the Bush Administration mislead us about Iraq? I'd like to believe
the President. That's why I'm asking supporters of a new war
against Iraq to help out. Could you clear up a few nagging doubts
from the last Gulf War that have led critics like Rep. Jim McDermott
to question the credibility of our leaders? In case you've forgotten,
here is a brief review.
Incubator Babies. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Americans
were appalled by reports of at least 312 babies ripped from
their life support systems by marauding Iraqi troops. More than
any other story, it helped sway public opinion in favor of the
war. When the Senate narrowly decided by five votes to authorize
an invasion, nine senators referred to these atrocities as a
reason for their votes.
not have been moved by the testimony of a 15 year-old Kuwaiti
girl known only as "Nayirah," before the Congressional
Human Rights Caucus as she described the babies she'd seen who'd
been "left on the cold floor to die" by indifferent
soldiers looting a hospital?
time, neither Congress nor the public knew she was actually
the daughter of Kuwait's ambassador to the U.S., Saud al-Sabah,
and had never been near these hospitals. Nor did the public
know this "testimony" had been "facilitated"
by a PR firm named Hill and Knowlton and financed by the government
of Kuwait. These facts came out after the war, when hospital
employees in Kuwait universally denied this atrocity story.
But the tale had done its damage.
Phantom Troops. In September of 1990 the Pentagon reported that
250,000 Iraqi troops with 1,500 tanks stood poised in Kuwait,
ready to attack Saudi Arabia. These reports lent a real urgency
to our need to send in troops.
newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times of Florida, pursued this
story. They obtained Russian commercial satellite photos of
Kuwait and then showed them to military experts. None could
find a troop build-up. Peter Zimmerman, a George Washington
University satellite imagery expert reported, "all of us
agreed that we couldn't see anything in the way of (Iraqi) military
activity in the pictures" despite the fact that the images
were "astounding in their quality." They could make
out the build-up of U.S. jet fighters but few if any Iraqi military
installations near the Saudi border.
Petersburg Times contacted the office of Secretary of Defense
Dick Cheney with their evidence of the non- existent invasion
force, asking for refuting evidence. Their answer, as Harper's
publisher John Macarthur reports in his award winning book Second
Front, was "Trust us." The Pentagon would revise its
troop estimates way downward -- after the war ended.
Damage." The Orwellian highpoint of the Gulf War was the
discovery of the anti-septic phrase "collateral damage"
to cover over the harsh realities of innocent civilian deaths.
Thousands died in the bombings, but far more devastating were
the effects of our economic blockade after the war. A United
Nations investigation found our blockade of Iraq led to the
deaths of an estimated half- million young children from disease
Lesley Stahl had a chance to interview our soon-to-be Secretary
of State Madeleine Albright in 1996 about this sensitive issue
on 60 Minutes. Asked Stahl: "We have heard that a half
million children have died. I mean, that's more children than
died in Hiroshima. And - and you know, is the price worth it?"
Albright responded, "I think this is a very hard choice,
but the price - we think the price is worth it."
million dead children. We were never told our nation would exact
this kind of a price on another country.
me there comes a point where the killing of the innocent, even
indirectly by withholding medicine, destroys the credibility
of the noblest of ideals. I'm not sure exactly when that point
comes, but some say it comes after the death of one child.
of a war against Saddam owe it to us to come out from behind
the sanitized walls, to go beyond the language of distancing
and denial that produced "collateral damage" and speak
directly. If your cause is just, then how many dead Iraqi children
is it worth? A hundred? A thousand? Ten thousand? A hundred
thousand? State your figure.
this is ancient history. I know George Bush Jr. was not on watch
then. But he walks in the footsteps of government officials
who have misled and manipulated us. We are not buying swampland
again with the stakes in human suffering so high.
Grytting is the author of:
The Mangling of Meaning for Power and Profit