Her father, in fact, was Saud Nasir al-Sabah, Kuwait's Ambassador to the US, who sat listening in the hearing room during her testimony. The Caucus also failed to reveal that H&K vice-president Lauri Fitz-Pegado had coached Nayirah in what even the Kuwaitis' own investigators later confirmed was false testimony.

Hill & Knowlton is one of America’s oldest PR firms, responsible for countering scientific claims about tobacco’s adverse health effects and other corporate propaganda. In 1990 they represented the government of Kuwait (for more, see the "Citizens for a Free Kuwait” hoax.

That's pretty incredible client service for a PR firm: getting America to go to war for your client! I mean, how awesome is that?

And for arranging false testimony before Congress the PR firm of Hill & Knowlton received ... sanctions? A fine? A slap on the wrist? How about some government PR contracts? Ding ding ding! Thank you for playing!

Meanwhile, Lauri Fitz-Pegado served as one of the Obama campaign's foreign policy experts, though thankfully not for the Middle East. She is now a lobbyist for the Livingston Group. Her latest coup--pardon the pun:

In 2008, Fitz-Pegado was part of Livingston's team for the non-profit Council for a Democratic Iran, which paid the firm $300,000 in the third quarter of 2008 alone.

If America goes to war with Iran I think we all know who we have to thank.

I think it’s important to remember that this shit has been going on for decades. Who’s pulling your strings, America? Why do you keep letting them?