In 2021, Desert Storm will turn 30 years old—it will be 30 years since the United States went to war with Iraq. For some this was not a war over anything tangible. 9/11 hadn’t even happened yet.
The purposes of the war would for many remain obscure. And the lies that sold the war to the US public and the rest of the world remained obscure too—until they were proved to be utterly, entirely false. Operation Desert Storm—or Desert Shield, as it is often called—came only after Iraq had invaded Kuwait, and after the U.S. had invaded Iraq over false allegations.
And some in the world believed those allegations without question, without query, without comment.
The PR Dilemma
Often people wonder if humans are inherently bad. After all, in the face of such widespread evils and ills, how could one think otherwise?
Humans are, by inherent nature, compassionate. And they were compassionate when belligerent powers were scratching their heads over how to win the American public over to the cause of war.
Loss of human life and the often inevitable escalation of belligerence in the world at large repeats over and over again going back into the darkness of history. And there are many forces that enable such things to happen.
The Public Relations Solution
A 15-year-old girl brought the answer to the question of whether the U.S. should invade Iraq or not. A teenager, known then only by her first name Nayirah, appeared in front of The Humans Rights Caucus, and gave her testimony. She told the tale of her own service at a hospital where she had witnessed the Iraqi soldiers commit atrocities and commit thievery.
One story, from her in particular, was repeated over and over by various outlets.
This was the incubator hoax. Nayirah had explained how she had seen soldiers take babies out of incubators and left the babies out to die. The repetition of this horrendous act by almost all major media outlets was what helped change public opinion—and it was this that propelled, finally, the United States into the war in the desert.
And It Was Totally False
The surname of the 15-year-old surfaced later, and with it a Pandora’s box was opened, causing global disbelief and shock. This was no ordinary nurse or worker at a hospital—this was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador, a part of the powerful ruling al-Sabah dynasty. From Harpers’ to the New York Times, and from Amnesty International itself, various ‘credible’ sources backed her testimony, and helped reshape public opinion. What matters here is that this was a completely fabricated testimony—as was later proved.
What is the Point?
Whether or not Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait was right, whether or not the al-Sabah dynasty had been trying to squash democracy in Kuwait, and whether or not the U.S. was acting out of humane concerns might be beside the matter. These are debates for another day and for another forum. What the seekers of wisdom and enlightenment should take away from this is that careful scrutiny is recommended at the mention of emotional buzzwords—such as democracy or climate change—and action should come only after long consideration.
Because you never know what lies you’re being fed.