Historical News and Comment

War Atrocity Propaganda Exposed

A tearful account of Iraqi barbarism, which stunned millions of Americans and fueled popular enthusiasm for war against Saddam Hussein's regime, has now been definitively exposed as a propaganda hoax.

In testimony before a US congressional committee, October 10, 1990, a young Kuwaiti woman, publicly identified only as “Nayirah,” tearfully claimed to have personally seen Iraqi soldiers storm into a Kuwait hospital and brutally remove 15 babies from incubators, leaving them “on the cold floor to die.” Her moving testimony enraged millions of Americans, who saw it broadcast and re-broadcast on television, and was cited later by seven US Senators in speeches they gave in support of their decision to authorize American military action against Iraq in the “desert storm” Gulf War.

As it turns out, the emotionally powerful testimony was a sham. The young woman never witnessed the alleged atrocity, and “Nayirah” is actually the daughter of Kuwait's ambassador in Washington, Sheik Saud al Nasir al Sabah, a member of Kuwait's ruling clan. Her testimony was part of an extensive public relations blitz organized by the large Washington-based public relations firm of Hill and Knowlton. The PR campaign was financed with millions of dollars from Kuwait's government in exile.

Independent human rights investigators were later unable to confirm the widely circulated atrocity story. After an investigation in April 1991, an Amnesty International spokesman said: “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.”

More reprehensible than the young woman's testimony was the deceit of US Congressman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), who chaired the committee hearing. Although he knew that the young woman was actually the ambassador's daughter when he encouraged her fraudulent testimony, Lantos said nothing. (His deception has been confirmed by the Los Angeles Times, January 7, 1992, and in a CBS “60 Minutes” television broadcast, January 19.) It is no coincidence that Lantos also happens to be one of Capitol Hill's most vehement Zionists and vociferous Holocaust campaigners.

Of course, this particular Kuwaiti propaganda story has obvious parallels with atrocity tales from earlier wars, including Holocaust propaganda accounts of millions of Jews gassed to death, soap bars made from human corpses, “steam chamber” extermination, mass electrocutions, and so forth.

One of the most compelling works ever written about war propaganda is Falsehood in Wartime, a short but very readable work in which British MP Arthur Ponsonby dissects the most important First World War propaganda myths. A new IHR paperback edition of this classic work, with a foreword especially written for this edition, is available from the IHR for $6.95, plus $2.00 shipping. A more detailed overview of the sordid but fascinating history of war propaganda is Phillip Knightley's 468-page work, The First Casualty, which is available in paperback from the IHR for $17.95, plus $2.00 shipping.


Source: Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 243f.