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Nayirah testimony

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"While I was there, I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators and left the children to die on the cold floor. It was horrifying. I could not help but think of my nephew who was born premature and might have died that day as well."
—Nayirah [1]
On January 17, 1992, ABC's "20/20" disclosed that a "doctor" who testified that he had "buried 14 newborn babies that had been taken from their incubators by the soldiers" was also lying. The "doctor" was actually a dentist and later admitted to ABC that he had never examined the babies and had no way of knowing how they had died. The same was true of Amnesty International, which published a report based on this testimony, and later retracted the report.
—Douglas Kellner in War Correspondents, The Military and Propaganda[2]

The Nayirah testimony refers to an account given in October 1990 to The United Congressional Human Rights Caucus in which 15-year old Nayirah relayed details of mass human rights violations performed by Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait. This included the standard brew of summary execution and mass looting, but also blood-curdling tales of hospitals being targeted, including newborn infants and vulnerable children being taken from incubators and having their oxygen turned off so that the equipment could shipped off to Iraq.[3] Needless to say the Bush administration took full advantage of this story, which was a cornerstone in bolstering public support for military action in the middle-east — much saving of human rights ensued.

The reality[edit]

Nayirah, it turns out, was not just any 15-year old girl. She was in fact Nayirah Al-Sabah, the daughter of Kuwait's ambassador to the U.S., Saud Nasser Al-Saud Al-Sabah,Wikipedia and had been heavily briefed on what to say during her testimony. She had not witnessed any of the 'atrocities' listed in her speech and future investigations would find that no such looting of hospitals had taken place.[4] Infants had died, but only when the doctors and nurses responsible for those infants fled the hospital. There was no mass looting of hospital equipment resulting in dead babies and children. Nayirah in fact was a fraud being coached by the PR firm Hill and Knowlton who were working for the Kuwaiti government.[5][6]

The embarrassing take-away[edit]

Although the initial deception of the Nayirah testimony is shocking, perhaps the more worrying concern was that almost the entirety of Western mainstream media was taken in by this as was the international human rights organisation Amnesty International.[7] Almost all the media and non-governmental organisations that had a hand in spreading and verifying the Nayirah testimony have since retracted their endorsement of it, however none of them have suffered in standing because of it. Much like the claims of WMD's in Iraq, by the time they had been found out to be phony it was too late to do anything and everyone had already forgotten and forgiven the people responsible for promoting the lies that got them there in the first place.

What the Nayirah testimony demonstrates is that contrary to the smug liberal consensus,[8] even seemingly benign human rights organisations like Amnesty can be manipulated by bad governments and realpolitik.