Apparatus of Lies
Apparatus of Lies
Saddam’s Disinformation and Propaganda
Table of Contents
Executive Summary………………………………………………………………………… 4
Crafting Tragedy …………………………………………………………………………….. 6
Iraqi Co-Locations of Military and Civilians. Then… …………………………………………………….7
…And Now…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 10
Case Study: The Amiriyah Bunker-Shelter…………………………………………………………………. 12
Exploiting Suffering………………………………………………………………………. 14
Blaming Sanctions for Regime Failure……………………………………………………………………….. 14
Case Study: Baby Funerals ………………………………………………………………………………………… 16
Depleted Uranium Scare……………………………………………………………………………………………… 18
Medical Facts on Iraqi Chemical Weapons Exposure………………………………………………… 18
Exploiting Islam…………………………………………………………………………….. 20
The Hajj Shakedowns …………………………………………………………………………………………………. 21
Oppression of Shi’a Muslims ……………………………………………………………………………………… 22
The Gulf War: Lies About Non-Muslim Militaries in the Middle East………………………….. 23
The Gulf War: Lies About Conflicts between Muslim and Western Allies………………….. 24
Corrupting the Public Record………………………………………………………… 25
Self-inflicted Damage………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 25
False Man-in-the-Street Interview ……………………………………………………………………………….. 26
Covert Placement ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 26
Case Study: The Al-Fahd Forgery ………………………………………………………………………………. 28
The Gulf War: False Claims of Victory……………………………………………………………………….. 29
Conclusion: The Lies Continue……………………………………………………… 30
Bibliography …………………………………………………………………………………. 31
“It is not a lie when you are ordered to lie.”
– a senior Iraqi biological weapons official
In December 1998, when U.N weapons inspector Dr. Richard Spertzel became exasperated by
Iraqi evasions and misrepresentations, he confronted Dr. Rihab Taha, the woman the Iraqis
identified as the head of their biological weapons program and asked her directly, “You know
that we know you are lying. So why do you do it?” She straightened herself up and replied, “Dr.
Spertzel, it’s not a lie when you are ordered to lie.”1
Dr. Taha’s brief reply is one symbol of a highly developed, well disciplined, and expertly
organized program designed to win support for the Iraqi regime through outright deceit. This
elaborate program is one of the regime’s most potent weapons for advancing its political,
military, and diplomatic objectives. In their disinformation and propaganda campaigns, the
Iraqis use elaborate ruses and obvious falsehoods, covert actions and false on-the-record
statements, and sophisticated preparation and spontaneous exploitation of opportunities. Many
of the techniques are not new, but this regime exploits them more aggressively and effectively –
and to more harmful effect – than any other regime in power today.
In the weeks ahead, as the international community seeks to enforce UN Security Council
resolutions and disarm the Iraqi regime, governments, the media, and the public are urged to
consider the regime’s words, deeds, and images in light of this brutal record of deceit.
Apparatus of Lies discusses the lies that Iraq has used to promote its propaganda and
disinformation in four broad categories:
· Crafting Tragedy: To craft tragedy, the regime places civilians close to military equipment,
facilities, and troops, which are legitimate targets in an armed conflict. The Iraqi regime
openly used both Iraqis and foreigners as human shields during the Gulf War, eventually
bowing to international pressure and releasing them. It has also placed military equipment
next to or inside mosques and ancient cultural treasures. Finally, it has deliberately damaged
facilities and attributed the damage to coalition bombing and has attempted to pass off
damage from natural catastrophes, such as earthquakes, as the result of bombing.
· Exploiting Suffering: To exploit suffering, Saddam blames starvation and medical crises –
often of his own making – on the United Nations or the United States and its allies. This is
such an effective ruse that the Iraqi regime actually causes or actively ignores hardship and
then aggressively exploits the Iraqi people’s suffering. For the last few years, the Iraqis have
aggressively promoted the false notion that depleted uranium – a substance that is relatively
harmless and was used for armor-piercing munitions during the Gulf War – has caused
cancers and birth defects among Iraqis. Scientific evidence indicates that any elevated rates
of cancer and birth defects are most likely due to Iraqi use of chemical weapons.
· Exploiting Islam: Experts know that Saddam Hussein is a non-religious man from a secular
– even atheistic – party. But to exploit Islamic sentiments, he adopts expressions of faith in
his public pronouncements, and the Iraqi propaganda apparatus erects billboards and
distributes images showing him praying or in other acts of piety – all while the regime
prevents pilgrims from making the Hajj. The regime also has made many false claims
designed to incite Muslims against its adversaries.
· Corrupting the Public Record: To corrupt the public record, the regime uses a
combination of on-the-record lies, covert placements of false news accounts, self-inflicted
damage, forgeries, and fake interviews.
The Iraqi regime uses several tools in various combinations to disseminate false information and
images in the expectation that supporters and commentators will cause it to reverberate through
the media. Many of these falsehoods die quickly, but even the most implausible claims can find
believers or at least a permanent home in the public record. Under certain circumstances, some
will gain vigor and continue to be repeated and grow, even after they have been proven false.
The Iraqis have adapted and varied their mix of themes and techniques over the years, depending
on the situation, and they have quickly seized new opportunities to spread false information.
Iraq’s disinformation effort is serious and sophisticated. The regime commits substantial
resources to this effort and has achieved some remarkable successes.
Main Tools of Iraqi Disinformation
· Staged suffering and grief
· Co-location of military assets and civilians
· Restricting journalists’ movements
· False claims or disclosures
· False man-in-the-street interviews
· Self-inflicted damage
· On-the-record lies
· Covert dissemination of false stories
· Bogus, edited, or old footage and images
· Fabricated documents
An important priority of Saddam’s deception apparatus is to manipulate the televised images the
world sees. This is accomplished by controlling the movements of foreign journalists, monitoring
and censoring news transmissions, disseminating old or fake footage, and carefully staging
events or scenes. The regime’s most cynical strategy is to actually cause severe civilian hardship
or even deaths and then exploit the Iraqi people’s suffering by placing the blame on UN-imposed
sanctions or other nations.
