Iraq · NGO Complex

The Problems of Amnesty International (Part 3)

In my first two posts on Amnesty International I documented their failure to support Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange and their promotion of narratives which fit in with the US and UK government’s desire for regime change in Syria. However, the Syria case is far from the only time when Amnesty International has promoted regime change narratives.

Thus the third reason to not support Amnesty International is:

They were instrumental in the claim that Iraqi soldiers were pulling babies out of incubators in Kuwait.

This claim is one of the most famous regime change lies in history. In short, after Iraqi soldiers entered into Kuwait, George H. W. Bush wanted to push for war with Iraq. But the public were split on the issue and reluctant to go to war. So Bush had to come up with something that would make war more palatable to the American public. Thus the Incubator Babies lie was used. This claim said that Iraqi soldiers were pulling babies out of incubators and leaving them to die on the floor. Testimony was given to Congress by Nayirah to this effect:

Of course, this claim turned out to be false and the ‘testimony’ turned out to have been coached for the purpose of pushing war. For further information we can quote the book “Weapons of Mass Deception”:

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. […] At the Human Rights Caucus [where this testimony was given], however, Hill and Knowlton [PR firm intimately involved in pushing for the first Gulf war] and Congressman Lantos had failed to reveal that Nayirah was a member of the Kuwaiti Royal Family. […] The caucus also failed to reveal that Hill and Knowlton vice president Lauri Fitz-Pegado had coached Nayirah’s testimony.

Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, “Weapons of Mass Deception”, Constable and Robinson 2003 pp. 72-3.

So what is the role of Amnesty International in all this? The book also states:

Amnesty International repeated the claim in a December 1990 human rights report[.]

Rampton and Stauber pp. 72-3.

However, according to Francis Boyle this understates the case. In his article, “Amnesty International: Imperialist Tool” he discusses this issue. He was once on the board of Amnesty International and his article discusses various problems with the institution not limited to Iraq. He has this to say about the report on the incubator babies:

As a Member of the AIUSA Board, I received a pre-publication copy of the Dead Babies Report. I read it immediately and quite carefully. First, this report contained technical errors that should have precluded its publication. Second, even if all these sensational allegations had been true, it was clear that publication of this report at that critical moment in time (December 1990) would only be used by the United States and Britain to monger for war against Iraq. I expressed these opinions in the strongest terms possible and that this report should not be published because it was inaccurate; or that if for some reason it were to be published, it must be accompanied by an errata sheet. Amnesty International published the Dead Babies Report anyway despite my vigorous objections, and launched their Disinformation Campaign against Iraq. 

Also according to John R. MacArthur, a journalist who revealed Nayirah’s identity as part of the Kuwaiti royal family:

And it’s clear that, I mean, numerous representatives and senators cited the baby incubator atrocity, which was false—it never happened—as a reason for voting for the Gulf War resolution. In other words, these are people who said, “Well, look, we could figure out other ways to get Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait—economic sanctions, negotiations.” There was a feeling that this was about oil, it wasn’t about principle, even though Bush posed it as a matter of international law. But these people said, finally, “Look, if he’s really Hitler, if he’s really capable of having an army that slaughters”—and it got to hundreds of babies by the time Amnesty International gave its official seal of approval to the story.

In other words, Amnesty’s seal of approval for this story may well have swung certain senators into voting for the Gulf War – and the vote on this issue was very close – 52 to 47.

There is not too much else to say on this issue, as it is a matter of historical record. Amnesty did later admit that the incubator babies story was false, after investigative journalism involving interviewing doctors in Kuwait found no evidence of the story. It also turned out that there were hardly any incubators in Kuwait, so the story of mass death from soldiers throwing babies out of incubators was also prima facie false.

As we can see, Amnesty has been pushing for US based regime change wars for a long time, and this is hardly a one off mistake or error, as we can see from their coverage of Syria and their disdain for Manning and Assange.