Daddy Bush’s Iraq War as Cravenly Lie-Based as Baby Bush’s
Joshua Holland has a fascinating article entitled “The First Iraq War Was Also Sold to the Public Based on a Pack of Lies”.
A 2013 CNN poll revealed that 54% of Americans maintain that George W. Bush deliberately “misled the U.S. public about whether Baghdad had weapons of mass destruction."
Holland suggests that as we watch some of the same craven players and motivators of the second Iraq War monger for another round of gratuitous and oxymoronic “US violence for peace” in Iraq it is time to look back at the first Iraq War for a reality check of the motivations assembled back then as well.
Holland contends that that first Iraq war which, he adds, most of the public considers the “good Iraq war” “was sold to the public on a pack of lies that were just as egregious as those told by the second Bush administration 12 years later.”
Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. Iraq and its fellow Arab oil state had had longstanding economic and historical conflicts Holland points out. The invasion was illegal, as illegal as the US’s 2003 invasion, but Iraq had more justification to invade Kuwait than the US had to invade Iraq.
Kuwait had been an ally of Iraq and helped finance its 1980 invasion of Iran. Hussein wanted Kuwait to forgive some of his regime’s war debt because he had helped weaken Iran for all the Gulf Arab countries. Kuwait was also insensitive to a problem with Iraqi oil production and refused to lower the level of its production to raise prices on oil for Iraq’s sake.
Also, Kuwait was accused by Iraq of “slant-drilling” on the Iraq border to slyly siphon off Iraqi oil.
Holland shares as well that Saddam Hussein was given the impression from US diplomats that if he invaded Kuwait the US government would look the other way, instead of portraying him as “an irrational maniac bent on regional destruction.”
As John Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago and Harvard’s Stephen Walt wrote in 2003, “Saddam reportedly decided on war sometime in July 1990, but before sending his army into Kuwait, he approached the United States to find out how it would react.”
In a now famous interview with the Iraqi leader, U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie told Saddam, “[W]e have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.” The U.S. State Department had earlier told Saddam that Washington had “no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait.” The United States may not have intended to give Iraq a green light, but that is effectively what it did.
There is no dispute about one crucially important point: Saddam Hussein consulted with the US before invading, and our ambassador chose not to draw a line in the sand, or even hint that the invasion might be grounds for the US to go to war.
Holland describes both Kuwait and Iraq as “undemocratic petro-states”. The George HW Bush administration decided to demonize Hussein as an irrational, dangerous invader of Kuwait “without provocation". This was a lie!
However, it would take more to sell the US public on committing money and the lives of its troops on a conflict over oil half a world away!
The situation called for THE MANUFACTURE OF SERIOUS PROPAGANDA!
Again, Saddam Hussein was immediately painted as Hitleresque in having designs on the entire Middle East soon to be made to fall like “dominos” beneath his continuing assaults. First Kuwait, tomorrow the world!
Then Daddy Bush and his administration validated their case for Iraq’s full Mid-East dominance agenda, according to Scott Peterson in the Christian Science Monitor in 2002, by messaging that the Iraq army was preparing also to invade Saudi Arabia! Pentagon officials cited “top-secret satellite images” in mid-September 1990 that showed “up to 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks stood on the border, threatening the key US oil supplier.”
George HW Bush declared that was why he had deployed American troops to the Gulf in August to help the Saudi Arabian Government defend its homeland against Iraq’s Hitlerian Hussein. Bush maintained he was asking Americans to fight for what is right “all in the cause of peace.”
A reporter named Jean Heller of the St. Petersburg Times questioned George HW Bush’s claims, especially the top secret satellite evidence of 1/4 million Iraqi troops amassing on the border of iraq. She managed to obtain commercial satellite images of the same area at the same time that American intelligence guaranteed Saddam had a “huge and menacing army” poised there. Guess what? Those satellite images revealed nothing but “empty desert”!!!
Heller contacted Daddy Bush’s Secretary of Defense who was guess who? Dick Cheney! Holland explains that the official response from Cheney to Heller was “Trust us!” Heller would later tell Scott Peterson investigating for the CSM that Senior Bush’s “whole justification” for sending troops to the Gulf was that border buildup of massive Iraqi troops. IT WAS A LIE!