Recent U.S. government reports, including A Decade of Defiance and Deception, have
documented Saddam’s deceit regarding UN resolutions and weapons inspections. In order to
raise awareness of many of the regime’s other forms of deception, particularly those likely to be
repeated, Apparatus of Lies examines the facts behind Iraqi disinformation and propaganda since
1990. Given the nature and history of the regime, evidence of further deception is almost certain
to come to light.
“The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians
shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military
operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or
to shield, favour or impede military operations. The parties to the conflict shall
not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order
to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations.”
– Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, Article 51
Based on what he has done in the past, if conflict with Iraq should occur, Saddam is almost
certain to lay a trap for the world’s media. He apparently believes that dead Iraqi civilians are
his most powerful weapon in trying to create revulsion against any military action that might
occur against Iraq.
During Operation Desert Storm, the coalition chose its targets carefully and had strict rules of
engagement intended to avoid bombing innocent civilians. Even with careful targeting, fire
discipline, and the well-known use of precision munitions in the campaign, some civilian
casualties occurred. Saddam Hussein used deaths of innocent civilians to try to undermine
international and domestic support for the American-led coalition, and the Iraqi regime made
many claims that civilian targets had been hit by coalition air forces, with loss of innocent
The Iraqi regime’s propaganda campaign went far beyond normally-expected protests over
civilian casualties. The Iraqis quickly realized that placing military assets – including tanks,
missiles, and command-and-control facilities – close to civilians and civilian infrastructure could
yield substantial benefits. By shielding military assets with civilians and civilian infrastructure,
Saddam understood that coalition forces would either avoid attacking targets close to civilians or
risk severe political damage from unintended civilian deaths at what would have appeared to be a
purely military site.
The co-location strategy has three objectives:
· To conceal military assets;
· To deter coalition attacks on military assets that could not be concealed; and
· Failing the first two objectives, to capitalize on attacks by generating civilian casualties and
destruction of cultural sites.
Some of the regime’s co-locations were clearly detectable through overhead imagery. Those that
were not yielded tragic results – and a rich vein of propaganda. This is a long-standing practice:
Throughout the country, the Iraqi government continues to locate military assets close to or
together with civilian facilities and cultural sites, and it continues to build new mosques and
other civilian facilities in or near military areas.
Iraqi Co-Locations of Military and Civilians. Then…
CNN reporter Peter Arnett wrote that one night during the Gulf War a SCUD missile and
launcher appeared on the front lawn of the Al-Rashid Hotel, where he and other journalists were
In 1990, the international press widely reported that Iraq had held more than 1,000 Western and
Japanese men, women, and children as human shields at about 70 sites in Iraq, including air
force bases, military garrisons, weapons factories, and power plants before eventually releasing
them under international pressure.
During the Gulf War, the Iraqi regime placed two military aircraft next to the ancient Ur ziggurat
near Tallil, Iraq. A coalition strike on the aircraft could well have caused extensive damage to
this ancient Mesopotamian cultural treasure.
When coalition leaders publicly stated that religious sites would not be targeted, Saddam began
using these sites to shield military equipment and units. In other cases, dual use facilities were
exploited for propaganda value.
On January 21, 1991, coalition bombers hit what the Iraqis claimed was a “baby milk factory” in
Baghdad. The United States insisted that Iraq was using it as a biological-weapons development
site. It appears the facility had briefly functioned as a “baby milk” factory in 1979 and 1980, and
then again in the spring and summer of 1990, before the Iraqi regime began to use it as a
biological weapons site.
As U.S. officials pointed out at the time, the Iraqi regime was defending the site as it would a
military facility. After the Gulf War, UNSCOM inspectors discovered that three scientists from
the Iraqi regime’s main biological weapons facility had been assigned to the “baby milk” factory.
Journalists who were taken to the “baby milk” factory in 1991
saw this hand-lettered sign in English and Arabic.
Since the Gulf War, the Iraqis regularly have placed Air Defense missile systems and associated
equipment in and around numerous civilian areas including parks, mosques, hospitals, hotels,
crowded shopping districts, ancient cultural and religious sites, and even cemeteries. They have
placed rocket launchers next to soccer stadiums that were in active use, parked operational SAM
systems in civilian industrial centers.
In late 1997, the Iraqi regime made sure the world media filmed Iraqi civilians, including women
and children, at military and industrial sites. The U.S. government later learned that it then
secretly replaced the civilians with prisoners, who were mostly opposition figures but also
included some criminals. If the sites had been attacked, the Iraqi regime was poised to claim that
any prisoners killed were the Iraqi civilians who had previously been there.
In April 2002, commercial satellite imagery showed that the Iraqis had constructed 15 military
revetments near a school in Saribadi, a town 31 miles southeast of Baghdad. Some of the
revetments, essentially holes in which military vehicles are parked as protective measures against
air strikes, are less than 11 yards from the wall surrounding the school.
Military revetments (arrows) in civilian area of Saribadi, April 2002.
In 2002, the United States government learned that the Iraqi government had ordered taxis and
buses to be repainted with military colors in order to look like military vehicles.
On January 8, 2003, the Associated Press and others reported that Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister
Tareq Aziz welcomed foreign volunteers to come to Iraq and serve as human shields around
civilian facilities in the event of armed conflict, thereby planting the idea that civilian facilities
would be subject to attack. Iraq issued similar calls for volunteers in 1990. In the event of
conflict, such human shields would most likely be deployed around military targets – either to
deter strikes against the targets or to create casualties in the event of their being struck.
The Amiriyah Bunker-Shelter
In the early morning hours of February 13, 1991, coalition precision-guided bombs hit the Amiriyah
bunker in Baghdad. Television networks broadcast gruesome footage of charred bodies being removed
from the building. Iraq reported over 300 deaths, mostly women and children.
