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Corrupting the Public Record

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Lies and false images placed in the public record are important elements of Iraqi disinformation. Iraqi officials have forged documents, staged scenes for international photographers and television, placed false stories covertly in newspapers and magazines, and lied on the record. During the Gulf War the Iraqis falsely asserted on the record that there had been victories by the Iraq armed forces, Israeli involvement in coalition military operations, and internal fighting in the coalition between Muslims and Westerners. Some examples were clearly intended for the Iraqi and Arab public, such as an official claim reported by Radio Monte Carlo on January 17, 1991: "There were massive pro-Saddam demonstrations in Cairo." Or an Iraqi News Agency claim on January 22, 1991: "25,000 Saudis, including key figures, have sought refuge in Yemen."

Self-inflicted Damage
During the Gulf War, on February 11, 1991, the Iraqis deliberately removed the dome of a mosque in Al-Basrah and dismantled it, in an attempt to make it appear as if the damage had been caused by coalition bombing. But there was no damage to the minaret, courtyard building, or the dome foundation, which would have been the case if the building had been struck by coalition munitions.26

Photo showing Iraqi demolition at Al-Basrah Mosque

False Man-in-the-Street Interview
Journalists or visitors to Iraq are often witnesses to "spontaneous" outpourings of grief or anger by what appear to be common people, or hear stories about hardships supposedly caused by the United Nations economic sanctions. In one international news broadcast during Operation Desert Storm focusing on a missile that had struck near a civilian area, a woman posing as a casual passer-by spoke to the camera in fluent English about the "criminal bombing of Iraq." But American diplomats who had served in Iraq recognized her as Suha Turayhi, a career minister in the Iraqi foreign ministry.27

The easiest way to manipulate images is to control and censor outgoing broadcasts. During the Gulf War, the Iraqis would not allow CNN and other media to broadcast scenes of damage to Iraqi military installations–only footage of civilian casualties. According to the February 9, 1991, Washington Post: "[BBC cameraman Peter Jouvenal] said censors had excised footage showing damage to military targets at a bridge destroyed by allied bombers at Nassariyah, south of Baghdad, to make it appear that the only victims of the raid were civilians. At a nearby hospital, he told the BBC he was prevented from filming soldiers wounded in the raid. At one point, he said, an official escort covered with a blanket the uniform of one victim to make him appear to be a civilian."

Covert Placement
The following scenario reflects another, especially egregious corruption of the public record: An Iraqi government intelligence officer, diplomat, or operative provides a journalist or publication in another country with a false story. The story contains specific details that appear to bolster the story's main theme but cannot be verified. Sources or protagonists in the article are described in convincing detail but without actually being named. Dates or places of supposed events are provided in order to give the article texture and credibility.

The Iraqis have also built false stories around real events or meetings, so that falsehoods can be built around a skeleton of truth. The journalist may or may not know the original source of the material, and because these placements are made covertly, they cannot always be attributed with certainty to Iraq. But knowledge of Iraqi covert activities, clear evidence of Iraqi involvement in some covert placements, and strong circumstantial evidence combine to support attribution of the following items to Iraq. None of the reports cited below is true.

  • [A]t least 10 Saudi citizens were martyred and others wounded when U.S. soldiers fired at them after hundreds of Saudi citizens demonstrated in front of a U.S. military base.
         – Sawt Al-Sha'b (Jordan), August 13, 1990

  • Over 100 Christian churches were built in Saudi Arabia. Americans had imported over $5 million worth of liquor to Saudi Arabia. American soldiers were in all parts of Saudi Arabia disguised as Saudis.
         – Counterfeit letter from Nigerians living in Saudi Arabia to the Nigerian daily Republic, October 28, 1990

  • An American public relations firm had contracted with an Egyptian manpower recruiting company to provide 5,000 (later appeared as 10,000) prostitutes for American servicemen in Saudi Arabia.
         – Times of India, August 13, 1990. Reporter was subsequently fired.

