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When contemplating war, beware of babies in incubators

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The Kuwait government had to find a way to "sell the war" to the American public, who were interested, but not deeply involved. So under the auspices of a group called Citizen for a Free Kuwait, which was really the Kuwait government in exile (the group received almost $12 million from the Kuwaiti government, and only $17,000 from others, according to author John R. MacArthur) the American PR firm Hill & Knowlton was hired for $10.7 million to devise a campaign to win American support for the war. Craig Fuller, the firm's president and COO, had been then-President George Bush's chief of staff when the senior Bush has served as vice president under Ronald Reagan. The move made a lot of sense – after all, access to power is everything in Washington and the Hill & Knowlton people had lots of that.

It's wasn't an easy sell. After all, Kuwait was hardly a "freedom-loving land." Only a few weeks before the invasion, Amnesty International accused the Kuwaiti government of jailing dozens of dissidents and torturing them without trial. In an effort to spruce up the Kuwait image, the company organized Kuwait Information Day on 20 college campuses, a national day of prayer for Kuwait, distributed thousands of "Free Kuwait" bumper stickers, and other similar traditional PR ventures. But none of it was working very well. American public support remained lukewarm the first two months.

According to MacArthur's book "Second Front," the first mention of babies being removed from incubators appeared in the Sept. 5 edition of the London Daily Telegraph. The paper ran a claim by the exiled Kuwait housing minister that, "babies in the premature unit of one of the hospitals had been removed from their incubators, so that these, too, could be carried off." Two days later, the LA Times carried a Reuter's story that quoted an American (first name only) who said, among other things, that babies were being taken from incubators, although she herself had not seen it happen.

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