The bunker was originally constructed as an air raid shelter during the Iran-Iraq War, and later
converted into a military command-and-control center. In 1991, it was used as a military
communications center, complete with barbed wire, camouflage, and armed guards. Intelligence
sources reported senior Iraqi military officials were using it for military communications.3
Iraq claimed it was a civilian air raid shelter that had been deliberately bombed. Unknown to the
coalition was that selected civilians had been admitted to the top floor at night, while the Iraqi
military continued to use the lower level as a command-and-control center. In an article in the
February 14, 1991, edition of Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat, a Finnish expert confirmed that
structures in Iraq like the Amiriyah had two stories and space for a total of 1,500 people. The
Finnish firm Perusyhtyma and the Swedish company ABV had built 30 of these structures in
Khidir Hamza, former director general of Iraq’s nuclear weapons program, stated in his book,
Saddam’s Bombmaker, that during the Gulf War:
“We sought refuge several times at the [Amiriyah] shelter…. But it was always filled…. The
shelter had television sets, drinking fountains, its own electrical generator, and looked sturdy
enough to withstand a hit from conventional weapons. But I stopped trying to get in one night
after noticing some long black limousines slithering in and out of an underground gate in the
back. I asked around and was told that it was a command center. After considering it more
closely, I decided it was probably Saddam’s own operational base.”4
The United States government soon learned that Saddam Hussein had decreed that, from then on,
all Iraq’s military bunkers would also house civilians.5
Visitors tour the Amiriyah Bunker. The Iraqi government
has preserved the bunker as a public memorial.
The Iraqi regime is skilled at seizing – and creating – opportunities to undermine the
international community’s resolve to maintain UN sanctions. And one of its most effective tools
for accomplishing this goal is the systematic creation of hardship and suffering for the Iraqi
people. While devoting massive resources to opulent palaces and huge weapons programs, the
Iraqi government makes food and medicine scarce for average citizens. It then shifts the blame
for the suffering of the Iraqi people from Saddam’s policies to the United Nations, which
established the sanctions. The real reasons for the suffering are quickly overwhelmed by the
emotional weight of crying or emaciated children, doctors lamenting the lack of medicines and
supplies, and parents pleading for relief.
Saddam Hussein’s government uses tragic images to influence world opinion, and particularly to
support the false allegation that the United Nations is killing Iraqis. These images include:
· Exploiting sick and malnourished children for international television cameras;
· Staging mass funerals;
· Providing selective tours of empty markets and dilapidated hospitals;
· Showing Iraqis with obvious diseases and blaming the sicknesses on the absence of modern
medical tools, due to sanctions; and
· Censoring television footage and restricting movement of journalists and television crews.
In a particularly shocking practice, the regime is known to collect the bodies of dead babies and
store them for months at a time, so that they can stage mass funeral processions and create the
impression that UN sanctions are killing small children.
The Iraqi regime has diverted to its weapons program or to luxuries for the regime’s elites many
millions of dollars that were intended for food, medicines, and other necessities. Under the UN
sanctions exceptions, Iraq is explicitly allowed to import food and a wide range of medicines and
other necessities, and the UN Security Council has expanded the list of allowable items several
times in response to humanitarian and infrastructure needs. The regime either deliberately caused
medical scarcity and malnutrition or simply saw that the suffering of the Iraqi people caused by
its policies could be exploited for its propaganda value.
In either case, weapons for the armed forces and luxuries for ruling elites took priority over food
and medicines for the people, and the regime found it more useful to continue the hardships and
blame them on the sanctions than to meet its obligations and end the suffering. In 2000, Forbes
magazine estimated Saddam Hussein’s personal wealth at $7 billion, acquired primarily from oil
Blaming Sanctions for Regime Failure
In a total of 29 separate resolutions,6 the UN Security Council has stated clearly its reason for
imposing sanctions: to force Iraq to comply with previous UN resolutions. But Saddam Hussein
refuses to comply. In 1990, under UN Security Council Resolution 661, the UN permitted food
and medicine imports. Beginning in 1991, the Security Council attempted to create an Oil-for-
Food Program that would allow Iraqi oil to be sold, with proceeds deposited in an UN-controlled
account and used to purchase food, medicine, and humanitarian goods for the Iraqi people.7 The
Iraqi government rejected this proposal.
In 1995, over Iraq’s protests, the Security Council adopted another oil-for-food resolution.8 It
was only in 1996, after another year and a half of Iraqi delays and international pressure, that the
Iraqi regime finally agreed to accept oil-for-food, allowing the first imports to arrive in 1997.
Even after the program was in place, the regime continued to deprive its citizens of the food and
medical commodities that the international community wanted to supply. In 22 subsequent
resolutions the Security Council extended, revised, adjusted, or expanded the Oil-for-Food
Program out of concern for the people of Iraq, consistently broadening the range of goods
permitted for importation.9
Iraq claims that 1.7 million children, including 700,000 under the age of five, out of a total
national population of 22 million people, have died because of sanctions. According to an Iraqi
government website, after the Oil-for-Food Program was instituted the number of children who
died before the age of five jumped 50 percent from 1996 to 2001. The facts tell a different story:
· Under the Oil-for-Food Program, the Iraqi regime exported food to earn hard currency it
could use for its own purposes. Infant formula sold to Iraq under the Oil-for-Food
Program has been found in markets throughout the Gulf, presumably exported by the
regime to circumvent the sanctions.10
· According to the UN, under the Oil-for-Food Program the daily food ration in Iraq rose
from about 1,200 kilocalories per day in 1996 to over 2,200 kilocalories per day in
· Iraq therefore implausibly claims that child mortality soared while the average caloric
intake for Iraqis increased by 80 percent, and while medical supplies were becoming
· High-ranking regime loyalists receive the most expensive medical care, including heart
bypass surgery and neurosurgery using an ultra-modern, $6 million gamma knife, while
basic medicines are in short supply for the Iraqi people.12
· Since the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein has spent more than $2 billion building 48 new
palaces, some complete with gold-plated faucets and artificial waterfalls on their
· How much food does $2 billion buy for hungry people? In 2001, the World Food
Program spent $1.74 billion to deliver 660,000 metric tons of food to 77 million people
“Small coffins, decorated with grisly photographs of dead babies and their ages – ‘three days’,
‘four days’, written usefully for the English-speaking media – are paraded through the streets of
Baghdad on the roofs of taxis, the procession led by a throng of official mourners.”
