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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."
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
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 installationsonly 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."
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.
|This forged letter from Nigerian students in Saudi Arabia appeared in the October 28, 1990, issue of the Nigerian newspaper Republic.|
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:
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