Of course, the propaganda required even more fuel. Holland explains that the brutal 6-month occupation of Kuwait by Iraq was still not enough justification for Americans to become “psychologically” committed to involve their troops in the bloodshed half a world away. The Iraqi army had to be portrayed as committing “Nazi-level atrocities” contends Holland to win their hearts and minds.
Another Christian Science Monitor reporter, Tom Regan, in 2002 revealed that a group named Citizens for a Free Kuwait hired, for $10.7 million, Hill & Knowlton, a NY PR firm which previously had done propaganda for the tobacco industry and some governments with “ugly human rights records.” The company agreed to “devise a campaign to win American support for the war.” Regan also revealed that Craig Fuller, the president and COO of Hill & Knowlton, had been chief of staff for George HW Bush when he had been VP under Ronald Reagan.
Hill & Knowlton, according to historical researcher and author, Robin Anderson, then spent $1 million on focus groups as to how best to sell the idea of war with Iraq to the American public. The solution according to the testing groups was to “focus on atrocities” to inspire a collective American will to “rescue Kuwait”.
The next thing you know, there is sensational and titillating testimony in a Congressional hearing that grabs mass media attention of despicable Iraqi troop atrocities.
That’s where a hearing held by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in October 1990 played a major role in making the case for war.
A young woman who gave only her first name, Nayira, testified that she had been a volunteer at Kuwait’s al-Adan hospital, where she had seen Iraqi troops rip scores of babies out of incubators, leaving them “to die on the cold floor.” Between tears, she described the incident as “horrifying.”
Her account was a bombshell. Portions of her testimony were aired that evening on ABC’s “Nightline” and NBC’s “Nightly News.” Seven US senators cited her testimony in speeches urging Americans to support the war, and George HW Bush repeated the story on 10 separate occasions in the weeks that followed.
Subsequent investigations by Amnesty International, a division of Human Rights Watch and independent journalists would show that the story was entirely bogus — a crucial piece of war propaganda the American media swallowed hook, line and sinker. Iraqi troops had looted Kuwaiti hospitals, but the gruesome image of babies dying on the floor was a fabrication.
In 1992, John MacArthur revealed in The New York Times that Nayirah was in fact the daughter of Saud Nasir al-Sabah, Kuwait’s ambassador to the US. Her testimony had been organized by a group called Citizens for a Free Kuwait, which was a front for the Kuwaiti government.
Arthur Rowse reported for the Columbia Journalism Review that Hill & Knowlton sent out a video news release featuring Nayirah’s gripping testimony to 700 American television stations.
Kuwait, the “white hats” of the propaganda campaign, weeks before the Iraq invasion had been accused by Amnesty International of jailing and torturing dissidents without trial. This reality had to be squelched necessarily as well, so the same Hill & Knowlton pr firm organized “Kuwait Information Day” on 20 college campuses to rally support for Kuwait, calling it a “national day of prayer for Kuwait” complete with bumper stickers and other propaganda paraphenalia.
However, it was really the bogus baby-killing lie that had been, says Holland, “splashed across front pages across the country” that was the propaganda "slam dunk" to outrage and sell the first Iraq War to Americans.
The first Gulf War was sold on a mountain of war propaganda. It took a campaign worthy of George Orwell to convince Americans that our erstwhile ally Saddam Hussein — whom the US had aided in his war with Iran as late as 1988 — had become an irrational monster by 1990.
Twelve years later, the second invasion of Iraq was premised on Hussein’s supposed cooperation with al Qaeda, vials of anthrax, Nigerian yellowcake and claims that Iraq had missiles poised to strike British territory in little as 45 minutes.
Now, eleven years later, as Bill Moyers put it last week, “the very same armchair warriors in Washington who from the safety of their Beltway bunkers called for invading Baghdad, are demanding once again that America plunge into the sectarian wars of the Middle East.” It’s vital that we keep our history in Iraq in mind, and apply some healthy skepticism to the claims they offer us this time around.
Remember then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney’s words “Trust us” ... and DON’T!!!
[cross-posted on open salon]