– The Observer (London)
People the world over are moved by the suffering and deaths of innocent children, and where
possible, the Iraqi regime attempts to link images of child deaths to the policies and actions of its
adversaries. They have blamed thousands of child deaths on United Nations sanctions, not the
Iraqi regime’s policies that caused those sanctions. They also claimed that exposure to depleted
uranium from spent munitions used in the Gulf War had caused many deaths and deformities in
children. To support these claims, they have staged mass children’s funerals, and to stage those
funerals, they need dead children. There is only one problem, according to defectors, journalists,
and participants in these funerals: To have enough children’s remains to make a proper show, the
regime has to collect and store them.
A BBC Correspondent documentary aired on June 23, 2002, exposed how the Iraqi regime
staged these processions: Instead of burying dead children immediately in accordance with
Muslim custom, Iraqi authorities hold the bodies in cold storage until enough bodies are
available to conduct a “parade of dead babies.”15 In one such event, the Iraqi regime exhibited
some 60 coffins, decorated with large photographs of the deceased, around Martyr Square in
Baghdad while government-controlled demonstrators chanted anti-U.S. slogans and demanded
the elimination of UN sanctions, all for the benefit of foreign reporters who were present.
On camera, an Iraqi identified as Ali, described as a former member of Saddam’s inner circle
living in northern Iraq, related the account of a taxi driver who had explained to him how it
worked: “He went to Najaf [a town 100 miles south of Baghdad] a couple of days ago. He
brought back two bodies of children for one of the mass funerals.”16
Ali continued: “The smell was incredibly strong. He didn’t know how long they’d been in
storage, perhaps six or seven months. The drivers would collect them from the regions. They
would be informed of when a mass funeral was arranged so they would be ready. Certainly, they
would collect bodies of children who had died months before and been held for the mass
In a separate article, the program’s host reported, “A second, Western source went to visit a
Baghdad hospital and, when the official Iraqi minder was absent, was taken to the mortuary.
There, a doctor showed the source a number of dead babies lying stacked in the mortuary,
waiting for the next official procession.”18
A government-organized baby-funeral procession in Baghdad, 1998. [Faleh Kheiber/Reuters]
Depleted Uranium Scare
During the Gulf War, coalition forces used armor-piercing ammunition made from depleted
uranium, which is ideal for the purpose because of its great density. In recent years, the Iraqi
regime has made substantial efforts to promote the false claim that the depleted uranium rounds
fired by coalition forces have caused cancers and birth defects in Iraq. Iraq has distributed
horrifying pictures of children with birth defects and linked them to depleted uranium. The
campaign has two major propaganda assets:
· Uranium is a name that has frightening associations in the mind of the average person,
which makes the lie relatively easy to sell; and
· Iraq could take advantage of an established international network of antinuclear activists
who had already launched their own campaign against depleted uranium.
But scientists working for the World Health Organization, the UN Environmental Program, and
the European Union could find no health effects linked to exposure to depleted uranium.
The truth has not deterred the Iraqi disinformation campaign. On November 15, 2000, the
London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi reported that Iraq had set up an
organization called the “Central Committee for the Follow-up of the Consequences of Pollution”
under the direct supervision of Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, to pursue this issue. It also
reported that Iraqi Major General Abd-al-Wahhab Muhammad al-Juburi headed a working team
of military personnel, scientists, and others to generate data and organize tours for the
international media. Iraq has hosted international conferences on the alleged ill effects of
depleted uranium and sent “experts” abroad to speak on the subject, including Iraqi professor
Mona Kammas, a member of Iraq’s “Committee of Pollution Impact by Aggressive Bombing.”
Medical Facts on Iraqi Chemical Weapons Exposure
The Iraqi News Agency website directs viewers to a gruesome picture of a boy from the city of
Mosul, with the caption, “We say to human rights advocate: Look what their bombs have done to
the children of Iraq. Look how they use internationally banned weapons, including Depleted
Uranium ammunition, in their aggression against Iraq.” In November 2000, the Iraqi magazine
Alif Ba’ claimed that an Iraqi child had been born with “two heads and three arms” because the
mother had been exposed to depleted uranium.
If there has been an upsurge in birth defects and cancers in parts of Iraq, it is most likely to have
been caused by the regime’s use of chemical weapons from 1983 to 1988, including mustard gas
and nerve agents. Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons in southern and northern Iraq against
the Iranians, with whom they were at war from 1980-88, and against the Iraqi Kurds, as in the
well-known chemical attacks in the northern town of Halabja. Mustard gas has long been known
to cause cancers and is strongly suspected of causing birth defects.
Dr. Christine Gosden, professor of medical genetics at the University of Liverpool researched
congenital malformations, fertility and cancers in Halabja in 1998. Says Dr. Gosden: “What I
found was far worse than anything I had suspected …. Conditions such as infertility, congenital
malformations and cancers (including skin, head, neck, respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract,
breast and childhood cancers) in those who were in Halabja at the time … are at least three to
four times greater, even 10 years after the attack. An increasing number of children are dying
each year of leukemias and lymphomas. The cancers tend to occur in much younger people in
Halabja than elsewhere, and many people have aggressive tumors ….”19
Dr. Gosden also described a visit to a hospital in Halabja: “The staff in the labor ward told of the
very large proportion of pregnancies in which there were major malformations. In addition to
fetal losses and perinatal deaths, there is also a very large number of infant deaths. The
frequencies of these in the Halabjan women is more than four times greater than that in the
neighboring city of Suleymania… The findings of serious congenital malformations with genetic
causes occurring in children born years after the chemical attack suggest that the effects from
these chemical warfare agents are transmitted to succeeding generations.”20
According to Dr. Fouad Baban, Chairman of the Department of Medicine of Suleymania
University, “Congenital abnormality rates in [Halabja] are four to five times greater than in the
post-atomic populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Rates of stillbirths and miscarriages in the
town are even more alarming. Rare and aggressive cancers in adults and children are found at
levels far higher than anywhere in the world.”21
Saddam Hussein tries to harness feelings of solidarity among Muslims to his advantage. By
portraying himself as a devout believer and invoking the name of Allah in his struggles with the
international community, he seeks to frame his conflicts as an Islamic struggle and fashion
himself as standard-bearer for Muslims. Images of Saddam in prayer or extolling Saddam’s
dedication to Islam appear on billboards in Iraq and are circulated in pictures, publications, and
One 1990 analysis concluded, “In recent years, the Baathists have not hesitated to exploit
religion as a mobilizing agent; and from the first months of the war with Iran, prominent
Baathists have made a public show of attending religious observances. Saddam Hussein is
depicted in prayer on posters displayed across the country. Moreover, the Baath Party has
provided large sums of money to refurbish important mosques.”22 This is a departure from the
secular origins of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. Baathists view Islam as a product of Arab
culture and a bridge to pan-Arabism, and until 1990, Iraq was the only officially secular state in
the region. Over time, the personality of Saddam Hussein has supplanted Baath Party doctrine,
but one factor has not changed: The key figures in Iraq’s regime and ruling party remain nonreligious
or even non-believers.
