At the onset of Operation Desert Storm, in 1990, a public relations firm by the name of Hill and Knowlton spent millions of dollars on the government’s behalf, constructing news pieces that would sell the war to the American public. One of the most moving pranks to come from this push to war was the testimony of a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, known only by her first name of Nayirah.
In a videotaped testimony that was later distributed to the media, she claimed that Iraqi soldiers killed babies in incubators at a hospital.
In her testimony she said, “I volunteered at the al-Addan hospital, While I was there, I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns, and go into the room where . . . babies were in incubators. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the babies on the cold floor to die..”
Sounds horrible huh? Well, luckily it never happened, this was a fabricated event designed to dehumanize the Iraqi people in the eyes of the American public. The whole thing was exposed when the journalists discovered that the witness, Nayirah was actually the daughter of a US ambassador, who was being coaxed by military psychological operations specialists.
Some of the most hyped-up news images of our time surrounding war was not actually real, but were simply public relations stunts, designed as psychological warfare operations. No one in America can forget the image of Saddam Hussein’s statue being toppled and covered with an American flag, yet few people realize that this was a hoax, a staged psychological operation coordinated between the military and the media.
In July of 2004, journalist Jon Elmer exposed an internal army study of the war showing that this whole statue scenario was indeed a set up.
In the article, Elmer writes:
“the infamous toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square in central Baghdad on April 9, 2003 was stage-managed by American troops and not a spontaneous reaction by Iraqis. According to the study, a Marine colonel first decided to topple the statue, and an Army psychological operations unit turned the event into a propaganda moment… The Marines brought in cheering Iraqi children in order to make the scene appear authentic, the study said. Allegations that the event was staged were made in April of last year, mostly by opponents of the war, but were ignored or ridiculed by the US government and most visible media outlets.”
This was nothing new, this type of propaganda has been used to fight wars for generations. This type of propaganda is not gone either, it exists to this day, especially when it comes to reporting on foreign policy issues.