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January 04, 2013

Karl Kraus, Right Again

Almost everyone now has forgotten the story about how Iraq, after invading Kuwait in 1990, went to hospitals and threw premature babies out of incubators to die on the cold hospital floor. (Supposedly they wanted to steal the incubators and ship them back to Iraq.)

This was pretty crude, Huns-raping-Belgian-nuns level propaganda that almost certainly originated with the Kuwaiti royal family. But it worked extremely well: Bush Sr. cited it constantly, as did many U.S. politicians when voting for war that fall. And after Hill & Knowlton was hired by the Kuwaiti government, they discovered via focus groups that the incubators story really motivated Americans to back Bush's hardline.

After the war, of course, it turned out there was no evidence this ever happened.

What's interesting to me, though, is the evidence that many of the politicians involved genuinely believed the incubators story. I was just reading the declassified transcript of a meeting Bush Sr. had on October 9th, 1990 with the Saudi Foreign Minister in the Oval Office, and found this:


As you see, they weren't gloating about how they'd pulled the wool over the eyes of America's innocent citizens. Instead, Prince Saud al-Faisal seems to think lots of Kuwaiti babies had died in this way.

That's much more frightening than if these people were supervillains coolly plotting world domination. Instead, even in their top secret meetings, they generally spout the same crap they do in public. This suggests they can't even make decisions based on simple self-preservation, and could easily destroy the whole world by accident.

As the early 20th century Austrian writer Karl Kraus put it: "How is the world ruled and how do wars start? Diplomats tell lies to journalists and then believe what they read."

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at January 4, 2013 08:25 AM

Well, the diplomats lie, the journalists lie..... and lets not forget the military Jon ( YES, no more Mr Schwarz.... in America, do as the Americans do... address everyone by his/her first name, no matter what the age difference!! ). Pentagon claims it never lies!!!!!!! I read something different. And can the lies backfire?


Posted by: Rupa Shah at January 4, 2013 09:18 AM

Jon, you are addressed as Jon with the SAME AMOUNT OF RESPECT as when you were addressed as Mr Schwarz..... just making it clear!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at January 4, 2013 10:31 AM

When sitting down to a diplomatic/state banquet, one should(much like my dogs) vie for only the freshest chunks of horseshit. Save that dried up old turd for last, when all the other guests are full.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 4, 2013 12:43 PM

simple cognitive dissonance- it is not easy to say one thing and believe another- historically, wartime propaganda has often echoed the thematic other-side-is-killing-babies- dostoevsky's writings to rile up nationalistic war support included claims that the enemy was throwing babies up in the air and catching them on their bayonets- and also the biblical tales of the plague of killing all first borns, as well as king herods' decree to kill all the babies...

Posted by: frankenduf at January 4, 2013 12:58 PM

Babies---that's that next army YOU will have to face 12 years down the road.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 4, 2013 02:06 PM

Babies---that's that next army YOU will have to face 12 years down the road.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 4, 2013 02:06 PM

Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or imbeciles who really mean it.

Mark Twain

Posted by: Happy Jack at January 5, 2013 07:13 AM

Actually, HJ, that quotation comes from The Peter Principle, published in 1969, not from Twain.

Posted by: Duncan at January 5, 2013 11:06 AM

This dynamic has always fascinated me, too. After a time, hacks begin to believe their own bullshit. Some reporters still repeat the incubator stuff as reality. Weapons of Mass Deception, by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, has a very good writeup about the incubator con (or maybe it was their followup, The Best War Ever).

Posted by: Batocchio at January 6, 2013 02:26 AM

I think that the Ordinary Joe is confused between TV-Land and Reality. This confusion was caused by the "Muppets" on PBS.

The Muppets explained all the enjoyments of a free press and created action-packed heroes for the adolescent to admire.

The Muppets seemed not quite qualified to explain that the free press is simply a propaganda arm of the government which it serves.

The Muppets failed to explanin that Democracy is about the unfettered freedom of money and not the cherished freedom of people. Democracy protects money moreso than the rights of citizens.


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Posted by: Calm at January 6, 2013 04:31 PM

I remember reading "At the Highest Levels" about how Bush Sr. navigated the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

Gorbachev was asking for American financial aid to see the Soviet Union through the difficulties of reform (the USA was supposed to recognize that Gorbachev's failure might lead to an embittered, hardline, retrograde regime replacing him).

Gorbachev was frustrated because Bush Sr. was insisting on real action to halt Soviet military aid to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. What was especially frustrating was that this aid was a CIA fabrication and transparently so.

Posted by: thwap at January 8, 2013 07:20 PM

frankenduf --

It's questionable to think of Hebrews being in Egypt from the start, but immediately succeeding a massive conscription into military stone building (the materials in the Bible further match the Middle Kingdom), there was an ending of a Renaissance from 6 dynasties before. This life was fractured again and again by volcanic shock, warfare and hunger. The most fanciful history seems to be deserts of refuge (Libya for Sesotris and Arabia for Moses and the "sand dwellers"), although it is scientifically accurate to say "Moses" was being a psychopath when he killed the Levites.

Battles show up between the two countries later on, but there was political, religious, economic problems long before. The dead and enslaved in history are there, it's just their backgrounds and reliability as witnesses have to be partially hidden. Egypt constantly traded with Palestine, mostly where the tribe of Ephraim is. Egyptian people, now enslaved and facing starvation, lost an ally and it was a heartbreaking time in history. It not only explains the connection between Joseph (slave) and Imhotep (scribe), but also hints at the correct timeline. Forget the "new chronologies" that make direct pairings, they all contradict. Most new encyclopedias leave all this out, most old ones discount the meaning.

Anyway, the dead babies were in this building quarters near the El Lahun temple, built for solar light but decorated with other gods -- protection gods, nurturers, mystery, shepherd. In Egypt these cults were eventually suppressed, the capital was moved, Ra was supreme. They lost the Hebrew's techno-scientific development in the Middle Kingdom volcano shock, and were replaced by some streetwise people literally transcribed as "foreigners" for a 100 years or so.

Posted by: Lewis at January 10, 2013 10:00 PM

One could well say, and it wouldn't be propaganda, that WE kill babies when WE invade. Of course such TRUTHS tend to make US uncomfortable and also, of course, the LIES give US comfort. That way, WE can cheer while Baghdad burns, or Kabul get bombed.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 11, 2013 06:54 PM