According to Daily Telegraph (London)
editor Con Coughlin, author of King of
Terror: A Biography of Saddam Hussein, in
a November 8, 2002, interview with CNN
“Saddam is an opportunist. He’s not
really a devout Muslim. But when it
suits him, he portrays himself as a
Muslim leader. And I think when
your correspondents go to Baghdad,
they see all these pictures of Saddam
the nation builder, the general;
Saddam the religious leader.”
November 2002: Women in Baghdad wait for
a cab in front of a mural of Saddam Hussein
in prayer. [AP/Wide World]
In reporting on the regime’s lavish mosque-building program since the mid-1990s, while
consumer goods and many necessities were in short supply or unavailable in Iraq, the Los
Angeles Times quoted a European diplomat in Baghdad, who spoke on condition of anonymity:
“The people’s well-being is not on the priority list of the regime. The regime is
solely concerned with its own survival. A huge mosque-building scheme may
help the formerly secular – almost atheist – and socialist regime to get more fully
reincorporated into the family of the Arab nations, whereas the plight of a
majority of the ordinary people can be used as its propaganda shield.”23
The Hajj Shakedowns
Nowhere is the dichotomy between Saddam’s religious rhetoric and practice more obvious than
with the way he has treated faithful Iraqis seeking to make the Hajj. The Iraqi regime interferes
with religious pilgrimages, both of Iraqi Muslims who wish to make the Hajj to Mecca and
Medina and of Iraqi and non-Iraqi Muslim pilgrims who travel to holy sites within the country.
Baghdad has refused all proposals for travel that did not involve direct payments to the
In 1998 the UN Sanctions Committee offered to disburse vouchers for travel and expenses to
pilgrims making the Hajj, but the Government rejected this offer. Then again in 1999 the
Sanctions Committee offered to disburse funds to cover Hajj-related expenses via a neutral third
party; the Government again rejected the offer. Following the December 1999 passage of UN
Security Council Resolution 1284, the Sanctions Committee proposed to issue $250 in cash and
$1,750 in traveler’s checks to each individual pilgrim to be distributed at the UN office in
Baghdad in the presence of both UN and Iraqi officials. The Government again declined and,
consequently, no Iraqi pilgrims were able to take advantage of the available funds or of the
permitted flights. The Government also has attempted to use pilgrimages to circumvent
sanctions for its own financial benefit. In 2001 the Government continued to insist that UNoffered
funds for Hajj pilgrims be deposited in the government-controlled central bank and
placed under the control of government officials for disbursement rather than given to the
The regime has imposed a variety of schemes to extract money from religious pilgrims by
requiring them to pay fees directly to the Iraqi Central Bank. Estimates vary considerably, but it
is clear that Saddam Hussein brings in millions of dollars annually in this way. According to the
Coalition for International Justice:
“After refusing yet another UN plan to fund travel for the Hajj in 1999, Baghdad
bused some 18,000 Iraqi pilgrims to the Saudi border, where they were
encouraged to demonstrate and demand that the Saudis release frozen Iraqi funds
to pay for their trip. Instead, King Fahd welcomed the Iraqi pilgrims and promised
that Saudi Arabia would provide all arrangements free of charge. With no
prospect of Saudi payments to the government from frozen funds or other sources,
Saddam ordered the pilgrims back to Baghdad.”
Oppression of Shi’a Muslims
The hypocrisy of the supposed commitment of the Saddam Hussein regime to Islam is shown by
its long oppression of the country’s Shi’a Muslim majority. Restrictions on Shi’a Muslims
include: placing conditions and outright bans on communal Friday prayer; prohibiting Shi’a
mosque libraries to loan books; denying permission for Shi’a programs on governmentcontrolled
radio or television; banning Shi’a books, including prayer books and guides; banning
many funeral processions and other funeral observances other than those organized by the
government; and prohibiting certain processions and public meetings commemorating Shi’a holy
days. Shi’a groups report capturing documents from the security services during the 1991 Shi’a
uprising that listed thousands of forbidden Shi’a religious writings.25
Images showing Saddam Hussein in acts
of Muslim piety are widely disseminated
in Iraq and other Muslim countries. [Reuters]
The Gulf War: Lies About Non-Muslim Militaries in the Middle
During the Persian Gulf War, Saddam exploited the fact that non-Muslim troops were fighting
Muslim Iraq, hoping to portray the war as a war against Islam. Iraq claimed that Islamic sites
had been attacked, and appealing to Muslim suspicion of Western morality and Western attitudes
toward Islam, Iraq asserted that coalition forces had desecrated holy sites and brought immorality
to Saudi Arabia.
In assembling the international coalition, President George H.W. Bush cited the immorality and
illegality of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and called for the liberation of the Kuwaiti people. The
United Nations Security Council passed resolutions authorizing the use of force to liberate
Kuwait. Iraq sought to undermine the idea that Americans and other Western members of the
coalition were liberators of Kuwait and to exploit anxiety over the presence of armed outsiders
on Arab soil. To achieve these ends, the Iraqi regime invented reports of crimes by Western
military against ordinary Muslims or important national symbols. Some reports alleged that
people had been killed or wounded while engaging in some act of anti-coalition protest, in an
attempt to create the additional impression that opposition to the war was growing in the Arab or
Muslim world. Some claims:
· Multinational forces occupied Mecca and Medina.
– Statement by Saddam Hussein, monitored on Radio Monte Carlo
ð No multinational forces did any such thing.
· “NATO sources leaked information that some American military personnel had discussed
a secret plan to attack Al Ka’aba in Mecca, with a rocket bearing Iraqi markings in order
to use the attack as a pretext to attack Iraq.”
– An-Nahar, (pro-Jordanian newspaper in Israel), December 31, 1990
ð There was no such plan.
· The American pop star Madonna was in Saudi Arabia, entertaining U.S. troops.
– Inqilab (Pakistan), January 27, 1991
ð Madonna never went to Saudi Arabia.
· 40 percent of Americans had the AIDS virus and were going to Saudi Arabia to spread it.
– Baghdad Television, late August 1990
ð Not true.
· U.S. naval commandos hijacked a Bangladeshi merchant ship in the Arabian Sea.
– Sangbad (Bangladesh), January 1, 1991
ð Not true.
· U.S. intelligence planned to assassinate the Saudi crown prince.
– Radio Baghdad, January 15, 1991
ð Not true.
The Gulf War: Lies About Conflicts between Muslim and
The coalition for Operation Desert Storm was a broad alliance of Western and non-Western
countries, and the participation of many Muslim countries in the coalition deprived the Iraqi
regime of the opportunity to frame the conflict as one between Islam and non-believers. In an
effort to ignite opposition to the coalition in Arab and Muslim countries, the Iraqis invented tales
of discord or outright conflict between Western and Muslim military personnel, using mostly
covert action and state-run media. In these tales, Muslim-country militaries usually suffered
some humiliation or loss of life at the hands of their Western allies before managing to kill a few
of the alleged tormentors. None of these claims is true. Specific false claims included:
· “American and British soldiers have opened fire on Bangladeshi soldiers in Saudi Arabia
because they refused to take part in the attack on Iraq. As a result, several hundred
Bangladeshi soldiers have been killed…”
– Leaflets distributed in Bangladesh, January 28, 1991
· U.S. forces opened fire on Moroccan forces in Saudi Arabia, killing several.
– Radio Baghdad, January 31, 1991
· The United States was continuing to import Iraqi oil in violation of the embargo while
denying it to their allies.
– Iraqi Oil Ministry, August 17, 1990
Corrupting the Public Record
Lies and false images placed in the public record are important elements of Iraqi disinformation.
Iraqi officials have forged documents, staged scenes for international photographers and
television, placed false stories covertly in newspapers and magazines, and lied on the record.
During the Gulf War the Iraqis falsely asserted on the record that there had been victories by the
Iraq armed forces, Israeli involvement in coalition military operations, and internal fighting in
the coalition between Muslims and Westerners. Some examples were clearly intended for the
Iraqi and Arab public, such as an official claim reported by Radio Monte Carlo on January 17,
1991: “There were massive pro-Saddam demonstrations in Cairo.” Or an Iraqi News Agency
claim on January 22, 1991: “25,000 Saudis, including key figures, have sought refuge in
During the Gulf War, on February 11, 1991, the Iraqis deliberately removed the dome of a
mosque in Al-Basrah and dismantled it, in an attempt to make it appear as if the damage had
been caused by coalition bombing. But there was no damage to the minaret, courtyard building,
or the dome foundation, which would have been the case if the building had been struck by
False Man-in-the-Street Interview
Journalists or visitors to Iraq are often witnesses to “spontaneous” outpourings of grief or anger
by what appear to be common people, or hear stories about hardships supposedly caused by the
United Nations economic sanctions. In one international news broadcast during Operation
Desert Storm focusing on a missile that had struck near a civilian area, a woman posing as a
casual passer-by spoke to the camera in fluent English about the “criminal bombing of Iraq.”
But American diplomats who had served in Iraq recognized her as Suha Turayhi, a career
minister in the Iraqi foreign ministry.27
The easiest way to manipulate images is to control and censor outgoing broadcasts. During the
Gulf War, the Iraqis would not allow CNN and other media to broadcast scenes of damage to
Iraqi military installations–only footage of civilian casualties. According to the February 9,
1991, Washington Post: “[BBC cameraman Peter Jouvenal] said censors had excised footage
showing damage to military targets at a bridge destroyed by allied bombers at Nassariyah, south
of Baghdad, to make it appear that the only victims of the raid were civilians. At a nearby
hospital, he told the BBC he was prevented from filming soldiers wounded in the raid. At one
point, he said, an official escort covered with a blanket the uniform of one victim to make him
appear to be a civilian.”
The following scenario reflects another, especially egregious corruption of the public record: An
Iraqi government intelligence officer, diplomat, or operative provides a journalist or publication
in another country with a false story. The story contains specific details that appear to bolster the
story’s main theme but cannot be verified. Sources or protagonists in the article are described in
convincing detail but without actually being named. Dates or places of supposed events are
provided in order to give the article texture and credibility.
The Iraqis have also built false stories around real events or meetings, so that falsehoods can be
built around a skeleton of truth. The journalist may or may not know the original source of the
material, and because these placements are made covertly, they cannot always be attributed with
certainty to Iraq. But knowledge of Iraqi covert activities, clear evidence of Iraqi involvement in
some covert placements, and strong circumstantial evidence combine to support attribution of the
following items to Iraq. None of the reports cited below is true.
· [A]t least 10 Saudi citizens were martyred and others wounded when U.S. soldiers fired
at them after hundreds of Saudi citizens demonstrated in front of a U.S. military base.
– Sawt Al-Sha’b (Jordan), August 13, 1990
· Over 100 Christian churches were built in Saudi Arabia. Americans had imported over
$5 million worth of liquor to Saudi Arabia. American soldiers were in all parts of Saudi
Arabia disguised as Saudis.
