Friday, May 26, 2006

The Accountability Act and throwing babies out of incubators

From Public Eye Online, we learn that PR giant Hill and Knowlton Inc will be joining the C.D. Howe Institute in co-hosting a private roundtable with Treasury Board president John Baird to discuss the Accountability Act -legislation that is supposed to toughen up the rules around lobbying.

Public Eye Online finds the addition of Hill and Knowlton Inc. 'odd'.

C.D. Howe's Duncan Munn explained Hill and Knowlton's presence.
"They're a registered lobbyist. They have different aspects to their business - including media relations and communications and things like that. So, from our perspective, we're operating above the political fray. And the whole point of the exercise is to educate people about the Accountability Act and what's involved."
Ah yes - Hill and Knowlton, the great public educators.
Didn't CBC do a nice little doc - "To Sell A War" - on how they sold the first Gulf War to the American public?

From PR Watch :
"Hill & Knowlton, then the world's largest PR firm, served as mastermind for the Kuwaiti campaign. Its activities alone would have constituted the largest foreign-funded campaign ever aimed at manipulating American public opinion."
Hey, remember this terrific Hill and Knowlton video news release?

"A 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, known only by her first name of Nayirah. According to the Caucus, Nayirah's full name was being kept confidential to prevent Iraqi reprisals against her family in occupied Kuwait. Sobbing, she described what she had seen with her own eyes in a hospital in Kuwait City. Her written testimony was passed out in a media kit prepared by Citizens for a Free Kuwait. "I volunteered at the al-Addan hospital," Nayirah said. "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." 
Three months passed between Nayirah's testimony and the start of the war. During those months, the story of babies torn from their incubators was repeated over and over again. President Bush told the story. It was recited as fact in Congressional testimony, on TV and radio talk shows, and at the UN Security Council. "Of all the accusations made against the dictator," MacArthur observed, "none had more impact on American public opinion than the one about Iraqi soldiers removing 312 babies from their incubators and leaving them to die on the cold hospital floors of Kuwait City."

At the Human Rights Caucus, however, Hill & Knowlton and Congressman Lantos had failed to reveal that Nayirah was a member of the Kuwaiti Royal Family. Her father, in fact, was Saud Nasir al-Sabah, Kuwait's Ambassador to the US, who sat listening in the hearing room during her testimony.

The Caucus also failed to reveal that Hill & Knowlton vice-president Lauri Fitz-Pegado had coached Nayirah in what even the Kuwaitis' own investigators later confirmed was false testimony. If Nayirah's outrageous lie had been exposed at the time it was told, it might have at least caused some in Congress and the news media to soberly reevaluate the extent to which they were being skillfully manipulated to support military action. Public opinion was deeply divided on Bush's Gulf policy. As late as December 1990, a New York Times/CBS News poll indicated that 48 percent of the American people wanted Bush to wait before taking any action if Iraq failed to withdraw from Kuwait by Bush's January 15 deadline.

On January 12, the US Senate voted by a narrow, five-vote margin to support the Bush administration in a declaration of war. Given the narrowness of the vote, the babies-thrown-from-incubators story may have turned the tide in Bush's favor.

Following the war, human rights investigators attempted to confirm Nayirah's story and could find no witnesses or other evidence to support it."

Selling the Accountability Act to Canada should be at least as easy as throwing imaginary babies out of incubators.


RossK said...

Excellent point Alison.

Alison said...

A rather loose and overly long point actually, but I'm continually surprised how many people think the babies/incubator story is just some conspiracy theory, so I thought now might be a good time to revisit it.

RossK said...


But this, I think, is actually something much more than just a bit of historical arcanity.

Because, clearly Mr. Harper is trying to set up a Whirlitzer-dependent 'Evils of Access'- type information flow control mechanism.

Anonymous said...

Good for you Alison for bringing this forward. As an Ottawa resident with multi-partisan political connections I can assure you that you have legitimate reason to be concerned. This type of behaviour needs to be exposed.

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