  • Pakistani soldiers in the multinational force had clashed with American soldiers, resulting in the deaths of 72 Americans and five Pakistanis.
         – Markaz (Pakistan), January 16, 1991 (On January 18, Pakistan expelled the Iraqi press attaché for "activities incompatible with his diplomatic status.")

Copy of article in the Nigerian daily, Republic This forged letter from Nigerian students in Saudi Arabia appeared in the October 28, 1990, issue of the Nigerian newspaper Republic.

Case Study

The Al-Fahd Forgery

In late October 1990, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations submitted to the UN Secretary General what he claimed was a "Top Secret" memorandum from Brigadier Fahd Ahmed Al-Fahd, Director-General of Kuwait's State Security Department, to the Kuwaiti Minister of the interior, describing a meeting the security chief supposedly held in Washington with Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William Webster in November 1989.

This memorandum was a complete forgery and was designed to bolster false Iraqi claims that the United States and Kuwait had engaged in a conspiracy to destabilize Iraq.

The forged Kuwaiti memorandum stated:
"We agreed with the American side that it was important to take advantage of the deteriorating economic situation in Iraq in order to put pressure on that country's government to delineate our common border. The Central Intelligence Agency gave us its view of appropriate means of pressure, saying that broad cooperation should be initiated between us, on condition that such activities are coordinated at a high level."

In an accompanying letter, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz charged that the alleged Kuwaiti document:
"...illustrates the conspiracy between [the Kuwaiti] government and the government of the United States to destabilize the situation in Iraq… This document clearly and unequivocally confirms the connivance between the United States Central Intelligence Services and the intelligence services of the former Kuwaiti government in plotting against Iraq’s national security, territorial integrity and national economy."28

The forgery was reported in the media on October 30 and immediately denounced as a forgery by both the CIA and the government of Kuwait. The CIA described Gen. Al-Fahd’s visit with Director Webster as "a routine courtesy call.... There was nothing discussed in the meeting concerning Kuwait's relations with Kuwait or any other country."29 In an October 27 letter to UN Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah had said the document contained "falsehoods and groundless lies" and "linguistic expressions that have never been used in Kuwait...." He also noted that "its style differs from that used between Kuwaiti officials."30

The Gulf War: False Claims of Victory
In the early days of Operation Desert Storm, the Iraqi regime issued a stream of false claims of military successes. The target audience for this lie was non-elite Muslim publics, including Iraqis, and the Iraqis used on-the-record statements, bogus stories, and sympathetic journalists to disseminate their story. Examples of specific claims – all false – include:

  • The United States embassy in Mauritania reported that Iraq's embassy in that country released a black-and-white video of what it claimed was captured coalition military personnel, only three days after the beginning of the air campaign. The large number of "prisoners" in the video and the speed with which it was produced and released in Mauritania marked it immediately as a forgery.31

  • During the conflict, Iraq claimed to have downed more than 200 coalition planes and "scores" of cruise missiles, and to have recovered one unexploded cruise missile, which would be reused. Iraq also claimed to have destroyed an aircraft carrier. In fact, 37 coalition planes were lost in the conflict and no aircraft carriers were destroyed.

  • Western soldiers killed during the Gulf War were being "evacuated from Saudi Arabia to Djibouti in British planes and in a second step…to the island of Crete, where they are secretly buried." Not true.
         – Algerian Press Service, January 29, 1991

  • Iraqi missiles have hit the Israeli Defense Ministry and have turned Tel Aviv into a "ghost town." While Iraq did attack Israel with SCUD missiles, the damage caused was not extensive.
         – Iraqi News Agency, January 20, 1991, citing a "British correspondent"

  • Iraq has killed 6000 allied troops (claim made just four days after the coalition air campaign began). In fact, 148 U.S. troops were killed in the whole conflict.
         – Inqilab (Bangladesh), January 20, 1991

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