– Counterfeit letter from Nigerians living in Saudi Arabia to the Nigerian daily
Republic, October 28, 1990
· An American public relations firm had contracted with an Egyptian manpower recruiting
company to provide 5,000 (later appeared as 10,000) prostitutes for American servicemen
in Saudi Arabia.
– Times of India, August 13, 1990. Reporter was subsequently fired.
· Pakistani soldiers in the multinational force had clashed with American soldiers, resulting
in the deaths of 72 Americans and five Pakistanis.
– Markaz (Pakistan), January 16, 1991 (On January 18, Pakistan expelled the
Iraqi press attaché for “activities incompatible with his diplomatic status.”)
This forged letter from Nigerian students in Saudi Arabia appeared in the
October 28, 1990, issue of the Nigerian newspaper Republic.
The Al-Fahd Forgery
In late October 1990, Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations submitted to the UN Secretary
General what he claimed was a “Top Secret” memorandum from Brigadier Fahd Ahmed Al-
Fahd, Director-General of Kuwait’s State Security Department, to the Kuwaiti Minister of the
interior, describing a meeting the security chief supposedly held in Washington with Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William Webster in November 1989.
This memorandum was a complete forgery and was designed to bolster false Iraqi claims
that the United States and Kuwait had engaged in a conspiracy to destabilize Iraq.
The forged Kuwaiti memorandum stated:
“We agreed with the American side that it was important to take advantage of the
deteriorating economic situation in Iraq in order to put pressure on that country’s
government to delineate our common border. The Central Intelligence Agency gave us
its view of appropriate means of pressure, saying that broad cooperation should be
initiated between us, on condition that such activities are coordinated at a high level.”
In an accompanying letter, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz charged that the alleged
“…illustrates the conspiracy between [the Kuwaiti] government and the government of
the United States to destabilize the situation in Iraq… This document clearly and
unequivocally confirms the connivance between the United States Central Intelligence
Services and the intelligence services of the former Kuwaiti government in plotting
against Iraq’s national security, territorial integrity and national economy.”28
The forgery was reported in the media on October 30 and immediately denounced as a
forgery by both the CIA and the government of Kuwait. The CIA described Gen. Al-Fahd’s
visit with Director Webster as “a routine courtesy call…. There was nothing discussed in the
meeting concerning Kuwait’s relations with Kuwait or any other country.”29 In an October 27
letter to UN Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sabah
Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah had said the document contained “falsehoods and
groundless lies” and “linguistic expressions that have never been used in Kuwait….” He
also noted that “its style differs from that used between Kuwaiti officials.”30
The Gulf War: False Claims of Victory
In the early days of Operation Desert Storm, the Iraqi regime issued a stream of false claims of
military successes. The target audience for this lie was non-elite Muslim publics, including
Iraqis, and the Iraqis used on-the-record statements, bogus stories, and sympathetic journalists to
disseminate their story. Examples of specific claims – all false – include:
· The United States embassy in Mauritania reported that Iraq’s embassy in that country
released a black-and-white video of what it claimed was captured coalition military
personnel, only three days after the beginning of the air campaign. The large number of
“prisoners” in the video and the speed with which it was produced and released in
Mauritania marked it immediately as a forgery.31
· During the conflict, Iraq claimed to have downed more than 200 coalition planes and
“scores” of cruise missiles, and to have recovered one unexploded cruise missile, which
would be reused. Iraq also claimed to have destroyed an aircraft carrier. In fact, 37
coalition planes were lost in the conflict and no aircraft carriers were destroyed.
· Western soldiers killed during the Gulf War were being “evacuated from Saudi Arabia to
Djibouti in British planes and in a second step…to the island of Crete, where they are
secretly buried.” Not true.
– Algerian Press Service, January 29, 1991
· Iraqi missiles have hit the Israeli Defense Ministry and have turned Tel Aviv into a
“ghost town.” While Iraq did attack Israel with SCUD missiles, the damage caused
was not extensive.
– Iraqi News Agency, January 20, 1991, citing a “British correspondent”
· Iraq has killed 6000 allied troops (claim made just four days after the coalition air
campaign began). In fact, 148 U.S. troops were killed in the whole conflict.
– Inqilab (Bangladesh), January 20, 1991
Conclusion: The Lies Continue
This report shines light on the apparatus used by Saddam Hussein and his cadres to deceive the
Iraqi people and the international community. The oppressive and totalitarian nature of Saddam
Hussein’s regime enables his deception and deceit. This regime, which became expert at
obfuscation during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, has now had more than a decade to perfect these
The Iraqi regime’s intent to continue these lies is evident from recent actions. Should the United
States and its allies determine that military action is necessary to disarm Saddam Hussein, the
January 8, 2003, statement by Tareq Aziz illustrates what could await the international
community. In this statement, the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and member of Saddam’s inner
circle invited friends of the dictator to serve as human shields. What Tareq Aziz does not tell
them is that they will be defending Iraqi military equipment and a regime that tyrannizes its
All the while, the regime continues to profess poverty while generating significant amounts of
money from the Oil-for-Food Program. During the period of January 4-10, 2003, Iraq exported
6.7 million barrels of oil, generating an estimated $174 million, according to the UN Oil-for-
Food Program. The same program projects that for the period of December 2002 to June 2003,
Iraq will generate $1.4 billion from its oil. The UN Security Council intended to allow the oilfor-
food exchange to keep the Iraqi people from starving. As underscored in this report, while
many Iraqi citizens face near starvation, Saddam Hussein continues to use oil wealth to build
castles and weapons. All the while, the regime falsely blames the plight of the Iraqi people on
This report puts into perspective other recent Iraqi actions, including their material breach of UN
Security Council Resolution 1441. The resolution calls for a full, final, and complete disclosure
of weapons of mass destruction and a verified disarmament process in Iraq. What the UN got
was more lies and deception.
· On January 16, 2003, previously undisclosed warheads for chemical weapons discovered
by UN inspectors.
· Ongoing intimidation of Iraqi scientists through the regime’s shifting position on private
interviews with UN inspectors.
· Numerous chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons stockpiles and programs
unaddressed in the Iraqi declaration.
