Newspaper logo  
 
 
   HBO Recycles Gulf War Hoax

Monitoring the News for Propaganda:

HBO Recycles Gulf War Hoax

An alert from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)

The fraudulent story of Iraqi soldiers throwing Kuwaiti babies out of incubators during the occupation of Kuwait in 1990 was depicted as if it were true in "Live from Baghdad," the HBO film that premiered on the cable network on Saturday. The film that purported to tell the story behind CNNs coverage of the Gulf War.

HBO and CNN are both owned by the AOL Time Warner media conglomerate.

In the months before the Gulf War began, media uncritically repeated the claim that Iraqi soldiers were removing Kuwaiti babies from incubators. The story was launched by the testimony of a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in October 1990. Eventually, as repeated in the media by the first President Bush and countless others, it blossomed into a tale involving over 300 Kuwaiti babies.

What was not reported at the time was the fact that the public relations company Hill & Knowlton was partly behind the effort, and the girl who testified was actually the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to Washington. Subsequent investigations, including one by Amnesty International, found no evidence for the claims (ABC World News Tonight, 3/15/91).

In the HBO film, the story is turned upside down, portrayed as a deft public relations move by the Iraqi government, who grant CNN access to Kuwait in a calculated attempt to discredit the rumors that their soldiers were pulling babies from incubators. CNN reporters are ushered to a hospital in Kuwait, where a doctor, under obvious pressure from Iraqi soldiers, tells the reporters that no babies had been pulled from the incubators.

The CNN team does not believe the obviously nervous doctor is telling the truth, and the Iraqi officials pick up on this, promptly cutting the interview short. The scene ends with the doctor being led away by Iraqi officials. Moments later, the CNN crew listens to a BBC report on the radio that suggests that CNN had debunked the story of Iraqi soldiers killing Kuwaiti babies, and CNN’s reporters are upset that they've been used by the Iraqi officials.

The key exchange happens as follows:

CNN correspondent: You are aware of the allegations, doctor?

Doctor: I have heard these stories.

CNN producer Ingrid Formanek (whisper): This sucks. He's scared.

CNN producer Robert Wiener (whisper): Yeah, this is bad.

Doctor: I can tell you, nothing has happened at this hospital... that I know.

Correspondent: But at other hospitals?

Doctor: I cannot tell about other hospitals.

Iraqi handler: Finish! Finish! We go now!

Formanek: To the other hospitals?

Handler: No, back to Baghdad!

Wiener: Hey, hey, that was part of the deal!

Handler: That is story.

The clear implication is that the CNN reporters were used by the Iraqi government to make a true story of atrocities seem false. A review of the movie in the Indianapolis Star (12/1/02) arrived at that very conclusion, noting that CNN "played into the Iraqis' hands on a couple of occasions, including an ill-fated trip to Kuwait where the Iraqis used the CNN crew to counter reports that their soldiers had been removing Kuwaiti babies from hospital incubators and leaving them on the floor to die."

"Live from Baghdad" is a dramatization, not a documentary, but it is being presented by HBO as a "behind-the-scenes true story" of the Gulf War and is being released at a crucial political moment. HBO's version of history never makes clear that the incubator story was fraudulent, and in fact had been managed by an American PR firm, not Iraq.

Curiously, however, the truth seems to have been clear to Robert Wiener, the former CNN producer who co-wrote "Live from Baghdad." As he explained to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer (11/21/02), "that story turned out to be false because those accusations were made by the daughter of the Kuwaiti minister of information and were never proven.

Unfortunately, HBO viewers wouldn’t know that when they saw the film.


To comment about this film to HBO, send email to mailto:general@hbo.com.

To learn more about Hill & Knowlton's role in the first Gulf War, read PR Watch's "How PR Sold the War in the Persian Gulf".

For more information about FAIR, go to: their website, or call 1-800-847-3993.


Copyright © 2003 The Baltimore Chronicle and The Sentinel. All rights reserved. We invite your comments, criticisms and suggestions.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on January 8, 2003.
  
JANUARY 2003
LOCAL NEWS
·NEWS BRIEFS
·CALENDARS:
· Building Trades Offer Training for Ex-Offenders
· Organized Labor Seeks to Play Role in City’s Workforce Development
· Free Concert on Jan. 19 Features Daniel Olson, Baritone
· Domino Sugar Workers Strike to Protest New Management’s Changes
· Low-Income Baltimore Families May Not Receive Full Benefit of their Earned Income Tax Credits
· Study Reveals a “Revolving Door” Scenario for Half of Baltimore’s Homeless
· Nine States Mount Legal Challenge to US Decision to Relax Air Quality Standards
· Clarification from Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC)
· Belvedere Square, Waverly Projects Get Funding Nod from BDC
· Top 10 Sports Stories of 2002
LETTERS
·Balt. Metro Letters
· National Letters
· International Letters
·OPEN LETTERS:
 ·  “All Things Considered”? Not This Time
 ·  Failure To Fire Journalists Who Lie Shows Rotting from the Top
 ·  Trying to believe
 ·   Open Letter to MSNBC
 ·  Open Letter to Rev. Pat Robertson from the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada
 ·  An Open Letter to Fellow Media-Watchers
 ·  (01/16) Open Letter: An Appeal to Bill Gates, Ted Turner, or Some Other Billionaire
ART & ENTERTAINMENT
·War Veteran’s New Book is a Primer on the Bureaucracy of Warfare
·Poetry in a Time of War
NEWS MEDIA CRITIQUE
·A Lesson In U.S. Propaganda
· The Case of the Missing Information about Iraq’s Weapons
· The Sun Shows No Nose for News
·Cowards at the Sun
·How Did those WTC Buildings Collapse?
·HBO Recycles Gulf War Hoax
·Enter Kissinger, the Accidental Appointment
SPEAKING OUT
·EDITORIALS:
 ·  Choose Peace and Prosperity, Not War
 ·  Idiotic Proposed Tax Cuts Show Who’s Really Getting Welfare
·(01/19) Massive Anti-War Rally Rocks Nation's Capital
·In Addition to Civil Rights, We Should be Concerned about Corporate Rights and Health Care Rights and Pension Rights
·Consider the Orwellian “Arrogance is Humility”
· (1/17) Will the White House Please Slow Down and Listen to Reason about Iraq before It's Too Late?
·The Consequences of an Iraqi Misadventure
·Gun Control Misses the Target, we should reprogram all our citizens to be like the Swiss!
·Without Protest, Americans Are Giving Up Freedom
·Environment: The Budgie and the Eucalyptus, Once Upon a Time in Australia
·To Al Qaeda: Fries with That?
·Soapbox: Refresh Your Memory of the UN Charter
·John Rawls—An Appreciation
NATION & WORLD
· ACLU steps up to fight for Americans’ freedoms
· Changes to US Citizens’ Legal Rights
· Bush Administration Set To Unveil New Math, Science Education Plan
· Bush Administration Continues to Abandon Environmental Safeguards in Our National Forests
· Free Trade is Killing our Industry
· Bush Administration’s World View Just Doesn’t Add Up
· Missile Defense Deployment: Still Dangerous, Costly, and Irrelevant to Present Threats
· Meeting Iraqi Victims—and Trying to Prevent More Victims
· No Endgame in Afghanistan
FROM OTHER SITES
· Websites We Like!
· Outstanding Analysis & Perspective

Public Service Ads: