The Incubator Returns!

By Cockburn, Alexander | The Nation, January 13, 2003 | Go to article overview

The Incubator Returns!


Cockburn, Alexander, The Nation


So onward into 2003 we go, amid INS roundups of Middle Easterners in Southern California and the grand hunt for Saddam's "material breaches," which could be a song out of Gilbert and Sullivan. As Hilaire Belloc wrote in his "Lord Lundy," "The stocks were sold; the Press was squared:/The Middle Class was quite prepared." The press is certainly squared, with no one encouraged to challenge the grand consensus on our national virtue, confronting the satanic forces.

Back in early 1991, I was the first journalist, right here in The Nation, to question the charge, promoted by Amnesty International, that Iraqi soldiers had taken more than 300 babies from incubators in Kuwait and tossed them on the cold hospital floor. In the end the incubator atrocity turned out to have been concocted by the PR firm Hill & Knowlton, with its main witness being the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to Washington. The story was the best advertisement from that war of the old line about truth being the first casualty.

You can't keep a good lie down. As FAIR recently reported, HBO did a retrospective on CNN's coverage of Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait and its aftermath, and--guess what--there was the incubator atrocity, large as life, without a blemish to its name. Most such news "management" is entirely voluntary.

The Berlin daily Tageszeitung got a world-class scoop just before Christmas by getting hold of Iraq's 12,000-page document concerning its relationship with weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations obeyed the US demand that it censor the report before it was given to members of the Security Council.

Swiftly excised were the corporations, mostly US, British and German, that supplied Iraq with nuclear, chemical, biological and missile technology prior to 1991. Such shipments, encouraged by the relevant governments, were illegal under the terms of solemn international treaties and laws. US corporations included Honeywell, SpectraPhysics, Rockwell, Hewlett Packard, DuPont, Eastman Kodak, Bechtel and others, twenty-four in all. In addition, the US Departments of Defense, Energy, Commerce and Agriculture were designated as suppliers.

A big story? You might think so. The European press covered it. Amy Goodman did a report on Democracy Now!, as did IndyMedia. I heard a good interview on CBC radio with the journalist who got the scoop. The London Independent ran a story on December 18. But the US corporate press? Nothing that I can find.

The Moral of Gore's Withdrawal

On December 15 Gore took himself out of the race for the Democratic nomination for 2004. Most of the coverage of Gore's withdrawal took a genteelly elegiac tone. Lacking was any sense of curiosity about what prompted him to withdraw.

... After all, Gore was running way ahead of any rivals in polls of Democrats, and anyone claiming that Bush will be unbeatable need only look at the economic numbers, the increasing likelihood of a double-dip recession and what happened to the incumbent's dad in 1992, post his Iraq victory a year earlier. …

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