As the world quickly approached the twenty-first century, the press became more involved in world affairs than ever. News of Saddam Hussein’s escapades in Iraq quickly spread throughout news outlets and made its way to the forefront of international news. The victims of Saddam’s attacks were not silent. Stories of inhumane torture and the killing of citizens spread as the Iraqi forces moved into Kuwait. By the autumn of 1990, the violence in Iraq was well-known by the American people. One specific story would stir outrage in the American people.
In September of 1990, the Los Angeles Times published a report of the war crimes being committed in Kuwait. The story, provided by refugees, claimed that Iraqi forces had removed babies from incubators and left them on the floor to die. The refugees claimed that these stories had been reported to authorities, and that the coalition forces were well-aware of the crimes being committed. The story was pursued by other news outlets. The Washington Post published an article as well, further investigating the refugees claims, but found nothing more significant than what had already been published by the L.A. Times.
The story wouldn’t really blow up until a congressional caucus was conducted. In October of 1990, a young girl by the name of “Nayirah” claimed that she had witnessed Iraqi soldiers removing babies from incubators and throwing them on the floor, leaving them to die. After the congressional caucus, the story instantly became viral, spreading to all the major papers throughout the United States. It seemed to give justification for America’s interest in Iraq. George H.W. Bush utilized the story to rally Americans in support of the war.
It wouldn’t take long before the American public realized it was a hoax. Nayirah was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, and fabricated the story to gain support for American involvement. Despite the fact that the story was a known hoax, America had already found itself too entrenched in the conflict. The American people already knew too much. In addition, the American people were not naive to the fact that numerous other atrocities were being committed across Kuwait. You couldn’t remove the image from the American people’s minds.
“Chances are that Congress would have voted to pursue the war even without this deception.”- The New York Times
The incubator hoax perfectly displays the impact of journalism in the United States. The press ultimately persuaded the American people to embrace the Kuwaiti people. Despite the story being a hoax, it was one tool used for justifying the conflict that Americans would soon be involved in. It was a narrative that remained in the minds of the American people.