· Absence of “active” cooperation by Iraq with UN inspectors.
As Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Face the Nation on January 19, 2003: „It is [Iraq’s]
responsibility under 1441 to cooperate fully with the inspectors in the disarmament process. Dr.
Blix says he has found no smoking gun, but he has also said that all he is getting from the Iraqis
is passive cooperation. ‘Catch us if you can. If you find something we might admit it. But we’re
working hard to deceive you, to hide things and make it harder for you to get to the truth.'”
Arnett, Peter, Live From the Battlefield, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1994.
Coughlin, Con, Saddam: King of Terror, New York, Ecco Press, 2002.
European Commission, Directorate General of Environment, Opinion of the Group of Experts
Established According to Article 31 of the Euratom Treaty: Depleted Uranium, March 2001.
European Parliament, Directorate General for Research, Depleted Uranium: Environmental and
Health Effects in the Gulf War, Bosnia, and Kosovo, April 2001.
Fialka, John, “Weighing Claims About Depleted Uranium,” The Wall Street Journal, January 2,
Gosden, Christine and Mike Amitay, “Lessons of Iraq’s Mass Murder,” by The Washington Post,
June 2, 2002.
Gosden, Christine, “Why I Went; What I Saw,” The Washington Post, March 11, 1998.
Hamza, Khidhir, Saddam’s Bombmaker, New York, Scribner, 2000.
“Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction Program and the History of UN Inspection Efforts in Iraq,”
Witnesses: David Kay and Richard Spertzel, Hearing of the House Armed Services Committee,
September 10, 2002.
Kamen, Al, “Iraqi Factories’ Product: Germ Warfare or Milk?” The Washington Post, February
Leventhal, Todd, Iraqi Propaganda and Disinformation During the Persian Gulf War: Lessons
for the Future, Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, 1999.
Loiko, Sergei L., “In Iraq, All Sanctions, All the Time,” Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2003.
Metz, Helen Chapin, Iraq: A Country Study, U.S. Department of Defense, 1990.
“The Mother of all Ironies,” BBC Correspondent, British Broadcasting Corporation, June 23,
Sweeney, John, “The Truth about Iraq’s Dying Babies,” London, The Observer Review, March
Sweeney, John, “How Saddam ‘staged’ fake baby funerals,” London, The Observer, June 23,
The Sydney Morning Herald, “Experiment in Evil,” December 7, 2002.
United Nations Oil-for-Food Program, August 2002, “Oil-for-Food – the Basic Facts, 1996 to
United States Department of Defense, Final Report to Congress: Conduct of the Persian Gulf
War, April 1992.
United States Department of Defense Briefing on Iraqi Denial and Deception, October 8, 2002,
United States Department of State, “Iraq,” Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2001.
March 4, 2002.
United States Department of State, “Iraq,” International Religious Freedom Reports, 2002.
United States Department of State, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, 1999.
United States Senate, “Hearing by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” March 20, 1991.
The World Food Programme, “Facts and Figures. http://www.wfp.org/index.asp?section=2.
World Health Organization, Depleted Uranium: Sources, Exposures, and Health Effects, April
1 “Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction Program and the History of UN Inspection Efforts in Iraq,” Witnesses: David
Kay and Richard Spertzel, Hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, September 10, 2002, p. 30.
http://www.fednet.net/archive/. See also „Scientists are Sought as Key to Iraqi Arms,” by Joby
Warrick, The Washington Post, December 15, 2002.
2 Peter Arnett, Live from the Battlefield, pp. 385-386.
3 U.S. Department of Defense, Final Report to Congress, Conduct of the Persian Gulf War, April 1992, pp. 141,
4 Kidhir Hamza, Saddam’s Bombmaker, p. 248.
5 Ibid., 469-470.
6 UNSC Resolutions 661, 687, 706, 712, 778, 986, 1051, 1111, 1129, 1143, 1153, 1158, 1175, 1210, 1242, 1266,
1275, 1280, 1281, 1293, 1302, 1330, 1352, 1360, 1382, 1409, 1443, and 1447.
7 UNSC Resolutions 706 and 712. See „State Department Fact Sheet on UN Oil-for-Food Program for
Iraq,” December 20, 2002, http://usinfo.state.gov/regional/nea/iraq/text/1221fact/htm.
8 UNSC Resolution 986.
9 UNSC Resolutions 1051, 1111, 1129, 1143, 1153, 1158, 1175, 1210, 1242, 1266, 1275, 1280, 1281, 1293, 1302,
1330, 1352, 1360, 1382, 1409, 1443, and 1447.
10 United States Department of State, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, p. 11.
11 “Oil for Food Programme in Brief,” United Nations Office of the Iraq Programme, September 2002.
12 Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, United States Department of State, p. 10.
13 Ibid., p. 11.
14 “Facts and Figures,” The World Food Programme, http://www.wfp.org/index.asp?section=2.
15 “The Mother of All Ironies,” BBC Correspondent June 23, 2002. See also „How Saddam ‘staged’ fake baby
funerals,” by John Sweeney, The Observer, June 23, 2002,
18 John Sweeney, “How Saddam staged fake baby funerals,” The Observer, June 23, 2002.
19 Christine Godsen, “Why I Went, What I Saw,” The Washington Post, March 11, 1998, p. A19.
21 “Experiment in Evil,” The Sydney Morning Herald, December 7, 2002.
22 Helen Chapin Metz, Iraq: A Country Study, U.S. Department of Defense, 1990. See Library of Congress:
23 Loiko, Sergei Loiko, “In Iraq, All Sanctions All the Time,” Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2003.
24 United States Department of State, “Iraq,” International Religious Freedom Report, 2002.
25United States Department of State, “Iraq,” Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2001. March 4, 2002.
26 Todd Leventhal, Iraqi Propaganda and Disinformation During the Gulf War: Lessons from the Future (The
Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, 1999), p.55.
27 Ibid, p. 55.
28 UNSC document S/21907, October 25, 1990.
29 CIA Statement, October 30, 1990
30 Todd Leventhal, Op. Cit., p. 30.
31 Ibid., p. 54.