Gulf War: P.R. and Propaganda

In “The Art of War,” Sun Tzu states that, “All wars are based on deception.” The statement may have a different context in the modern world than he originally intended, yet, perhaps it is even more accurate in the context of modern times.

I would venture to say that it is, and that we need look no further than the country of Iraq to see two of the most glaring evidential examples.

Most everyone should know by now that the three main reasons we were given to justify the illegal occupation of Iraq in 2003 have been demonstrably proven to have been fabrications. There were no ties between Saddam Hussein and al-qaeda or the 9/11 attacks, there were no WMD’s recovered, and Iraq presented no imminent threat to the US, either.

Most everyone does not know, however, that the 1990 Gulf War was based on deceptions as well.

First, Iraq and Kuwait had both economic and still-unresolved boundary disputes at the end of the Iran-Iraq War that, of course, received no mention in Western media.[1][2]

Iraq’s oil production had decreased during the war with Iran, and they had worked a deal primarily with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to supplement the oil supplies to Iraqi customers, providing a huge financial benefit  to these countries.

So as not to violate OPEC production regulations, the providing countries proclaimed it as ‘war relief’, and were funneling profits back to Saddam to create a barrier between, and to weaken Iran.[1]

Saudi Arabia forgave the debt, while Kuwait would not relent, and even added insult to injury by overproducing and driving down oil prices in 1989 and 1990, further crippling Iraq economically.

In an op-ed article, G. Henry M. Shuler, then director of energy security programs for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, summed up the Kuwaiti and Saudi stances by saying:

“American taxpayers had better hope that the Kuwaitis and Saudis do not extend similar “help” to Washington when the current crisis is over. The circumstances are, after all, precisely the same: The Arab exporters have used a portion of their windfall oil revenues to finance a common defense effort, although this time the defending soldiers are American, rather than Iraqi.”[1]

Second, Hussein spoke to the American ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, on July 25th, one week prior to the invasion of Kuwait. He spoke to her of his frustrations with the border disputes and the economic siege they were under.[3]

As we already have some of the contextual background established, we can make a bit more sense of the somewhat cryptic statements that Ambassador Glaspie asserted she was uttering at the behest of President George HW Bush. She stated that the US government, in essence, still had his back like they did against Iran by saying, “I have a direct instruction from the President to seek better relations with Iraq.”

As Hussein spoke to her about the economic difficulties of rebuilding his country while Kuwait was driving oil prices down, she seemed to sympathize with his situation by stating, “We understand that, and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.”

Many have considered this to be the “smoking gun” that Bush and the US government were giving them the same “wink and nod” that they had during the Iran war.

A prominent figure among these speculators is Congressman Ron Paul, who claimed in a session of Congress that, “It had been long assumed that the United States Government, shortly before Iraq invaded Kuwait in August of 1990, gave Saddam Hussein a green light to attack.”[4]

Given our previous arrangement, Hussein probably thought we were going to provide chemical weapons and satellite coordinates of where to use them once again, as we did with Iran.

Third, the conflict was framed by President Bush and the US government as a ruthless dictator gone rogue against a democratic nation. President Bush, in his landmark speech to a joint session of Congress on September 11, 1990 in which he called for a “New World Order,” asserted that, “Kuwait’s legitimate government must be restored.”[5]

However, Kuwait was a dictatorship itself at the time as well, with their Emir being accused of crimes against his own people. According to the Christian Science Monitor, “Only a few weeks before the invasion, Amnesty International accused the Kuwaiti government of jailing dozens of dissidents and torturing them without trial.”[6]

All US government officials were really concerned with was protecting the oil reserves of our allies that provided more oil. Another possible motivation could have been attempting to disrupt Hussein’s regime enough to topple it and install another puppet dictatorship, now that Saddam had apparently outlived his usefulness to their motives.

Finally, still looking for a definitive “hook” to bait the American people into supporting military action, Washington and Wall Street conspired to sell a still somewhat skeptical and reserved American public with the heart-wrenching testimony of a teenage Kuwaiti girl, Nayira.

On October 10, 1990, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus – a non-governmental agency – held an unofficial hearing on Capitol Hill, where her testimony was heard.

She stated that as a volunteer at a Kuwait hospital, that she personally witnessed Iraqi soldiers stealing incubators and leaving the babies on the “cold floor” to die. How dramatic.

Dramatic enough perhaps for a Hollywood performance, but certainly dramatic enough for a PR campaign. Attendees were told that her last name was not given to protect her family.

Protect them from scrutiny, that is. As it turns out, she was the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the United States, Saud bin Nasir Al-Sabah.

Author John MacArthur noted in his book about the deceptions behind the Gulf War, “The Second Front,” that, “”The Human Rights Caucus is not a committee of congress, and therefore it is unencumbered by the legal accouterments that would make a witness hesitate before he or she lied. … Lying under oath in front of a congressional committee is a crime; lying from under the cover of anonymity to a caucus is merely public relations.”[7]

And public relations it was, in spades.  According to the New York Times, the hearing “…was arranged by the big public relations firm of Hill & Knowlton on behalf of a client, the Kuwaiti-sponsored Citizens for a Free Kuwait, which was then pressing Congress for military intervention.”[8]

As it turns out, the Caucus rented an office at a reduced rate from Hill & Knowlton, and members received personal trips and $50,000 cash for the Caucus.[8]

Quite a pittance to sell out the ideals that you’ve sold a nation on, out of the reported $12 million paid out to the PR firm by the Citizens for a Free Kuwait, which was basically the exiled Kuwaiti government.[6]

The next time we hear the war drums beating, and we’re told of atrocities that seem that they might be a bit too fantastical to believe, let us remember all of the lies that have previously lead us to support military action in a patriotic orgy of fabricated fear and cultivated hatred…

[1]http://articles.latimes.com/1990-12-02/opinion/op-7850_1_war-option

[2]http://www.nytimes.com/1990/09/03/world/confrontation-in-the-gulf-the-oilfield-lying-below-the-iraq-kuwait-dispute.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

[3]http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/glaspie.html

[4]http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/granule/CREC-2011-01-26/CREC-2011-01-26-pt1-PgH503/content-detail.html – 157 Cong. Rec. H503

[5]http://millercenter.org/scripps/archive/speeches/detail/3425

[6]http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0906/p25s02-cogn.html/%28page%29/2

[7]John MacArthur, 1990, The Second Front

[8]http://www.nytimes.com/1992/01/15/opinion/deception-on-capitol-hill.html