ORIGINALLY POSTED OCTOBER 9, 2015
On October 10, 1990, a 15-year-old girl, then identified only as “Nayirah,” gave tearful testimony before the U.S. Congress She gave tearful testimony about how, during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, she had witnessed Iraqi soldiers storming the maternity ward at the hospital in which she claimed to be a volunteer. According to her tale, the soldiers removed babies from the incubators and left them on the “cold floor” (this is Kuwait, not Canada, keep in mind) to die. The Iraqi soldiers then supposedly removed the incubators. Presumably, taking them back to Iraq. It was a performance worthy of an Academy Award.
The tale took on a life of its own. It was repeated by other Kuwaiti officials. All of whom claimed to have personally witnessed exactly what this girl Nayirah witnessed.
The American public was outraged. As were people around the world. The brutality of the Saddam Hussein regime must be stopped at all cost. And the only way to accomplish that was for all free countries around the world (conveniently named “the allies” or “the coalition”), led by the United States, of course, to storm into Kuwait and re-take the place.
It was all a lie. “Nayirah” was, in fact, Nayirah al-Sabah, whose dad was the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States and Canada. Her entire story was concocted by public relations firm Hill and Knowlton and its creation, “Citizens for a Free Kuwait.” Citizens for a Free Kuwait was a rather strange-sounding name as Kuwait was not free before the then-sanctioned U.S. occupation (see April Glaspie), was not free during the occupation, and there was certainly no suggestion it would be free after a successful “liberation.”
The lead-up to al-Sabah’s testimony on October 10, 1990 goes back at least one-and-a-half months. On September 2, 1990, Kuwait’s U.N. Representative, Mohammad A. Abulhasan, wrote to Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, alleging brutality on the part of Iraqi troops as well as theft of state assets and hospital equipment, including incubators.
On September 5, the Kuwaiti health minister, Abdul Wahab Al-Fowzan, made similar allegations.
On September 9, National Public Radio claimed Iraqi solders had stormed a ward for premature infants, turned off the oxygen and removed the incubators.
On September 17, Edward Gnelm, the United States ambassador-designate to Kuwait (keep in mind, April Glaspie had been fired by this time) claimed 22 babies had died when Iraqi solders stole their incubators.
The Washington Post, which had previously reported it was unable to verify such claims, published a story on September 25 which accused Iraqi soldiers of removing babies and “stripping hospitals of incubators.”
Kuwait’s Emir, Sheik Jabbar al Ahmed al Sabah, complained to President George Herbert Walker Daddy Bush about stolen incubators, murders of babies and other Iraqi atrocities on September 29, 1990,
In its September 30, 1990 edition, U.S. News and World Report reported on the shocking brutality of Iraqi troops in Kuwait, including the removal of babies from incubators, leaving those babies to die of exposure (again, Kuwait), and the relocation of those incubators to Iraq.
On October 9, 1990, the day before Nayirah’s Big Day, President Bush stated at a news conference, “I thought General Scowcroft put it very well after the Amir left here. And I am very much concerned, not just about the physical dismantling but of the brutality that has now been written on by Amnesty International confirming some of the tales told us by the Amir of brutality. It’s just unbelievable, some of the things at least he reflected. I mean, people on a dialysis machine cut off, the machine sent to Baghdad; babies in incubators heaved out of the incubators and the incubators themselves sent to Baghdad. Now, I don’t know how many of these tales can be authenticated, but I do know that when the Amir was here he was speaking from the heart. And after that came Amnesty International, who were debriefing many of the people at the border. And it’s sickening.“
To his credit, at least Bush referred to those claims as “tales.”
The rest, as they say, is history. The Fifth Estate, a weekly documentary program produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, exposed this hoax a December, 1992 broadcast, “To Sell A War” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaR1YBR5g6U.
Of course, we have been lied to many, many times since then. “Saddam’s Nukular Bombs” probably ranks even higher in notoriety than Nayirah’s tale for one basic reason: the claims were related to us by people who ought to have known better. Governments (chiefly the one located in the District of Criminals) are still lying to us. But the success rates of their various acts of deception are questionable. In 1990, we didn’t have a commercially-available internet. We didn’t have the means of independently verifying every single fact presented before us. We didn’t have a YouTube, which allowed public officials making outlandish claims to be exposed as habitual liars.
Newspapers and broadcast media organizations didn’t have comment sections. And now, they probably wish they didn’t. As commenters often use their own websites to call out Big Media lies.
Even in the lead up to Iraq II in 2003, the internet was still a relatively new novelty. Many of us had it, but we were mostly on dial-up. And most of those dial-up portals were controlled by America-On-Line. If you could get past the busy signal in the first place. So of course, in 2003, we bought “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” Hook. Line. And sinker.
Millions of people around the world have died because of Big Lies since Nayirah told her sorrowful tale 25 years ago. Bosnia. Serbia. Somalia. Sudan. Yemen. Afghanistan. Mali (yes, they even invaded Timbuktu). Libya. Syria. And occupied Palestine, whenever israel throws a temper tantrum. Thankfully, the brakes have been put on any thought of invading Iran. And the good people of Iran probably have their neighbours in Iraq to thank for their double-sacrifice in 1990 and 2003.
As our good israeli friends are fond of saying. “Never forget.” And “never again.”